Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lionel Richie sings at Terry's wedding

Lionel Richie performed at John Terry's wedding to Toni Poole a few weeks ago, for which he was paid a cool £250,000.

A witness said: "It was really embarrassing. Toni was looking very anxious about the players making a real fool of her. When he started singing Hello the boys started chanting back to him as if they were on the football ground terraces. They had downed so much champagne at the reception the guests became really lairy and started shouting over his set."

Banner of the week

"Get divorced and stay here."

Banner in crowd dedicated to David Beckham after Real Madrid's Spanish league title win.

Beckham's brand may struggle

A report from the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre at the University of London has said David Beckham's brand could struggle to make a breakthrough stateside.

The university conducted a survey which found that less than half of Americans know who David Beckham is and what he represents.

To those who are familiar with the Beckham brand, it was his wife Victoria, the former Spice Girl, who elicited the greatest response.

Beckham was identified by those who know of him as a trend-setting, stylish, metro-sexual, Englishman, but few identified him as a patriotic family man, something that has been a key part of his image at home in England.

Adidas will this week launch 'Futbol Meets Football' a campaign that will see Beckham swapping sports with NFL star Reggie Bush, the first of many campaigns to come this summer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beckham wins undisclosed damages

Victoria Beckham has been awarded undisclosed damages by London's High Court over magazine claims that she was "picky, demanding and rude".

The allegations against the former Spice Girl published in Star magazine were "untrue and unfounded", her solicitor told the court.

It was claimed an insider from a US TV crew alleged that Ms Beckham was "full of herself and not very nice".

The Beckhams have been making a US TV show about their Stateside relocation. Ms Beckham's lawyer, Gerrard Tyrrell, said that filming on the programme had not yet commenced when the allegations were published, which meant they could not have been made.

Premier League snubs sports minister

Premier League officials deny they are to take part in a summit with sports minister Richard Caborn on the issue of foreign ownership of clubs. Caborn said he is meeting leading football figures on Tuesday amid concerns the Premier League is becoming a foreign "billionaire's playground."

A spokesman said: "We have no plans to meet with Mr Caborn at present.

"However, we're happy to discuss the legal framework currently offered by Government in relation to takeovers."

Caborn claimed he was due to meet Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and chairman Sir Dave Richards, Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick, and Football League chairman Lord Mawhinney. The sports minister's call for a summit comes after former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - dubbed "unsavoury" by an MP in parliament - is set to take over Manchester City.

Caborn said: "I think foreign investment has helped the Premier League, it's the best in the world, but I think we have to stop it becoming a billionaire's playground.

"We have to ensure the grassroots and communities from which those clubs came, are respected."

New football season starts before the old one finishes

Just after 10 o'clock on Saturday evening, the 2006-07 football season came to a close when Holland beat Serbia 4-1 in the final of the European Under-21 Championship in Groningen.

Six hours earlier, however, at Windsor Park, Belfast, Cliftonville drew 1-1 with Dinaburg of Latvia in the first leg of their first round tie in the InterToto Cup. This was the first official competitive game of the 2007-08 European calendar.

Thus, the new football season kicked off 360 minutes before the old one had concluded.

Footballer wins Big Brother

Although Neil Ruddock and David Seaman have caused a stir on British reality television programmes, neither has had the impact of Sasa Curcic in Serbia.

Capped 14 times for Yugoslavia and, after spells at Bolton, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Motherwell, best remembered in this country for his protests against the Nato bombing of Belgrade, he won Serbian Celebrity Big Brother last month.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Shearer blasts Bellamy

Alan Shearer comments on a possible Newcastle return for Craig Bellamy : "Has no-one learned their lesson about signing him? If only Rafa Benitez had rung me I would have told him exactly what he was like.

"Shearer added: "I was having a few days away in France with my former Newcastle team-mates Gary Speed and Steve Harper and the wives and I picked up the newspaper. I was having a fantastic day.

"But when I read Bellamy for Newcastle I thought I would definitely have to have another drink. I had several.

Rooney helps celebrate Hatton's win

Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney helped Ricky Hatton celebrate his win over Mexico's Jose Luis Castillo last night.

Castillo, 33, was docked a point at the start of the fourth before Hatton landed with a savage left to the body that sent his rival down for the count.

Cheered on by an estimated 10,000 British fans, Hatton, billed for the bout as the Manchester Mexican, entered the ring in a sombrero and poncho in Manchester City colours.

Charlton close women's teams

Charlton are set to close down their entire women's set-up - the second biggest in the country - following the relegation of the men's team from the Premier League, in a cost-cutting exercise.

As part of a major cost-cutting exercise whose full extent will be revealed by the club this week, management staff and 140 female players from senior teams down to centre of excellence level will be left to look for new clubs.

The measure will give Charlton an annual saving of around £250,000, a large amount compared to the budgets of most women's clubs, but small change in the running of a professional men's club. Despite their relegation, Charlton will receive parachute payments of £11million a year for the next two seasons, while the impending sale of Darren Bent to Tottenham is set to bring in £16m.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Queens Park Rangers' assistant manager Richard Hill edged closer to the sack as the club was given a £20,000 fine for their part in the brawl which marred their friendly against the China Olympic team in February.

Hill, photographed punching China's Jiang Ning in the face during the 30-man fight, was found guilty of violent conduct by an FA disciplinary hearing and banned from football for three months.

The coach, already suspended by the club since the flare-up, has now been barred from "all football and football management" until Sept 30 by the FA.

UEFA back referee to stop final

UEFA have backed referee Damir Skomina to stop play in the Under-21 European Championship final if Serbia fans are heard racially abusing Holland players.

