Three die as part of Brazil 2014 stadium collapses

Grim news from Brazil where part of the stadium that will host the World Cup opening cermemony in Brazil next year has collapsed, causing significant damage and reportedly killing three people.

Wednesday’s accident could delay the delivery of the stadium in Sao Paulo by FIFA’s December deadline to have all 12 venues ready.

The Itaquerao Stadium was 94 percent completed, but as with all the World Cup projects, had come under enormous pressure to complete the building work ahead of next month’s deadline.

Television images showed that a huge metal structure buckled atop the stadium, destroying part of the stands in the east side of the venue. Local reports said the accident occurred when a crane collapsed.

On Tuesday, Danny Jordaan, the man behind South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 World Cup, said Brazil may have to start working around-the-clock if it was to get things ready for the tournament next summer.

inevitably, today’s tragedy at the Itaquerao Stadium will raise fears about corners being cut in the frantic race to complete the stadiums on time for next year’s World Cup finals.

Next Lionel Messi emerges from the womb

Football’s obsession with youth shows no sign of abating any time soon and with the value of promising young players always on the rise, the search for the next young prodigy is becoming more ever more competitive.

The latest youngster to step into the spotlight is a promising Argentine footballer, Claudio Nancufil, who plays for the Martin Guemes club in the ski resort of Bariloche.

“As soon as he started to play (aged four) he was already different from all the rest of his playmates with regards to technique,” club president Marcelo Ernalz said.

“How he takes the ball stuck to his foot, brakes, stops, kicks, scores, shoots on goal, from when he was little he had all these distinct qualities,” said Ernalz.

So far so good, but the most distinctive thing about Nancufil, talented though he is, is not his football prowess, but his age. He is only 8 years-old (yes eight!), but has already been monitored by the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. There has even been talk of the boy going to Spain for trials in the New Year, according to the Madrid newspaper El Confidencial.

Ernalz told Reuters that Spaniard Manuel Otero, manager of Barcelona-based PR agency Suenos Comunicaciones, visited the Nancufil family when he heard of Claudio’s talent and offered to represent them.

“After the Christmas holidays, ‘Claudito’ (little Claudio) will go to try out with these three Spanish teams and then we’ll see what each of them offers us,” said Otero, whose agency normally has actors and musicians on its books.

Interest in the player is not confined to Spain, with several Argentine clubs also interested in signing him.

“We’ve had an invitation from River Plate for him to train for a week with them,” Otero added in a report in El Confidencial.

“(The family) are not closing any doors and England could also be a great destination for the player.”

Premier League sides Manchester United and Chelsea are reportedly interested in Nancufil, who is set to be involved in a documentary on Argentine football.

“The BBC is preparing documentaries in the run-up to the World Cup in Brazil and with Argentina they want to unite the past, present and future,” Otero said.

“For this, they plan to bring together Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Messi and Claudio Nancufil and with the participation of (World Cup-winning coaches Cesar Luis) Menotti and (Carlos) Bilardo.”

Such were the similarities in playing style with Messi that Nancufil has already been dubbed “Messi of the snows”.

Leaving aside for a moment the ethics of monitoring the performances of an 8-year-old, the similarities with Messi, as you can see from this compilation, are uncanny.

Qatar finally agrees to let Zahir Belounis leave

Zahir Belounis, the footballer “trapped” in Qatar for two years because his club would not permit his departure, is now able to go home, his brother says.

Zahir Belounis, who has been in dispute with his club El-Jaish over unpaid wages, says he has been held against his will because of Qatari labour laws.

A delegation from global players’ union FIFPro was due to meet Qatari authorities and the player on Thursday.

But his brother Mahdi Belounis said on Wednesday: “Zahir has his exit visa.”

Mahdi Belounis, who has been promoting his brother’s case and calling for him to be allowed to leave the Gulf state, added on Twitter:  “Zahir will finally be in Paris tomorrow.”

Zahir Belounis said his club would not grant his ‘exit visa’ because of a dispute over wages, even when he offered to drop his claim for unpaid backpay.

Earlier this month he wrote to 2022 World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola to publicise his plight.

The treatment of migrant workers helping to build the infrastructure for the 2022 finals has been widely criticised in recent months. FIFA have pledged to act, and as a result of pressure brought by the international trade union movement,  the Qatari authorities have vowed to improve conditions.

