Better late than never…

Twenty two years after the Hillsborough disaster the UK government has finally agreed to release all official papers pertaining to the tragedy.

Ninety-six Liverpool football fans died in the crush as supporters tried to enter the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield for an FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she was ‘sorry’ for the anxiety caused to the victims of the families by the way the Government responded to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request seeking the release of official papers.

“The Government’s position has absolutely nothing to do with attempting to suppress the release of these papers or to somehow hide the truth. And I am sorry that the way the Government responded to the FoI request caused anxiety among the families and concern on Merseyside and beyond,” she said.

To be fair to May, her party’s policy of obstruction and obfuscation merely follows the lamentable course set by previous governments, elements of the tabloid press, and of course the police force, all of whom have spent more than two decades denying the victims’ families a much-needed sense of closure.

The most moving contribution to last night’s debate in the House of Commons came from Wirral South MP, Alison McGovern, who was close to tears as she spoke.

Huge numbers fail drugs test

More than half of 208 players screened at the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico failed a drug test for banned stimulant clenbuterol, FIFA said in an e-mail.

In an e-mail, FIFA said 109 of 208 players tested had traces of clenbuterol in their urine.

Normally, this kind of announcement would be accompanied by much gnashing of teeth about the collapse of moral values among young people, but in this case, to everyone’s relief, the players have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

FIFA said last week there’s “compelling” evidence of  the players consuming Mexican meat contaminated with the drug. Farmers sometimes use clenbuterol illegally to bulk up cattle. Fortunately, there is no long term risk to the players. Or at least, none that we know of.

Amnesty for match fixers

If you’ve ever fixed a football match, now is the time to come clean about it. You could even make a tidy profit from your disclosure if you do it quickly enough.

Chris Eaton, the head of security at FIFA, has revealed that corruption whistleblowers will be offered financial rewards to provide information about match-fixing.

“This is new ground for sport,” said Eaton. “I’m afraid criminals have changed the nature of sport. We’re going to have a rewards program for one month from January, followed then by a hotline and amnesty programme probably for three months, all managed independently.

“This will then be followed by an assessment program, followed by some sort of amnesty for the players who have been unfairly compromised, and there’ll be rehabilitation for those players.”

As soon as the amnesty has finished, players involved in match fixing will feel the full force of the law.

“We will follow the Sepp Blatter doctrine, which is absolute zero tolerance,” Eaton continued, doubtless to much sniggering among the assembled press corps.

Given that FIFA does not enjoy a squeaky clean reputation at the moment, Eaton was asked if the organisation could be trusted to clean up the game.

“Judge it by outcome, not by my words,” he replied.

We’ll take that as a maybe then.

Goal of the day

Ozer Hurmaci put Fener ahead against Mersin with a stunning long-range strike from just inside the opposition half.

Evra pursues case against Suarez

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that defender Patrice Evra is determined to pursue allegations of racist abuse from Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

France defender Evra has alleged Suarez repeatedly racially abused him during Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Anfield. Liverpool and Suarez have denied the claims.

“I spoke to Patrice and he is adamant he wants to follow it on,” Ferguson said.

“It is not an easy one for us. Everyone knows Manchester United and Liverpool have great responsibilities in terms of things that happen on the field and Saturday was terrific.

“It is not something we would want to level against Liverpool anyway. But obviously Patrice feels aggrieved at what was said to him, so it rests in the hands of the FA now,” Ferguson added.

Suarez was quick to deny Evra’s allegations.

“I’m upset by the accusations of racism. I can only say that I have always respected and respect everybody. We are all the same,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Put your cup of coffee down before you read the next line.

“I go to the field with the maximum illusion of a little child who enjoys what he does, not to create conflicts.”

You be the judge.


David Beckham says he is amazed at the number of offers he has received and believes he can carry on playing until he is 40.

“I have had a lot of offers and I must say that I’m amazed that, at my age, I have had so many. Its been a bit of a surprise,” the LA Galaxy player told the Daily Telegraph.

“I have to see how my body feels once the play-offs are over, but I love it here and there is a real chance I will stay, especially if my family are happy.”

Asked whether it was realistic for him to be still playing at 40, Beckham replied: “I think so”.

If you ever wondered why clubs are clamouring to sign a player whose best years are behind him, here’s a clue.

The former England man looks set to visit Singapore and Indonesia with LA Galaxy on a promotional tour in the coming weeks.

