Toxic brand

Thinking of buying a replica shirt to demonstrate your allegiance at Euro 2012? Think again. BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation, has tested 9 official Euro 2012 shirts, and all were found to have worryingly high levels of dangerous chemical content.

The BEUC statement said: “Poland’s shirt should be banned outright from shops as it contains an organotin compound, used to prevent sweat odour, in higher doses than the legal limit. Organotin can be toxic to the nervous system.”

BEUC director general Monique Goyens said: “Football fans pay up to 90 euros for the shirts. The least they should expect is to have a quality and safe product.”

Hodgson’s fudge backfires

Barring an outbreak of cholera in the England squad over the coming days, defender Rio Ferdinand will be watching the Euro 2012 finals, like the the majority of his fellow countrymen, at home, on TV, hands over his eyes, heart in mouth, considering the futility of life.

Roy Hodgson’s decision to overlook the Manchester United player has divided English football: there are those who think that the decision to call up inexperienced Liverpool defender, Martin Kelly, as a replacement for the injured Gary Cahill, confirms that Ferdinand’s initial exclusion was not a decision based purely on footballing grounds; and then there is former England boss, Sven Goran Eriksson, who has suggested that Hodgson is the victim of a smear campaign.

“Choosing Kelly seems to have caught him in the crossfire,” Eriksson said of Hodgson. “Having selected six Liverpool players, Roy is the target of a smear campaign.

“I know Roy will face it without losing his composure.”

Meanwhile, former England striker, Robbie Fowler, not a man one would normally turn to if looking to engage in a nuanced debate, has managed to capture the perplexed public mood quite succinctly.

And when Fowler – he is, after all, the player who in response to jibes by rival supporters, infamously crouched on his knees and pretended to snort the penalty box – can be cited as the voice of common sense, you know that something has gone awry.

He wrote in a column for the bookmaker Paddy Power: “There’s not a chance Rio Ferdinand was left out of the England squad for ‘footballing reasons’. Not a chance. The public knows that too.”

Playing through the pain barrier

Still, perhaps the injury-prone Ferdinand will one day look back on the experience and thank Hodgson for excluding him from his Euro 2012 squad. New research indicates that footballers playing in major tournaments, run the risk of succumbing to permanent, debilitating injuries.

At the end of a long, arduous domestic season, while the body is screaming for rest and relaxation, along comes a major tournament demanding and taking more from already-spent bodies. To cope, players, somewhat understandably, resort to pain relief.

FIFA’s chief medical officer Professor Jiri Dvorak has been collecting information on the various medications players took prior to matches, including those at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

He confirmed that around 39% of all players at the tournament were on one sort of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or another.

Players from some countries at the 2010 tournament were taking more than three medications per game, with the North and South Americans reporting the highest usage.

“I think we can use the word ‘abuse’ because the dimension is just too much,” Dvorak told the BBC. “Unfortunately there is the trend to increase the intake of medication. It is something that we have to take seriously and ask what is behind it?”

Dvorak said there is growing pressure on team doctors to have injured players fit again as quickly as possible. He said young players are imitating senior players and taking too many painkillers. The dangers of ignoring the body’s warning signals are all-too apparent. Pain serves as a useful warning of possible long-term damage but if those warning signs are ignored, permanent damage can result.

Dr Hans Geyer, a senior official at a Wada-accredited laboratory in Cologne, said: “What have we seen from the FIFA studies is that often athletes take the painkillers as a preventive. They take them to prevent a pain which may occur, to be totally insensitive.

“The problem is, if you switch off alarm systems that protect your tissues, you can have irreversible destruction of tissue.”

Given Ferdinand’s recent fitness record, perhaps his omission from Euro 2012 will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Goal of the day

France warmed up for Euro 2012 with a leisurely 4-0 victory over Estonia. The pick of the goals was this curler from Karim Benzema.

Quote of the day

“If I had a suitcase full of money, I would bet on Portugal and Spain. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I’m very hopeful [about our chances] but, after Portugal, I’d go for Spain.” 

