Serving time

Liverpool have decided not to appeal the ten-match ban handed to striker Luis Suarez by the Football Association for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

The club had until midday UK time on Friday to contest the decision after analysing the FA disciplinary panel’s full written judgement following the incident in last Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Anfield.

A statement from the FA read: “Liverpool forward Luis Suarez has not appealed the suspension issued to him by an Independent Regulatory Commission this week.

“A three-person Independent Regulatory Commission upheld The FA’s claim that a suspension of three matches was clearly insufficient and the player will now serve a further seven first-team matches in addition to the standard three.

“The suspension begins with immediate effect and applies to Liverpool FC’s next ten domestic first-team fixtures.”

Reports suggest that Liverpool left the decision with Suarez, but he, perhaps fed up with a life lived in the spotlight, has opted to take his medicine and accept the 10-match ban.

“I am truly very sorry about the incident with Branislav Ivanovic,” Suarez said. “I hope that all the people who I have offended at Anfield last Sunday will grant me forgiveness. I know that all the things that are happening to me in England will help me improve my conduct on the field. Right now I just want to focus on becoming a better footballer on and off the field.

“I would like to explain to everybody that I decided to accept the ban because whilst 10 games is clearly greater than those bans given in past cases where players have actually been seriously hurt, I acknowledge that my actions were not acceptable on the football pitch so I do not want to give the wrong impression to people by making an appeal. I really want to learn from what has happened in the last two and a half years, many things have been said and written about me, I just tried to do my best on the field. I hope to come back early to play.”

Perhaps the belated, and quite unnecessary intervention of Prime Minister, David Cameron, convinced the Uruguayan that he was swimming against the tide of public sentiment.

“As a dad and as a human being do I think we should have tough penalties when football players behave like this? Yes,” Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I have a seven-year-old son who loves football, loves watching football and when players behave like this, it sets the most appalling example to young people in our country.”

Before the panel announced the 10-match punishment, Mr Cameron had said that “it would be very understandable if the panel took into account that high-profile players are often role models”.

Which is questionable, but as the official FA report says “We also agreed that all players in the higher level of the game are seen as role models…”, it does appear to have had a significant bearing on the severity of the punishment.

Tsunami alert

Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner claims he was personally given the money to build a £4m centre of excellence in Trinidad in exchange for helping Sepp Blatter’s election as president of the sport’s governing body.

Is this the much-anticipated ‘tsunami’ of corruption allegations against Sepp Blatter that Warner promised when he quit football in 2011? If so, it’s turned out to be more of a gentle wave.

Warner has produced letters from Blatter’s predecessor, João Havelange, confirming the $6m FIFA loan for the centre, built on land owned by Warner, had been converted into a donation. In return Warner says he promised the 30 CONCACAF votes needed for Blatter to beat Lennart Johansson for the FIFA presidency in 1998 and named the centre after Havelange.

Warner, who quit football following corruption allegations and this week resigned from the Trinidad government after an audit by the North American governing body, CONCACAF, raised questions about the funding and ownership of the centre of excellence.

That’s two high profile positions resigned, despite repeated protestations of innocence. Naturally, a person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but in the case of Warner, it seems prudent to keep your mind open.

He said in a statement: “Blatter was Havelange’s candidate to succeed him for the FIFA presidency. Blatter had been at this time the most hated FIFA official by both the European and African confederations and without my CONCACAF support at the Fifa elections, Blatter would never have seen the light of day as president of FIFA. I told Havelange that, through him, Blatter will get CONCACAF’s total support.”

Warner delivered 30 CONCACAF votes for Blatter – and he beat Johansson by 111 votes to 80.

Warner added: “An interesting development at that congress was that Haiti was absent and with Blatter’s permission, I got Horace Burrell’s [president of the Jamaica Football Federation] girlfriend to vote as the Haitian delegate by saying, ‘Oui!’ when Haiti’s name was called.”

He also insists the centre of excellence was never a CONCACAF asset but had been “a gift for the Caribbean and Jack Warner”.

“So there was no ambiguity,” said Warner. “There was no uncertainty. There was no secret in my dealings towards with Dr Havelange and the centre of excellence. So the centre of excellence was built, first by a loan that was given to Jack Warner that was converted into a grant, and by further assistance from Dr Havelange after whom I named the centre.”

Calling it a day

Vicente del Bosque has confirmed that he will step down as manager of world and European champions Spain after the 2014 World Cup.

Angel Villar, president of the Spanish football federation, had been hoping that del Bosque would continue until 2016 but the former Real Madrid coach has decided to step down.

“My last responsibility as national manager will be at the World Cup in Brazil,” he said.

“Then maybe I can stay tied to the Spanish Football Federation in roles of representation, like now, travelling all over for requests from public welfare agencies.”

Del Bosque was also asked about Spain’s current playing philosophy and if it was too similar to that of Barcelona.

“There is an identity, more than that of Barcelona, because the team has the balance that the players from Real Madrid provide,” he added.

“The team is balanced between players from both, plus some that operate in other leagues, such as the Premier League.”

Barca and Del Bosque’s former club Real Madrid both suffered heavy defeats in the Champions League semi-final first legs to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively, adding credence to the idea that Germany will be serious contenders in Brazil.

“The Germans have learnt of the traditional power of possession, which is what you see now with Bayern and Borussia, and it makes their national team a great candidate to win the next World Cup,” he said.

“Cycles are fulfilled and football is evened out worldwide. That is why Finland made things complicated for us [in March’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw].”