Quote of the Day

“If we want to win in Europe, we cannot start games like that. The idea is to have the ball, but when you have a team up against you which is snapping at your heels and also know how to play the ball around, this is what happens. They came out more intense from the start and were up for it more. If you are not up for it enough against teams like that, they will walk all over you.”

Following the 2-1 defeat to Ajax, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol warns his team-mates that they must improve or face further humiliations.

FIFA upholds Ukraine racism sanction

FIFA has rejected Ukraine’s appeal against the punishment imposed after fans racially abused their own black player and made Nazi salutes at a World Cup qualifying match.

FIFA previously criticized the ”shameful” incidents at the September 6 qualifier played in Lviv. FIFA said  that its appeals committee confirmed Arena Lviv is barred from staging qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup. The stadium hosted three matches at the 2012 European Championship finals.

Ukraine must also play its first home qualifier for 2018 behind closed doors. The Ukrainian football federation, which was also fined 45,000 Swiss francs, can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

FIFA said it warned the federation about future conduct.

In a ruling published in September, FIFA’s disciplinary panel said that ”the … actions of a group of Ukrainian supporters were shameful.”

“The FIFA Appeal Committee yesterday decided to reject the appeal lodged by the FFU and confirm the decisions rendered by the FIFA disciplinary committee with regard to the FFU on September 27 in their entirety,” said a statement.

“As such the next home match of the A representative team of Ukraine in the preliminary competition for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia will be played without spectators.

“In addition, the A representative team is banned from playing in the Arena Lviv stadium for the duration of the same competition.

“The FFU is also ordered to pay a fine of 45,000 Swiss francs (about £30,400) and has been warned as to its future conduct.

“When rendering the decision, the FIFA appeal committee also recalled the resolution on the fight against racism and discrimination approved at the FIFA Congress in May 2013, which advocated the need for stricter application of sanctions.”

FIFA has long talked of getting tough on those found guilty of racism and finally, it would appear that they are being true to their word.

As for Ukraine, expulsion from FIFA competitions must now be a consideration, should there be a repeat of such appalling incidents.

Goal of the Day

After an indifferent, injury-plagued start to the season, there were glimpses of Jack Wilshere coming back into form in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Marseille on Tuesday. The midfielder scored both goals, the first of which was a curling effort into the top corner.

Imagine being in a stadium with 45000 Ronaldos

Real Madrid are distributing 45,000 Cristiano Ronaldo masks to fans attending the Bernabeu for tonight’s Champions League clash against Galatasaray.

The club have accepted the proposal put forward by two of the largest supporters groups, and they will hand out the lookalike face masks before the start of the Champions League Group B encounter.

Officials have also sanctioned a 10-metre wide banner that will read “Our unconditional support for ‘Comandante’ Cristiano.

For the Ballon d’Or and La Decima”, relating to the upcoming world player of the year award in January as well as Real’s obsession with winning a record tenth European Cup.

There will also be a six-metre-high banner draped over one side of the stadium that reads: “We are all Cristiano.”

The only person who will not be Cristiano Ronaldo tonight is Ronaldo himself, as he is rested by coach Carlo Ancelotti due to an injury niggle.

The Portugal forward has yet again been in superb form for Real Madrid this season, scoring 30 goals in 21 games in all competitions.

Ronaldo is widely believed to be in a three-way fight for this year’s Ballon d’Or with Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery and Barcelona’s four-time winner Lionel Messi.

Sunbed may have caused Philippe Mexes injury

In one of the more unusual injuries of recent times, Philippe Mexes’ absence from Milan’s Champions League win over Celtic on Tuesday, was due to an eye injury allegedly caused by spending too much time on sunbeds.

The French defender missed the 3-0 victory at Celtic Park with a condition known as central serous retinopathy.

Club vice president Adriano Galliani described the problem as ‘bizarre’, and members of the club’s medical staff were in the dark as to the cause of the rare condition.

But reports in Italy now suggest the issue was caused by Mexes exposing himself to too much time under the bright lights of a sunbed.

Newspaper Tuttosport noted that the Frenchman was looking especially bronzed in recent public appearances, speculating he must have been making regular visits to a tanning salon.