The path to reform is paved with good intentions

FIFA anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth says UEFA officials are blocking reforms in world football to further their own careers.

Who’d have thought?

“I am disappointed with what UEFA is coming out with, with the help of the British and the Germans,” Pieth said in a telephone interview with Associated Press. “People who have been critical in the past of FIFA are putting their own interests first rather than the interests of the institution. This is a pity because we have a remarkable chance at the moment.”

Pieth was speaking ahead of a February 26 meeting at FIFA where a working group, chaired by German executive committee member Theo Zwanziger, will take feedback from the six continental confederations to shape the programme of reforms being voted on by all FIFA members in May.

However, Pieth is clearly unhappy with UEFA’s contribution to the debate, a proposal document which was published after UEFA’s 53 member nations met in Switzerland two weeks ago.

“If you compare simply the lists we have come out with and what UEFA is prepared to buy, they are basically trying to cut half of it,” Pieth told The AP.

UEFA suggested allowing future FIFA presidents 12 years in office, four more than Pieth advised to help curb corruption, and an unlimited number of four-year mandates for executive committee members. Pieth suggested a 12-year limit.

“On the future, there is bickering and many people who have been asking for reform are at the moment thinking of their career,” Pieth said.

FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar also represented an obstacle to change, said Pieth, suggesting that the Spanish association president “hates the idea” of reform.

All of which bodes well for the future of football.

It’s all very well rocking the boat when you’re not in it, but one day, Platini and Villar intend to skipper the vessel.

Second thoughts Mario?

Mario Balotelli is at the centre of a racism row, just days after returning to Italy with Milan.

A video has emerged showing the club’s vice-president Paolo Berlusconi, the brother of the former Prime Minister and Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi, making a racist remark about the player at an event on Sunday.

Speaking at an event for a candidate for his brother’s People of Freedom partyin Lombardy, Paulo Berlusconi, a Milan vice-president, told an audience:

“That’s all. Now let’s go and watch the household’s little nigger, the crazy head [Mario Balotelli]. Girls are also invited if they want to come with me. You’ll also have the chance to meet with the president [Silvio Berlusconi].”

Family of charmers.

The comments come at a sensitive time for the club and Italian football, with Milan midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng recently staging a walk-off in a friendly match after being racially abused by a section of supporters. Ironically, Boateng’s actions drew praise from big brother Berlusconi.

Say what you like about the food and weather in England Mario, but at least you were unlikely to hear a Manchester City director speak about you in such offensive terms

Happy to stay

From Italy’s endemic racism to England’s favourite little racist footballer and the news that Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, has reiterated his desire to stay at Anfield.

“We’re not the Liverpool of old. We’re coming out of a rough patch, but this is a transition period with a new gaffer and a different philosophy,” said Saurez. “All we need are the results and to finish in the Champions League spots.

“My contract ends in 2018. My family is very happy here and I’m living a dream: playing for a club that every kid wants to play for. So we’re content, for now.”

He really has bought into the Brendan Rodgers philosophy.

Goal of the day

Poor defensive header falls to Belgium Under-21 midfielder Hans van der Bruggen who volleys home from the edge of the penalty area in the 1-1 draw with Spain under-21.

Quote of the day

“The contract renewal is a subject I do not want to talk about. It does not concern me now. The only important thing now is the team and we will speak at the end of the season. I swear by my son that my ‘unhappiness’ was never a question of money. It was not.”

Cristiano Ronaldo insists that his recent unhappiness was not linked to the absence of an improved contract offer from Real Madrid.

The fix

Debrecen goalkeeper Vukasin Poleksic has denied attempting to fix his side’s Champions League match with Liverpool in 2009, saying his performance should speak for itself.

European police said on Monday that about 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in a fix inquiry.

Hungarian side Debrecen has confirmed that its 2009 Champions League tie against Liverpool was one of the matches investigated by UEFA

“Anyone who watched the match would know what people are saying is bull,” the 30-year-old told the Daily Mail on Wednesday.

“It was the biggest match of my career and Liverpool have always been my favourite club. I can’t believe what people have said about me. But I don’t care because I know I am clean.”

