Pepe apologises

Real Madrid defender Pepe has apologised for stamping on Lionel Messi’s hand during Wednesday’s clasico.

In a video that makes the Brazilian-born player resemble a suspect in a police line-up, Pepe claims the stamp was accidental. Amazing that of all the players he could have accidentally stamped on, it was the world’s number one player who was the unfortunate victim. Simply amazing.

The short-fused Portuguese international claimed that “hurting a colleague has never been my intention” which will come as news to Getafe’s Javi Casquero.

After that incident, Pepe claimed he was no longer in the right frame of mind to play football. Which was just as well as he was subsequently banned for ten matches.

In lieu of a similar punishment, Real Madrid have, according to Marca, told the defender to go on “holiday” for two weeks.

Love letter to Liverpool

Former German international Dietmar Hamann has revealed how he once lost £288,400 betting on the outcome of a cricket match.

Writing in his autobiography ‘The Didi Man‘, which is being serialised in the Daily Mirror, Hamann said he began drinking and gambling as his marriage fell apart.

“I was spread betting because it requires more thought, and the more my brain was engaged the less I thought about the devastation I was feeling inside,” he said.

“That night I bought Australia for £2,800 at 340 runs. That meant for every run over 340 you win £2,800, but for every run under you lose the same amount.

“Australia collapsed for 237. It is a score I remember well. It cost me £288,400.

“Every wicket felt like a stab in the heart. By the end of the night I felt like I’d been scalped.

“The next day, when I looked at the mess that was me in the mirror, I said ‘Didi, things have got to change.”‘

In a more uplifting section of the book, Hamann explains his natural affinity with England and in particular the city of Liverpool.

“There are stereotypes of Germans from the English. But people shouldn’t be surprised I came in and became as much a Scouser as Carra [Jamie Carragher] or Stevie [Gerrard] because I have probably been more of an Englishman since I was born, for some reason,” he says.

To illustrate his affection for Liverpool and to promote his book, Hamann has produced an entertaining 10-minute video tribute to the city. Look out for a cameo appearance from one of his former team-mates.

Football down under the radar

World Soccer‘s Australian correspondent Les Murray has written an illuminating piece detailing the ongoing battle faced by football as it strives to be taken seriously in a country obsessed with cricket, rugby league and Aussie rules.

The title of the article alludes to the autobiography of Johnny Warren (Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters: An Incomplete Biography of Johnny Warren & Soccer In Australia) who was known as Captain Socceroo for his efforts to promote the sport in Australia. The book’s title refers to the sexist, racist and homophobic attitudes towards football which sadly persist to this day.

Fans go on the rampage

A dozen hooligans invaded the delivery room of a Buenos Aires hospital and threatened staff with guns and knives as they tried to avenge the death of a gang member killed in a fight with a rival faction.

Dr. Marcelo Struminger, president of the doctors’ association at Santojanni Hospital, said supporters associated with the Argentina club Nueva Chicago charged through the delivery room of Santojanni Hospital looking for a rival hooligan known as “Aldo The Paraguayan.”

He is believed to have been involved in the death of Agustin Rodriguez, who was killed in a fight between his faction – known as “Los Perales” – and the rival faction “Las Antenas.”

The scene was captured on closed-circuit television and broadcast on national television.

“They demanded to see one person, the presumed perpetrator who was being treated for stab wounds to the abdomen,” Struminger said. “The doctors were afraid, just like everyone else.”

Persona non grata

Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon, who was in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu from 2006 until 2009, has claimed that coach Jose Mourinho has not spoken with Kaka in the last four months.

Calderon also claimed that several Spanish players are unhappy with the present at the club, with former Borussia Dortmund star Nuri Sahin another reported to have fallen out with the Portuguese coach.

“The players are no longer happy. He [Mourinho] hasn’t spoken to Kaka once in the last four months,” Calderon said to Ona FM.

“The Spanish players are unhappy with their situation because of the privileges Mourinho gives to the Portuguese players.

“And then there’s the situation of Sahin. The reason he doesn’t play is because Mourinho doesn’t like him.”

If there’s a good time to criticise Mourinho, then hot on the heels of yet another defeat to Barcelona would appear to be as good as any. Marca, the traditionally pro-Real newspaper, for instance, did not pull any punches in its criticism of Madrid’s performance, while former players have been equally scathing about the style of football played under Mourinho. Whether this is the start of a whispering campaign aimed at unseating the coach, remains to be seen.

The Portuguese does retain some support in some very high places at the Bernabeu. Director of football Zinedine Zidane for instance, wasted little time exempting him from criticism.

“Attacking Jose Mourinho and the players is the same as attacking Real Madrid,” Zidane told AS.

“I can’t understand those who can demand that Mourinho leaves when he’s in the middle of building something great, of imprinting a winning character on our team.

“I also don’t understand those who criticise the system Mourinho used in the cup match on Wednesday.

“I challenge any coach to tell me if they know an appropriate tactical system to beat Barcelona.”

Therein lies the big problem for Mourinho; he may be the right man for the job, but he’s there at the wrong time.

Neymar staying put

Neymar says he plans to continue playing for Santos until July 2014.

Speaking in Montevideo where he received the award for the best player in the Americas, awarded by the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais, he said: “I do not plan to go now, I have many things to do in Santos.

“I have a contract until 2014 and I intend to stay until 2014.

Asked if he envisaged playing in Europe after the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, Neymar admitted he was unsure.

“Everyone knows it’s a dream to go play in Europe (…) I don’t know whether it will be in 2014 or later,” he said.

This is all in stark contrast to what the Brazilian whispered to Barcelona coachPep Guardiola, moments after his Santos side had been humbled by the European champions in last month’s Club World Cup final.

“Take me with you”, he isreported to have told the Barca coach.

Trezeguet on target

It’s been quite a couple of weeks for big-name players making unexpected returns to the game. First, Thierry Henry makes a sentimental return on loan to Arsenal and scores on his debut. Then it was the turn of Paul Scholes, who found the target just days after he rejoined Manchester United. Now, David Trezeguet, who held a lifelong ambition to play for River Plate, the team he supported as a boy in Buenos Aires, scores on his debut for the Argentinian club at the age of 34.

Beckham tipped to own MLS franchise

David Beckham has been explaining why he chose to return to LA Galaxy rather than taking up any one of a number of offers he had received from Europe.

“For me, soccer’s the number one sport around the world, apart from America,” he said. “I want to get soccer to another level in the US.

“I’ve felt a change in the last two years and don’t want to walk away from it. I want to continue to be a part of that growth.”

Altruism may not be the sole reason Beckham has decided to remain in the United States, as it emerges that he may soon be the owner of one of the MLS franchises.

“Beckham’s original five-year accord included the option to buy a franchise after he retires from playing. Helping him fulfil that formed part of the latest contract talks”, said Tim Leiweke, chief executive officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles-based company that owns the Galaxy.

“He made it very clear to us we have to sort this through, that he is going to exercise his option to be an owner in Major League Soccer.”

“Unless I’m mistaken, that’s his future when he does make a decision to retire and we and the partners in the league have structured that option in a way that will allow David to become one of the owners in the league and run his own franchise.”

Incidentally, the cost of an MLS franchise is $40million, small change for Beckham who is reputed to be worth nearly ¢300million.

Goal of the day

Maicon’s screamer in Inter’s 1-0 win over Genoa came from more or less a standing start and employed minimal backlift.


Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has spoken out against the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United.

Hoeness told Bloomberg: “Before Mr Glazer bought Manchester United, he didn’t know there was air in the ball.”

A statement which, one can only assume, has lost something in translation. Nevertheless, the thrust is clear: the Glazers are not interested in the club for sporting reasons.

“I would accept Mr Glazer immediately if he says ‘OK, the price of Manchester United is £800 million. That’s my money, my risk and now we are working.’

“But what did he do? He bought the club and said ‘OK, I don’t have the money, how can we finance it?’ That’s something that I never accept.”

Glazer gained control of the current English Champions mainly through loaned money, much of which is yet to be re-paid, leading to accusations among many United fans that the family is bleeding the club dry. Indeed, so abhorrent does Hoeness find the Glazer style of ownership that he regards Manchester City’s policy of throwing enough money at a problem in the hope that some of it might stick, as the lesser of the two evils.

He added: “In this moment, will he [the wealthy owner] one day say now I go on my ships and I buy pictures and so on? But if you say which option [Glazers or benefactor], you want to have I would say I take the guy from Abu Dhabi.”