Misjudging the mood

Pele has been ridiculed in Brazil after he called on thousands of protestors demonstrating over poor quality public services and corruption to leave the streets and focus on football.

“Let’s forget all this commotion happening in Brazil, all these protests, and let’s remember how the Brazilian squad is our country and our blood,” Pele said in a brief broadcast via the O Globo TV network.

Pele is one of a number of football dignitaries who have repeated the ‘let them eat football’ mantra in recent days, though none have been quite so crass as former striker Ronaldo, now a member of the World Cup organising committee, whose message to the protesters was “you can’t hold a World Cup with hospitals”

Pele’s reputation has suffered in recent years and he was dismissed in withering fashion by former World Cup winner, Romario, now a congressman in Brazil, who famously said of the legend: “Pele when silent is a poet”.

Reaction to Pele’s latest comments have not gone down well with the demonstrators.

“Now Pele takes it upon himself to record a video telling the population to forget this commotion and back the squad. The national squad, FIFA, the stadiums costing millions, go to hell,” one Brazilian posted on her Facebook page.

“Go to the hospitals, take a bus with no security, then I want to see if you keep saying stupid things,” wrote another in response to an online local media report on his remarks.

“Pele, your ignorance is in proportion with your footballing genius,” wrote another poster.

Whatever one’s opinions about the protesters, one thing is indisputable: they have been successful.

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s two biggest cities agreed on Wednesday to revoke an increase in public transportation fares that acted as the inital catalyst for the demonstrations.

Daylight robbery

Players from World champions Spain say they were robbed at their hotel in the Brazilian city of Recife during the Confederations Cup.

Football’s governing body said police are investigating. FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola says he has no details of what happened.

“We know that there was a police report and this was being dealt with by the relevant authorities,” Odriozola said. “We have also been in touch with the team.”

Spanish media say several players were targeted. The Spanish newspaper Marca says six players, including Gerard Pique, reported that items, including money, had been stolen from their rooms. A spokeswoman for the Spanish team declined to comment.

The players reportedly discovered their money was missing as they prepared to leave Recife on Monday after the 2-1 win over Uruguay the previous day.

Best team loses

On the subject of daylight robbery, that was definitely the overriding emotion among those who witnessed a valiant Japan go down 4-3 to Italy in a thrilling Confederations Cup encounter in Recife.

The match of this or any other Confederation Cup, saw Italy come from 2-0 down to take a 3-2 lead only for Japan to level, before Sebastian Giovinco sealed it for Italy. Even then there was time for Japan, who hit the woodwork twice and played some thrilling football, to have a goal disallowed for offside.

Italy were gracious in victory, acknowledging that the better team on the night had lost.

Daniele de Rossi, scorer of Italy’s opening goal, said it was “one of the toughest matches” of his career.

“They’re an amazing team that didn’t deserve to lose. To be honest, I really must congratulate Japan, who showed great quality. They were very brave, and had great players like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa – we were exhausted running after them,” he said.

Defender Giorgio Chiellini admitted that “they put us under enormous pressure.”

“It comes down to Alberto Zaccheroni, without a doubt,” he said. “He was my coach at Juventus and I learned a lot under him, and the same thing seems to be happening with them. I think he’s doing a remarkable job. They’re the current Asian champions and he’s got them playing very well. With another year of hard work under their belts, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with at the World Cup.”

Coach Cesare Prandelli admitted his side were not worthy winners, although he cited the heat in mitigation for his side’s lacklustre performance.

“Against Mexico we deserved [to win], but not today,” he said.

“We deserved that game against Mexico, but tonight we [were dealt] a crazy hand. In the first 25 minutes we did not understand what we had to do. There were times we did not play, and we were in trouble.

“It is really hard to play in this climate. Here it is 80 percent humidity and crazy hot. We recovered [from the opening 25 minutes] but had no gas left.”

The defeat ensured Japan’s elimination from the tournament, although their Italian-born coach Alberto Zaccheroni could reflect on a wonderful display by his side.

“We are very disappointed because we deserved so much more out of this game and the players have risen to the challenge in the right way and we embarrassed the second best side in Europe,” he said.

Indeed they did, and there will be a number of countries studying that performance who will be happy to avoid Japan when the draw is made for next year’s finals.

The numbers game

Tahiti goalkeeper Mikael Roche fears Spain could hit double figures in tonight’s FIFA Confederations Cup encounter.

An improved performance from the goalkeeper than in their opening fixture against Nigeria, would certainly help. The keeper on tha occasion, Xavier Samin, perhaps suffering from first night nerves, hardly covered himself in glory in the 6-1 defeat.

Against Spain, Roche gets the nod – or poisoned chalice.

“We are not ashamed of losing by a large margin. I have little doubt that Spain could hit double digits if they want to,” Rocha told Marca. “Our main objective is to fight with dignity. It’s a normal occurrence if Spain come out victorious. They are professionals, while we aren’t. We will give our utmost, though.

“We will respect Spain and will not try to get at them by kicking them.”

If Roche is worried about conceding only ten tonight, his coach, Eddy Etaeta, admits he would be happy to get away with 20 – provided Tahiti managed one in reply.

