Messi wins another Ballon d’Or

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has won the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or to claim the title of world player of the year for the third year in a row. In winning the title for a third time, Messi joins a select band comprising Dutch legends Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten, plus Frenchman Michael Platini.

The Argentinian dedicated the award to his team-mate Xavi, who came third in this year’s poll.

“I want to share this award specially with my friend Xavi,” he said. “This is the fourth time that we are are together at this ceremony and it is a pleasure for me to be with him on the pitch. This Ballon d’Or is also yours. Without your help I would not be here.”

Messi was one of five Barcelona players in a Spanish-dominated fifpro Team of the Year, which featured four players from arch-rivals Real Madrid and two from Manchester United.

fifpro Team of the Year:
Iker Casillas, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nemanja Vidic, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney

Pep Guardiola collected the FIFA Men’s Football Coach of the Year, while the FIFA Puskas Award for the goal of 2011 went to Neymar for this stunning effort.

Parma appoint Donadoni

Former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni has been appointed the new coach at Parma, after the Serie A club announced on Monday that he was replacing the sacked Franco Colomba.

Colomba thus became the 11th coach to lose his job in Italy’s Serie A already this season.

Former Milan midfielder Donadoni was in charge of the Italy national team from 2006 to 2008 and then had spells in charge of Napoli and Cagliari.

Dalglish denies culture of racism

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish received a fair amount of flak for his response to Luis Suarez’s 8-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra, so it’s only fair that he be given the opportunity to defend his reputation.

The Anfield boss told “Over the past few weeks there has been a perception that the football club isn’t doing what it should be doing, but I don’t think the football club would ever go down that road.

“We will always support the official campaigns related to racism.”

“Obviously there was a big issue with Luis. The players showed support for Luis which was fantastic, but then some people interpreted that wrongly as the players saying they’re not interested in the fight against racism.

“That is totally and utterly rubbish. If we can help to eradicate racism or discrimination from any part of the society, with the help of anybody at Liverpool Football Club, then that help will be forthcoming.

“We don’t want racism anywhere near football and certainly not anywhere near this football club.”

Hopefully, that will be the last we hear of the matter.

Nambia lose CAS appeal

Namibia have lost their attempt to replace Burkina Faso at the African Nations Cup after the sport’s tribunal rejected their protest about the eligibility of a player.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) said Namibia’s appeal had been dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), clearing the way for Burkina Faso to participate.

“The decision of the appeal board of the CAF is confirmed,” said CAS, according to the African confederation.

Namibia, beaten twice by Burkina Faso in the qualifiers, claimed their opponents fielded Cameroon-born defender Herve Zengue when he was ineligible.

Political football

Eric Cantona has teased the French public by appearing on the cover of Liberation alongside a letter to French mayors asking for 500 signatures. That figure is the symbolic number required to make a run for the French presidency.

However, Cantona’s gesture was revealed to be the latest in a string of publicity coups to raise awareness of the plight of poor people and the homeless in France.

“He isn’t looking for signatures to be a candidate for the presidency, but to pass on the message of the Abbé Pierre foundation in support of better housing policy, and to make housing, which is a priority for French people, a priority for the presidential candidates,” Libération’s deputy editor, Paul Quinio, told the I-Tele news channel.

“I’m a committed citizen,” Cantona wrote in his letter to local mayors. “This engagement obliges me to speak up, more seriously than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country is faced with difficult choices.”

Poachers reject chance to become gamekeepers

Three journalists renowned for investigating FIFA corruption have turned down the chance to to work with the governing body’s Independent Governance Committee, chaired by Professor Mark Pieth.

In a wide-ranging statement the trio, Andrew Jennings, Jens Weinreich and Jean François Tanda, claim that the review is fatally compromised by the involvement of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

“It is absurd that Blatter, who has benefited from the explosion of corruption during his tenure as FIFA General Secretary and President and who managed the kickback scandals for at least two decades, is controlling this ‘clean-up’ scheme,” the statement read: “It is created by Blatter to protect him and those close to him. His pretence of a ‘road map to reform’ is risible.”

The full statement can be found here.

Further bad news for FIFA’s drive for transparency comes with a snub from Football Supporters Europe, the grassroots network of football fans with members in 37 countries across the continent. The group has rejected an approach to sit on the Independent Governance Committee

“After evaluating the information provided to us, as an independent and democratically organised body, which holds good governance close to its heart, we have come to the conclusion not to accept the invitation to this committee,” an FSE statement said.

Danish fan pays a heavy price

An appeals court has ordered a Danish fan to pay the country’s football federation nearly 1.9m kroner (£210,000) in damages for trying to attack the referee during a European Championship qualifier between Denmark and Sweden in 2007.

In a move he will come to regret, Ronni Noervig had appealed a lower court ruling imposing damages of 900,000 kroner saying he could not afford to pay them. But instead, the Eastern high court more than doubled it after the Danish federation raised its claims.

Noervig came on to the pitch in Copenhagen on 2 June 2007, and tried to punch the referee after he awarded a penalty to Sweden. A Danish player stopped him. The match was abandoned, and Sweden were awarded a 3-0 win.

Noervig has said he was drunk and called the incident a “moment of idiocy.”

One imagines that he was not entirely sober when he thought it would be a good idea to appeal the original fine.

Goal of the day

There can only be one contender today and that’s Thierry Henry’s winner in his comeback game for Arsenal. With his side struggling to overcome an obdurate Leeds defence in Monday’s FA Cup tie, Arsene Wenger turned to the club’s record goalscorer who duly delivered with one of his trademark finishes.

Tevez saga takes fresh twist

Frustrated at the lack of progress of with Milan, Manchester City have opened talks with Serie A rivals, Inter, over a possible deal for Carlos Tevez.

Milan had proposed taking Tevez on loan until the end of the season, but with City only interested in a permanent move, talks have stalled. Into the breach stepped neighbours Inter.

Inter president Massimo Moratti said: “If you do something you don’t do it as a joke but because you think it can be a good operation.

“We’ve acquired information on how things are going, there’s room to act, we’ll see if we can do it or not.

“There are still three weeks left. It’s not about being optimistic but rather seeing how things are.”


Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown was in the firing line as the players warmed up for last night’s FA Cup 3rd round tie between Arsenal and Leeds United.