Match made in hell

There is growing speculation in Italy that Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to invest in Milan via the partially state-owned energy company Gazprom.

Former prime minister Berlusconi is a close friend of Putin and La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that he travelled to Russia for four days on “non-political” business. That narrows the topics of conversation down to a couple of subjects: the chances of Pussy Riot performing at Berlusconi’s 76th birthday party next month, and of course football, which represents a passion for the Italian and an opportunity for Putin, a fan of Zenit St Petersburg, to do an old friend a very big favour.

Gazzetta believes the company will purchase a 25% stake in return for a €180 million cash injection.

Asked about foreign investors, Berlusconi said: “The doors are open for anyone who wants to help our squad. We have Milan in our hearts and we are always thinking about what’s best for Milan.”

I’m not sure if Serie A has the equivalent of a ‘fit and proper person’ test when it comes to ownership of football clubs, but if it does, the prospect of ruling on a Berlusconi-Putin owned club, would keep the lawyers busy for decades.

I predict a riot

Blackburn’s pre-season friendly with Dutch club NEC Nijmegen, scheduled to be played on Sunday afternoon, was cancelled because of the threat of fan violence.

The decision came after claims that Rovers fans had been involved in disturbances with rival supporters.

A statement on the Dutch Police website said: “Supporters of Blackburn Rovers were involved in rioting in Deventer on Friday.

“On Saturday there was a confrontation with supporters of NEC Nijmegen.”

“On the basis of serious signals to the police that a confrontation would take place again today, deputy mayor Henk Beerten, in consultation with police, judiciary and mayor Hubert Bruls, decided to cancel the match this afternoon.”

Yesterday’s game was due to run alongside a fans’ open day at NEC’s Gofferstadion, and with 8,000 visitors, including families and children, expected a cancellation was chosen as the best course of action.

Sandra Bronkhorst, spokesperson for the deputy major of Nijmegen, said: “We heard from the police (after) there was a Blackburn match against Go Ahead Eagles on Friday night and some supporters got in some incidents in the city of Deventer.

“On Saturday night a group of around 80 supporters of Blackburn Rovers got into a fight with some 30 NEC supporters in our city – probably caused by the Nijmegen supporters and not by the English.

“The police had some information that both the English and the Dutch supporters had threatened another confrontation today.”

Goal of the day

A wonderful solo dribble by Kim that began in his own half, helped Nautico to a 3-0 win over Santos.

Quote of the day

“I did not hear it because I was focusing on the game. If they do that they are really stupid dudes. They have to grow up.”

Newcastle striker Demba Ba speaks out against Den Haag who racially abused him and several black team-mates in Sunday’s friendly.

Race accusations

The persistent problem of racism reared it’s ugly head again on Sunday, this time in Ireland with claims that a banana was thrown at Gael Clichy during Manchester City’s 4-0 friendly win at Limerick.

Clichy tweeted afterwards and somewhat remarkably displayed a dry sense of humour about the incident.

He said: “How sad to see ‘bananas thrown on the pitch’ tonight… Knowing people around the world need food. No words for this.”

A statement released on behalf of Limerick FC and Thomond Park Stadium said: “The Gardai and stadium officials are reviewing the CCTV recordings to attempt to identify an individual involved in the throwing of an offensive object onto the playing field.

“Any individual identified as being involved in an incident of this nature will be banned from future attendance and the matter will be handed over to the Gardai.

“All those involved with the friendly game fully condemn all forms of unacceptable behaviour of this nature.”

Wheels coming off

The Malaga fire sale continues with striker Salomon Rondon the latest player to leave the troubled La Liga side. The Venezuelan has joined Rubin Kazan on a four-year deal.

“The 22-year-old player has a bright future ahead in the Russian league,” Malaga stated on their official website wishing their former player well.

Malaga have already sold Santi Cazorla to Arsenal, according to midfielder Enzo Maresca, and there are fears that coach Manuel Pellegrini will walk out as the squad he has assembled, disintegrates around him.

“He [Pellegrini] is fundamental for us, just as Cazorla and Rondon were fundamental and who have had to be sold,” added the Italian, who led Malaga in Saturday’s 2-0 friendly defeat to his former club Juventus.