Skomina, from Slovenia, could take the players off the pitch at Groningen's Euroborg Stadion if there is a repeat of the racist chanting towards Nedum Onuoha during England's win over Serbia earlier in the tournament.

UEFA president Michel Platini is determined to tackle racism and the governing body for football in Europe would support a stand to protect players and other fans.

'The referee is in charge and we would support him if he heard racist chanting and took the players off,' said UEFA director of communications William Gaillard ahead of tomorrow's final.

'Racism is something we will not tolerate.

Holland and Serbia will wear anti-racism t-shirts before the final.

Dowie ordered to pay £700,000

Simon Jordan said he felt no sympathy for Iain Dowie after the ex-Crystal Palace manager was yesterday ordered to pay a colossal £700,000 in costs over his comprehensive High Court defeat.

Coventry manager Dowie's counsel, Michael McParland, described the effect of the award as "cataclysmic" for the former Northern Ireland international, his family and his career.

Judge Mr Justice Tugendhat, who eight days ago ruled against Dowie in Palace chairman Jordan's claim of fraudulent misrepresentation when the coach left the club and quickly joined Charlton a year ago, ordered Dowie to pay Jordan's £363,000 legal bill.

He must also pay a similar amount to his own lawyers. The first £150,000 is due to Jordan in just 41 days.

However, the devastating news for Dowie is that Jordan will pursue a further claim for £1million in compensation - the amount a club had to pay if Dowie left while under contract. That case is due in November.

McClaren writes to England fans

Steve McClaren has written to England fans thanking them for their "incredible'' support in Estonia recently, expressing his confidence that qualification for Euro 2008 can be secured but also urging them to stop booing Frank Lampard. McClaren would also like to see more B internationals, following the success of the recent fixture at Burnley.

"While we've experienced some difficult times, I firmly believe that the three weeks the squad enjoyed together for the B game with Albania, the Brazil game at Wembley and the trip to Estonia have given us a tremendous lift,''

McClaren said in his end-of-season report to englandfans, the most committed section of the team's support.

"You could see the confidence grow within the team while we were together. Unfortunately, one point I should raise is that we were all disappointed to hear Frank Lampard being booed at Wembley against Brazil. Frank is a tremendous player and he didn't deserve that reaction.''

Celtic Cup

England are to be offered a last chance to join in a new home international championship. If they reject it, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are set to establish a Celtic Cup competition with the Republic of Ireland completing a four-country line-up.

But in Belfast the Irish FA president Jim Boyce said England would still be asked to take part even though he he was aware there was little enthusiasm for the venture at Soho Square.

The revived home internationals would be held every two years from 2009 with a draw for two matches to take place on the August international date, and a final and third-place play-off on the November friendly date.

Boyce said: "It is at a very advanced stage. We are very hopeful it will go ahead. I personally would love England to come into it as well and they will be invited to do so again. But if not, then we will press ahead with the Celtic Cup idea.

"The FA is very unlikely to respond positively to the invitation. It is more keen to keep the friendly dates open to play other European, and non-European, nations.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wayne and Coleen's fun in the sun

Wayne Rooney and fiancee Coleen McLoughlin returned briefly to England last week to attend various Premiership weddings after living it up in Saint Tropez on a £90,000 luxury cruise holiday, but quickly jetted off to Las Vegas for more fun in the sun.

The popular pair were probably in need of a little rest and relaxation after a marathon weekend, where they visited three weddings in just 72 hours.

They first attended John Terry and Toni Poole's nuptials in Oxfordshire on Friday, before flying by helicopter to Manchester United captain Gary Neville's wedding.

Later, the made an appearance at Michael Carrick and Lisa Roughhead's ceremony in Leicestershire.

The pair skipped Steven Gerrard's and Alex Curran's big day.

Rooney said: "All these weddings happen in the middle of June. If you're a professional footballer your wedding has to be slotted into the close season - there's no choice."

Another billionaire looks at buying Blackburn

South African billionaire Johann Rupert has emerged as a potential bidder to take over at Blackburn Rovers, rivalling the US-based businessman Daniel Williams, as the club continues its dialogue with prospective suitors.

Rupert has contacted other businessmen, including Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, with a view to putting together a consortium to buy out the Jersey-based Jack Walker family trust's 99.8% stake.

Rupert, who lives in his native South Africa in Stellenbosch, is executive chairman of Richemont, the Swiss-based luxury products group whose brands include Cartier and Dunhill, and chairs two family-controlled investment companies in his homeland. He has a net worth of an estimated $2.3bn (£1.1bn) and is a passionate sportsman who owns exclusive golf resorts in South Africa.

Defender played with a torn ligament

England under-21 defender Steven Taylor played with a torn ligament for 30 minutes of extra time in the Under-21s' semi-final defeat on penalties against Holland and then limped up to score in the epic 32-kick shoot-out.

He said : "I was 10th on the list to take a kick and when it came round to me I got told off by the fourth official to go off the pitch because I was injured.

"As I walked off, their manager came up to me, shouting 'coward' and 'cheat'. I wasn't accepting that so I went up and took the penalty and got on with it. When I celebrated, I made sure I jumped on my left foot!"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Keeper's £1million gambling addiction

Leicester's new keeper Jimmy Nielsen has revealed that a gambling addiction cost him £1million and nearly wrecked his career.

"My success maybe came a little too soon for me," admitted Nielsen, who had a brief spell at Millwall as a teenager in 1994.

"I did not cope well with living alone and being by myself at such a young age.

"It was small at first but, as I earned more money, I started to gamble more.

"The more I earned, the more I spent until I was spending more on gambling than I earned.

