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Putting his foot in it again

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under attack from gay rights activists after describing Qatar’s stance on homosexuality as a “moral and ethical” issue, and not a question of discrimination.

Qatar, World Cup hosts in 2022, stipulates imprisonment between 1 and 5 years for same-sex acts, including possible lashes and fines.

FIFA has recently passed tough new sanctions to clamp down on racism and all forms of discrimination within the game.

However, when pressed on the notoriously illiberal Qatar being awarded the World Cup in 2022, Blatter said: ‘What you are speaking about, I do not think it is part of racism, perhaps this is going into ethics and morals.

“This, I think, is not the time being to bring it now. If you bring it to my attention then I should have a look on that.

“But I cannot give you a definite answer.”

Blatter was previously strongly criticised on the same issue when he was asked in December 2010 to give advice to gay fans wishing to attend the 2022 tournament, he said: “I’d say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”

The 77-year-old later apologised for his comments. No doubt another apology will soon be forthcoming.

The remarks about homosexuality completed a vintage week for the gaffe-prone Blatter.

Lydia Nsekera, president of the Burundi Football Association, became the first woman to be handed a full four-year term on the executive committee, while Asian Football Confederation vice-president Moya Dodd (the ‘good looking’ one, according to Blatter) and Concacaf representative Sonia Bien-Aime, were elected to the committee for a one-year period.

Addressing the successful trio, Blatter said: “Are there ladies in the room? Say something! You are always speaking at home, now you can speak here.”

Sick man of Europe

The outgoing Football Association chairman David Bernstein has spoken out about the importance of getting more English players in the Premier League.

Currently only 30% of players in the top flight were eligible to play for England, while in Germany it’s nearer to 50%. In Spain, that figure rises to close to 77%, suggesting a possible causal link between the number of homegrown players and success of the national team. However, less important than the number of players is the quality of those players; if Spain was not producing players of international calibre, the number of homegrown players working in La Liga would plummet.

“We desperately need to increase the pool of real quality players,” said Bernstein.

“We have this number of around 30% and in Germany it is more than 50% and that 20% is a lot of players.

“All the work we are doing, such as in youth development, is aimed at doing that over the next few years and it’s great to see some very good players coming through now such as Jack Wilshere. There are some coming through but we need many more.”

Looking at the abject performances of the England team in recent years, the problem with English football would appear not to be the shortage of English players in the Premier League, but the proliferation of them.

Special One returns

It’s been the worst kept secret in European football these past few months, but now it’s official: Jose Mourinho has returned to Chelsea for a second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho, 50, replaces Rafael Benitez after leaving Real Madrid, and has signed a four-year contract.

In a statement on the club’s website, chief executive Ron Gourlay said: “I am delighted to welcome Jose back to Chelsea. His continued success, drive and ambition made him the outstanding candidate.

“It is our aim to keep the club moving forward to achieve greater success in the future and Jose is our number one choice as we believe he is the right manager to do just that.

“He was and remains a hugely popular figure at the club and everyone here looks forward to working with him again.”

The official announcement from Chelsea came after Mourinho revealed he expected to return to Chelsea.

Mourinho was pictured in London last night and in his final interview in Spain, given after the last match of the Spanish season, he said: “I’m going to London on Monday and I think that between Monday and the end of the week I will be the Chelsea manager.

In the aftermath of Chelsea’s statement, the returning hero spoke to Chelsea about his delight to be returning to Stamford Bridge.

“Now I can say I am one of you,” he told Chelsea TV. “I never hide that in football I have two great passions – Inter Milan and Chelsea – and Chelsea is more than important for me.

“It was very, very hard to play against Chelsea and I did it only twice.

“Now I promise the same things I promised in 2004 with this difference to add – that I am one of you.”

The news of his return was an open secret long before Mourinho told a Spanish TV soccer show on Sunday that he hoped to take charge at Chelsea by the end of the week.

“I feel the people there love me and in life you have to look for that,”

“I feel the people there (Chelsea) love me and in life you have to look for that.

“Life is beautiful and short and you must look for what you think is best for you,” he added.

It’s difficult to ascertain which of the two parties needed the other more. Time will tell, but for the moment, for both, the appointment seems a retrograde step.

Busted flush

One person who is convinced that Mourinho’s best days are behind him is former Barcelona coach, Johan Cruyff, who has hit out at the former Real Madrid man.

The ever-quotable Cruyff thinks Mourinho is a busted flush and will not achieve much in the remainder of his career.

“Mourinho started pointing fingers at everybody around him when things went wrong and he’s now even putting people up against each other within the club,” the Dutchman writes in his weekly column for De Telegraaf.

“He’s fighting out personal vendettas at the expense of club icons. Things don’t work like that in football, because it destroys the team’s morale.

