Winter wonderland

Europe’s leading clubs, via the European Clubs Association (ECA), have admitted that they are “open” to the possibility of a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

FIFA chief Sepp Blatter has called for the tournament to be moved because of concern over how players would cope in summer temperatures of 40C and above.

Blatter   in an interview with on issues surrounding the choice of Qatar, admitted for the first time that it might have been a mistake to award the finals to the Gulf state.

Asked whether FIFA were aware of the climate issues that may prevent the summer tournament, before the announcement that Qatar would host, Blatter said: “That may well be so, and it may well be that we made a mistake at the time.”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, president of the ECA, however, was more conciliatory, stating that the furore surrounding the decision to award the finals to Qatar was insulting to the hosts.

“Having the World Cup in Qatar is not a mistake,” he said.

“After visiting Qatar at our last general assembly we had a good feeling about the organisation of a World Cup there.”

Rummenigge said that he did not understand why FIFA was in such a rush to reach a decision about the 2022 finals.

“I personally believe there is no hurry and I don’t understand why FIFA would like to make an early decision at the next executive committee meeting in October,” he said.

“I think that nine years is more than enough to do this very sensibly and prudently, in the best interests of football.

He had full confidence in Qatar’s ability to organise the World Cup and recalled that, in his playing days, he had been expected to play in the finals in extremes of heat, humidity and altitude in Mexico in 1986. It had also been “35 or 40 degress and very humid” when Brazil played Italy in the 1994 final in Pasadena.

“So,” Rummenigge added, “we had that sometimes in the past but it was always accepted and respected. Now maybe times are different but what I am missing is respect for the decision made by FIFA and respect for the organising committee in Qatar.”

How that argument plays with the Premier League, thus far the most implacable opponents of a winter World Cup, remains to be seen. One imagines that it could get messy.


Schalke chief financial officer Peter Peters has forced to make an embarrassing apology after he suggested racism drove midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng away from Italy.

On Monday, Peters told SportBildPlus that Boateng had wanted to leave Italy “because of the racist incidents” he suffered during his time with Milan.

He claimed that Boateng “had an arrangement with president Silvio Berlusconi that he could leave if Milan qualified for the Champions League”.

During his first press conference as a Schalke player, Boateng said that only “sporting reasons had been behind his decision” to sign for Schalke this summer.

Peters’ comments sparked further discussion about racism in Italian football, but, later on Monday, he clarified his comments via a statement on the club’s official website.

“A statement made by Schalke finance director Peter Peters regarding the transfer of Kevin-Prince Boateng caused something of a stir on Monday, a misunderstanding that Peters deeply regrets,” the statement read.

Peters said: “Having spoken to our general manager, Horst Heldt, my initial assumption proved to be completely wrong. He confirmed that racist incidents were definitely not the reason for Kevin’s move to Schalke.

“As soon as I’m back at Schalke I will speak to Kevin personally and apologise for what I said. It was certainly not my intention to cast false aspersions on  Milan or the Italian fans.”

Getting tough

UEFA is ready to step up the fight against racism in football with stricter sanctions including lengthy bans on players and closure of stadiums, its president Michel Platini has revealed.

UEFA has come under fire over its lenient sentencing policy when dealing with clubs whose supporters have been found guilty of racist abuse. However, having seen that the ‘naughty step’ approach has not been an unqualified success and with incidents appearing to be on the rise, the UEFA chief has vowed to get tough.

“We must do everything to clear racism so that there are no such incidents at any game,” Platini told a joint news conference in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Hungarian football association Chairman Sandor Csanyi.

Platini said UEFA had decided to ban players or coaches making racist comments for at least 10 games, adding that stadiums where such incidents recur could be closed for good.

Goal of the day

Bilal Najjarin unleashed an unstoppable long range effort in Lebanon’s friendly international match against Qatar.

Quote of the day

“It’s a mild form of autism, which allows sufferers to focus and concentrate better than others. Newton and Einstein also had a certain level of autism. I hope that like them, Messi surpasses himself every day and continues giving us his beautiful brand of football.”

Romario believes Lionel Messi’s preternatural footballing gifts can be attributed to Asperger syndrome.

Stats of the day

The current round of European World Cup qualifiers could see a number of significant personal milestones attained by a select band of illustrious international performers.

Italy’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is set to equal Fabio Cannavaro’s all-time record of 136 Azzurri caps when he faces the Czech Republic on his home ground in Turin.