“We must be highly realistic and it is impossible for us to beat Spain, quite impossible. They are the European and the world champions and the favourites to win this Confederations Cup tournament.

“But even if they score 15 or 20 goals, I would be happy if we scored one.”

Extra security

FIFA has confirmed that security has been beefed up for the Under-20 World Cup tournament, which kicks off on Friday in Turkey.

Jim Boyce, chairman of the tournament organizing committee said extra security personnel would be drafted in purely as a precaution.

And that’s just for Sepp Blatter in case the FIFA president puts his foot in it again.

”The FIFA security people are very happy with the security situation that exists at present in Turkey,” Boyce said. ”FIFA is determined that this tournament will go ahead and certainly I sincerely hope the security situation will not be a problem, and I can honestly say I don’t think it will be.”

Anti-government demonstrations erupted across Turkey after riot police cracked down on activists who opposed plans to develop Gezi Park, which lies next to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, on May 31. Running battles took place for nights on end as police tried to remove demonstrators from the square.

In the past few days, the protests have died down, although police dispersed pockets of protesters in Ankara and Istanbul on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

With Blatter’s imminent arrival, the safety first policy seems eminently sensible.

Challenge to FFP?

A lawyer involved in the landmark Bosman ruling has asked a court to overturn a UEFA attempt to limit the spending of top European clubs in a second challenge to its “break-even” rule.

UEFA will bring in Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations next season to ensure clubs move towards break-even or face exclusion from continental competition.

Jean-Louis Dupont, representing Belgian player agent Daniel Striani, asked a Brussels court to examine the rule and believes it will have to seek the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the matter.

Dupont, who has taken a break from his day job of chasing ambulances, filed a complaint with the European Commission last month, arguing that the FFP contravenes EU competition law and the right to free movement of workers, services and capital.

He says the rule is illegal under EU law because it is a disproportionate measure and that there are more effective alternatives, such as allowing overspending if fully guaranteed or establishing a ‘luxury tax’.

UEFA has said the Commission, the European Parliament, clubs and leagues all supported its FFP initiative and that it was designed to guarantee long-term viability of football. It also believes it is in line with EU law.

Dupont should care. He gets paid regardless of the outcome.

Goal of the day

Neymar did what Neymar does: a superbly struck left-footed volley put Brazil 1-0 up against Mexico.

Quote of the day

“We have the pledge of the chairman that Bale is not going to leave the club.” 

Andre Villas-Boas remains confident that Gareth Bale will be a Tottenham player next season.

Beckham mania

Fans eager to see David Beckham caused a stampede at a Shanghai university resulting in seven people receiving injuries.

Three police officers, two university security guards and two students – including a Japanese student – were injured, Shanghai police said.

Nearly 1,000 fans had gathered at a stadium in Shanghai Tongji University, where the newly-retired football superstar was to meet members of the university team.

When Beckham arrived, fans stormed through a gate and broke through a flimsy cordon formed by police and guards.

Photos and video footage show people pushed onto the ground, shoes scattered and a uniformed woman being carried away – her face covered in blood.

“Too crazy,” said Chu Dan, a Tongji University football player who was hoping to have “some interaction on the pitch” with Beckham. “But we didn’t expect so many people showing up here – too many fans of Beckham.”

The event was cancelled, and Shanghai police said they were investigating the incident.

A post on Beckham’s microblog on Sina Weibo wishes the injured speedy recoveries and expresses regret for the cancellation. “It was impossible to get through the massive crowds,” it reads.

Beckham is in China this week on a seven-day promotional tour for the Chinese Super League. He has been hired as an “image ambassador” to promote the sport.

This, it has to be said, was an inauspicious start.

However, with Beckham you get plenty of bang for your buck and it wasn’t long before the former footballer was doing what he does best: reading the script his hosts had placed in front of him.

“When I first came on as ambassador of the Super League, I was well aware of what has happened in the past, and people question why I wanted to be involved in something that in the past had a bad name or corruption involved,” Beckham told reporters in Shanghai.

“For me, the past is the past, this is the future.”

Joke in here

Today’s instalment in the long running farce that is Newcastle United football club, reveals that Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias quit in a row over a player.

According to reports, Llambias resigned just hours after being forced to pull the plug on signing FC Twente defender Douglas, after new director of football, Joe Kinnear (say it quickly enough and you get a more apt Joke In Here).

To no one’s great surprise Kinnear, appointed on Tuesday, claimed he had never heard of the Brazilian player.

Llambias is understood to have spent months lining up a Bosman-style free transfer for 25-year-old centre-half Douglas, who was linked with Newcastle as far back as last summer, and a deal was in place.

Kinnear apparently sounded out former FC Twente boss Steve McClaren, because he was unaware of Douglas.

Presumably, McClaren was one of the many managers who sit by the phone, day and night, waiting for Kinnear t call.

Incidentally, Douglas has been at one of Holland’s leading clubs for six years, turning out for them in the Champions League and a member of the side that had reached the last eight of the Europa League as recently as 2010-11.