Scots sign the pledge

The cream of Scotland's young talent gathered in Glasgow yesterday as preparations began in earnest for the Under-20 World Cup in Canada.

As they arrived at the team hotel, each member of the Under-20 squad signed the pledge and consented to abstain from alcohol for up to a month.

Coach Tommy Wilson handed his players an incentive to do well in the tournament when he told them they would be allowed to leave the Temperance League and have a drink if they reach the final in Toronto on July 22.

England getting better at penalties

England Under-21 Manager Stuart Pearce after losing 13-12 to the Dutch on penalties :

"We [England] have only gone to five or six penalties in the past - so we have gone a step in the right direction."

Reading to test goal-line technology

Reading have been asked by the Premier League to test the latest Hawk-Eye goal-line technology during their youth team matches next season.

If the technology works, it could be introduced in Premier League matches within two years.

A modified football will be equipped with a microchip that sends an encrypted radio signal when it crosses the line.

Cameras positioned near the goal then relay the signal to a computer which sends a vibrating message to the referee's watch in a split second.

Reading director of football Nick Hammond said: "The Premier League asked us to do it in our academy matches next season.

"Any technology which clarifies controversial incidents is welcome."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Oba escapes gun attack

Newcastle and Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins escaped uninjured after being shot at while driving in Lagos.

The Magpies striker was attacked by masked gunmen on Monday night, hours after he returned home from Nigeria's Nations Cup qualifier against Niger.

The 22-year-old escaped unhurt but a friend was injured after his Mercedes was sprayed with bullets.

"For a moment I thought I was going to die as they kept shooting at my car indiscriminately," said Martins.

"Those guys wanted me dead - they had no intention of sparing anyone in the car. They were not robbers because after the shooting they left without taking anything from the car.

The visibly shaken striker has now flown to Italy and is reluctant to return to Nigeria for international duty after the incident.

Victoria Beckham not missed in Spain

Early in her husband’s four-year stint in Madrid, Victoria Beckham was quoted as saying something about Spanish people reeking of garlic.

The quote made headlines, and despite making subsequent public utterances to the effect of how much she and her family like Spain, the initial impression stayed.

Also, Spain is a very family-orientated country, and the fact that Victoria decided to live in England as much as in Spain, disconcerted many people ... David Beckham won much of Spain over, his wife less so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hollywood United

LA Galaxy boss, Alexi Lalas plays for the world’s most famous pub team, Hollywood United.

Lalas turns out alongside Vinnie Jones, members of the Sex Pistols and Def Leppard

Becks gets texts

England’s newly-weds had a text session with David Beckham after he won La Liga title. John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Gary Neville all tied the knot at the weekend.But they interrupted their honeymoons to send congratulations via text messages to Beckham’s mobile.

Terry has become a close pal of Becks since succeeding him as England captain. He sent a “well done” message as soon as Real Madrid completed their 3-1 win over Real Mallorca.

Gerrard and Neville followed while Becks’ new boss, LA Galaxy chief Alexi Lalas, was quickly on the phone to inform him of their 3-2 win against Real Salt Lake.

Britain United

Britain are to miss out on the chance to enter next year's football competition at the Beijing Olympics even though victory for England's under-21 team over Serbia on Sunday guaranteed Britain automatic qualification.

England's successful march to the semi-finals of the European Under-21 championship in Holland means a British side is now entitled to one of the four places guaranteed by Uefa for European teams at the 2008 Olympics.

But because of a split between England and Northern Ireland and the rest of the British nations over the issue of an Olympic football team, the FA are to turn down the chance to enter a team in the under-23 tournament. It is understood that back in February they decided not to take up their right to enter the Beijing Games.

???.com - censored

European football shirt sponsorship has emerged as the bizarre battleground for an increasingly bitter fight between offshore internet gambling groups and a handful of continental regulators, determined to outlaw unlicensed online betting on their turf.

Leading the charge for the gambling groups is Gibraltar-based Bwin, already shirt sponsors at Champions League winners AC Milan. This week the group added Real Madrid to its sponsorship catalogue in a deal worth about €21m (£14m) a year - the third largest in Europe, behind insurance group AIG's tie-up with Manchester United and T-Com's deal with Bayern Munich.

The crackdown, prompted by complaints from French betting monopoly the PMU, sent a wave of panic through the league and within weeks the LFP - the game's governing body - had issued a blanket ban on all gambling sponsorship in football.

The move forced Nantes to remove Gamebookers, a subsidiary of London-listed PartyGaming, from its shirts while Toulouse was compelled to blank out from its strip. In a gesture of defiance, however, at their first match following the ban the Toulouse squad turned out against Olympique Marseille in shirts reading "???.com - censored".

Rio welcomed in Entebbe

'Crazy, overwhelming and humbling,' was Rio Ferdinand's description of the welcome he received on landing in Uganda yesterday.

The Manchester United defender is in East Africa to meet President Yoweri Museveni, who has offered Ferdinand - backed by Nike, West Ham and Manchester United - land on which to build a Proline Soccer Academy.

'I thought there might be the odd fan and a couple of workers from the football school at the airport,' Ferdinand said of the throng that jammed the 10-mile route from Entebbe airport to the capital, Kampala.

'I was waving out of the window but then was told that I should really acknowledge it so I stood out of the roof. At one point I welled up.

'Ferdinand met President Museveni yesterday evening. Work on the academy, which will focus on education as well as football, will start immediately and should be finished by the end of next year. It targets 150 children aged three to 17, half of whom will be drawn from underprivileged families. The school will cost about £300,000.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sponsored by Bimbo

According to the New York Times, Major League Soccer team Chivas USA is close to signing a sponsorship agreement with Mexican bread company Bimbo, meaning the Goats would have, well, BIMBO, emblazoned on their chests much like Mexican champion Chivas Guadalajara, powerhouse Club América (Mexico) and and Costa Rican champ Saprissa.

