Political football

UEFA President and FIFA Executive Committee member Michel Platini has defended his decision to vote for Qatar as 2022 World Cup host and dismissed any suggestion that he was persuaded to change his vote.

Responding to a 15-page report in France Football, headlined ‘Qatargate, which inferred that Platini, under pressure from former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, had switched his support from the United States to Qatar.

Platini said in a statement to AFP that “to believe that my choice went to Qatar 2022 in exchange for deals between the French state and Qatar is just pure speculation”.

The magazine suggests Sarkozy pressured Platini for political reasons to switch allegiance from the United States to Qatar in the FIFA vote. In return, according to the report, the Qataris promised to help French football and lo and behold, shortly afterwards, a Qatari-funded takeover of PSG went ahead. Coincidence? Who knows?

Platini says Sarkozy “would never have allowed himself to ask me to vote for Qatar 2022 because he knows that I am my own man.”

“I don’t rule out taking anyone to court who questions my integrity in this vote,” he added.

The chairmen of FIFA’s Adjudicatory and Investigative Chambers, Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and Michael J Garcia , said in a joint statement: “As has been publicly announced, certain allegations regarding events surrounding the bidding for the World Cup 2018 and 2022 were referred to the ethics committee by FIFA following media reports.

“We intend to conduct a thorough review of those allegations, including the evidentiary basis for and credibility of any allegations of individual misconduct.”

There have been calls for the 2022 vote to be overturned, but for that to happen, heads would surely have to roll and possibly hell would need to freeze over.

Patience of a saint

AZ Alkmaar’s Joey Altidore has given a remarkable interview in which he offered to pray for opposing supporters, who racially abused him during his side’s 5-0 victory at Den Bosch in the Dutch KNVB Cup.

Tuesday’s game was twice halted due to trouble in the crowd, involving both chanting and the throwing of snowballs at an assistant referee.

Referee Reinold Wiedemeijer, was prepared to stop proceedings until the chanting stopped, but Altidore himself asked for the match to be resumed.

After the match, Altidore said: “It’s a bit disappointing that these things still happen in this time we’re in but what are you going to do?

“You just hope that these people can improve themselves. You pray for them. I feel like I have an obligation as a football player, to my club, to my family, to not react to things like this and to show that the club stands better than that, that I was raised better than to respond to such ridiculous behaviour.

“It’s a bit disappointing. You would hope that we as humanity can grow from these kind of times but it’s still alive, racism. All we can do is try to educate ourselves, and try to raise young kids to be better than that.”

The American, who has played in a number of European countries including England, Spain and Turkey, said he could not recall facing similar abuse.

“I don’t think so, in a match like this,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is pray for them and hope they become better people. I’m not going to fight them. They just have some issues and they need some help.”

Asked why he did not want the match stopped, he added: “We were in a good rhythm. It was important for us to keep going. We’ve started the new year right. You have to look at the bigger picture.”

Indeed, although one could argue that the bigger picture on this occasion was not the outcome of a football match, but the outrageous behaviour of the racist idiots.

To their credit, Den Bosch promised to come down hard on those responsible for the abuse.

A spokesman for the club said these fans responsible for the monkey chants ”do not belong in the De Vliert (Stadium) and will face the toughest possible sanctions.”

Didier or didn’t he?

There is confusion over the transfer of Didier Drogba from Shanghai Shenhua to Galatasaray with the Chinese club set to lodge a complaint with FIFA about the deal.

Drogba agreed an 18-month contract to join the Turkish outfit yesterday and intends to join up with his new club when Ivory Coast’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations is over.

However, Shanghai insist the 34-year-old, who signed a two-and-a-half year contract after leaving Chelsea last summer, is still one of their players. If they have not sanctioned a sale, you can see why they might feel a little aggrieved by news of their big-name signing upping sticks.

A statement on their website read: “The club is deeply shocked. Drogba is still a Shanghai Shenhua member as the contract between the two parties is still within its period of validity. Shanghai Shenhua is ready to gather evidence and submit the findings to FIFA in order to protect its interests.”

Zhu Jun, Shenhua’s chief investor, added: “Everything about Shenhua will be handled according to the rules of FIFA and Drogba’s case will be the same.”

FIFA agent Ceylan Çalışkan who worked on behalf of Galatasaray football club during the signing of Didier Drogba has dismissed the statement.

Çalışkan said, “Whatever statement Shanghai Shenhua make, whoever the appeal to the response they will receive will always be the same.

“We signed Drogba following official FIFA practices and did not contravene any laws

“Shanghai Shenhua did failed to pay Drogba for three months. Drogba used the clause in his contract permitting him to terminate the contract upon non-payment of wages.


“Galatasaray signed Drogba as a free agent, now we are just waiting for his International Transfer Certificate from FIFA.