“We are very close in the negotiations. It’s at quite an advanced stage,” a promoter said, referring to the Singapore leg. “We’re negotiating for the whole team, including Beckham.

“We’re just sorting out sponsors. It’s about 80 percent (confirmed).”

Beckham’s ability to play football is largely incidental to his appeal now. In the same way that the public will queue up to get a glimpse of a film star strolling down a red carpet, thousands will pay money to watch him strolling down the touchline. Forget the idea of him playing on until he is 40, they’ll be wheeling out for decades to come yet.

Pastore deal investigated

Paris St Germain general manager Leonardo has defended the multi-million euro transfer that took Argentina star Javier Pastore from Palermo to his club.

Pastore moved for a French record €42-million in the summer but that deal is now being investigated by the public prosecutor in Palermo.

“I’m disappointed that I have to explain something which has nothing to do with Paris St Germain,” Leonardo said. “The transfer between Pastore, Palermo and Paris was the most important one in the history of France.

“His transfer was completed in the best way possible, right down to the last detail.”

The case has been brought after Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini claimed to have been the victim of extortion by Pastore’s agent Marcelo Simonian, who supposedly asked for an extra payment to secure the deal. Simonian allegedly threatened to pull the plug on the deal if Zamparini failed to pay the cash.

In the real world that may constitute extortion; in the world of the football agents, it’s business as usual.

Boca keen on Tevez

Boca Juniors are hoping to persuade Manchester City to part with striker Carlos Tevez after leading forward Lucas Viatri was ruled out for six months.

The future of Tevez is yet to be decided with City continuing to look into the striker’s actions during a Champions League tie with Bayern Munich.

In a deal that may suit all parties, Boca Juniors president Jose Beraldi has confirmed that the club want to take Tevez on an emergency loan deal and are planning talks with Manchester City.

“We will make an attempt for Carlos Tevez, who is not playing at Manchester City,” said Beraldi. “We know it will be difficult but we will try.”

Money could be a sticking point, especially if Tevez’s representative, Kia Joorabchian, has any say in the deal, but Beraldi revealed last week that the club will do all they can to bring Tevez home.

“The doors are always open to Carlitos,” he said. “He’s a Boca idol and a key piece in many of our achievements. This is his home. He grew up at the club.”

You should be proud of the way he’s turned out.

Professional suicide

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has introduced a note of sanity into the debate about scrapping relegation and promotion to and from the Premier League.

On Monday League Managers’ Association chief executive Richard Bevan warned that the foreign-based owners of England’s top flight clubs wanted to scrap relegation.

“If you look at the Championship (second division) at the moment, we have eight teams with tradition and history,” Ferguson said.

“What do you say to those eight teams? That they can never play in the premier division. I think that would be absolute suicide for the rest of the league and particularly the teams in the Championship.

“You might as well lock the doors. The only place you can make money and realise your ambitions is in the Premier League and you can’t take that away from clubs like Nottingham Forest, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.

“All these great teams, who formed the nucleus of our old First Division all those years ago. It would be unwise.”



Juventus President Andrea Agnelli has confirmed that this will be Alessandro Del Piero’s final season at the club.

“Our captain Alessandro Del Piero really wanted to stay with us for what will be his final year in Bianconero,” Agnelli noted.

“Let’s dedicate a massive round of applause to him.”

He’s already insisted that he wouldn’t play for another Italian team after Juve, but a lucrative move to MLS or to a Gulf state, can’t be ruled out.

Although Del Piero began his career at Padova, he has spent the past 18 years with Juventus.

Here are a list of his achievements with Juventus:

  • Juventus All-Time Leading Scorer (281 goals)
  • Juventus All-Time Leading Scorer Champions League (45)
  • Juventus All-Time Leading Scorer UEFA Competitions (53)
  • Juventus All-Time Leading Scorer International competitions (54)
  • Juventus All-Time Leading Scorer in the Italian championships (181)
  • Juventus All-Time Leading Scorer Italian Super Cup (3)
  • Juventus All-Time appearances holder Serie A: (441)
  • Juventus All-Time appearances holder in the UEFA club competitions: (115)
  • Juventus All-Time appearances holder in international competitions: (120)
  • Juventus All-Time appearances leader (653)

Despite this impressive roll of honour, it was his decision to stay loyal to the club after they were relegated to Serie B for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, that will have endeared him most to supporters.