Milan shocked at stadium ban

Milan have been fined €50,000 and ordered to play their next Serie A home game, against Udinese, behind closed doors, due to some of their fans chanting “We are not Neapolitans”, at their game against Juventus in Turin on Sunday.

Naples daily Il Mattino said the chant reflected long-standing contempt for the south by northern clubs, but the decision was greeted with disbelief by Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani who promised to appeal.

“To say I’m furious would be putting it mildly. I understand that racism is a big problem, a problem everywhere in the world but territorial discrimination is another thing entirely. I could do it myself: living in one zone of Milan and agreeing with a few friends to chant against another zone of the city.

“If 50 people agree something like that, they could kill a club by making racist or territorially discriminatory chants. Next time, they may as well say we have lost without playing, and then take points off us too.”

Maurizio Beretta, president of the Lega Serie A agreed with Galliani saying: “The mechanism for defining offences and their punishments the way it is now risks placing the destiny of clubs and the league in the hands of a few irresponsible people.”

A spokesman from the football federation (FIGC) said the rules were being applied in line with UEFA guidelines. “It’s not as though the rules are imposed on any club. It’s down to a judge to decide on the punishment, and they can make their case against any decision,” the spokesman said.

The offending chants were heard by employees of federal prosecutors stationed in the stands of the Juventus Stadium, before the game and during the second half.

As this is the second time this season Milan have been punished for the discriminatory behaviour of their fans, the entire stadium will be shut for the visit of Udinese on October 19.

Real Madrid financial situation worse than reported

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez always understates the size of the club’s debts while Mesut Ozil was sold last summer to cover the problem, according to the head of a group of club members.

Carlos Mendoza, president of ‘Asociacion por los Valores del Madridismo’, was interrupted by Perez when he tried to raise his concerns at September’s club assembly.

In Tuesday’s AS he insisted that the figures presented at that meeting were false and its financial situation was much more perilous than the club’s board lets on.

“We have studied the accounts and the budget and we have detected things which are not explained by the president,” Mendoza said. “Things which worry us for the future. The club’s debt is 541 million euros, including that owed in the short term and long term.

“Florentino only recognises the ‘net’ financial debt, which is only the debt owed to the banks, some 90 million euros. But Madrid has other debts – to players, clubs, sporting associations, public administration, suppliers. That all adds up to 541 million euros, more than double the debt Florentino inherited from Lorenzo Sanz.”

Construction magnate Perez’s plans for the redevelopment of Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu are even more of a worry given this context, said Mendoza.

“Even with that debt, he wants to take on the redevelopment of the Bernabeu, which he says will cost 400 million euros,” he said. “And then he says he does not know how it will be financed, that he will use ingenious methods… If there is uncertainty, then to plunge into this 400 million euros Bernabeu project does not seem the most prudent.

“And there is another detail – two lines of credit have been opened and they have had to put down as security the income from the sporting sponsor and from members fees and season ticket sales for three or four years… This is not just me saying it – it is in the club’s accounts. The financial institutions are asking for such guarantees as they do not trust in the club’s solvency.”

Mendoza accepted a Forbes report that Madrid is now the world’s richest club, but said the increased revenue did not cover the growing expenditure.

“We have the highest revenues, but also the highest outgoings,” Mendoza argued. “And revenues have been growing by 12 percent a year for the last decade, but in the last year only grew by 1 percent. While the costs are exploding.”

Mendoza also claimed that next year’s figures are likely to be worse after last summer’s transfer business – which included a 200 million euros outlay on players including Gareth Bale, Isco, Asier Illarramendi, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro.

“The [latest] accounts are up to June 30,” he said. “Bale will be included in the next year, and will be amortised – if he cost 100 million euros and has five year contract, it will be put in as a cost of 20 million euros a year. The amount paid for Bale is scandalous.”

This year’s sales of senior players including Ozil to Arsenal and Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli were financially motivated, Mendoza said, while Kaka’s return to Milan would pose another problem for the accounts.

“[Madrid] have had to sell to compensate the cost of signings, like Higuain,” he said. “With that they can cover it up with make-up for next year. The sale of Kaka will look very bad in the accounts, as he had two years left to amortise at 20 million euros a year. Then there is Bale, Illara, Isco and salaries going up. Ozil was bought cheaply and sold expensively. That will have a positive effect on the accounts, but the costs keep going up and up.”

“Since he sacked Del Bosque, Florentino has spent 800 million euros on players to win one La Liga and one Copa del Rey,” he said. “The model is clearly not efficient.”

