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Club reports fans for Hitler salute

Kaiserslautern have reported a group of fans to police for allegedly giving Nazi salutes to an Israeli player.

The struggling Bundesliga club says the fans made the gesture towards striker Itay Shechter during training on Sunday, a day after a 4-0 defeat at Mainz dropped Kaiserslautern to next to last in the table.

Kaiserslautern say fewer than 10 people took part, and they belong to a group of hooligans that has been banned from matches for years.

The club said it “distances itself expressly from any form of racism, discrimination or anti-Semitism,” Kaiserslautern said in a statement.

Keeping it in the family

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admitted he had mixed feelings after his side defeated Cardiff City on penalties to win the Carling Cup.

With the match finishing 2-2 after extra-time, the outcome was determined by penalty shootout. Although Gerrard missed Liverpool’s opening spot-kick it was the effort of his younger cousin, Anthony, that proved significant. The Cardiff City defender squandered a rare opportunity to get one over on his more illustrious relative by missing the crucial last kick.

“It was always going to be the case that one of us was going to be sad and one would be celebrating and I have mixed emotions,” said the elder Gerrard.

“It doesn’t matter what I say to him at this time. I know he will be down because I have been there when I scored an own goal against Chelsea in the 2005 final.

“I’ll be here for him after the game and all the family will be too.”

Milan fuming

Milan officials are still fuming about the the referee Paolo Tagliavento’s failure to spot what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate goal in an eventful top-of-the-table clash with rivals Juventus.

The game finished 1-1 but Milan had a strong claim for a winner only for the referee’s assistant to rule that a header from Sulley Muntari had not crossed the line.

“It didn’t go in,” the linesman, Roberto Romagnoli, is reported to have told Tagliavento via the referee’s earpiece. “I’m certain.”

However, slow motion replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the line before being clawed away by Juve ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon. You can see Romagnoli at the top of the frame with a perfect view of the incident.

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani allegedly confronted Referees’ Association president Marcello Nicchi before exchanging angry words with the Juventus president Andrea Agnelli. He then encountered opposing coach Antonio Conte and accused the Juve boss of having influenced the officials with his complaints over refereeing decisions in recent matches.

“Look what happens when you spend the whole week crying,” Galliani is reported to have said.

Conte’s alleged reply was caustic: “What a pulpit, you lot are the mafia of football.”

Later, a contrite Conte conceded that things had got out of hand.

“It’s disappointing, but this match had become too charged – for everyone,” he said. “An ugly atmosphere in general, and I’m referring to everyone: myself included. Things happened that have nothing to do with football … Milan deserved more, and tonight they showed all their strength, despite many important absences.”

In a compelling match befitting such an important fixture, controversy was never far from the surface, with Milan also accusing Andrea Pirlo of punching Marc Van Bommel in a statement released on their official website.

Although, as we can see, Van Bommel is not only capable of looking after himself, he’s no slouch when it comes to exacting his own retribution.

Goal of the day

Audacious, yet effective, Cristiano Ronaldo scored an improvised backheel goal to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.

Cause for concern?

Serbian police are investigating an incident in which a hand grenade was thrown into the garden of the house owned by the mother of Dragan Stojkovic, the coach of Nagoya Grampus and a former Red Star Belgrade and Marseille player.

The legendary former Red Star Belgrade player angered supporters of his former club who blame him for allegedly illegally profiting from the sale of players while serving as the club’s president in 2005-07.

Stojkovic seems unconcerned by the explosion, confident that he was not the intended target.

“It leaves a bitter taste but anything I might say at this point in time would be superfluous because I am convinced that I wasn’t the intended recipient of this assault.”

Several Red Star fans forcibly ejected Stojkovic from the club’s cafe last month, although bombing his house would, on the surface, appear to be an almost unimaginable escalation of hostilities.

Sticking to their guns

A-League club Gold Coast United will continue to defy Football Federation Australia (FFA) and send their players out in a kit bearing the slogan “Freedom of Speech” for the remainder of the season.

