Out of control

The offices of Beitar Jerusalem have been set on fire in an apparent arson attack, police said, a day after four of the club’s fans were charged with chanting anti-Muslim slogans at a recent game.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the attack caused extensive damage to the team’s administrative offices. No one was hurt in the attack, and the police were searching for suspects.

Rosenfeld pledged to use ”every legal means in order to prevent the continual racism, which is basically destroying the club.”

Beitar Jerusalem have a core of supporters vehemently hostile to Muslims and Arabs and in the past fans have been punished for singing anti-Muslim chants at games.

Tensions have risen since the team announced last month it would sign two Muslim Chechen players – Zaur Sadayev and Gabriel Kadiev – in a break from the team’s unofficial tradition of not signing Arabs or Muslims.

At a league game in January, spectators protesting the decision unfurled large banners with anti-Muslim undertones, drawing harsh rebuke from Israel’s president, Jerusalem’s mayor and other officials. On Thursday, four fans were charged for the behaviour.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the arson attack as “shameful”.

“We must not accept such racist behaviour,” he said.

“The Jewish People, which has suffered boycotts and persecution, should be a light unto other nations”.

Despite concerns about its well-being, it’s good to see that satire is still alive and kicking.

Could do better

Erratic refereeing performances at the African Nations Cup should not overshadow the overall improvement in the standard of officiating, Issa Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has suggested.

“Overall we are satisfied but we experienced some mistakes with the referees especially at the semi-final between Ghana and Burkina Faso, and there were other errors too…also at the Tunisia v Togo match,” he told the media.

CAF took the unusual step on Thursday of announcing that Tunisian referee Slim Jdedi had been suspended following his handling of the game in which he awarded Ghana a soft penalty, denied Burkina Faso two far more obvious penalties and ruled out what appeared to be a legitimate Burkina Faso goal. The most contentious decision was that to send off Burkina winger Jonathan Pitroipa off for diving

Burkina Faso won the match 3-2 on penalties after it had finished 1-1 following extra time.

Other refereeing eccentricities included Ghana’s goalkeeper receiving a yellow card instead of red for a handball outside his area in what was a professional foul against Mali.

South African referee Daniel Bennett booked the wrong player, awarded two soft penalties and denied another obvious spot kick when Togo met Tunisia in Nelspruit.

Egyptian referee Gehad Grisha awarded a highly debatable penalty to Zambia in the last minute of their group match against Nigeria and subsequently was not given another game to officiate in the tournament.

If this represents an overall improvement in the standard of officiating, then one can only conclude that the bar had been set exceedingly low in previous finals.

Common sense prevails

As predicted by Hayatou, the aforementioned Pitroipa has had his dismissal overturned by CAF and is free to play in Sunday’s African Nations Cup final against Nigeria.

The Confederation of African Football’s referee’s review committee overturned Pitroipa’s ban after Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi told CAF he made a mistake with the second yellow card shown to the player for diving.

A senior CAF official told Reuters: “The referee wrote the letter to the review committee saying he had made a mistake. The review committee examined footage of the incident and agreed Pitroipa had been fouled.

“It asked the disciplinary committee to verify its decision which the disciplinary committee is entitled to do under the terms of CAF’s rules and regulations.”

Credit where it’s due: it’s not often a referee admits when he has made a mistake.

Financial Fair Play

Premier League clubs will be docked points if they fail to comply with new measures aimed at curbing excessive wage inflation and limit losses when their new £5.5bn TV deal starts next season.

From 2013-14 onwards, clubs will be limited to losses of £105m over three seasons based on their accounts. The plan mirrors UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules and, as with them, money invested in youth development and infrastructure can be discounted from the calculations.

Under the new rules, clubs with a wage bill in excess of £52m will be able to increase it by only £4m, then £8m and finally £12m per year from 2013-14.

If you were to take a vote among football fans asking which league in Europe would be least likely to impose financial self-restraint, then the Premier League would win in a landslide. So, it comes as a surprise to hear the league’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, endorsing measures aimed at making clubs more financially stable.

In future, Scudamore said, the rules would ensure that no other owner would be able to come into English football and invest hundreds of millions of pounds, as first Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and then Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City have done. Great for Chelsea and Manchester City, less so for any of their rivals who fancy a leg up in the next few years.

“A new owner or even an existing owner with a change in attitude or a change in fortunes can invest proportionally a decent amount of money to improve their club,” Sudamore said. “But what they aren’t going to be doing is throwing hundreds of millions at it in a very short period of time. I’m not criticising that; I’ve been supportive of them, supportive of what they have done to make it a more competitive league.”