Otherwise known as the Bruce Grobbelaar defence.

Friendly fire

England midfielder Jack Wilshere can become one of the best players in the world, according to his national team captain Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard was speaking ahead of England’s friendly international against Brazil at Wembley – a match which provides an interesting test for both teams, but more importantly, provides a timely boost to the coffers of the football associations of both countries. Those Wembley interest payments do not pay themselves.

Tonight’s game will offer a rare glimpse of Roy Hodgson’s first choice midfield in action: Gerrard and Wilshere have played just 13 minutes together, that coming in last year’s friendly game against Sweden. The 21-year-old Arsenal midfielder has been in impressive form since returning for Arsenal in October after 15 months out with an ankle problem but, as is often the way when promising English players emerge, the temptation to confuse potential with achievement is there.

“He can tick almost every box, and he’s going to get better and better,” enthused Gerrard. “He’ll get better than he is now which is a scary thought.

“Jack has got a bit of everything. He can tackle, get up and down the pitch, create a goal, score a goal, he can pass. I think he’s got the potential to become one of the best in the world and I don’t want to add any pressure. That’s unfair.

“But playing against him recently and in training, he’s a one-off. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

As well you might. For, like his mentor, Gerrard, the young Arsenal midfielder is not afraid to speak his mind when things don’t go his way.

Ton up

England’s friendly match against Brazil will also mark a significant milestone for Ashely Cole, who will become the latest player to win 100 caps.

The Chelsea left-back will become the seventh player to make 100 England appearances, following in the footsteps of Peter Shilton (125), David Beckham (115), Bobby Moore (108), Bobby Charlton (106), Billy Wright (105) and Steven Gerrard (100).

Cole is possibly the only person on that list who might be a little apprehensive about the reception he will receive from the crowd. His relationship with England fans has been strained at times, which might possibly explain why Gerrard was so keen to remind the fans of Cole’e enduring commitment to the national team.

“I think it’s very important. If the fans take a moment to think what Ashley Cole has given an England shirt over the last 10 or 12 years it’s been phenomenal,” Gerrard said.

“He’s probably been the most consistent player I’ve played with during my time. It’s going to be Ashley’s night if he’s picked to play and the players are going to show him a lot of support.”

Indeed, there is a strong case to be made for Cole being, if not the most impressive, then certainly the least disappointing member of the Golden Generation.

Presidential priviliges

Guinea has banned an opposition demonstration in the capital Conakry on Thursday, saying the protest would interfere with a visit by FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Blatter will make a two-day visit to Guinea as part of a four-country tour of Africa before Sunday’s African Cup of Nations final.

“The demonstration by the opposition planned tomorrow has not been authorized because we are receiving FIFA President Sepp Blatter,” said Alassane Conde, Guinea’s Minister for Territorial Administration. “If the opposition decides to continue with its march, the law will be applied.”

Blatter, who has been mired in accusations of scandal in recent years, would surely appreciate the irony of him being deemed worthy of such respect.

The opposition, which was seeking to protest, said the government was using Blatter’s visit as a pretext to stiffle dissent.

“Sepp Blatter is not a head of state, and in his own country, Switzerland, protests are authorized,” said Guinea opposition leader Sidya Toure.


The horse may have bolted, but FIFA are determined to repair the stable door by launching a web page to enable individuals to make anonymous reports of corruption by officials and attempts at match-fixing.

“Infringements of the FIFA code of ethics, and violations of FIFA’s regulatory framework relating to match manipulation can be securely reported and treated with the strictest confidentiality,” FIFA said in a statement.

“The reporting mechanism will enable individuals to notify FIFA of potential violations, another milestone in FIFA’s effort to strengthen football governance.”

The portal ( assures users that information will be handled in confidence.

“Whether you submit your report anonymously or are asked to include your name, your information will be handled promptly and treated with the strictest confidentiality available under the applicable laws and regulations,” it says.

“FIFA is convinced that every individual can contribute to promoting transparency and integrity through vigilance and a sense of responsibility. Please help us protect our organisation against harmful behaviour.”