Lita's text hell

Leroy Lita has revealed the text hate hell that fuels his Euro 2007 dream.

The England Under-21 hitman opened his tournament account on Thursday in the 2-2 draw with Italy.

But he then admitted he had received a string of abusive messages from total strangers following his missed penalty in the opening 0-0 draw against the Czech Republic.

Reading star Lita, 20, is ready to put it all behind him and help England beat Serbia on Sunday to send Stuart Pearce’s boys into the last four.

Lita said: “There were some people who got hold of my number from somewhere. They left me a few messages and texts but you don’t reply.

“I had a lot of stick from random people after the penalty. They were giving me a hard time, but I like it.

“It gives you a taste of what it’s like to be in the senior team at these tournaments. I just wanted to get back on to the pitch and play again.

“I didn’t get any last night so it’s okay. If there is another penalty I’ll take it. I’m not worried one little bit.”

Volz's toilet troubles

Moritz Volz's summer holiday has gone down the pan ...after a bout of toilet trouble.

The Fulham defender jetted to Miami at the end of the season and since his arrival he has wiped out two hotel rooms.

He revealed: "My summer holiday all started a bit badly when the hotel toilet would not stop flushing and flooded the bathroom.

"Luckily, no solid waste was involved, but after a long flight the last thing I wanted was to change rooms in my pyjamas.

"Then it got worse when the toilet in the new room made siren noises that were louder than the local fire engines."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Swamp soccer

More than 1,500 football fans swamped a Scottish town to enjoy the beautiful game in the mud.

An international field of players descended upon Dunoon, Argyll, to take part in Scotland's second-ever Swamp Soccer tournament.

The craze has already swept Sweden, Iceland, Holland, Russia and Brazil.

Forty-eight teams of mud-loving men and women - double the number of last year - are taking part in the six-a-side competition this weekend.

Swamp Soccer UK is open to anyone over the age of 17. Players compete on a wet bog and games are played in two 13-minute halves.

The muddy game, which originated in Finland in 1998, has now grown to be a world championship event.

3 soccer weddings

England stars Gary Neville, Michael Carrick, and Steven Gerrard all got married today.

It was the Liverpool player who was the shy one ... it's thought that he's sold the rights to images of the Berkshire event.

Spanish “motivational payments”

Marca, the Spanish daily sports paper, claimed this week that Mallorca have been promised €2 million (about £1.35 million) to undermine Real Madrid’s quest for a first title in four years this weekend.

This follows reports that Real Zaragoza players were paid €50,000 each after their 2-2 draw with Madrid on Saturday. The notion has been rejected, but the intimation is that Barcelona were responsible.

With Madrid, Barcelona and Seville capable of lifting the trophy — a superior head-to-head record is all that keeps Madrid above their fiercest rivals at the top of the table — there has been an added frisson to suggestions that opponents of the country’s two leading clubs might receive “motivational payments” to gain improved results.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Toon pay Barton's "loyalty" payment

Joey Barton finally joined Newcastle yesterday — but only after they funded his Manchester City ‘loyalty’ payment.

Midfielder Barton, 24, claimed City should pay him £300,000 as part of a £5.5million transfer to St James’ Park as he never asked for the transfer.

But furious City refused, preferring instead to see the move collapse.They maintained Barton had readily agreed to talk to Newcastle and West Ham after both clubs matched the £5.5m get-out clause in his contract.

But with the deal in jeopardy, Toon agreed to pay City £5.8m so they could pay the extra £300,000 to Barton.

Club vs Country

In club-versus-country rows Fifa can generally be relied upon to side with the international team - but not any more, at least not when it comes to Africa.

The world governing body today set a precedent by ordering Mali to retract their selection of Mahamadou Diarra and Frédéric Kanouté for this weekend's African Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone so that the duo may play for their respective clubs on the final day of the Spanish league season.

Fifa reportedly justified its surprising decision by saying this weekend's African fixtures were not provided for in the internationally-agreed calendar. Malian officials have rejected that logic, pointing out that the ACN fixtures were finalised in February 2006, which was before Spanish authorities decided to delay the start of their season to give players extra time off after the World Cup. Furthermore, Fifa's executive committee itself approved the African fixtures last March.

Player sacked for swearing

Swearing in football can be a big deal when it's directed at the referee, but Geylang United's English striker Kim Grant discovered that things could be worse.

The former Charlton Athletic player has been sacked by the Singapore S-League club for swearing.

"Grant breached the rules when he used the language at the office in front of a few other players as well as other staff," Geylang general manager Ong Yeok Phee said.

"The vulgarity was targeted at the club... we felt it was unacceptable."

Grant has lodged an appeal with FIFA about the sacking: "I admitted it was an error and I apologised for it," said the 34-year-old.

"It is part of my culture and I did not say it to anyone's face. I looked down and exclaimed angrily. I did not think it would hurt anyone."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Abramovich to attend Terry's wedding

Roman Abramovich aims to make peace with his Chelsea stars by attending John Terry’s wedding tomorrow — but Jose Mourinho will not be there.

The Russian billionaire hopes his presence will help create a renewed sense of unity within the Blues squad.

It will also signal the club want to end the contract disputes with skipper Terry and vice-captain Frank Lampard.

But manager Mourinho has told his skipper he will not be able to make the glittering bash at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire as he is on a family holiday.

Terry, who marries fiancee Toni Poole, will be supported by almost the entire Chelsea first-team squad. But owner Abramovich’s decision to go has surprised the players.

