Political football

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has admitted that the choice of Qatar as 2022 World Cup hosts was partly influenced by political and economic interests.

“Yes, there was definitely direct political influence,” Blatter told Die Zeit.

“European leaders recommended to its voting members to opt for Qatar, because of major economic interests in the country.”

Who can he mean? Not that nice Monsieur Platini, who 10 days before the World Cup vote attended a secret meeting called by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Other guests included the crown prince of Qatar, Tamin bin Haman al-Thani and a representative of the investment fund which owned the then struggling French football club, Paris Saint-Germain, who would subsequently be bought by the Qatari state investment fund.

Blatter made the admission when asked if Qatar had been chosen by world football’s governing body FIFA based on considerations other than sport.

Blatter said: “We have just set up a new, independent ethics commission to re-examine the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar”.

Platini has consistently denied any suggestion of impropriety, but Blatter, a wily old campaigner, knows that mud sticks. With the president of UEFA tipped to run for the FIFA presidency in 2015, expect plenty more to be thrown at him.

The revelation comes on the day that FIFA said there was no chance of any compensation being paid out should the World Cup be switched to the winter.

This came in response to Football Federation Australia chairman, Frank Lowy, who, on Tuesday, threatened to sue FIFA for financial compensation if the finals were moved.

“As part of the bidding documents all bidders, including the FA Australia, accepted that the format and dates of the staging of the FIFA World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup, though initially expected to be in June/July, remains subject to the final decision of the FIFA Organising Committee,” a FIFA spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“There is no ground for any speculations (of compensation).”

Ajax and Barcelona create little bit of history

A little bit of history will be made tonight when Barcelona meet Ajax for the first time in a competitive fixture. It seems astonishing that these two giants of the European game have not faced each other before, especially given the profusion of European fixtures since the inception of the Champions League.

World Soccer writer Jonathan Wilson has explored the close links between the two clubs, and has managed to trace the origins of their relationship right back to the first ever international match played between England and Scotland in 1872.

It was then that the Scots, confronted by taller and heavier opponents, decided to eschew the traditional dribbling and charging game (nothing changes) in favour of a possession-based pass and move strategy.

The tactic spread to England, where one of the keenest converts was Peter McWilliam who, in 1912, was appointed manager of Tottenham. There he schooled the likes of managerial legends Arthur Rowe, Bill Nicholson and Vic Buckingham.

Buckingham went on to coach Ajax, where he gave a debut to Johan Cruyff and prepared the ground for Rinus Michels before moving to Fulham.

You can continue to join the dots and see how the story is brought bang up to date, by reading Wilson’s fascinating piece here.

Tactical innovation

On the subject of tactics, Red Bull Leipzig came up with a novel way to start their game against Stuttgart II at the weekend.

Leipzig tapped the ball back to a midfielder while seven attackers sprinted towards the Stuttgart goal. A confused Stuttgart defence is outnumbered and the ball eventually reaches Daniel Frahn, who heads home from close range.

It’s a goal that relies almost entirely on the element of surprise, so is unlikely we will see its like again.

Manchester United go from strength to strength

Premier League champions Manchester United have reported record revenues of £363m for the 12 months to June.

The club saw a big rise in commercial revenues driven by sponsorship deals, as well as merchandising and product licensing.

United made a net profit of £146m. Handy for the Glazers as they look to pay down the debt they burdened United with when they bought the club back in 2005.

Ed Woodward, Manchester United’s executive vice chairman, said: “We are very proud of our results. Our commercial business continues to be a very powerful engine of growth enabling the team to continue to be successful.

“We won our 20th English League title last season and are delighted to have David Moyes lead our football team into a new and exciting chapter. We look forward to a successful 2013-14, both on and off the pitch.”

Over the last financial year, United signed a number of sponsorship deals that boosted commercial revenues by 30%.

They included a deal with US carmaker Chevrolet, which will become the club’s shirt sponsor next season.

Commercial revenues now account for £153m – 42% of the clubs total income. The rest comes from television rights, worth £102m, and match-day revenues which totalled £109m.

