Italy’s ultras hope to precipitate nationwide stadium ban

Juventus ultras have agreed to join Milan and Inter with their invitation to chant offensive slogans, in a bid to force the closure of all stadiums.

The protest movement is growing after Milan were ordered to play their next home game against Udinese behind closed doors for chants insulting people form Naples.

The rules introduced to stamp out racist abuse in Italian stadiums have been expanded to include “territorial discrimination.”

Inter ultras showed solidarity with Milan and now the Juventus ‘Fighters – Curva Sud Scirea’ have joined in.

“This is just another pointless and unconstitutional mechanism to discriminate against the ultras, condemning freedom of speech,” read the Juve ultras statement.

“During the next game in Florence on October 20 we invite all the fans to sing along with us those ‘famous’ chants of territorial discrimination. We invite supporters everywhere to unite in our protest by showing banners and singing these chants in every stadium on Friday 18, Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October.”

Inter ultras had already released a statement showing solidarity with their rivals and urging others to follow suit.

It read: “We are ready and we hope that all the Curve will make discriminatory chants so we can have one Sunday with total closure of the stadiums!

“It might be difficult to ensure the bans are simultaneous, but it’s easier to do than to explain!”

The plan from the various different groups of ultras is for all Serie A clubs to receive a ban simultaneously, so that an entire weekend of games will be played behind closed doors.

Even Italian Football Federation President, Giancarlo Abete, admitted that the anti-discrimination rules were open to interpretation.

“I think it would be helpful if there were a period of reflection on the way to apply these rules,” he said. “We are moving within the international rules, though there are contrasting approaches to different discriminatory situations.

“I want to point out the rules on territorial discrimination in the Italian code have been there for a long time. The only thing that has changed is the degree of punishment.”

Jack Wilshere forced to clarify remarks

Jack Wilshere has been forced to defend himself against claims of parochialism, after he came in for criticism following his suggestion that only those people born in England should be able to represent the  national side.

Among those who spoke out against the Arsenal midfielder was England’s South African-born cricketer, Kevin Pietersen, who replied to Wilshere: “Interested to know how you define foreigner…? Would that include me, [Andrew] Strauss, [Jonathan] Trott, [Matt] Prior, Justin Rose, [Chris] Froome, Mo Farah?”

In response, Wilshere tweeted: “With all due respect Mr Pietersen the question was about Football! Cricket, cycling, Athletics is not my field!”

Pietersen hit back: “Same difference.. It’s about representing your country! IN ANY SPORT!”

Suitably chastened, the 21-year-old attempted to clarify his original remarks.

“To be clear, never said ‘born in England’ – I said English people should play for England.

“Great respect for people like KP, Mo Farah and Wilf Zaha – they make the country proud.

“My view on football – going to a new country when ur an adult, & because u can get a passport u play 4 that national team – I disagree.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger came out in support of his midfielder .

In an interview with BBC Sport Wenger said: “I agree with him. I always said also an Englishman should manage the England team.”

Elsewhere, FA chairman Greg Dyke, believed that England should be entitled to utilise all players who are eligible, regardless of their nationality.

“We wouldn’t have had Mo Farah on that basis,” he said, speaking at the Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge. “I think that is too extreme.”

However, unquestionably the most pithy comment came from comedian Frankie Boyle.

If nothing else, Wilshere’s remarks have sparked a debate about nationality in sport. There do need to be rules in place to prevent the wholesale purchase of players by individual states. This is what distinguishes international football from club football, and if the former ever emulated the latter, its entire raison d’etre would be lost.

Depression, homosexuality, racism and Mario Balotelli: the secret life of Serie A

Gazzetta dello Sport has conducted a survey into the habits of Serie A players, touching upon subjects such as racism depression, homosexuality and of course, no such survey would be complete without a question about Mario Balotelli.

With the full agreement of several Italian clubs Gazzetta sent out 50 questionnaires to unnamed between May and September.

Of the 50 polled, 29 players said that depression was a problem, with 12 ticking the box marked: “Have you ever had to live with depression?”

Among those polled, 36% said they’d heard a team-mate make a racist comment during a Serie A game. However, only 2 out of the 50 believe that black players find it harder than their white counterparts to forge a career in football.

As for homosexuality, 34% of those questioned believe that a gay player would be treated differently by team-mates and fans – and that his career would suffer as a consequence. Three of the 50 players stated that they’ve played alongside team-mates who admitted being gay.

And as for the most overrated player, well, the recipient of that unwanted award was Mario Balotelli. He, along with Inter’s Mauro Icardi and fellow Argentine Ezequiel Schelotto, formerly of Inter, now with Sassuolo, garnered the most votes in that category.

Goal of the Day

Clarence Seedorf has enjoyed a new lease of life since moving to Brazil to play for Botafogo. With this stunning strike against Nautico, the 37-year-old reminds us that there have been few better strikers of the ball in the modern game.

Miss of the day

The Sao Paolo goalkeeper parries the shot into the path of Cruzeiro’s Willian and the striker can’t miss from there…can he?

Lothar Matthaus: reports of his demise exaggerated

A stamp on a court letter that labelled Lothar Matthäus as “deceased” after authorities failed to contact him, has not gone down well with the former Germany captain.

Matthäus, who played a record 150 times for his country and won the World Cup in 1990, has been living in Hungary in recent years.

He was due to be sent Munich court papers regarding alimony to his former wife, but authorities could not contact the World Cup winner, currently registered in Hungary, so the letter was stamped with the word “deceased”. Matthaeus could not be found at the address they had for him, so the letter was marked with the words “tot,”  the German for “deceased.”

If there is one person in Germany who is unlikely to see the funny side of his death being erroneously reported, it would be  Matthäus.

“It is an unbelievable cheek,” Matthäus told the Bild newspaper.

“You can find me anywhere. Everyone can see I’m still alive – on the television on the football field, anywhere. If someone wants to send me something it is very easy. I moved to Budapest nine years ago.”

He may not have seen the funny side of the mix-up, but it’s safe to assume that the German public did.

Quote of the day

‘I always say to the players, ‘Forget the money. What is important is how well you play together, what you share together is much more important. The money is only a consequence of your experience. The real experience is the game. And I see that with many players who have stopped their careers. It’s not the money they miss – because they have money. It’s that kind of experience. To share the values of our sport, to share the values of being together. And achieving something together.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger shares his footballing philosophy.

FIFA corruption: another one bites the dust

Sri Lanka’s former FIFA executive committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando has been banned for life by the governing body.

Fernando’s appeal to overturn an original eight-year ban on him failed as FIFA’s appeal panel decided to uphold a request from ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia that he be banned for life.

In April, Fernando was banned for eight years. His original suspension was thought at the time to be related to investigations into former Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam – a close associate of Fernando – who was also banned for life after resigning from all his footballing roles.

Bin Hammam was originally banned for his role in the cash-for-votes scandal of 2011. That was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, only for FIFA to impose the same sanction once again, this time for financial wrongdoing linked to the leadership of the AFC.

In Fernando’s case, FIFA have never explained how he violated its code of ethics. It is alleged, though not confirmed, that Fernando’s ban is connected to alleged misuse of AFC funds.

In a brief statement FIFA said: “The lifetime ban has been imposed on Mr Fernando for violations of art. 13 (General rules of conduct), art. 19 (Conflicts of interest), art. 20 (Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits), art. 21 (Bribery and corruption), and art. 42 (General obligation to collaborate) of the FIFA Code of Ethics, 2012 edition.”

Fernando’s place on the FIFA exco is currently being taken by China’s Zhang Jilong who is serving the remainder of the term, which expires in 2015.