Testosterone study

Soccer's governing body is conducting a worldwide study to determine if players from various ethnic populations have different naturally occurring testosterone levels.

The study – "Testosterone Metabolism in Different Ethnic Populations" – is being conducted by FIFA's medical assessment and research centre and the IOC-accredited, anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"It's a very sensitive matter," FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Wednesday.

"FIFA is doing research on all levels to have a more comprehensive overview on the situation.

Currently, testers measure athletes' samples against predetermined average levels for substances naturally occurring in the body – such as EPO and testosterone.

But this potentially allows athletes with naturally low levels to cheat without being detected. It can also lead to sanctions for those who don't cheat but have naturally high levels.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

More high-altitude soccer

The plan for the highest football match in the world was hatched in the offices of the Club Andino Boliviano and the High Altitude Pathology Institute (Ippa) in the world's highest capital city, La Paz.

Three doctors at Ippa, experts on the effects of altitude, were convinced that sporting activities could take place at very high altitudes. And with a flat, snow covered crater at its summit, Sajama, an extinct Andean volcano lying close to the Bolivia-Chile border, offered the perfect environment to test the theory.

Two of the players who were to take part did not even make it to the pitch - struck down by altitude sickness as they climbed their way to the 6542m (21,424 ft) summit.

But armed with four orange footballs and two goalposts painted black to aid visibility in the snow, the 15 remaining players set about laying out the pitch for their historic fixture.

The two teams, one made up of villagers from Sajama, and the other from members of the La Paz Mountain and Trekking Guides Association, played for 20 minutes each way on the 35m by 50m pitch.

Ippa, who had funded the record breaking expedition, carried out tests on all the players following the match and none of them showed problems in reaction to their high altitude exertions.

Drew Carey gets the beers in

Drew Carey is quite the US Soccer fan and photographer.

While setting up to shoot the U.S. v Trinidad and Tobago match in 2005, the story goes, he saluted a section of fans chanting his name.

They then continued to chant for him to buy them a beer.

You can clearly see this is no urban legend, as the picture proves Drew handed over $200 to buy beers.

Les tells Owen to be loyal

Michael Owen was last night told by former Newcastle idol Les Ferdinand: "You owe the Toon another season."

England striker Owen has been linked with a move away from St James' Park if a buyout clause in his contract is activated.

But after featuring in only 13 games in two years at the club as a result of injury, Sir Les reckons the Toon Army deserves some loyalty.

"The one thing Newcastle supporters have been dreaming of is watching a fit Michael Owen playing for the team," said Ferdinand.

"They are understandably worried because everyone has heard how he might exercise a clause in his contract and move.

"The one thing Newcastle fans want from their stars is loyalty.

"Most of us outsiders will feel that Michael owes them at least another season. I would tell him to think carefully, because there is no other club in the country with the supporters like Newcastle United.

Thawing out a pitch with flamethrowers

Norwich once attempted, unsuccessfully, to defrost their playing surface with fire.

Their scheduled FA Cup third-round tie at home to Blackpool in January, 1963 had been postponed 11 times, and they were willing to try just about anything by the end.

In an attempt to get the game played, the Carrow Road pitch was treated with flamethrowers as, according to a Norwich spokesman, 'a last desperate effort'.

However they 'served no purpose whatsoever' for 'as fast as the ice melted it froze again'.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bolivian President snubs Fifa ban

Bolivian President Evo Morales has snubbed Fifa's ban on high-altitude football matches by playing his own at 6,000m (19,700 ft) above sea level.

He joined his staff to play against a team of local mountaineers on Mount Sajama, a dormant volcano in the Andes, near the border with Chile. After sacrificing a llama for good luck, the teams flew by helicopter to a makeshift pitch below the mountain's peak.

But the game only lasted for about 15 minutes, in which time the ball also had to be recovered after it rolled down the mountainside.

Soccer and free beer

In their second year of existence things haven’t been going especially well for Miami FC. The team is in the middle of the table of the USL First Division, the second level of American soccer.

Despite the presence of Romario last season and despite having World Cup champion Zinho on their roster this year, Miami FC have averaged just 626 fans per match in a league where the average attendance is 4,125. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

During their upcoming games on Thursday and Saturday Miami FC will be handing out free beer to those of legal drinking age. As if this brilliant idea weren’t brilliant enough, before the Saturday game fans will have the opportunity to donate blood. Fans who donate blood will get a free ticket to a game with free beer where they can get freely wasted after about two sips.

The caveat with all this is that the free beer will be around until supplies run out.

Soccer fans try to throw grenade at opposition

Two Palmeiras fans were detained at a federal highway police checkpoint on Sunday night following the team's 3-1 loss to Cruzeiro in Sao Paulo, the federal highway police said in a statement.

The fans were carrying an American-made grenade and confessed they were going to throw it at the bus transporting Cruzeiro fans back to the team's hometown of Belo Horizonte, about 340 miles northeast of Sao Paulo.

Drew Carey challenges US soccer team

Comedian Drew Carey has challenged five members of the US mens and women's football teams to a game of FIFA 07. The tournament will take place at a Home Depot in Carson, California.

Drew fancies himself as a FIFA player, so for every game he loses he's donating $10,000 to the Mooch Myernick Memorial Fund. If he loses the big finale against US men's captain Landon Donovan, he's got to stump up $50,000.

Hooliganism to be wiped out by religious music

Steaua Bucharest owner Gigi Becali hopes to wipe out hooliganism and on-field violence by playing hymns and religious music at their soccer stadium.

"(I will play) only religious songs before the matches, because I'm the one who pays and this is the way I like it," Becali told reporters on Wednesday.