“Equalling the record of my close friend Fabio Cannavaro doesn’t give me that much pleasure,” Buffon said this week. “But getting to 150 would be quite nice …”

The Guardian has produced a fascinating profile of the veteran keeper, detailing his illustrious career, not to mention his battle against depression.

In Kiev, Frank Lampard will collect his 100th cap for England, to join team-mates Ashely Cole and Steven Gerrard as international centurions. Lampard is a member of the (Fools) Golden Generation of underachievers and a man for whom the expression ‘a triumph of hard work over talent’ might well have been coined.

Meanwhile, in Tórshavn, Miroslav Klose will be looking to get on the scoresheet against the Faroe Islands to overtake Gerd Muller’s longstanding goalscoring record for Germany. Both stand on 68 goals, although it is worth noting that whereas Klose has achieved this total in 129 matches, Muller managed it in a scarcely credible 62.

To his credit, Klose was quick to play down comparisons with Der Bomber.

“It means an awful lot, but I do not want you to put me on the same level as Gerd,” he said. “It’s an absolute joke to compare myself with him.

“One must not compare him with anyone after what he has done. The number of matches and goals, he is unique.”

Perhaps the most remarkable stat of the day, though, comes not from the international arena but from FC Barcelona, where club president, Sandro Rosell, has revealed that two per cent of the club’s supporters do not like Lionel Messi.

“In the club we do internal polling and there is two per cent who do not like Messi.
”I would like to know these two per cent.”

Tough crowd.

Act in haste…

Rarely does a day go by without a figure within the football world receiving a death threat. On Monday Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor was the unfortunate recipient, after he clattered into One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson and was made Public Enemy No 1 among pre-pubescent girls. Today it is the turn of Ramildo Fonseca, the Aparecidense physio who achieved brief notoriety over the weekend when he cleared a ball off the line to deny opponents Tupi a last-gasp equaliser.

Back in Brazil the incident has caused huge outrage and Fonseca, who hid in the changing rooms of the stadium for three hours while angry Tupi supporters were escorted away by police, has told reporters his life is in danger.

“They’re calling my home and threatening my family,” he said. “They said I will not get out alive from this.

“They’re also threatening my children. My wife and kids have called me crying saying they are worried about my life.”

Despite the furore, Fonseca said that he did not regret his actions due to his love for Aparecidence, but did apologise to Tupi and their followers.

“I’m very sorry, I should not have invaded the field,’ he said. “It was a thoughtless act, I will not do so again.”

It is unlikely he will be given the opportunity.

Second best

Chelsea’s technical director, Michael Emenalo, has admitted that his club only signed Samuel Eto’o because they missed out on Wayne Rooney, according to the Metro.

Jose Mourinho spent most of the summer trying to lure Rooney to Stamford Bridge, but Manchester United refused to do business, and despite three separate bids for the England striker, he remained at Old Trafford.

Now, Emenalo has declared that their failure to convince United into a sale is the reason they opted to bring in Samuel Eto’o.

“In the case of Samuel Eto’o, it was an open secret that we wanted Wayne Rooney and I don’t need to explain what the idea is behind wanting a player like Rooney,” he said.

“We weren’t able to get Rooney and we had Lukaku, Ba and Torres, we felt comfortable with them but we also felt comfortable to bring Eto’o to give us a little bit of competition.”

There con’t have been many times in his career that Eto’o, a four-time African Footballer of the Year and a multiple title winner across Europe, will have been described as “a little bit of competition.”

Sleeping on the job

El Mundo has accused Arsenal’s new club-record signing, Mesut Ozil, of tiring himself out pursuing women to the point that Real Madrid couldn’t wait to offload him.

The 24-year-old, who moved to Arsenal for £42.5million on deadline day, was asked by Real Madrid to put his footballing career first after becoming besotted with ex-Miss Venezuela Aida Yespica, according to the Spanish newspaper.

El Mundo reports that Real Madrid sold Mesut Ozil to Arsenal due to his “mad passion” for model Aida Yespica.

Ozil’s pursuit of Aida Yespica was such that Real Madrid lost patience with the player and were keen to offload him in the summer.

According to El Mundo: “The early morning trips, extended to the last minute of passion, led to a down which affected his performances.”

The player’s current girlfriend Mandy Capristo is thought to want to move to the UK to be beside him, but the Sun on Sunday report that she favours living in central London, which is not exactly convenient for Ozil, who will have to commute to Arsenal’s training ground in Hertfordshire each day.

Although, if she has read the reports coming out of Spain, Capristo may already be having second thoughts about joining her boyfriend.