If he was a gambling man with a suitcase full of cash, Cristiano Ronaldo would tip Portugal to win Euro 2012.

Seedorf realises dream

Clarence Seedorf looks set to realise his long-term dream of playing in Brazil, by signing a deal with Rio-based outfit Botofago.

Brazilian website Lancenet claims Seedorf is 99 per cent sure of moving to Botafogo. The Dutchman’s contract with Milan expires on June 30 and he hasn’t told Milan what he’s going to do: stay or go.

But reports in Brazil seem sure a deal has been agreed. The 36-year-old, whose wife is Brazilian, would depart Milan after 10 years, during which time he won the Champions League twice.

The blame game

Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin has attributed his side’s poor form in their friendly defeat at the hands of Turkey, to an outbreak of food poisoning within the camp.

“We experienced serious personnel problems in the match with Turkey as our 10 players were suffering from food poisoning and we had to shuffle the line-up just before the kick off,” Blokhin said

“We still do not know what caused it as those who suffered the poisoning ate different food. We know only one thing – our players were poisoned here in Germany.”

Looking for a scapegoat is not exactly new territory for Blokhin. In 2006, on the eve of the World Cup, he was asked about the paucity of homegrown Ukrainian players.

“The more Ukrainians there are playing in the national league, the more examples there are for the younger generation,” he replied. “Let them learn from Blokhin or Shevchenko, not some zumba-bumba who they took off a tree, gave two bananas and now he plays in the Ukrainian league…”

“I remember when I played football, if we lost a game it was not easy to walk the Kyiv streets – there were many friends out there who could beat you up for that. But is there any sense in beating up a foreigner? Okay, you beat him up – next thing he does is pack up and go.”

FIFA, fearless scourge of racists the world over, chose to ignore the remarks and took no disciplinary action against either Ukraine or Blokhin.

Out of the frying pan

The chairman of Al Wasl says the United Arab Emirates club have made a bid for Didier Drogba, but he expects the former Chelsea striker to sign with Shanghai Shenhua  instead.

Marwan bin Bayat would not say how much the Diego Maradona-coached side have offered Drogba, only that it was less than what has been offered by the Chinese team. So, unless the Ivorian has a burning desire to play under Maradona, it’s safe to assume he will be heading for China.

Bin Bayat said Al Wasl are “definitely serious” about Drogba, but that the striker “seems more interested in China”.

Maradona wants the club to bring in bigger names after a season in which it finished eighth in the 12-team UAE pro league.

New man in charge

Marc Wilmots has been appointed the new coach of Belgium.

Wilmots, 43, has signed a two-year contract, which will take him through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil. After a lean few years internationally, it is a tournament a young, talented Belgian side will have realistic hopes of qualifying for.

Capped 70 times as an attacking midfielder, the former Standard de Liège, Schalke 04 and Bordeaux player has been on the Belgian staff since October 2009, when he became Dick Advocaat’s assistant.

Wilmots’ appointment comes after he led Belgium to a 2-2 draw with Montenegro and a 1-0 defeat to England. It seems fair to assume that having been given the job on the back of those two results, expectations under him are not exactly sky high.

Planning ahead

In an age when most football clubs can’t see beyond the short term and and many supporters demand that the all revenue be immediately reinvested in new personnel, it’s refreshing to see a successful side eschewing the knee-jerk response to a windfall in favour of a long term strategy for success.

German champions Borussia Dortmund have revealed that they will not spend the transfer fee received for Shinji Kagawa on new players, but will invest in infrastructure development instead.

The 23-year-old Japan international agreed a move to Manchester United in a deal reported to be worth an initial €15m, which could rise to €21m based on appearances and success.

Club chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has said the majority of that money will be spent on renovating the stadium and building a new training ground to nurture young talent, along with a new megastore to sell club merchandise.

“We will use the Kagawa money to cement our club’s foundations,” he told Bild. “Overall, we will invest about €12m on our infrastructure.”