Desperate times…

The Greek economic crisis has led to two football clubs pursuing novel avenues for sponsorship deals.

Paliopygros FC have agreed a deal with a local undertaker and appropriately enough will now be playing in black shirts and shorts with a big purple cross on the shirts.

“It was a matter of survival,” Paleopyrgo general manager Lefteris Vasiliou told NovaSport FM with no trace of irony. “The owner of the funeral home is a friend and we agreed,”

“The previous season was very difficult for us with the economic crisis. We did not have a sponsor for the last three years.”

Elsewhere, Voukefalas have signed a deal with a local brothel. The club will be playing in pink shirt with black detail and the sponsor emblazoned on the front.

“When we announced to the players that our sponsor would be a brothel, they wanted to know about bonuses,” the club’s president Giannis Batziolas told local radio station NovaSport FM. “The proposal was made strictly for economic reasons. As soon as the offer was made, we couldn’t turn it down.”

Internal feud

Luciano Spalletti, coach of Zenit St Petersburg, has weighed into the row over the club’s decision to spend extravagantly on foreign signings Hulk and Axel Witsel.

Hulk came to Zenit from Porto, while Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel arrived from Benfica in deals reported to be worth €80 million. Their arrival, though, angered Russian duo Alexander Kerzhakov and Igor Denisov, who criticised the club for lavishing money on imported talent at the expense of the home grown players.

Their outbursts resulted in the pair being demoted to the reserve side, the involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin, appeals from local communists to appoint a disciplinarian coach from North Korea and now, a suggestion from Spalletti that Kerzhakov may have talked himself out of a future at the club.

“As for Kerzhakov, he very clearly demonstrated that in these troubled times, he only wants to think about himself,” Spalletti told Zenit’s official website on Thursday.

“We do not want to take along those who only think of themselves and do not want to move forward together with us.”

Things could be worse: a broader team rebellion was narrowly averted when influential veteran Vyacheslav Malafeyev agreed to train alongside Hulk.

Meanwhile, amid the turmoil, Russian media are reporting that a fake home-made bomb, hidden in a bag, has been found at the club’s training ground along with a picture of striker Hulk.

Back into the fold

Samuel Eto’o has been persuaded to resume playing for Cameroon following a meeting with Prime Minister Philemon Yang.

Eto’o was banned by the Cameroon Football Federation last November after leading a players’ strike over late payment of bonuses and appearance fees. The 31-year-old then refused to play in last month’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier first-leg match against Cape Verde in protest against the national team set-up. There’s nothing like a defeat to concentrate the mind and in the wake of a 2-0 loss to Cape Verde a delegation was dispatched to Russia to persuade Eto’o to return.

“On the request of the highest authority of the Republic, I make myself available to the Indomitable Lions,” Eto’o said on his website.

“I am encouraged by my desire to serve my country with the same faith, ardour and determination of 15 years ago. I was received these past days by the state authorities to discuss the present situation of football in Cameroon, and specifically the national team.

“I am convinced that together, putting aside other interests for the country, we are capable, with God’s assistance, of givingCameroon football the panache, and shine of old.”

Judging by the performance from the first leg against Cape Verde, it will take more than God’s help to swing the tie.

Goal of the day

Collecting the ball just outside the penalty area LDU Loja’s Pedro Larrea produced a lovely curling effort against Sao Paulo.

Quote of the day

“If Karl Heinze Rummenigge is sick with the wages we offer, he should go and meet a doctor. We take big care of our expenses. For example, Thiago Silva does not earn one more cent than what he earned at AC Milan. To me, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the best forward in the world.”

Fed up with the frequent jibes of Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge,  PSG chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi decides to fight back.

Sky’s the limit

Khelaifi did reveal that there was a limit to the amount of money that his side were prepared to pay players. So far, the only player to hit that ceiling is Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez, who priced himself out of a move to PSG.

Al-Khelaifi told Germany’s Sportbild: “If the transfer was not sorted out, it was not because he didn’t want to come, but because we didn’t accept his wage demands.

“He wanted to come. We don’t pay too big wages to our players. Last winter Carlos Tevez asked too much and didn’t match the club’s philosophy. So we refused.”

If the pit of money available is not bottomless, the ambition of the club remains limitless. Another player to reveal that he was approached by the Parisian outfit is Barcelona’s Dani Alves.

“PSG, last summer, many people called and they are putting together a wonderful project”, Alves told French radio station RMC. 