“It’s one of the main reasons why his spell at Madrid was unsuccessful and I don’t think Mourinho will achieve anything in the future either.”

Going out on a high

The man tipped to replace Mourinho at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich’s outgoing coach, Jupp Heynckes, has been given a warm send-off by the treble-winning Bundesliga outfit.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness has lavished praise upon coach Jupp Heynckes following the club’s historic 2012-13 campaign.

After finishing the previous season empty-handed Heynckes ended the 2012-13 campaign claiming an unprecedented treble.

He will be replaced in the summer by former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola but Hoeness will remember his contribution to the club.

“Jupp did a sensational job,” the 61-year-old told Kicker. “If I had painted a picture of this club 20 years ago, I’d have painted it exactly how Bayern present themselves today.

“We’re at the top now, the trick will be to stay there.”

Heynckes has been strongly linked with the Real Madrid job and is set to make an announcement concerning his future on Tuesday.

Goal of the day

Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo scored a spectacular overhead kick against Valencia.

Own goal of the day

An egg on face moment for Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, when he miscontrolled a back pass from Benedikt Howedes and watched the ball roll under his foot and into the net. The United States went on to win 4-3.

Quote of the day

“My take is that two people are hijacking the whole process for political reasons. This is unfortunate because the reform process should have nothing to do with these people. I’m thinking beyond individual presidents. Maybe we should not expect any more because let’s face it, they are politicians. This is all about trying to trick each other. The whole reform is about change of culture and this shows they are not there yet.”

Mark Pieth, the Swiss governance advisor takes another swipe at the FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his UEFA counterpart Michel Platini, accusing the pair of jointly hijacking the entire reform process for political gain.

Eurozone crisis

Newly-promoted Ligue 1 club Nantes have been banned from signing new players for the next two transfer windows and Guinea forward Ismael Bangoura has been suspended for four months over a transfer dispute.

The two parties were also ordered to pay 4.5 million euros between them to United Arab Emirates club Al Nasr after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said in a statement it had upheld a FIFA ruling.

FIFA said in February that Bangoura had been found guilty of “an unjustified breach of contract” after he left Dubai-based Al Nasr to join Nantes one year earlier.

Bangoura, who previously played for Dynamo Kiev and Stade Rennes, joined Al Nasr on a four-year contract in September 2010.

At the start of 2012, he went to play at the African Nations Cup with the club’s permission but lost his place in the side after they signed another player to replace him.

He joined Nantes, who were in the French second division at the time, and was loaned to Qatari-side Umm Salal in September.

Sleeping on the job

Former England international Mark Chamberlain admitted he missed his 19-year-old son’s excellent strike after falling asleep.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced a wonderful finish to put England on level terms with Brazil in Sunday’s friendly international, but his father missed it all, claiming that he had been up early in the morning and fallen asleep during the game. The suspicion that he had fallen asleep during England’s previous game against Ireland and entered a catatonic state before being jolted awake by his son’s strike, remains unconfirmed.

“I was dropping his Alex’s mother off at the airport at 6am this morning so I fell asleep during the game. It was on tape so I’ll watch it in a minute. I realised when his agent rang me up,” said the 19-year-old’s father.

Ironically, Chamberlain, a former professional footballer, was a member of the England side that defeated Brazil at the Maracana in 1984 – the last European side to win on Brazilian soil.

His son blotted his copybook somewhat by asking Brazilian superstar Neymar about swapping shirts during England’s 2-2 draw.

It’s like a jungle sometimes…

Greece striker Dimitris Salpigidis likened playing for PAOK Salonika to being in a jungle.

PAOK scraped through to the third qualifying round of next season’s Champions League after a 2-1 win over PAS Giannena in the final match of the Super League play-offs on Sunday.

Salpigidis said team mates feared for their lives during a season when angry fans staged regular protests at the Toumba Stadium and at the training ground while players also had their cars vandalised.

“There is no football education in Greece, we are years behind,” he told reporters. “This year I felt I was in the jungle and not a footballer.

“The players from abroad have been frightened by what they have seen. These are not the sort of conditions to play football in when at any time you feel someone may come to try and kill you.”

Salpigidis has been incensed at the criticism that has been turned on the players since the arrival a year ago of new owner Ivan Savvidis.

“We have experienced tremendous pressure this year, the mentality of the Greek is that a team should be built with money and without patience,” he said.

“Everybody expected that after Mr Savvidis came in we would win the championship easily but we are talking about football which is a competitive sport.

“It certainly does not help when players have their cars damaged and PAOK will not be heading on the right path if the situation continues.”

PAOK are the country’s biggest club outside of Athens but last won a league title in 1985.

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