I predict a riot

Up to 2 million people took to the streets of Brazil last night to demonstrate against corruption, police brutality, poor public services and excess spending on the World Cup.

A minority of protesters threw rocks and firebombed cars, while the police fired pepper spray and rubber bullets into the crowd. Hundreds were injured and one man died after a frustrated motorist drove through a barricade.

The appeal for calm from Pele went unheeded then. As most thought it would. Having exhausted the pantheon of Brazilian greats, what now for the authorities? Exhume the body of Garrincha and ask him to revive the spirit of ’62?

The swelling tide of protests prompted President Dilma Rousseff to cancel a trip next week to Japan, her office said. She has called an emergency meeting on Friday morning with key ministers.

There were even reports in the Brazilian media that the Confederations Cup would be cancelled, though FIFA was quick to dismiss such claims.

“Neither FIFA nor the local organising committee have ever discussed the possibility of cancelling the tournament,” a FIFA spokesman told BBC Sport. “There are currently no plans to discuss it.

“These reports are pure speculation.”

The Folha de Sao Paulo said that FIFA and the participating teams were “terrified” by the situation and even said there was pressure from come teams to withdraw from the tournament.

“The competition has become a nightmare for the organization,” it said.

“FIFA didn’t imagine that the event would be perfect but the size of the problems is worse than the worst-case scenario.”

The next demonstrations are scheduled for Saturday, the same day that Brazil meet Italy in Salvador and Japan face Mexico in Belo Horizonte.

Whether the tournament continues or not, the escalating trouble raises huge concerns ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Too close for comfort

According to reports protesters hurled stones at two FIFA minibuses and attacked a hotel hosting members of football’s governing body.

The incidents took place in the city of Salvador after Uruguay had beaten Nigeria 2-1 in a Confederations Cup match at the city’s new World Cup stadium.

Protestors threw stones at the minibuses and broke a window at the Sheraton hotel, which is hosting FIFA delegates, the Globo Esporte news portal said. It was not clear whether any FIFA officials were in the vehicles at the time.

One would imagine that most of them have been called away from Brazil on urgent business by now. Indeed, trouble magnet Sepp Blatter left the country on Wednesday to attend FIFA’s Under-20 World Cup which kicks off tonight in …Turkey. Out of the frying pan…

Crime spree

Twenty four hours after several Spain players had possessions stolen from their hotel rooms in Recife, the wife of Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar was the victim of an armed robbery in Fortaleza.

Susana Werner played down the incident, saying it was nothing more than “a gun pointed at me”. She said the robbery happened just before midnight on Wednesday in the city where hosts Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 in soccer’s Confederations Cup.

“It was a routine robbery, just like all the ones I’ve heard about,” said Werner. “It was the first time, but I was prepared to not react. The criminals were young and just wanted my belongings. There was no act of aggression, just a gun pointed at me.”

The remarkably stoic Werner said she was driving when she suffered the robbery.

“I told them to take everything including the car but they let us go. Life goes on. I love Brazil and I have faith.

“It could have happened to anyone, there were three of them in the middle of the street, waiting for the first car which passed. I won the prize.”


It’s good to see UEFA clamping down on the irresponsible economic basket cases of European football at long last.

European football’s governing body is finally getting to the root of the problem afflicting the continent’s major football clubs by banning from Europe … PAS Giannina. Who? Indeed.

The little known Greek club have been denied a licence to play in European competition next season. Incidentally, it was the first time the club had secured a place in Europe in their history – following their fourth-place finish in the top-flight play-offs last season.

Unless they win their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, PAS will be replaced in the competition by Skoda Xanthi, the next best-placed club who meet the body’s requirements.

“PAS Giannina considers this decision unjust, as well as the fact that there is no information as yet about the reasoning and we will immediately appeal to the CAS,” the club said in a statement on Friday.

“The club proved on the field, through its ethos and spirit, that it deservedly secured its European involvement, however, some people managed to deny the joy of thousands of fans using paperwork.

“This unacceptable decision will not break the determination of the PAS Giannina family and that we will continue to battle on the field with honesty and consistency as we always have done.”

Are PAS really symptomatic of the gross overspending that threatens the stability of European football? Or, are they simply a club operating out of a shattered economy that has overstretched itself?

When one considers the loopholes employed by the likes of the Qatari-backed Paris Saint-Germain, it does seem to be a case of one rule for the rich and another for the poor.

