Unfulfilled promise

Former England striker Michael Owen is to retire from football at the end of the season.

On hearing of Owen’s decision to stop playing football, one is reminded of Dorothy Parker’s response on being told that the then US president, the taciturn Calvin Coolidge, had died. ‘How can they tell?’ she quipped.

Owen, 33, who scored 40 goals in 89 internationals, enjoyed an illustrious career for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United, before winding down his playing days Stoke City.

He said: “It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire.

“I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey I could only have dreamed of.”

True, when he burst onto the international stage in 1998 with that goal against Argentina, no one could have predicted Owen’s career would conclude with him warming the bench at Stoke City at Stoke City.

It’s been a strange career in that despite scoring 220 goals and winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup (three times) and UEFA Cup, not to mention him becoming – in 2001 – the first Englishman since Kevin Keegan in 1979 to be named European Footballer of the Year, Owen’s career may end up being remembered for it’s youthful promise rather than for what he actually achieved.

Still, at least retirement means Owen can now concentrate on his first love: horse racing.

In the money

David Beckham is football’s best-paid player ahead of four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, according to France Football 15th annual list of the sport’s top earners.

Beckham, who joined Paris Saint-Germain on a five-month contract in January, will earn €36 million in 2012-13, with the majority coming from sponsors, France Football said on its website. Beckham, 37, said after signing for PSG that his wages would be donated to a charity. At least we know now that he can afford to make that sacrifice.

Messi’s income of €35 million includes €13 million in salary and bonuses, while the Argentinian’s great rival, Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, is the third on France Football’s list with total income of €30 million, including €13.5 million from salary and bonuses.

Real’s Jose Mourinho is the best-paid coach, earning €14 million euros a year, with PSG’s Carlo Ancelotti second with €12 million ahead of fellow Italian Marcello Lippi, who was paid €11 million in salary and bonuses for coaching Guangzhou Evergrande to the 2012 Chinese Super League championship.

Man of the people

Barnet coach Edgar Davids saved the day for the club’s fans who were stranded on their return from a defeat on Saturday.

The fans were making their way back to London after travelling up to Barnet’s League Two match against Accrington Stanley at the weekend when their coach broke down on the M6.

But when the Barnet team coach passed the stranded fans shivering on the hard shoulder for a replacement, Davids ordered the driver to stop at the next service station and told his players to disembark.

The former Champions League winner then sent the team coach back up the M6 to collect the Barnet supporters and bring them to the service station where he bought them coffee while they waited.

“I saw the coach on the side of the high way with some of the supporters standing outside in the cold,” Davids told The Telegraph. “It was the least I could do for my team, to send the coach back to pick them up so they don’t stand in the cold.

“Shortly after the coach had arrived it started to rain, I was glad I did it. No man left behind!”

One of the stranded fans continued the story in a post on the club forum.

“The coach is warm and very, very plush,” he wrote. “It takes us to the services where the players have been treating their bodies like temples at Burger King and sampling the other limited delights of a northern service station.

“To a man they are friendly, talk to the fans, pose for photos and wish us all the best. Then they get back on their bus. Our replacement bus arrives and 11.15pm were back in Barnet.

“You can follow the plastic Premiership as much as you like – but a day like that only happens at Barnet.”

Peace in our time

Two factions fighting for control of football in Indonesia have agreed to end their two-year dispute, thus avoiding sanctions ahead of a FIFA-imposed deadline.

The rival bodies agreed to merge during an extraordinary congress in Jakarta attended by a FIFA representative on Sunday, Kompasreported.

The power struggle between the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) and the Indonesian Football Rescue Committee (KPSI), which originated in 2011 after several executive committee members were sacked by the PSSI, produced the creation of two separate leagues.

Top players from the league run by rival KPSI were banned from playing for the national team, under PSSI control, resulting in poor performance in international competitions.

“We have agreed to unite and be on the same boat for sake of Indonesian football,” PSSI chairman Djohan Arifin Husin was quoted as saying by Kompas.

The reunification of the professional leagues will be implemented in 2014 and for the time being, both leagues will run separately.

The decision means there will be 22 teams in the top-tier league next season, according to Liga Indonesia chief executive Joko Driyono.

FIFA warned Indonesia would be banned from international competitions indefinitely if it failed to end the dispute.

Mark of respect

Inter’s Antonio Cassano has named his newborn son Lionel in honour of Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi.

“This is the second biggest joy in my life after the birth of my first son,” the forward told TV show Undici.

“I named him Lionel because I’m a massive fan of the best player in history. My wife wasn’t keen, but I then convinced her.

“In my opinion Messi is the most important player in history. I’m in love with him on a footballing level.”

Mum Carolina and baby are doing fine.

Quote of the day

“He is a very good coach, but he has never played the game himself. He misses something and that shows. Those of us who have played notice certain details. That does not mean that he is not a good coach, though.

Former Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff damns Real Madrid boss, Jose Mourinho, with faint praise.

Winter wonderland

The chairman of the Premier League Sir Dave Richards says he expects the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be played in the winter.

It’s been a while since we last heard from Richards – the last time being the occasion he fell into a fountain in Doha, after denouncing FIFA for stealing the game of football from England. In his defence, he was a little tired and emotional at the time.