“There are many cases of players cancelling their contracts with clubs due to non-payment of wages. If we look at Turkey, there are high profile examples such as Franck Ribery and Matteo Ferrari.”

The issue surely with Drogba is not that he didn’t get paid, but that there was a delay in him receiving his wages.

Sale of the century

Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas has described new signing Lewis Holtby as the “bargain of the century” and believes the new man can emulate the impact Rafael van der Vaart made at White Hart Lane.

That is, flatter to deceive for a few months, before suffering a sharp drop off in form, and moving on before anyone had noticed the decline.

Spurs completed a deal for the midfielder on Monday for a knockdown fee of €1.75 million and the Portuguese manager is delighted with the deal.

“Is he the bargain of the century? I think so because it’s difficult to find a young player who is running his contract down and we faced tough competition,” Villas-Boas said in the Daily Star. “He’s recognized as an exceptional young talent and we have high expectations of the player.

“Because of his creativity you can compare him to Rafa [van der Vaart] – to a certain extent anyway because Rafa was a greatly experienced player when he joined and Lewis has all his career ahead of him.

“He will fill the No.10 position, although he can play on the right or the left and he has also played in a holding role.”

Which is Villas-Boas’ way of saying that he doesn’t quite know where he plays, but when you’re looking a gift horse in the mouth you pay the money now, and worry about the detail later.

Goal of the day

A great set-up and a wonderful volley from Yohan Cabaye eased Newcastle United’s relegation worries, whilst deepening those of opponents Aston Villa.

Miss of the day

Claudio Marchisio has apologised to Juventus fans for a terrible miss in the closing closing stages of the 2-1 defeat to Lazio in last night’s Italian Cup semi-final.

The miss was costly: had he scored then Juve would have reached the final on the away goal rule.

“I couldn’t miss,” the Italian international commented on his Facebook page. “It was so important. I’m sorry.”

Quote of the day

“I want to become Guardiola’s new Mourinho. We want to be an unpleasant opponent for Bayern in the next few years. If Pep Guardiola doesn’t like me during the game or because of the result, that’s not a problem.”

Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp thinks he knows how to get under the skin of the next Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola.

Super Mario

Milan striker Robinho is confident that Mario Balotelli will prove to be a hit at the San Siro.

Milan are currently fifth in Serie A, trailing league leaders Juventus by 12 points, but Robinho is confident that the arrival of Balotelli will signal an upturn in form.

“Balotelli is a great player and will definitely help the squad,” said the Brazilian. “We are happy he has arrived and we are all going to welcome him. Let’s hope he does well for Milan.

“There’s enthusiasm in the changing room and we’re getting better. There are still plenty of games to go and every three points will help us move up the table.

“The beginning of the campaign wasn’t good, and once more the Italian league is proving to be difficult.

“But at the moment we’re experiencing a good run of form in this crucial point of the season, and with 16 games to go anything is possible.”

The maverick pair have something in common: both arrived at Manchester City hyped as potential world beaters and both went on to prove the old adage that to succeed, sometimes talent alone is not enough.

Back in the big time

Milan director Barbara Berlusconi believes the signing of Mario Balotelli proves the club still has the financial muscle to attract the biggest names in football.

Berlusconi, daughter of Milan owner Silvio, issued a statement which showed that when it comes to being economical with the truth, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

“This transfer has demonstrated that Milan can still invest substantial amounts in top players,” she told the club’s official website.

“Our club has, in the last year or so, completely reorganized costing and investments. It was about rationalization, and various sacrifices were needed, not just in terms of player salaries but also about repositioning the brand.

“Milan were the first club to choose to organize their accounts and balance the books.”

Berlusconi also believes that the approach the club has taken to finances in recent times leaves it well placed when dealing with future transfers.

“Thanks to this strong decision, we can only stand to benefit with our stars of the future, and still also be able to make some important acquisitions,” she said.

That’s one way of looking at it; another, is that having sold the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Alexandre Pato for a combined sum of €76million, Milan can afford to splash out a fraction of that on a player that few other clubs were interested in.


While Milan bask in what they believe is a return to the good old days, city rivals Inter continue their cost cutting measures by selling 20-year-old midfielder Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool.

The Brazil international joined the Serie A side from Vasco da Gama in 2010, and spent the second half of last season on loan at Spanish side Espanyol.

The Premier League side agreed an £8.5 million transfer fee with Inter after.

Speaking to the club’s official website, Coutinho said: “I’m feeling very happy, it’s a very important step in my career and I’m expecting to come here and play good football to give my contribution on the pitch.

Coutinho also revealed that he was familiar with Liverpool due to re-runs of their 1980s successes on Brazilian TV.

“Liverpool is a great club with great players. We’ve always heard about Liverpool’s history in Brazil. They are the club that have been interested in me and that have showed this interest so I know they believe in me and my football.”