PSG managed to bend UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules by signing a £500 million sponsorship deal with the Qatar Tourism Authority. But mention this anomaly to UEFA president, Monsieur Platini, and he will offer a gallic shrug and quickly change the subject.

In case you were unaware, after attending a lunch at the Elysée Palace with France’s then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Qatari royalty, he voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. The Qataris then bought PSG, whom Sarkozy supports. Then Platini’s son, Laurent, a lawyer, was appointed as the chief executive of Burdda, a Qatari-owned sports kit company.

Blanc generation

Some of the Qatari money will soon be making its way into the bank account of Laurent Blanc, after the former France manager was appointed the new coach of PSG.

While yet to be confirmed, it appears that Blanc has agreed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes – paving the way for current coach, Carlo Ancelotti, to succeed Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

A short statement posted this afternoon on the website of beIN Sport, a network of sports channels jointly owned and operated by PSG owners Qatari Sports Investments, read: “An agreement was reached today between Paris St Germain and Laurent Blanc for him to become the new coach of the capital club.

“An agreement between the former coach of the France team and PSG was reached for two years. It is planned that he will sign the contract next week.”

PSG have been in the hunt for a new manager since Ancelotti announced his desire to leave last month – and have been linked with the likes of Arsene Wenger, Andre Villas-Boas and Michael Laudrup.

Goal of the day

A sweeping break from Uruguay led to their winner against Nigeria. The ball moves from Luis Suarez to Edinson Cavani and onto Diego Forlan, who lashes home with his left foot.

Quote of the day

”What we take from this game is the example the Tahiti team, who played with 100 percent passion and fair play until the end. They try to play properly, they try to enjoy themselves. They don’t try to stop the game or kick players – they enjoy their football and that is the big thing we take from the game today.”

After Spain’s 1-0 win over Tahiti, four-goal striker Fernando Torres explains why there some things more important than the result.

Another fine Messi

The lawyers of Lionel Messi insist the Barcelona player has done nothing wrong, in response to recent allegations of tax evasion.

Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, have been summoned to a court hearing on September 17 after the pair were adjudged to have committed three tax offences between 2006 and 2009.

According to the prosecutor’s complaint filed at a court in Gava, Messi and his father avoided running up tax receipts of more than 4 million euros by forwarding the four-time Ballon d’Or winner’s image rights to overseas tax havens.

A statement released by Juarez Veciana Lawyers, the forward’s representatives, read: “We firmly believe the innocence of our client. He complies scrupulously with Spanish legislation. He has paid what corresponds to him legally.

“We are confident the judicial investigation will be resolved in the minimum time possible [to end] this situation, which has left our client in a situation of media defencelessness, which we deeply regret.”

Jorge Messi, meanwhile, assured that both he and his son were innocent of any wrongdoing, revealing that they pay their fair share of tax to the Spanish state.

“That there is a difference of opinion between our financial advisers and the Inland Revenue is perfectly normal in the case of people that pay a lot in tax,” Jorge Messi told COPE. “But I can assure you that what we pay annually is an eight figure number. We are confident an agreement will be reached.”

According to reports in Spain, Lionel Messi and his father could face up to six years in prison.

No longer the interim one

Napoli have unveiled new coach Rafael Benítez at their Castel Volturno training centre.

After being declared persona non grata by fans at his previous club, Chelsea, Benitez wasted little time ingratiating himself with the supporters of his new club.

“I have received so many touching messages since my agreement with Napoli was announced,” said the 53-year-old, who joined Napoli after leading Chelsea to Europa League success in May. “I already feel I owe something to this great family, I will give my all for these colours. We have great challenges ahead and great objectives, if we stick together we can achieve them.

“I’m delighted to be here. I talked with many players who played here and everybody was enthusiastic about the town, the club and the fans. We all know what we have done well and what we have done wrong in the past, but we are here to talk about the future. The club have done well in recent years but want to keep growing.

“I’m Spanish, I think our mentality is quite similar to the people of Naples. Now my name is Rafè [in Neopolitan dialect], I will have to get used to it. It’s important to know the feeling of the fans and the town. It’s clear that people have great passion for football here, there are six million Napoli fans all waiting every day for the next match. It’s very important, you all win together.”

Don’t give up the day job

Every year Michael Essien hosts a Game of Hope in Ghana to help raise money for a variety of charities and foundations in Ghana.

The players took part in a pre-match social evening in Accra, where several of them partook in an impromptu “Azonto” dance-off on the stage. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Djibril Cisse and Essien looked naturals, but the less said of Michael Ballack’s efforts the better.