The awarding of the tournament to Qatar, where summer temperatures can exceed 45 degrees, prompted concern about the playing conditions the teams would experience.

Richards said: “I think over the next few years things will change and they will come to a compromise over when they’re going to play.”

Asked what the Premier League clubs would like to see happen, Richards added: “At the moment it has a tremendous amount of implications for Europe with fixtures. Our fixture congestion is incredibly difficult. For us at this minute the answer is ‘no’, but I think common sense will prevail over time and we’ll come up with a solution.

”But, if we take a proper view, we have to find a way to have a winter spell where we don’t play and I think common sense will prevail.

”We’ve got FIFA now saying that medical people are saying that they can’t play in Qatar in the summer because of the heat, which is probably right.

”I think over the next few years, things will change and they will come to a compromise.”

Richards thoughts will come as news to members of the organisation he represents, all of whom have expressed their opposition to the tournament being held in the middle of the domestic season.

Conspiracy theory

Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho says he did not attend the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala because he was warned by some of those who voted for him as coach of the year that their votes showed up as supporting other candidates instead.

“Am I sorry for not having gone to the gala? No. It was the right decision,” Mourinho told RTP television on Tuesday.

“One, two or three people called me saying they had voted for me but the vote showed up as cast for somebody else. So, I decided not to go,” he said.

More likely surely, that they said they voted for Mourinho, but cast their votes for one of his rivals for the award.

The Portuguese coach and former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola lost the 2012 FIFA coach award to Spain’s Vicente del Bosque at January’s gala.

FIFA said in a statement: “FIFA confirms that the list of votes published on FIFA.com is accurate.”

Until these miscast voters identify themselves, we will have to content ourselves with FIFA’s version of events.

Rough justice

Wigan forward Callum McManaman will not be charged over his tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara at the weekend.

Referee Mark Halsey did not punish McManaman at the time, and replays suggested the referee was partially unsighted.

But a statement from the Football Association said that “because at least one of the match officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge” no further action can be taken.

Great euphemism that: ‘coming together’. As in, ‘his boot came together with my knee’.

The full FA statement read: “The FA can confirm that no action can be taken against Wigan Athletic’s Callum McManaman retrospectively following his side’s game against Newcastle United on Sunday 17 March 2013.

“Following consultation with the game’s stakeholders (the Premier League, the Football League, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the League Managers’ Association, Professional Game Match Officials Limited and the National Game) in the summer, it was agreed that retrospective action should only be taken in respect of incidents which have not been seen by the match officials.

“Where one of the officials has seen a coming together of players, no retrospective action should be taken, regardless of whether he or she witnessed the full or particular nature of the challenge. This is to avoid the re-refereeing of incidents.

“In the case of McManaman, it has been confirmed that at least one of the match officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge. In these circumstances retrospective action cannot be taken.

“The principal objective behind the not seen policy is to address off the ball incidents where match officials are unlikely to be in a position to witness misconduct.”

So McManaman gets off scot free for a challenge which all bar Wigan chairman Dave Whelan recognised as a dangerous and potentially career-threatening challenge.

The news has not gone down with Newcastle though, with managing director Derek Llambias statingthat the current procedure is ‘not fit for purpose’.

He said in a statement: “We are disappointed to learn that the FA is not going to charge the Wigan player.

“It is clear from this decision that the current disciplinary procedures are not fit for purpose. Newcastle United, along with other clubs, have had players suspended for incidents reviewed after the game. Whilst not trivialising these incidents, they were not, in our opinion, of the seriousness of Callum McManaman’s tackle on Haidara.

“Whilst we understand that the current procedures give the FA limited options, it cannot be correct that the most serious offences – those which have the potential to cause another player serious harm – can go unpunished, even if the original incident was seen by match officials.

“We will now be making a strong representation to the FA and the Premier League to see how a more appropriate, fair and even-handed disciplinary process can be introduced at the earliest opportunity to prevent incidents of this nature going unpunished in the future.”


The abuse of anti-inflammatory medicine by players is a bigger problem facing the sport than doping, according to FIFA medical chief Michel D’Hooghe.

These drugs are not so much performance enhancers as performance enablers, but in terms of the long term health of the players, equally dangerous.

D’Hooghe said the abuse of anti-inflammatories is increasingly more prominent among teenage players who counter any bruise or over-exertion of muscles with the medication which can have serious effects on kidneys, stomach and intestines later in life.

“The most worrying aspect is that we see the problem moving ever more into the youth categories,” D’Hooghe said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said the increase among younger players was especially evident at the 2011 Under-17 World Cup in Mexico and had risen since.

“Doping is not our biggest problem. The anti-inflammatories are our biggest problem,” D’Hooghe said.

FIFA received its first major warning on the abuse of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where teams have to let FIFA know from 72 hours in advance of a game what medicine players receive.

“There was one team where 21 of 23 players were using them,” D’Hooghe said.

The overall percentage stood at 34.6% in South Africa, but that already was an increase compared to 29% at the 2006 tournament in Germany.

“The medicine gives you less pain, but you worsen the situation because pain is a warning. It is an alarm bell,” D’Hooghe said. “At a certain point, some players start thinking they cannot play without taking the pills.”