Political football

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights have jointly written to FIFA president Sepp Blatter calling on him to withdraw Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain nomination for President of the Asian Football Confederation, because of his alleged involvement in human rights violations.

According to the letter, “Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa is involved in human rights violations with the assistance of his office and consultants against players, administrators, referees and clubs who participated in the democracy protests in February 2011.”

The letter lists the “most important acts of revenge carried out by Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa against groups that are affiliated with football,” including:

“On 20 April 2011, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa chaired a periodic meeting for the Bahrain Football Association, where he emphasized that the Association has to implement the resolutions of the inquiry commission and to work on eliminating anyone who proves to have participated in the peaceful protests, whether administrators, referees, and the members of the running committees of the Bahrain Football Association.”

You can read more about this unfolding story here.

Stepping down

Djurgardens manager Magnus Pehrsson has resigned following threats from supporters, the Swedish top-flight club have confirmed.

“The threats were expressed via telephone after the loss to (defending champions) Elfsborg, but also during an unannounced visit during the A team’s training session on Tuesday,” the statement said.

“Three people from an unofficial supporters’ group expressed their disappointment about the sporting results. At the same time, they pointed out in a threatening manner what consequences continued poor results would have for Magnus personally.”

The threats have been reported to the police, the club said.

“The way the situation developed after Monday’s and Tuesday’s events, my position as manager and as a person was untenable, and I have taken the decision to leave the club,” said Pehrsson, who made over 100 appearances for the club as a player.

Djurgarden Football’s chairman Tommy Jacobson has also resigned.

“Sad is too mild a word – it’s tragic that these kinds of forces can have such an influence,” he said in a statement.

“That Magnus felt he had to resign was the last straw for me,” Jacobson added.

“That there are people who totally go against the both the club’s and society’s democratic principles is completely unacceptable for me in my role as chairman  I hope it starts an examination in these supporter circles.”

The 11-times Swedish champions are bottom of the Allsvenskan with one point from the opening four games of the season.

They also had one home game abandoned due to crowd trouble, when a player from Mjallby was struck by an object thrown from the crowd as he celebrated a goal.

Staying put?

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski have not signed a deal, the newly-crowned champions said on Friday, curtailing speculation about a surprise move.

“Bayern, as opposed to some reports, has no contract with Robert Lewandowski,” the Champions League semi-finalists said in a brief statement.

Bayern stunned Dortmund fans a day before their team crushed Real Madrid 4-1 in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday with the announcement of a deal with Dortmund playmaker Mario Goetze worth a reported €37 million.

Bundesliga top scorer Lewandowski, who scored all four goals for Dortmund against Madrid, has refused to sign a contract extension beyond 2014 and could leave as early as this summer.

His agent said on Thursday the Poland international would not stay on in Dortmund but the player has refused to comment on his future.

If he’s looking to secure an improved deal with Dortmund, Lewandowski’s exploits on Wednesday have certainly strengthened his bargaining position.

Quote of the day

“We’d call ourselves the underwear bandits. I have no idea where it came from, but if you were in your room watching a film and someone burst in with their boxers on their head, you knew you were in trouble. Sometimes it wasn’t even pillows – it was shoes and stuff like that. Luckily I was always quite quick, so I tended to get away with it.”

Theo Walcott looks back on his salad days with Gareth Bale when the pair were team-mates at Southampton.

Lamb to the slaughter

Brazilian regional league side Santo Angelo came up with a novel idea to generate funds when they staged a livestock raffle at half-time of one of their league matches.

The Series A-2 Campeonato Gaucho club offered every ticket-buying fan entry into the draw with the winner walking home with a sheep.

The ruse seemed to work and attendances were up for the first time in months after word was put out around the area the club would be giving away a live sheep at half-time. The club’s president took to the field at the interval and pulled the lucky winning seat number out of a hat.

Paying tribute

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has confirmed that his players will form a guard of honour when the champions-elect travel to the Emirates on Sunday.

“When you work somewhere abroad, you have to respect the culture of the country. That is part of the tradition of English football and I want that to be respected,” Wenger said.

Wenger will hope, that unlike in many recent meetings between the two sides, his players will abandon the guard of honour when the game actually kicks off.

Sunday’s match will also see the return to Arsenal of Robin Van Persie, and Wenger hopes his return will not overshadow what is a significant fixture for a side battling for one of the four Champions League spots.

“I am looking forward to our performance on Sunday more than anything else. You focus on your own team and it’s an interesting opportunity for us to achieve something special on Sunday. We want to take this opportunity,” he said.

“We respect Robin van Persie like every other player who has left us and came back to the Emirates. I want the player to be respected like everybody else. I always said that for every single player who left, even some of them in much more controversy than Robin van Persie.”


Kevin-Prince Boateng claimed that being targeted with racist abuse from some fans almost caused him to quit Italy.

The Milan forward hit the international headlines in January when he led his team off the pitch during a friendly with third division side Pro Patria after being targeted with racist chants from a handful of fans.

Boateng, however, was subjected to the same kind of racism by fans last week when Milan were in Turin to play Juventus.

 It occurred before the start of the game and rather than walk off, Boateng simply pressed his finger to his lips in a bid to silence the abuse.

But he told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday: “I’m really sad to see and hear what is still going on. But I can’t and I won’t leave because of a handful of idiots.”

Juventus were fined €30,000 for the latest incident, a fine which the club accepted amid claims it was doing its best to root out the abusers.

Boateng added: “It’s not up to me to say what punishments should be dealt out, the important thing is that the issue is taken seriously and tackled efficiently.”