FIFA to create racism league table

FIFA plans to create an international league table of countries which have problems with racism and discrimination in sports.

FIFA delegate Tokyo Sexwale told a United Nations forum on racism and football that the global “barometer” is “very key” to the governing body’s work against discrimination.

“The barometer is going to tell that society that the conduct of your sporting people is bringing your country down,” Sexwale, a member of FIFA’s Task Force against Racism and Discrimination said.

“I don’t think anybody here would like to be low on the barometer.”

The South African former anti-apartheid activist said FIFA will organise a summit on racism next year with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“We are taking the bull by the horns beyond football in recognition of the fact that FIFA has taken the lead once again,” he said.

UEFA president Michel Platini said that football must lead the fight against racism inside and outside of the game,

“With extraordinary popularity comes responsibility,” Platini told campaigners and diplomats at a session on racism and sport hosted by the UN’s European offices in Geneva.

“Football is honour-bound, by virtue of that very popularity, to promote values which are able to make society more tolerant of diversity,” he said. “Those who govern our game have a duty to protect players, who are in their workplace, against all forms of discrimination.

“Today’s football does not tolerate any discrimination, whether it be racial, cultural, religious, sexist or homophobic, and there’s no hierarchy of evil,” he added.

But with high-profile cases continuing to hit the headlines – most recently in Great Britain, Italy and Ukraine – campaigners argue that more effort is needed.

“There’s a real problem with racism in some regions of Europe, for sure,” added Platini. “This behaviour is largely down to small organised groups who choose to express their hatred in a football stadium in order to take advantage of the popularity and media coverage enjoyed by our sport.”

“Football reflects society’s values but also, unfortunately, its prejudices, fears and mistrust.

Football is just the tip of the iceberg in societies in which, given the current crisis, the process of social integration is breaking down. But it’s precisely because football is often more open to diversity than wider society that it enables advance that would be more difficult in other areas.”

Kevin Muscat: poacher turned gamekeeper

Monday’s Guardian carried an interesting blog on the appointment by the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) of Kevin Muscat to front a campaign against football violence.

Muscat, who in a professional career spanning 19 years from 1992 to 2011, received 123 yellow cards and 12 red cards, is being employed by the FFA in conjunction with the Victorian police and both Melbourne clubs, to promote a family friendly version of the A League.

Victorian police commander Rick Nugent said in a statement: “What we’re doing is collectively standing up against violence … we’re going to do whatever we can to ensure we provide a safe environment for supporters, families and kids who come along to watch sport.”

Sniffer dogs will be used to search for flares, CCTV will be monitored to track known offenders, and rogue supporter groups targeted by clubs in an unprecedented crackdown on Victorian hooligans. Anyone found to be drunk, disorderly or behaving in an anti-social manner faces an on-the-spot fine of $722. They may also be ejected from the ground.

But, as the Guardian blog notes, the authorities are addressing a problem that largely does not exist. Football in Australia is pretty much trouble free.

Naturally, given his reputation, it is the appointment of Muscat that has attracted most attention.

“We love the fact that the atmosphere at football games is unrivalled across any other sport and we certainly encourage passionate support in the stands,” he said.

“However, we don’t want a small minority to ruin the experience for others.”

Here’s a reminder of Muscat in his playing days, ruining the experience for others.

Cristiano Ronaldo or Eusebio?

The debate as to who of Cristiano Ronaldo or Eusebio is the best Portuguese player of all time continues to rage.

The debate was prompted by Ronaldo overtaking his compatriot to become Portugal’s second highest goalscorer of all time, Benfica legend Eusebio says a simple goals comparison is unfair because he  played fewer matches than Ronaldo.

“I am saddened because we can’t make that comparison. It’s a mistake because I played (around) 60 matches to score that amount (41 goals),” Eusebio told Portuguese national television.

Ronaldo reached 43 goals in 106 internationals after his hat-trick earned Portugal a 4-2 comeback win over Northern Ireland in last month’s World Cup qualifier.

“This is historic. I’d scored a lot of hat-tricks for Real Madrid but never any for Portugal,” he said after the game.

“Going above Eusebio in the scorers’ list was a natural thing to happen and it was only a matter of time but still I am really proud.”

Ronaldo, 28, is set to rewrite Portugal’s football statistics as he is only four goals behind all time leading scorer Pauleta, a figure he looks sure to eclipse sooner rather than later.