Smelling blood in the Mediterranean waters, the sharks are beginning to circle, with Manchester United reported to be chasing the signature of Malaga’s Spanish under-21 midfielder Isco.

Match fixing latest

Leonardo Bonucci is facing a ban of up to three and a half years following a request by the prosecutor in the Italian match fixing scandal.

The Juventus defender, who appeared for Italy in the recent European Championships, is accused of being involved in the fixing of a match between Bari and Udinese in May 2010.

Bonucci played for Bari at the time and the game finished 3-3.

Offered a plea bargain, Bonucci declined.

“He hasn’t done anything, so what was he supposed to admit?” his lawyer, Giampietro Bianchi, said.

“The prosecutor offered us the opportunity to move the charge from sporting fraud to simply failing to alert authorities to a potential fix, but only if there were new facts that he was going to admit to,” Bianchi told Tuttosport.

“Bonucci hasn’t done anything, so what was he supposed to admit? It’s true there would be some risks of civil court action too, but in any case he would never have ‘confessed’ to anything untrue. It is a moral decision.

“He would’ve evaluated the possibility out of respect for Juve’s interests, but not if it meant admitting to something he never actually did.”

Bianchi remains confident his cleint will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“What are the chances of Bonucci being cleared? Considering the paperwork in the trial, we have the utmost confidence,” he said.

“Frankly, I don’t see any other option than for him to be cleared and he is very confident too. The judges paid close attention and I’m convinced they will evaluate the matter with just as much attention.”

Another current Juventus player, Simone Pepe, played for Udinese in the same match and is accused of failing to report the fixing.

The same charge has also been levelled at Juventus coach Antonio Conte relating to his time in charge of Siena.

He too is facing a ban from the game, and it is desperate misfortune for the Bianconeri.

All in all an anxious time for the Italian champions.

Fires still burning brightly

Described by Botafogo club president as the “greatest foreign player ever to sign for a Brazilian club”, Dutch legend Clarence Seedorf showed that at 36, he still has something to offer, by scoring his first goal for his new club.

Football fatalities

Two young footballers have died in the space of 24 hours.

In Romania, 21-year-old Nigerian forward, Chinonso Ihelwere Henry, who played for Delta Tulcea, collapsed during a friendly match against FC Balotesti on Sunday and doctors were unable to resuscitate him. Meanwhile, Kirk Urso, a 22-year-old midfielder for Columbus Crew died on Sunday in a central Ohio hospital. No cause of death was immediately announced.

The collapse of Ihelewere, who scored 14 goals in 37 appearances for Delta, shocked club president Haralambos Meregiu.

He told “His last review was made on July 27 this year. He had no heart problems, the ECG was okay.

“He fell as if he was cut down but there was no one near him, no one attacked him. It all occurred out of the blue.

“I told someone to give him first aid, he called the ambulance and SMURD came in eight or 10 minutes. As it was a serious case, a few minutes later a second vehicle came from SMURD.

In the USA, Urso’s team-mates paid tribute to the player.

Chad Marshall wrote: “The guy could make you laugh with the greatest of ease. A tremendous talent taken way too soon. You are missed Kirk Urso. Rest in peace.”

Crew midfielder Chris Birchall wrote: “Feeling numb by the passing away of a great team mate Kirk Urso last night. 22 and such a great guy, always smiling every single day!!”

Eric Gehrig added: “Locker neighbor and my chi-town brotha, RIP Kirk Urso. You were a great kid with a bright future. Hard to understand. Love ya man.#crew96.”

Aaron Schoenfeld wrote: “Still shocked to have lost such a great friend. Thoughts and prayers are with Kirks family and friends. He will truly be missed by us all.” Dilly Duka wrote: “Hard to believe and hurts me to say this, #RIP Kirk Urso. Love you buddy.. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”


On a glum day for football, 23 fans of Angolan club Kabuscorp were killed and 29 injured when their bus overturned on the road back to Luanda after an away match.

The accident happened in Kwanza Sul province after the fans had watched their team play in the country’s top division at Libolo, about 370 miles southeast of Luanda, Angop said.

“I am distraught and sad. The place where the accident took place is very dangerous and the driver was young and he was probably speeding,” said Kabuscorp president Bento Kangamba, quoted by Portuguese state news agency Lusa.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the accident.

Kabuscorp received worldwide attention in January when they signed former Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo.