Qatar 2022 in doubt?

Australia’s football chief has cast doubt on Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup.

Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy said that the “last word hasn’t been heard yet” on the FIFA vote that awarded the event to Qatar over bids from countries including the United States and Australia.

“Don’t ask me to elaborate because I don’t have a crystal ball … but the media all over the world is talking about that, the awarding particularly of ’22, the state of the FIFA executive committee – all that stuff.

“It’s not over,” Lowy was quoted to say by Australian Associated Press. “I don’t exactly know where it will bounce. The only thing I know is it’s not over yet.”

An enigmatic contribution from the recently re-elected Football Federation Australia chairman, to say the least.

Not-so Super Mario

Mario Balotelli again finds himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons. The Italian striker was only on the pitch for 17 minutes but he managed to become the story of the match in Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

Dismissed after receiving two yellow cards, Balotelli allegedly took out his frustrations on the visitors dressing room door.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini accused Liverpool’s players of pressuring the referee, Martin Atkinson, into producing a second yellow when Martin Skrtel went to ground after a robust challenge from Balotelli.

“I think so,” said Mancini when asked if he thought Skrtel made the most of the incident.

“My impression is he gave a free-kick and didn’t want to give the yellow card, but after all the Liverpool players went there.”

Ronaldo linked with Brazil post

Brazil legend Ronaldo has denied reports that he is set to replace Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira as head of the 2014 FIFA World Cup organising committee.

The three-time FIFA Player of the Year retired from the game in February at the age of 34, has denied the reports.

“I don’t know anything about that, there hasn’t been anything,” said Ronaldo, according to the Associated Press. “I’m surprised by all this speculation.”

The Ronaldo reports come after Teixeira appointed Corinthians president Andres Sanchez to the No.2 post in the CBF, which will see him take responsibility for Brazil’s national teams – a move interpreted by some as a precursor to Teixeira launching a bid to become the next president of FIFA.

And you thought we had it bad under Blatter?

Round of racism

Texeira’s latest initiative saw players take to the field at the weekend to be photographed in front of a banner which read “Say no to racism. Racism is crime.

It has been suggested, by World Soccer’s Tim Vickery among others, that racism was not the principal target of this campaign. Instead, the aim might well have been to embarrass FIFA president Sepp Blatter, over his recent gaffe that racist incidents on the field should be settled with a shake of hands on the final whistle.

Goals of the day

There were a couple of stunning goals over the weekend. Real Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez scored a spectacular long-range goal from his own half on Sunday to give his team a 3-2 win at Real Betis in the Spanish league.

In the Bundesliga, Hannover’s Jan Schlaudraff scored a screamer against Hamburg.

The youtube clip describes the effort as an ‘insane volley goal’, which sums it up quite well.

Iran players pay heavy price

The Iran Football Federation has come down hard on two players who celebrated celebrating a goal in an “immoral” manner.

The FFI suspended Persepolis defender Mohammad Nosrati for 10 months and his teammate Sheys Rezaei for 20 months, the ISNA news agency said.

Fines of US$30,000 were also given to the duo, the report added.

Nosrati had grabbed the backside of his teammate Rezaei while celebrating his team’s goal in a league game last month against Damash Gilan.

It’s unclear why Rezaei, who was the innocent ‘victim’ of the pinch, has received a harsher punishment than the ‘perpetrator’, but logic and rationality are never going to be big buzz words in a country where acts of homosexuality are punishable by life imprisonment or death.

Robbed at gunpoint

Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi could now be tempted by a move away from the club after his girlfriend was mugged in Naples.

His partner Yanina Screpante was robbed of her Rolex watch by two armed robbers on Saturday night.

Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis attempted to play down the incident.

“Naples is no more violent than Milan or Rome, which I would call the real crime capital of Italy,” he said.

“Certain comments in the heat of the moment came from the heightened emotion. I would like to tell Yanina that during a recession she shouldn’t go round with a Rolex on her wrist.

“Her scared reaction is justified. Maybe she’s not yet ‘Neapolitan’ enough to deal with this sort of thing. Perhaps the girl thought she was untouchable, being Lavezzi’s girlfriend, but that is not the case. In any case, Naples is a marvellous city and the people are generous.”

The Napoli forward, 26, has been been urged by one of his international team-mates to seek a move to pastures new. The only problem is: the team-mate is Sergio Aguero and he wants hin to move to Manchester.

If Lavezzi’s girlfriend is not yet ‘Neapolitan’ enough, one wonders how long it would take to become Manchester’ enough. Probably best not thinking about.

10 v 14

Real Madrid took full advantage of Barcelona’s shock defeat to Getafe with a convincing 4-1 win over neighbours Atletico, to increase their lead at the top of the table to six points.

Real’s cause was helped by the early dismissal of keeper Thibaut Courtois for a foul on Karim Benzema.

Atletico defender Alvaro Dominguez complained on Twitter about the match officials.

“How difficult it is to play with 10 men against 14!” However, he deleted the comment soon afterwards.

There was little sympathy from Real boss Jose Mourinho, who says he instructs his keepers to let the forward score rather than lose a penalty for the rest of the game.

“I tell my keepers that I’d rather they concede a goal in these situations than give the opponent a penalty and therefore see a red card,” he said. “Atletico’s goalkeeper decided to take a risk and the penalty was clear.”

You can make your own mind by viewing the incident in question.

Damning with faint praise

Brisbane Roar’s 4-0 triumph over Perth saw them extend their unbeaten record to 36 A-League matches and in the process, set a new Australian sporting record previous held by NSW rugby league outfit Easts’.

It’s an impressive achievement, though one not universally acknowledged within Australia.

Arthur Beetson, a former Easts coach and member of the club’s famous 19-game winning streak in 1975, says the fact that the Roar have drawn 13 matches in their unbeaten run undermines the achievement.

“They have had a lot of draws in there,” Beetson told mX, while sucking on a lemon.

“Easts had a couple of draws (in 1937) but there are a lot of draws (in soccer), even in Europe a lot of those (unbeaten) records have a lot of draws.

“But they have scored in every game, which is good because a lot of soccer can be negative.”

Talk about damning with faint praise.

Former NRL player Matthew Johns also questioned the new record in the light of the standard of the A-League competition,

“That’s a little hollow isn’t it?,” Johns told Triple M.

“It’s a little bit like when Matthew Hayden broke Sir Donald Bradman’s record….but he did it against Zimbabwe.”

RIP Gary Speed

Tributes continue to pour in for Gary Speed, the Wales manager who hanged himself on Sunday.

None of Speed’s close friends and associates can explain why he took his life, and the news of his death has stunned and numbed the British football community.

A number of poignant obituaries, based mainly on personal recollections of Speed the footballer and Speed the person have appeared.

James Brown, former editor of Loaded and lifelong Leeds United supporter, wrote movingly about one of his idols, while another writer, the Guardian’s Richard Williams, wrote of a man of principle who engendered enormous affection.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, speaking on behalf of the entire football community, was another to pay tribute.

“I would like to offer my deepest condolences on behalf of FIFA and the worldwide family of football to you, the Football Association of Wales, his wife Louise and their two sons, as well as Gary Speed’s friends and family,” he wrote.

“I hope the knowledge that we are all thinking of them can provide some solace in this time of deep sadness.

“Gary Speed was a hugely talented player and a great servant for both and club and country who will be greatly missed. He will always be remembered as a model professional and a fantastic ambassador for the game.

“Having attended the draw for 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil qualification, it was clear to all there that he was a man who exuded enthusiasm and passion for the game.”