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Moving closer to the exit door

Yesterday it was a case of him being flattered by reported interest from Real Madrid. Today, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez admits it might be time for a change of scenery. Even by the ADHD standards of the modern day football transfer saga, the transition has been swift.

The striker was speaking at a news conference in his homeland ahead of Uruguay’s friendly with France in Montevideo on 5 June.

“It’s a good moment for a change of environment because of all I’ve been through,” he said.

“I had a hard time, very hard, in the things that have been said are lies. One has limits and the family also suffers.

“They treated me bad and it would be understandable if one day I go to my club (and the media are waiting for him) but I cannot walk my baby, the paparazzi are always there.

“My family, my image – that’s what matters to me most. The coach and some colleagues know that I suffered, I was treated badly and I did not feel comfortable and they know perfectly.

“It’s nothing against Liverpool, on the contrary, I feel very comfortable at the club, but I have a daughter and I do not want to hear bad things about her father.

“In England they talk about many things and in some ways I feel uncomfortable.

“I do not know when I’m going and I do not know if I’m staying.

“If I stay it is because it is a great club but also in turn I know that it is difficult because of the harassment I get from the press.”

Suarez is correct on one pertinent point. His position in English football has become increasingly untenable. That, though, as any self aware person would acknowledge, is all of his own making.

File this away in the folder marked ‘more self pity.’

One Liverpool fan reacted to the news in typically stoic fashion.

Still, looking for a positive angle for distraught fans, the departure of Suarez would remove a particularly unpleasant stain from the club’s recent history. For that, all Liverpool fans should be grateful.

A point noted by one former Liverpool player, Dietmar Hamann, who tweeted: “Suarez gave great service but missed 20 games,dragged the image of the club through the mud and now blames media for his exit #topguy.”

Sporting pioneers?

FIFA is now setting the highest standards for governance in world sport. Or, so says FIFA president Sepp Blatter who, lest we forget, was dragged kicking and screaming into an age of (veiled) transparency by a series of scandals.

Making his presidential address to delegates at the 63rd FIFA Congress, Blatter used a number of maritime metaphors to illustrate how the reform process had evolved over two years since the corruption allegations first broke. ‘Walking the plank’, was not among them, which is a strange omission considering the number of FIFA Exco members and former Blatter loyalists who jumped the sinking ship in the wake of the myriad scandals.

“We have been through a difficult time, it has been a test for the world of football and for those who live in it,” the 77-year-old said.

“As the captain, I am pleased to say we have weathered the storm.

“We have emerged from the troubled waters stronger and now we can look forwards to the future and waters as calm as the beautiful sea around us in Mauritius and I think the boat can now go slowly into the harbour.

“Yes we had to change, we had to answer tough questions and we had to fight resistance even within our own community for the better of the game. It hurt but like a football team, we persevered and it paid dividends.

“These sweeping and hard-hitting reforms will change our orgnisation for the better and places FIFA at the forefront of governance standards in the world of sport.

If FIFA leads and the rest of sporting world follows, then heaven help the world of sport. What next, Lance Armstrong placed in charge of WADA?

To be fair to Blatter, in recent years, he has not always been an obstacle to progress. On some issues, most notably the fight against racism, he has been commendably proactive. Like a broken cuckoo clock, the Swiss occasionally gets it right.

“There have been some despicable offences this year that have cast a long shadow over football and the rest of society. I am speaking about the politics of hate, racism,” he said.

“There is no place in football for racism and neither is there any place for match-fixing or manipulation.

“We have to be tough and we have to make it plain to the racists that their time is up, it is finished.”

Quote of the day

“A key remaining issue in transparency is the remuneration of key officials. These did not come overnight for other organisations either but FIFA needs to catch up. I would like to invite the president and members of the executive committee to take this step as it would send a crucial message to their constituencies and to the wider public that they have nothing to hide.

Not everyone is convinced that FIFA is leading the way on transparency. Here, Mark Pieth, chairman of the Independent Governance Committee, calls on Sepp Blatter and senior members to reveal their salaries.

Workers rights

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee has continued its preparations for the staging of the FIFA World Cup by appointing KEO as the project manager and AECOM as the design consultant for the ambitious Al Wakrah Stadium project.

The announcement comes just days after Qatar 2022 appointed Stadion Amsterdam and IMG as the stadium operations consultants for the World Cup.

“This is an important step for us as we deliver on our innovative hosting concept,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general for the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee. “We are looking forward to working with our partners on Al Wakrah Stadium to construct an amazing sporting facility that both serves the local community and integrates with Al Wakrah’s fabric. We are delighted with the sustainable legacy that this stadium, as well as forthcoming ones, will leave behind for Qatar and the world.”

Grand words and a grand vision for the future but what about the present and the people who actually build the stadiums? Those who put in the hard labour in appalling conditions for minimum reward? Presumably, they too will benefit from the ‘innovative hosting concept’. Apparently not.

The Qatar announcement coincided with workers’ rights demonstrators being arrested outside FIFA Congress for protesting against the 2022 finals being held in Qatar.

The demonstration was taking place in the Mauritian capital of Port Louis about 15 miles from the Swami Vivekananda Convention Centre where the Congress was taking place.

The demonstration involved just a handful of people holding protest banners demanding a revote of the 2010 decision to award Qatar hosting rights for the World Cup.

The demonstration was organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and their banners read: “Re-run the vote. No World Cup without workers’ rights.”

The ITUC has become increasingly active and also held a protest outside last week’s UEFA Congress in London.

South African Gemma Swart, the ITUC’s campaign and communications specialist, told the media by telephone: “We were arrested and held in a Port Louis police station for seven hours without charge.

