Suarez makes his mark
It took Liverpool’s Luis Suarez of all three minutes to make his mark on returning to action after serving an eight-match ban. Unfortunately, the mark was left imprinted on Scott Parker’s torso by Suarez’s clumsy – I’m being charitable here – attempt to volley a dropping ball.
Wayne Rooney, who rivals Joey Barton as English football’s most prolific and controversial member of the Twitter community, immediately tweeted that Suarez should have been sent off. Given that Rooney’s United side face Liverpool this weekend in what promises to be a tense, high profile encounter, it was probably not the most helpful of interventions.
On hearing about Rooney’s remark, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish could barely hide his displeasure.
“He didn’t see Parker,” Dalglish argued. “Maybe you should tweet Rooney back. It’s fantastic to have Luis back and he should never have been out in the first place. He knows he’s admired and loved here. We don’t think he should have been away.”
All we need now is for a South American body language expert to come forward and explain to us how kicking someone in the stomach can be interpreted as a term of endearment in Uruguay.
Anyway, if you haven’t seen the kick, here it is.
Cruyff wins first round
One-nil to Johan Cruyff over Louis van Gaal in the battle for the soul of Ajax.
A Dutch appeals court has ruled van Gaal cannot become CEO of Ajax, a possibly Pyrrhic victory in board member Cruyff’s fight to have his rival’s appointment overturned.
Adopting the parlance of the football world, the Amsterdam Appeal Court said that other board members ”deliberately put Cruyff offside” by appointing Van Gaal in November, and insisted that the appointment must be overturned.
Bundesliga on course for new record
Boom time in Germany is confirmed with the release of attendance figures showing that the Bundesliga is on track to set a new attendance record this season, after average figures per game topped 44,000 in the first half of the season.
That represents a jump of seven percent on last year’s mid-season total. The average ticket price for a match – and this may or may not be a coincidence – dropped slightly, to €22.43.
“The figures are evidence of the drawing power of the Bundesliga, which offers the fans a mix of top-class sport and excitement to a degree that few other leagues can rival. In addition, the clubs’ strategy of providing a spectating environment of great comfort and safety at a moderate price is clearly paying dividends,” said Christian Seifert, CEO of the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga.
As a point of comparison, the average attendance of the English Premier League, the continent’s next most popular league, is 34,372. Elsewhere among Europe’s ‘big five’, Spain’s average attendance this season has been 28,344, Italy’s 22,968 and France 18,631.
The Argentinian government has named the upcoming football season in honour of a naval ship sunk by a British submarine during the 1982 Falklands conflict.
The new season, which begins on Friday, will be known as the Crucero General Belgrano Primera División or Cruiser General Belgrano First Division in English. The sinking of the Belgrano saw the deaths of 323 crew members – the biggest single loss in the conflict.
The 30th anniversary of the start of the 10-week war is 2 April. The decision to re-name the league will do nothing to allay concerns that the Argentine government is using the anniversary to revive tensions over the ownership of the islands.
Of course, if the Argentinian government really wanted to wind up their old enemy, they should have called the division the Carlos Tevez League.
Quote of the day
“In the east, players regularly discover they are not paid by their clubs and then find themselves being targeted by corrupt influences. They are vulnerable.”
FIFPro Director Anthony Higgins discussing a survey among thousands of players in Eastern and Southern Europe, which shows that almost a quarter of players are aware of match-fixing in their league.
Goal of the day
A clever backheel from Sebastian Fernandez was the highlight of Malaga’s goal in their 2-1 defeat to Granada. Fernandez released Nacho Monreal and he crossed for Salomon Rondon to sweep the ball home in the 68th.
Fans shot in Brazil
Four Botafogo fans were shot and wounded after the team’s match against Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro during a weekend marked by violence between rival football supporters across Brazil.
The four were shot at a plaza by unknown assailants who drove by just after a fight between supporters from both clubs.
The incident was not an isolated occurrence, with violence flaring at a number of venues across Brazil over the weekend.
Police had to use rubber bullets to disperse a crowd before the match between Ponte Preta and Sao Paulo, while Palmeiras fans were attacked by a group of Corinthians supporters throwing rocks as they left for the team’s match against Santos. In Porto Alegre, fan groups from club Internacional fought each other near the Estadio Olimpico before the team’s match against rival Gremio
De Rossi bucks austerity trend
Times may be hard for many in Western Europe, but for Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, life couldn’t get any better.
La Gazzetta dello Sport has revealed that De Rossi’s recent contract extension – which saw the Italy international sign a new deal until mid-2017 – will earn him £5.4 million a year. That makes De Rossi Serie A’s highest paid Italian player.
He still lags some way behind the highest paid player in the country, Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is reported to be on £7.5 million a year. A figure that makes his recent three-match ban all the more costly; in fact, those three weeks spent on the sidelines will cost his club a staggering £432,000.
Ex player calls for more support for gay players
Former England defender Graeme Le Saux has called for more support for gay footballers.
“The important thing isn’t whether or not there are gay players in professional football,” Le Saux told BBC Radio Jersey.
“The point is that the environment is such that if they are, they feel that they can achieve and the profession will support them,” he added. “At the moment I still don’t think that’s there.
Le Saux’s is a voice that deserves to be heard when it comes to discussing discrimination based on sexuality. For years, he was taunted by supporters and fellow players over baseless claims about his alleged homosexuality. The source of these claims? He read a left-leaning liberal newspaper. For that heinous crime he was subjected to a cruel litany of culminating in him being publicly humiliated by former Liverpool striker, Robbie Fowler.
Despite the fact that there are an estimated 2 million gay men in Britain, there are currently no openly gay players in the English professional game. And while the neanderthal attitudes that currently prevail persist, the situation is unlikely to change any time soon.
Former Besiktas director Celal Kolot has hinted that Galatasaray are the club that introduced the concept of fixing football matches to Turkey.
The Super Lig leaders have been given a clean bill of health in the ongoing investigation into match fixing in the country, but Kolot, previously on the Besiktas board, believes their Istanbul rivals who should be blamed for the scandal.
“Galatasaray have been champions for many years, but they have taught us how to handicap [football matches],” he told TV8.