The forecast for next year is even better with the club saying it expects revenue to soar further to between £420 million and £430 million in 2013-14. That would push United closer to Real Madrid, the biggest revenue generator in world sport, which reported revenue of €520.9 million (£502 million) in 2012-13.

So, what do you get the club that has everything? Well, more of the same, of course. United, clearly unconcerned about diluting the brand, announced today that they have signed two new regional sponsorship agreements with Commercial Bank of Qatar and Emirates NBD Bank.

Manchester United group managing director Richard Arnold, commented, “Manchester United is very pleased to be teaming up with both of these prominent banking groups to offer our fans in Qatar and the UAE another way to support their team.

“Both CBQ and Emirates NBD have impressed the Club with their commitment to corporate social responsibility, sharing many of the same core values as Manchester United.

Those core values being: fleece people for as much money as possible.  

Goals of the day

Two great solo efforts illuminated the opening day of the Champions League.

First, Vladimir Weiss for Olympiakos against Paris-Saing Germain.

Then, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick against Galatasaray.

Miss of the day

A contender for the miss of the season came during Manchester United’s 4-2 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen. The normally clinical Robin Van Persie steers the ball wide when it genuinely looked harder to miss the target than score.

Quote of the day

“Listen, I’m concentrating on my football, as I’ve done all summer. I got my head down and worked hard to get myself fit and ready for the season. I’m delighted with the way I’ve come back, delighted that I’m back playing and scoring goals.”

Asked whether he is happy at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney gives nothing away.

Dortmund a monster with three heads

Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has described Borussia Dortmund as “like a monster with three heads” ahead of the two sides’ meeting on Wednesday.

The Italian outfit begin their Champions League campaign by hosting last season’s losing finalist and their president has revealed his respect for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

“Dortmund scare me. They are like a monster with three heads,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “They are an extraordinary team who play good football and are very personable.

“Both sets of fans are great, and it will make for a great atmosphere on Wednesday. They need their supporters just as much as we need ours.”

De Laurentiis also spoke highly the way the club is run, citing the club’s business in the transfer market.

“I have been following Dortmund for years – the team, the coach and their moves in the transfer market,” he added. “They are a club who do not waste their money, unlike others.”

The admiration for Dortmund manifested itself in an approach to coach Jurgen Klopp during the summer as De Laurentiis searched for a successor to the departed Walter Mazzarri.

The German coach revealed that had been approached over the summer, but he turned down the offer.

“Yes he did call me,” Klopp said. “I think he called me before Benitez because if he’d called me after Benitez had already said ‘yes’ it would have been a bit stupid.”

Offensive chant or part of their heritage?

The debate over the use by Tottenham Hotspur fans of the term ‘yid’ continues to rumble on with UK Prime Minister David Cameron the latest to become involved.

The FA released a statement last week strongly restating its belief that the term “Yid” should not be used in any context at a football ground and warning that its use could amount to a criminal offence that would leave fans at risk of being banned and prosecuted.

Cameron believes that Spurs fans – who argue that they are reclaiming the word from those who use it as a term of abuse – should not be punished for doing so.

“You have to think of the mens rea. There’s a difference between Spurs fans self-describing themselves as Yids and someone calling someone a Yid as an insult,” Cameron told the Jewish Chronicle.

“You have to be motivated by hate. Hate speech should be prosecuted – but only when it’s motivated by hate.”

A counter argument comes from comedian, David Baddiel, who argues, quite persuasively, that the term is racist and cannot be taken out of context.

“The fact is that whatever its origins, their continuing use of the Y-word legitimises and sustains the racist abuse aimed at Spurs by other fans,” he states.

Baddiel also notes that the vast majority of Tottenham fans are not Jewish, and therefore the argument that they are reclaiming the term, does not apply.

You can read the full piece here.

With friends like this…

Just minutes into his return to first team action, Real Madrid’s out-of-favour goalkeeper Iker Casillas could have done without this collision with team-mate Sergio Ramos.

The pair made light of the incident on the flight back from Istanbul.

Casillas initial absence from the Madrid side was due to a hand hand injury also caused by a team mate, when defender Alvaro Arbeloa kicked him while attempting a clearance in a King’s Cup match against Valencia in January.

You wouldn’t blame him if started to feel paranoid.