Have boots will travel

Mbabane Highlanders striker Mfanufikile Ndzimandze has appealed to angry fans to return his boots which he lost after the Swaziland club slumped to their worst defeat in 22 years on Sunday.

Ndzimandze lost his footwear while being chased by angry supporters to the club’s mini-bus after the 5-1 defeat to Malanti Chiefs, the Times of Swaziland has reported.

“I lost the boots as we were running to the kombi because some of the fans wanted to beat us up,” he told the newspaper.

“That things are not going well is clear but it is not for us players to sort them out but our leaders,” he added.

Never mind the quality…

UEFA is considering getting rid of the Europa League in favour of extending the Champions League from 32 to 64 teams.

“We’re discussing it. We will make a decision in 2014. Nothing is decided yet,” UEFA president Michel Platini told French newspaper Ouest-France.

UEFA are looking at changing the format of European competitions from 2015.

“There is an ongoing debate to determine what form the European competitions will have between 2015 and 2018,” added Platini.

It’s an interesting proposal in that it solves one problem whilst simultaneously creating an other, possibly bigger one. The unloved and much-derided Europa League would disappear from the schedule, but in its place would be a bloated ‘Champions’ competition that would surely antagonise the Super Clubs who rely on its income to perpetuate their dominance over their domestic rivals.

The former France international said he was unconcerned by talk of Europe’s richest clubs forming a competition to rival the Champions League.

“It’s a question that is regularly brought up,” he said.

“I can’t see how it could work outside the UEFA framework. Who will referee them? In what stadiums will they play?”

Blueprint for the future

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has told new interim manager Rafael Benitez that he does not expect the Premier League side to play like Barcelona.

Speaking ahead of his second game in charge of Chelsea, tonight’s Premier League match against Fulham, the Spaniard stressed that Abramovich’s expectations were not unrealistic.

“It’s possible to play attacking football, like Barcelona, with these players,” Benitez told reporters.

“But I have spent some time with Roman, and we were not talking about the Barcelona style.

“He wants to see his team play well. We watched the Under-21s – me, him, Michael Emenalo and John Terry – and we were talking about the opposition players.

“Roman says he wants to see the team playing well and winning, but not with the Barcelona style. He knows we don’t have [Lionel] Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta – players who have been working together for years.”

Which is just as well when you think of the pragmatic but effective football Benitez is associated with. Abramovich may not expect Barcelona, but surely he doesn’t want Stoke City. It was Benitez, lest we forget, who signed Peter Crouch while he was in charge of Liverpool.

Goal of the day

A wonderful team goal involving a sweeping move that culminates in a lovely one-two before Jakub Błaszczykowski fires a ferocious volley into the roof of the net.

Quote of the day

“He has been doing it for all of his life. I certainly put him alongside Falcao. I don’t have a lot of experience. The experience I have is with a couple of strikers, but I put him up there with the best.”


Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas gets a little carried away with the current form of Jermain Defoe.

Like father like son

Gheorge Hagi, nicknamed the “Maradona of the Carpathians”, possessor of one of the sweetest left foots in the history of the game, has passed on his genes to his son Ianis.

Ianis scored a cracking goal for Romania Under-15s today against Turkey.

Look familiar?

Here’s some highlights of his father.

Regrets, they’ve had a few…

Chelsea say they “regret” the way they handled their accusation that referee Mark Clattenburg used racial language towards midfielder John Mikel Obi.

It’s not the apology that many thought Clattenburg was entitled to, but it’s as good as the referee is going to get.

The club also indicated they would be happy for Clattenburg to referee at Stamford Bridge in future. Which is big of them.

A joint statement by the Premier League, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited  and Chelsea said: “It is time to draw a line under this incident.”

“The referees accept that, given Chelsea FC had received a good faith claim from one of their employees, the club had an obligation under FA rules to report the allegation,” the statement read.

However, Chelsea acknowledged that making the allegations public immediately after the game led to unwelcome press attention towards Clattenburg and his family.

“The club regrets not having given more consideration before issuing a statement on the evening of Sunday, 28 October,” the statement continued.

“The club also regrets the subsequent impact the intense media scrutiny had on Mark Clattenburg and his family.”

Back in the groove

Frank Farina wants to use his appointment as Sydney FC’s new head coach to make amends after being sacked by Brisbane over drink-driving charges.

The former Australia coach was named Sydney’s seventh coach in eight seasons on Wednesday, replacing Ian Crook, who stepped down from the position earlier this month.

It will be Farina’s first job in Australia since he was sacked by Brisbane Roar in October 2009 after being caught drink-driving on his way to training, the second time he’d been picked up over the the legal alcohol limit.

Farina conceded that his appointment had gone been universally welcomed by the Sydney fans.

Writing on his own website, Farina said: “I know I’m not the popular choice with all fans but that’s football and that’s life.

“To those fans who don’t want me because they disagree with me on football issues, that’s great. Football is a game of opinions, and you are entitled to your opinion.

“To those who criticise and denigrate me because of the circumstances under which I was sacked by Brisbane Roar, I would just ask you two questions: Have you ever done anything you wish you hadn’t done? Do you think people should be punished for the rest of their lives?

“If the answer to the first question is “no”, then good on you. And if the answer to the second question is “yes”, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. Let’s leave it at that.”

Club owner Tony Pignata was confident Farina could handle the pressure that comes with the job and with coaching a side which includes Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero.

“Frank’s coached at a high level,” he said.

Indeed he has, but if I were him I’d wouldn’t tell Alessandro about his most recent appointment as coach of Papua New Guinea.

As for Del Piero, as Melbourne Victory discovered when they hired Harry Kewell, signing a big name player is no guarantee of anything other than a bigger payroll.

Good game, bad for football

Zico believes that Brazil’s memorable 3-2 defeat to Italy at the 1982 World Cup had a negative impact on world football that is still being felt today.

Needing only a draw to qualify, an attack-minded Brazil went for the win and Zico said their failure to win the trophy meant their style of play was subsequently viewed as redundant.

“Brazil had a fantastic team, recognised around the world, and everywhere we go people remind us about that team in 1982,” Zico told the Soccerex conference.

“If we had won that game, football would have been different. Instead, we started to create football based on getting the result at whatever cost, football based on breaking up the opposition’s move, and based on fouling the opposition.

“That defeat for Brazil was not beneficial for world football.”

And if readers were in any doubt about this, consider last season’s Champions League winners and how they won it.


Paris Saint Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said that his club should try and sign David Beckham, who will become available after this weekend’s MLS Final.

During his loan spells to Milan several years ago, Beckham befriended the Swedish striker and their relationship on and off the pitch has seen Ibrahimovic attempt to persuade his one time teammate to make the move to Paris in January:

“I am sure there will be many offers for him from clubs all over the world, but it is a very exciting project here in Paris and if he still wants more trophies then this is the right club for him to join.

“We can win the Champions League over the next two seasons with the team that is being built.”

Winning the Champions League will be the easy part; constructing a dressing room to house two gargantuan egos, may not be so straightforward.