Soccerex conference now an ex-soccer conference

Just seven months before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, a major football conference in Rio de Janeiro was called off for what organisers claimed was ”ongoing civil unrest,” a claim denied by the state government.

State government officials said the event was cancelled in a dispute over how the event was to be financed.

The cancellation is another blow to Brazil and World Cup organizers after the Confederations Cup was targeted this year by protesters upset with Brazil’s poor public services, high taxes and lavish spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The protests saw 1 million take to the streets across Brazil on a single day, have grown smaller, but more violent and show no sign of going away.

Soccerex, due to be staged in Rio de Janeiro on the eve of the World Cup draw was expected to be attended by a host of leading football figures. The organisers immediately threatened to sue the Rio state government. Its chief executive, Duncan Revie, called the move a “unique and cruel” decision. It said the Rio de Janeiro state secretary of sport had taken a “political decision”.

However, the Rio state government said the late cancellation was due to a financial dispute rather than security reasons.

“The state guarantees the security of multiple events, including New Year’s Eve on Copacabana beach, carnival, and the World Cup,” it said in a statement. “The government of Rio de Janeiro encouraged the organisers to seek cultural and sports incentives [funding] and they failed to do so. Soccerex were advised to seek funding to host the event so that the state would not have to use public money.”

The event was due to take place in the newly refurbished Maracanã stadium that will host the World Cup final next summer and was due to be attended by 4,500 of “football’s leading decision-makers”.

Meanwhile, in London, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said the conference cancellation was not an indication of heightened security fears ahead of its showpiece that opens June 12 and ends July 13.

”We do not believe this will have any influence in any way or form on the organization of the FIFA World Cup,” Weil said.

Former Brazil star Ronaldo, a member of the World Cup organizing committee, suggested the decision to cancel Soccerex was an overreaction.

”The people are going out onto the streets to show their displeasure about how they were treated for so long, so they wanted change,” Ronaldo said through a translator at the London briefing.

He said canceling the event exaggerated the threat, and said the World Cup would help Brazil.

”I am in favor of any nonviolent protests,” Ronaldo added. ”Brazilians are tired of being ignored for so many years and want the government to respond to that weariness.”

Microsoft in talks over Bernabeu naming rights

As reported last month, computer firm Microsoft has confirmed that it is in talks with Real Madrid over acquiring the naming rights for the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 85,00-seat stadium was inaugurated in 1947 and was named after former Madrid president Santiago Bernabeu Yeste.

However, Maria Gahan, head of Microsoft Spain, has now confirmed that Madrid is keen to flush over 60 years of the club’s heritage down the toilet, sorry, that should read, is keen to find new ways to maximise the club’s commercial revenue.

“They have offered us, and other companies, the possibility of renaming the stadium,” she told Antena 3.

“We’re in talks, and that sums up where we are.”

Che Guevara football shirt a big hit

A Brazilian club has attracted attention with a new strip featuring the face of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

Madureira, a third division team from Rio de Janeiro, put Che’s iconic image on their seven-a-side shirts to commemorate a tour of the island they made 50 years ago.

The goalkeeper’s jersey is designed exactly like the Cuban flag.

The new maroon outfield designs, featuring the shadow of the revolutionary’s image, have not yet been used in an official match, but they have proved popular with supporters.

Sales have soared from the usual 10 a month to more than 3000 in the weeks since it was launched.

“The factory can’t keep up with demand,” Madureira’s president Elias Duba told Reuters.

“It’s taken on a whole life of its own.

“I wasn’t going to have the big team use them, but all the attention has convinced me otherwise.”

The club chose to honor Che, the Argentine-born revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro to power in Cuba in 1959, after playing five games there in 1963. Che met the players at their hotel in Havana and was at the last game of their unbeaten tour, Duba said.

The club is now talking to Cuban authorities in the hope it can return there for a pre-season tour in 2014. With their Che shirts.

“It’s really beautiful, one of the nicest shirts I’ve seen in a long time,” said goalkeeper Robertinho. “Even fans of other teams want to buy it.”

You can see photos of the Che shirt here.

Goal of the Day

FC Copenhagen’s 1-0 Champions League victory over Galatasaray came courtesy of a clever backheel from Daniel Braten.

Quote of the Day

“I’m the bad cop and he’s the bad, bad cop. I’m looking forward to it greatly.” 

Newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill talks about his assistant, Roy Keane.

Sepp Blatter on Qatar’s case

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has vowed to hold “a very interesting discussion” with the new Qatari Emir to help clear up some of the controversies surrounding the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s hosting has been plagued with problems, including the searing summer temperatures when the finals are currently scheduled to take place, but also the allegations of human-rights abuses among the largely migrant workforce.

Workers at construction sites have alleged abuse, with even some deaths being reported. 

Trade union leaders have urged FIFA to deal with the labour issues, and Blatter has vowed to speak to the Qataris.

Blatter will visit Qatar later this month, and yesterday told FIFA’s official site: “I am mandated by the executive committee of FIFA to visit the new Emir of the state of Qatar, and it is in connection with the 2022 World Cup.

“There are some social problems linked with working activities there. There are also sporting problems.

“So I will have a very interesting discussion with him and report to the executive committee on 4th or 5th of December.”

Emir Tamim Bin Hamad took up his position in June of this year – when his father handed over power – and Blatter, never slow to offer fulsome praise when the wealthy and powerful are involved, wasted little time getting onside with the non-elected head of state.

“I am looking forward to continued excellent relations between FIFA and Qatar as we work towards the 2022 World Cup in your country”, Blatter said at the time.

“I hope to have the opportunity to congratulate you soon in person.”