Eusebio, 71, believes Ronaldo has it easier than him.

“Now, after all these years, someone else scores (that many goals) but obviously that happens because today it is easier to play some of these teams. I never got to play against Liechtenstein or Azerbaijan,” he said.

Portugal have also qualified for major tournaments more often with Ronaldo – five since his debut at Euro 2004.

Eusebio played at only one major tournament — the 1966 World Cup in England where he was the overall top scorer as Portugal grabbed a best-ever third place.

Portugal and Real Madrid’s Pepe prefers his teammate.

“I hope Eusebio forgives me but, for me, the best player ever is Ronaldo. Despite his relatively young age, what he has already achieved for the ‘Seleccao’ leaves no doubts,” he told o Jogo.

“Because of the goals he has scored and the clubs he has represented Ronaldo will leave a mighty footprint.”

Eusebio spent most of his career at Benfica, winning the 1962 European Cup and 11 league titles.

Eusebio’s supporters say he excelled at a time when football science was limited.

“Eusebio had no preparation, no gyms, no academies. He became what he did through sheer talent,” said Hilario Conceicao, a former international colleague.

Another team-mate, Jose Augusto, told o Jogo: “Footballs are all high-tech and vulcanised today, much faster, lighter and with unpredictable trajectories. With today’s balls Eusebio would have scored double the goals.”

Despite their differences the two players have a lot in common – powerful shooting, and pace, the ability to use both feet, and an eye for goal.

“Technically the two are not actually that distant. Both are incredible hard-workers who loved to practice and improved from a very young age,” said Jose Pereira, the head of Portugal’s coach association.

“Ronaldo and Eusebio thrived thanks to a tremendous sense of opportunity up front and explosive runs. Both are football giants.”

Quote of the day

“The hardest [player to coach] was easily Matthias Sammer. Matthias had to complain after every victory, something I found a bit tiring and annoying. 

Ottmar Hitzfeld admits that Matthias Sammer was the most “annoying” player to have ever served under him.

Goal of the day

From South Korea’s K League, Brazilian Alex Maiolino scores with an acrobatic effort for Goyang Hi against Bucheon 1995.

AEK fans loyal to a fault

Fans of AEK fans have once again demonstrated their loyalty by buying more season tickets than any other club in the Greek game – including European contenders Olympiakos and PAOK.

AEK dropped outside the top flight for the first time ever this summer – relegated to the amateur third division in order to liquidate the club’s professional football branch and eliminate a massive debt.

Dimitris Melissanidis, returned to take over the club and promised a speedy return to the top flight, as well as the immediate construction of a new stadium where AEK’s Nikos Goumas home ground used to stand.

So far, so good, as AEK announced on Monday they had sold 12,855 season tickets, more than any other Greek club across the league pyramid.

In comparison, Super League champions and Cup holders Olympiakos have sold 12,000 season tckets and sit third in the list, behind PAOK with 12,820. Traditional Greek heavyweights Panathinaikos have barely reached the 8,000 mark.

With the unemployment rate in Greece reaching 27%, Melissanidis offered jobless AEK supporters the chance to watch every home game for a total cost of just €50, while also committing to spend half of the season tickets revenue on the construction of the new Ayia Sofia football ground.

Who is the most fouled player in Spain?

Barcelona Neymar is La Liga’s most-fouled player this season, according to Spanish newspaper Marca.

The 21-year-old, who joined Barcelona from Brazilian outfit Santos during the summer for a reported fee of £48.6 million, has been fouled on 32 occasions so far this season already.

That number puts Neymar just ahead of compatriot and Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa – who has been fouled 31 times – and Real Madrid midfielder Isco (27).

Neymar’s figure may ease some of the pressure he has been feeling, after an underwhelming start to his Camp Nou career that has yielded two goals in seven appearances in the league.

Jose Edmilson, a fellow Brazilian, who played for Barcelona between 2004-08, admitted that Neymar, who has a reputation for simulation, did dive, though not as often as he used to.

“Neymar dived a lot in Brazil,” Edmilson said. “He still dives some, but in most cases, the defenders tackle him late. Every time he gets tackled, he really gets tackled, and Neymar wants to get back at defenders more and more.”

“I knew you would ask me about Mourinho’s comments,” he told Esports COPE. “He also said that Messi dived against Chelsea. Neymar and Messi are players of small build and defenders foul those types of players when they cannot mark them”, he said regarding the two Barcelona stars’ playing style.