The FFA postponed Gold Coast’s match against Melbourne Victory at the weekend because of the slogan, which replaced the logo of club sponsors Hyatt on the front of the team’s shirts.

Club chief executive Clive Mensink said that the slogan was being used to highlight the plight of refugees.

“It is public knowledge that Mr Palmer’s group of companies are in a legal dispute with the Hyatt and, as a result, the club wasn’t comfortable playing with the Hyatt brand on the playing strips,” Mensink said in a statement.

“It was suggested internally that as a replacement, something non-controversial would serve as a message to the broader community.

“We currently have two African refugees playing for the club who have experienced what it is like to live in a country fighting for freedom of speech.”

There have been suggestions that the message was chosen to highlight a row between the club’s owner Clive Palmer and FFA boss Ben Buckley. Whatever the real motive behind the adoption of the slogan, it is unlikely we have heard the last of it.

FFA chairman Frank Lowy called in FFA chief executive Ben Buckley and A-League boss Lyall Gorman to decide on a course of action regarding Palmer, whose forthright views on football are deemed be undermining the credibility of the entire competition.

There has been talk of Gold Coast United being expelled from the A-League, although Palmer appears undaunted about the prospect of legal action and has even taunted league officials about his unbeaten record over 68 previous legal matters.

Quote of the day

“For a player to play for one club for 900 games is exceptional, and it won’t be done again. He deserved that goal for his service to the club. He’s had an amazing career and he’s an amazing man.”

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson pays tribute to Ryan Giggs, who celebrated his 900th appearance for the club by scoring a last minute winner against Norwich.

Coincidentally, his first goal for United was also against Norwich, 21 years ago.

Latest coaching casualty

Niger have sacked coach Harouna Doula just three weeks after returning from the African Nations Cup finals.

Niger are now looking to appoint controversial French coach Rolland Courbis as a permanent replacement. The former Marseille and Bordeaux coach served as an advisor to Doula at the African Nations Cup, but assumed control of the team after they lost their opening game.

Courbis has enjoyed an eventful career in management.

In 1991 he was arrested and placed in police custody for 98 days and later given a three year suspended prison sentence for fraud during his time at Toulon.

While at Marseille, Courbis was sentenced to two years in prison for accepting bungs, but after a long running appeal process he avoided having to serve most of that time.

In the 1990s he was implicated in a roulette scam and accused of cheating a casino. He was found guilty and banned from every casino in France, only for the ban to be overturned on appeal.

In 1996 gunmen attacked him and Dominique Rutily, the president of French club Calvi, as they were leaving a game in Toulon over a reported financial dispute.

Rutily was killed but Courbis survived after undergoing surgery after being shot in the back.

In the light of that experience, it’s unlikely he’ll be phased by the prospect of international management.

On the game

Three Nigerian footballers have been arrested along with a woman from an apartment in Garfa, India, for allegedly running a sex racket.

The arrested players are Adeola Hassan of Mohammedan Sporting and Michael Tayo and Wahid Abdullah of Kalighat Milan Sangha. The woman is alleged to be a prostitute.

Just another example of footballers behaving badly? Yes, and no. Unlike their European counterparts who would be visiting brothels, the Nigerian players are accused of running one.

Finally…

Still in India, one of the country’s football greats has passed away. Dubai Sailendra Nath Manna, known popularly as Sailen Manna, has died at the age of 87.

Alegend in Indian football, Manna captained his country at the inaugural Asian Games gold in Delhi in 1951, He made his debut against France in the London Olympics in 1948. Four years later, he captained India in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Besides being conferred the Padma Shri in 1971, Manna was also declared the AIFF Player of the Millennium in 2000.

Praful Patel, the President of the All India Football Federation in his message said: “It’s sad to hear that Sailen Manna, one of the Greatest Footballers is no more. His contribution to Indian Football will never be forgotten. I share the grief.”

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