“Our lawyers told us that under local laws we could hold a peaceful demonstration with up to 11 people and we were below that.

“We staged a similar protest in London last week outside the UEFA Congress without any problems.”

Six weeks ago FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said too much democracy could be a hindrance when organising a World Cup.

“I will say something which is crazy, but less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup,” he said in April.

You can see why a country like Qatar, which pays scant attention to workers rights or the democratic process, was so appealing to FIFA.

Still, so long as they deliver on that ‘innovative hosting concept’…

Grounds for concern

England’s friendly with Brazil in Rio de Janeiro is back on again despite safety concerns at the Rio building site formerly known as the Maracana.

A court order on Thursday suspended the game but a judge later revoked the suspension, a Rio de Janeiro state government statement said.

First built in 1950 for the World Cup in Brazil, the Maracana has undergone a number of renovations, the most recent of which – to prepare it for the 2014 World Cup finals – has cost more than £320m.

“All safety requirements for the friendly between Brazil and England have been complied with and, because of a bureaucratic failure, the appraisal from the public ministry that proves the compliance with the rules on safety at the Maracana have not been sent to Suderj,” the Rio government said in a statement.

Well, that’s a relief. Nothing to worry about then.

However, days before the first test event at the stadium on 27 April seats were still being installed and pavements laid near the venue.

The Jornal do Brasil reported at the time that visitors “needed patience to deal with the many problems” at the venue, arising from the rush to complete it.

It’s not like they didn’t have six years notice to complete the work.

The report noted uneven flooring with small gaps and holes, flooding in the VIP area and a dysfunctional lift, and said some staff had tried to prevent journalists taking pictures of the affected areas.

Rio’s state prosecutors say there are dangerous materials at the venue, including rocks, pieces of metal and pavement, and that these could pose a threat to the public.

“The stadium is not yet safe to hold a full house of paying public,” World Soccer’s Brazil correspondent Tim Vickery, told the BBC.

Colour blind

Cardiff City, or the South Wales Dragons or whatever they’re called these days, have canvassed opinion among season ticket holders over the colour of the shorts the team will wear next season.

The complaints over the new kit design follow the dispute sparked last year, when the club’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan rebranded the club and ended over a century of tradition by changing the blue shirts of the Bluebirds to red.

The home shirt remains red, and the shorts were shown as a darker shade of red. Now fans are being asked to vote on colours for the shorts – either white, black, or two other tones of red.

“The decision had been made as a means to help visually distinguish the club in the Premier League, while continuing the theme of our successful 2012/13 Championship winning season,” said the club in a statement.

“The resulting response carried across social media quickly indicated that a large number of supporters were unhappy with the choice of colour concerning the shorts.

“As a club, we would today like to address this issue by giving all 2013/14 season ticket holders held on our email database a vote on varied shorts options for next season.”

It’s a bit like asking a room full of vegetarians how they would like their steaks cooked. The vast majority of fans care not about the colour of the shorts, but about the fact that Cardiff now play in red and bear little resemblance to the club they have always supported.

Save of the day

High drama in the Libertadores Cup tie between Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro and Mexico’s Tijuana. With the game all-square on aggregate, but the home side going through on away goals, there was excitement as the visitors were awarded an injury time penalty.

Diego Riascos stepped up and sent Victor the wrong way, only for the goalkeeper to divert the ball to safety via his outstretched boot.

“It was the most important moment of my life… Indescribable! Exciting! In 30 years I have never experienced anything like this,” the elated keeper said afterwards.

Goal of the day

Stunning long range effort from Romania for Rapid Buicharest’s Ovidiu Herea against Ceahlăul.

What’s in a name?

Real Madrid are considering selling the naming rights to the Santiago Bernabeu as it looks for new ways to generate revenue.

The club announced on Thursday that Emirates will replace Bwin’s as their new shirt sponsor from next season onwards.

The deal is believed to be worth 125 million euros over the course of five seasons, with club president Florentino Perez hailing the deal with the airline company.

“We want a strong Real Madrid and part of that comes through alliances with large companies. We are making this alliance with the world’s most important airline and it is an alliance for the present and for the future,” Perez said.

“Emirates become Real Madrid’s new main sponsor. Two global brands and two leading organizations. This is one of the club’s most important decisions. It is an honor to link the Emirates name to Real Madrid’s because they are a perfect partner and ally.”

But, with the competition from money laundering Russian billionaires and cash rich Gulf states growing ever fiercer, Real are also searching for a suitable sponsor for the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Spanish outfit are keen to make sure that the stadium’s principal name will remain the Santiago Bernabeu because of its historical meaning for the fans.

As it’s all about the money, the Santiago Bernabeu Poundshop has a certain ring to it.

Taxing issues

Ajax have taken the unusual step of placing an advertisement in a Dutch newspaper asking Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup to attend court in a dispute over an unpaid tax bill.

The advertisement serves notice to Laudrup of a court date in Amsterdam on August 29 where the club are seeking to recover money from their former player.

The legal notice in the Het Parool newspaper says Laudrup has no known address in the Netherlands.

Ajax are seeking a sum of 3 million euros from the former Denmark international in a tax case stretching back 15 years, Dutch media said.

It follows a long standing investigation into the transfers of Laudrup and the Georgian striker Shota Arveladze to Ajax in 1997 and allegations of irregular payments to the pair.

Ajax agreed a settlement in 2005, including a 500,000 euro fine, with the public prosecutor to avoid tax evasion charges and paid around 5.8 million euros to the Dutch tax authority, a sum later reduced on appeal last year.

Ajax has been attempting to get money back from the two players. Two years ago they made a bid to seize Arveladze’s assets in the Netherlands.

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