"I will take out the song .... 'We will rock you'. Why play that song? So the players kill each other?

"Whoever wants (to hear) devil's music should not come to my stadium."

Becali, who capitalised on his soccer fame to create a local ultranationalist party, ranks second in the presidential polls and has attracted strong support by helping build churches across Romania.

Among Becali's new rules for the team are "fines for sad faces". Players will be forced to pay between 5,000 and 30,000 euros ($40,600) if they appear upset after being substituted or dropped."

All my players must be happy," Becali said.

Ankle fractured while celebrating

The mayor of Toulouse, Jean-Luc Moudenc, joined in the party after they booked their place in next season's Champions League for the first time ever. Earlier in the season he had apparently promised to run naked around the club's training ground if this had happened, but fortunately he won't be able to live up to that promise soon.

After the game, he and the club's president went down to the changing rooms to celebrate with the team, only to both be chucked in the team bath, as tradition dictates. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, it still ended in disaster for the poor mayor:

"I had taken off my coat to save my mobile phone and credit card," he said. "But I hit my foot on the bottom of the bath."

He fractured a bone in his ankle: "I'll be in plaster for three weeks and then another three weeks of rehabilitation," Moudenc confirmed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Soccer on a glacier

Organisers of next year's European soccer championships turned a blind eye to FIFA's new altitude regulations on Friday as they marked the one year countdown to Euro 2008.

Two teams of past and present international players staged a 10-minute friendly match on an artificial pitch laid out on a glacier perched beneath Switzerland's 4,158-metre high Jungfrau peak.

Switzerland and Austria are set to co-host the 2008 tournament which will kick off in the Swiss city of Basel on June 7.

"We got the idea for the game on the glacier after watching television pictures of Roger Federer's exhibition tennis match against Andre Agassi on top of Dubai's biggest hotel and thinking what we could do to make something similar," Euro 2008 chief operating officer Martin Kallen told Reuters on Friday.

"It's perfect because Switzerland and Austria are well known for their mountain scenery. And I'm sure FIFA won't mind as we only played for five minutes each half!"

"It was pretty hard to breathe and I'm glad we don't have to play up here every week," Arsenal and Switzerland defender Johan Djourou told Reuters after the game, which ended in a somewhat stage-managed 5-5 draw.

Ljungberg's career nearly wrecked by tattoos

Fredrik Ljungberg has revealed that a tattoo on his back nearly wrecked his career after becoming infected.

He underwent tests for Aids and cancer as doctors tried to establish the reason for his persistently inflamed hip.

After two weeks of examinations they realised that the player was experiencing a rare allergic reaction to the ink used in his tattoos.

Ljungberg, 28, a part-time model, had two tattoos of panthers on his back. The ink had caused a lymphatic gland to inflame, which was pressing on a nerve in his side - he had an operation to remove the gland.

Ljungberg admitted that he was terrified by the ordeal.

He said: “I was very worried. I did not feel sick or ill but, of course, I was injured and we did not know why. I was tested. Nobody seemed to know what was wrong with me. It all happened during a two-week period and, of course, I was terrified.

“Eventually the doctors worked out that it was something in the tattoos. I was relieved that they had found out the problem. I am fine now.”

He said that he had decided against having any more tattoos in case of further adverse reactions. The main risk from them is usually infection from hepatitis B or C, and Ljungberg’s case is extremely rare.

Beckham tattoo t-shirt

A trendy Los Angeles shop, popular with A-list celebs, is offering fans of David Beckham the chance to look like their hero.

The star is heading to the States this summer to play for LA Galaxy, but you can get hold of Beck's body complete with tattoos for $58 (£30).

Boutique store Kitson is selling a simple white T-shirt complete with Beckham's tattoos - the angel that adorns his back and the names of his sons in ink.

The replica designs are even printed on the inside of the T-shirt to make it look like more realistic.

An employee said: "The top hasn't been in stock long but it's already very popular.

"There's a huge buzz in LA about David Beckham - he's one of the main topics of conversation.

Sibierski avoids 3-day medical

Antoine Sibierski turned down a move to Bolton after they asked him to go through a 3-day medical.

Frenchman Sibierski, released by Newcastle, had met Bolton boss Sammy Lee and was due to go to the Reebok on a £24,000-a-week, two-year deal - until the club demanded the lengthy spell in the medical room.

It was standard procedure under former Bolton boss Sam Allardyce, but Sibierski was reluctant to go through the laboured process and promptly agreed identical terms at Wigan - where the medical took a grand total of 20 minutes.

Nani "death leap"

New Manchester United star Nani has promised to bring brilliant goals to England — and with them his trademark "death leap."

The £14 million midfield ace earned a reputation at Sporting Lisbon for his scoring feats and his unique twisting somersault celebration.

Nani, 20, revealed he learned the trick as a child by practising capoeira, a Brazilian martial art.

Nani said: "When I was a kid I did capoeira. As I couldn't do both that and football, I had to leave it.

"But now when I score a fantastic goal I celebrate it with a death leap. I hope to be able to do it many times in the Premiership."

Noble loses deposit after England call-up

Mark Noble has been hit in the pocket by his England Under-21 call-up after cancelling a holiday in Mexico to play for his country.

The all-action West Ham midfielder has lost his deposit on the trip and so have all his mates - and instead they are heading to Holland to support him.

"Everyone at West Ham was telling me not to book my holiday because I might be called up," he said.

"But I booked one to Mexico with my friends and was looking forward to going. Then I got the phone call and I was buzzing about it. And the missus was buzzing because I wasn't going to Mexico with the lads!

"They are coming out to support me instead. I have not got my deposit back but it is worth it.