”In the summer the spoke with my agent to see if a transfer was possible. The chance of a transfer however, was very small, because Barcelona wanted a lot of money for me and then PSG proposed to talk with other players.”

Asked whether he could still play for PSG, Alves is clear that he will not rule anything out.

“You can never say never”, said the Brazilian.

”I am not closing any doors.

 One day Barcelona won’t want me anymore. 

It remains to be seen.

You can take a Dutchman out of Holland…

Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben says too much harmony is not always good for a team. And if anyone would know about that it’s Robben of course.

Although Bayern have started the season with a 100 percent record, winning five matches on the trot in the Bundesliga and opening their Champions League campaign with a victory over Valencia, Robben is a big fan of the concept of creative tension, believing that a degree of conflict can bring the best out of players.

“It is important that … sometimes there are clashes between team-mates,” he told Sport 1.

“We need each other to tell the truth, and this is not always a positive.”

Let’s hear how that works when Bayern start losing games.

Juve coach in trouble

Juventus interim boss Massimo Carrera is under investigation for his involvement in a car crash which resulted in two deaths.

The former defender, along with two others, is accused of manslaughter for their roles in the collision, and the verdict is expected to be announced on October 9.

Two 23-year-olds that lost their lives after being involved in a three car pile-up in the early hours of New Year’s Eve last year.

While the occupants of all three cars came out to assess the damage, the car driven by Carrera hit one of those involved in the accident, killing one of the women instantly. The other lost her life later in hospital.

The Juve trainer’s legal representatives are claiming that the lights on the highway during the night were faint, making it hard for their client to see the crash that lay ahead of him.

Carrera is currently acting as Juventus’ matchday coach after Antonio Conte was handed a 10-month touchline ban for his implication in the Scommessopoli scandal.

Not so jolly Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers has hinted that Liverpool players could resort to unsporting means to win decisions having been denied “the rub of the green” from referees this season.

The Liverpool manager claims Luis Suárez has been refused legitimate penalties in the past two Premier League games, against Sunderland and Manchester United, and argues that major decisions have gone against his team.

“I’m concerned that we’ve not had any sort of rub of the green from officials,” Rodgers said. “We like to think we are a sporting team, I have always told my players to do the right thing, not to dive, to play fair. But the fairness we show, it seems the decisions pass us by because of it. There are so many decisions that have gone against us.

“It would be a shame if players who respect the rules and managers who are asking players to stay on their feet and not dive are not getting the decisions because of it. I think it is important that referees understand that. It has been a criticism of the last few years of players going down too easy. It is not something we want to encourage but if you’re not going to get decisions because of it players may do that.”

With regard to players respecting the rules and trying to stay on their feet, the prosecution presents exhibit 1:

Rodgers phoned Mike Riley, head of Professional Game Match Officials, to express his grievances on Thursday.

“Having had four and a half terrific years at Chelsea I certainly saw enough games at that level to see that sometimes the big clubs do get decisions.

“I came here to one of the biggest clubs in the world and in my opening period we haven’t got a thing so I just wanted to ask the question and put my point across.”

Is Rodgers really advocating Liverpool get favourable decisions because they are a big club?

World Cup kick off times

FIFA’s executive committee have announced the kick off times for the 2014 2014.

A statement released by FIFA read: “Group-stage games will be played at 1pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm and 9pm local time, with knockout stage matches at 1pm and 5pm local time.

“The semi-finals will be played at 5pm local time and the final, on July 13, at the iconic Maracana stadium (in Rio de Janeiro), at 4pm local time.

Inevitably, whenever FIFA issue a statement murmurs of discontent follow and the unveiling of the kick-off times is no exception, with some observers questioning the wisdom of playing matches in the early afternoon in tropical venues such as Natal, Recife and Salvador.

Jeromoe Valcke, visibly exasperated at constant criticism of the tournament’s organisation, said the tournament had been organised with the players health in mind.

“I don’t even imagine why and how you could think we are making decisions thinking about the television and not thinking about the health of the players,” Valcke told reporters following a question from a Brazilian journalist.

“The first thing we need is a good World Cup and to have a good World Cup we must make sure we have the best of football and to have the best of football, we need the best teams and the best game.

“Every decision we make takes into consideration the health of the players.”

It will be interesting how this line is spun when the finals move to the sauna conditions of Qatar in 2022.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said players would adapt.

“The history of football has shown that great players can play in all conditions,” he said. “In Mexico in 1970 and 1986, we played at high noon, at 2,400 metres and the quality of the game did not suffer.”

Oh well, that’s alright then.