Scudamore said that any clubs breaching the limit could expect tough sanctions, including points deductions. At present, any club entering administration is docked nine points.

Owners of clubs making a loss will be required to cover any deficit and guarantee their funding for the three years that follow, which Scudamore said was a major step forward.

“From a fairly low threshold of financial regulation we have had a journey,” he said. “This is a leap but an extension of where we were heading anyway. This is a fairly decent leap into the tightening up, particularly the future guarantees.”

The irony is that the vote in favour of adopting the measures was passed by 13 votes to 6 (with one abstention), and had just one more club opposed the plan then Scudamore, who is no more than a mouthpiece for the clubs, would have been explaining why there was no need for English football to mend its ways.

The price is right

A rare outbreak of common sense in the upper echelons of European football has seen the price of a ticket for this year’s Champions League final reduced to a level that could almost be described as affordable.

UEFA has responded to concerns over the high cost of watching football in England by reducing the cheapest ticket for this year’s final at Wembley to £68.

Now, I know that’s not exactly a cheap day out, but when you remember that the equivalent ticket when the match was last staged in London two years ago was £176, it begins to look like reasonable deal. And, when compared to the £62 many Manchester City fans refused to pay at Arsenal last month, it seems a steal.

“It is correct we should give the opportunity to everyone to go to the match irrespective of their financial conditions,” a UEFA  spokesman said.

Before you fire off that congratulatory email to UEFA to applaud their sensitivity in these austere times, you should note that only 11,800 of the 59,000 tickets on general sale will be priced in this new low category. The rest will be sold at much higher prices ranging from £140 to £330!

Goal of the day

Clarence Seedorf takes one touch before firing home in Botafogo’s 4-2 win over Resende.

Quote of the day

“I understand how my actions have been viewed and want to apologize to the club and our supporters for any distress I have caused. I want to reassure everyone at the club and our fans that I will continue to give my all whenever I am selected. We have enjoyed a good season so far and I aim to play my part in keeping the club as high up the table as possible.”

Peter Odemwingie sounds almost sincere in his apology to West Brom

One big happy family

Photographs showing Mario Balotelli shaking hands with Milan vice-president Paolo Berlusconi have appeared online. The image of the pair smiling and joking jars somewhat in the wake of Berlusconi’s insensitive remarks about the recently-signed striker.

Berlusconi claimed that by referring to Balotelli as a “negretto” – “little black boy” or “little Negro” he was using a term of endearment. Much in the same way that his brother Silvio, Milan’s owner, was speaking affectionately when he referred last month to Balotelli as a “rotten apple”. I suppose we should be grateful that he didn’t describe him as the black sheep of the family.

“I have spoken with Balotelli but in truth there was no need seeing as he’s an intelligent boy,” Berlusconi told Milan Channel, Milan’s official club channel.

“He had already understood that what I said was an affectionate expression that led to a stupid media circus. Let’s be done with this affair; Mario told me there was no need to say anything else.”

And so it is the the media who are to blame for the furore. Of course.

Rafa under pressure

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez has been explaining how he intends to arrest his side’s recent decline that has seen them win just two of their last league and cup eight matches.

Benitez, never a popular choice among the Stamford Bridge faithful, has again abdicated himself of all responsibility for their calamitous form, by accusing the players of lacking concentration.

“We know the problems and we are working on the solutions,” said Benitez, when asked if he expected to see out his short-term deal until the end of the season.

“The main thing is that you can score two goals, and then you are 2-0 up at half-time, then you have to finish the games.

“Against Newcastle we scored two goals, you cannot make these mistakes (to concede three). You have to make sure we control the game.

“We could have won all the games we didn’t win. It’s a question of sometimes doing the right things at the right moment, having a little bit of luck, being more clinical, not making mistakes in defence.

The point being that if you concede fewer goals than you score, you will win more matches than you lose. And he’s on how much for these tactical insights?


Inter are considering building a new stadium in the San Donato area, located 10 km south-east of the city.

The Nerazzuri have shared the Giuseppe Meazza ground with city rivals Milan, although there have been persistent rumours about hem wanting to build their own stadium.

Club president Massimo Moratti is believed to favour the plot of land in the San Donato district, which is currently owned by oil and gas giants Eni, as a potential site for a major new development .

Matteo Sargenti, the councillor for sports in San Donato, insists that the plans remain at the draft stage at present, and that both the club and the local people must be consulted before developments can begin.

“The Inter project will be not just be a stadium, but a project that provides services for our city,” he was quoted as saying by Tuttosport. “We are waiting for Inter’s final decision; at the moment it’s just a draft plan.

“Moreover, before we decide about it, we’ll ask the local citizens for their opinion.”