"We are going to kick on and hopefully bring the trophy home. We have definitely got the squad to do it."

Messi is the new Maradona

Lionel Messi really is the new Maradona. The Barcelona frontman, 19, proved he has inherited the worst ways of his idol by emulating Diego’s infamous Hand of God goal.

Messi committed a copycat handball during his side’s 2-2 home derby draw against Espanyol.

Like Maradona, Messi refused to own up to his punch.

The man known as Messi-dona said: “My goal? With the hand? It doesn’t matter.”

Two months ago, Messi netted against Getafe with an near-exact replica of Maradona’s wonder dribble in the same Hand of God game with England.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Agbonlahor to play for Scotland ?

Alex McLeish is hoping to convince Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor to turn his back on England and play for Scotland instead. The 20-year-old was born south of the border but a Nigerian father and a Scottish mother means he is eligible to play for three countries.

Agbonlahor has already played for the England Under-21s on three occasions but has angered boss Stuart Pearce for failing to respond to phone calls while on holiday after being called up for the UEFA Under-21 Championships.

The dispute could now pave the way for a Scotland career.

Beckham employs fitness guru

David Beckham was so desperate to revive his England career that he employed a fitness guru to get him back into top shape.

The hours and hours of extra training at home in Madrid with a specialist personal trainer have certainly paid off with the 32-year-old now back as an integral part of England’s Euro 2008 qualifying squad.

Beckham has been trying to keep his personal trainer a secret because it could be seen as an admission that his fitness has been below what is expected – something which contributed to Beckham being left out of England’s plans following the World Cup.

Real Madrid boss Capello also felt earlier in the season that Beckham’s fitness had slipped. But now he is back in favour both at club and international level.

Kamara cheats death

Port Vale midfielder Malvin Kamara says he's lucky to be alive after cheating death in a Sierra Leone helicopter tragedy.

The horrific crash killed 20 sports officials last Sunday including the sports minister of Togo, who had just watched an African Cup of Nations qualifier between the Leone Stars and Togo.

London-born Kamara, who was making his home debut for Sierra Leone, said: "To get back to Lungi airport from Freetown you have to cross a river, and helicopter is the quickest way to do it.

"The players of each team were due to follow them shortly after, and the helicopter we were going in was actually the very next one."

Beckham's £270,000 bonus

David Beckham will scoop a massive £270,000 bonus if he wins his first title in four years with Real Madrid. Real can clinch La Liga if they beat Real Mallorca next weekend and the squad have been promised a £6.8million bonanza for lifting the trophy.

Real chiefs will hand all 25 of the first-team squad £270,000 each.

England players advised Bentley to withdraw

Several of England's senior players advised the Blackburn winger David Bentley to pull out of the European Under-21 Championship which starts today in Holland.

In a radio interview yesterday afternoon, Bentley revealed he had consulted some of Steve McClaren's players before his last-minute withdrawal.

His decision left England a man short for the event and left Stuart Pearce, England's under-21 manager, furious.

An FA spokesman said: "We are 100 per cent behind the manager. Stuart is the coach and he has said that when your country calls you, you go."

Bentley telephoned the TalkSport radio station yesterday to defend his decision not to travel to the tournament, having listened to critical callers on the station's phone-in.

He revealed his decision to withdraw came only after talking to unnamed England players during the recent international programme against Brazil and Estonia.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ashley to give Newcastle financial muscle

Billionaire Mike Ashley intends to give Newcastle the financial muscle necessary to bridge the gap between Tyneside's serial under-achievers and the Premiership's big guns, but only after undertaking a comprehensive "strategic review" of the St James' Park club.

The sports retail tycoon, who acknowledged the club's "unfulfilled potential ", outlined his plans to the club's minority shareholders as he closes in on a £133.8 million takeover after taking his stake in Newcastle to almost 70 per cent this week by purchasing chairman Freddy Shepherd's shares for £37.6 million.

Newcastle last landed a major domestic trophy, the FA Cup, in 1955 and in recent years have slipped down the pecking order, finishing 13th last season.

The reclusive Twickenham-born Ashley, 43, regarded as a hands-off but impulsive businessman, is set to return the club to private ownership, a move that has been applauded by Shepherd.

Ashley is planning to develop the club's academy and press ahead with stadium expansion plans.

"He wants to develop the Alan Shearers of the future by investing in the academy to produce home-grown talent," said a source close to the billionaire.

"One of the things that has impressed him most has been St James' Park and he really wants to drive forward the plans to extend the capacity and make it one of Europe's top grounds."

FA to pay £24,000 in air fares for Beckham

Football bosses will have to pay £24,000 in air fares so LA Galaxy-bound David Beckham can play for England. The FA must cover the business-class costs of four Transatlantic flights if he is to be in the next six games.

After Galaxy’s match in New York on August 19, Becks will fly from JFK airport to Heathrow to link with England for the Germany friendly at Wembley on August 22.

The cost of the BA flight will be £5,753.

He will be back on a jumbo jet from LA for the qualifiers against Israel and Russia on September 8 and 12.

That return flight will cost £6,440, the same as Beckham’s next round trip to London on October 8 for the home match against Estonia five days later.

The team will then head to Russia before Beckham returns — via London — to LA.

Finally, starting in Washington, he makes a £5,357 two-way trip to London for the Wembley qualifier with Croatia on November 21.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick and Co will pay £23,990 in all.

Too tired to play for England

David Bentley's senior England ambitions are in tatters after he left his Under-21 team-mates in the lurch yesterday. The Blackburn winger gave just 24 hours' notice before withdrawing from Stuart Pearce's squad, who flew to Holland yesterday for the European Under-21 Championship.

The player cited fatigue for his absence - and that means he can't be replaced because he is not injured.

Bentley's late let-down left Pearce and the Football Association fuming and the England U-21 boss launched a angry attack on the commitment of the Rovers star.

But Blackburn manager Mark Hughes backs Bentley's decision, fearing his key man could suffer burn-out next season if he plays this summer.

However Bentley, who had just broken into the senior squad, could find himself out in the cold with Steve McClaren next time the full England squad is announced, as punishment for his attitude.

MLS starts to reap the rewards

After 11 completed seasons, average Major League Soccer gates were 15,509 in 2006, which was higher than at any point in the history of its forerunner, the NASL, where the average was 3,163 in 1971. NASL gates peaked at 14,201 in 1980, and that despite the star-spangled, capacity-pulling antics of the Cosmos.

Current MLS gates are only a few thousand behind England's Championship, which has just registered a 50-year high of 18,221 people per game.

Incredibly, the MLS had never been paid by a television broadcaster before this season to screen games. Rather, the MLS paid the channels to carry games.

Now, there are big-hitters on board, including ESPN, the Fox Soccer Channel, the influential Spanish-language Univision and the high definition network, HDNet. Together they have signed deals to 2014 worth £100m. Small fry in England, but rather good from zilch last year. And now the TV folk have a vested interest, promotion should create a virtuous circle.

Investors demonstrably see potential, among them billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of the Colorado Rapids and suitor of Arsenal. In the past two years alone, he and his fellow owners have invested £500m in the MLS, much of it in facilities.

Ten franchises already play in or are building dedicated " soccer-specific stadiums", seen as pivotal "roots" for growth. MLS plans to expand to 15 teams by the 2008 season and 16 by 2010.

England stars to play for free

England’s soccer stars will play for their country for nothing — and give the money to charity.

John Terry and Co plan to raise £1 million before the 2010 World Cup finals through their new Team England Footballers’ Charity.

Skipper Terry said: “Every player in the England squad works in some way with local or national charities.

“But as a team we decided to use our role as England footballers to not only contribute our time but also help raise awareness of particular issues.

"Every player is looking forward to supporting our charity.”

All 23 England squad members, including Terry, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Gary Neville, will give up their appearance fees from the FA.

That represents £1,500 per player for a win, £1,000 for a draw and £750 for a defeat.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pennant given oxygen after collapsing on plane

Liverpool and England star Jermaine Pennant was involved in an airplane scare when he collapsed and had to be given oxygen during a flight from Spain to London.

The former Arsenal and Birmingham winger was returning from a holiday in Mabella with Charlton defender Jonathan Fortune and Dagenham midfielder Paolo Vernazza when he appeared to lose consciousness while in an aisle on an easyJet aircraft.

He was then revived after he received treatment from concerned stewardesses and blames a 24-hour boozing binge for his problem.

Pennant got out of his seat after the seatbelt signs went out and went to the toilet, he was walking down the aisle on his way back and collapsed head first on to the floor. When he came round his pals and the flight attendants were saying he was seriously dehydrated.

Fortune was quizzed about why Pennant had collapsed and he said they hadn’t been to bed. Pennant was sweating and had to be given an oxygen mask by the stewardesses.

First bung arrest

Detectives probing allegedly dodgy transfer deals in the Premier League have made their first arrest. Officers from City of London police's economic crime unit have arrested a 61-year-old man on suspicion of money laundering.

Police are believed to be examining the findings of an inquiry by former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens into football corruption. The inquiry found 'serious breaches' of transfer-market regulations after examining hundreds of deals, it was reported today.

Spanish team buys promotion

Next season, Spain's Second Division will have eight new teams, one of whom will be Granada 74. Granada 74 are not one of the three teams relegated from the First Division, nor are they one of the four teams promoted from the four groups of the 72-team Second Division B.

They did win promotion this summer, but that was from Regional Preferente to the 18-division regional Third Division and that's not why they're going to be in the Second Division next season. No, Granada 74 will be playing in the Second Division next season because they bought a place in the Second Division.

Well, strictly speaking they bought another club who just happened to be in the Second Division, but thanks to the new rules approved by the Spanish league (LFP) in the summer, the result has been exactly the same.

Keen to encourage investment and to offer a solution to cash-strapped clubs beyond the normal cap-in-hand dash to the town council, the LFP authorised newly purchased clubs to move base and change name. And Ciudad de Murcia owner Enrique Pina, who set up the club in 1999 and grew sick of getting little institutional support and even less real support in a city where Real Murcia are the club with a genuine tradition, wasn't slow to take advantage.

For months now, Pina has been scouting round for potential buyers for his club, knowing that what he was really selling was their place in the Second Division.

It was Granada that won out, owner Carlos Marsá buying Pina out for a figure understood to be somewhere in the region of €20m.

Death changed Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has revealed how the death of his father forced him to grow up and ultimately proved the making of him as a person and a player.

Ronaldo's father Dinis died two years ago aged 51 and the Manchester United winger has found it difficult to talk about the tragedy.

But in a rare insight into his personal life, the double Player of the Year revealed the effect his father's death had on him and admitted it has helped him cope with other adversities he has faced as a player.

"It was a very difficult moment," said Ronaldo.

"It's not normal to lose your father at 20 years of age and you learn a great many things about yourself at such times."

"One has to be strong, and I have certainly changed a lot in the past two years. I certainly don't have any fear when I go out to play now."

"Family is the most important support I have. I think if you don't have a good relationship with your family, then everything becomes more difficult."

"My father was No.1 in my life. He is always in my heart. I have a picture of him in my house which I put up in a high position, so I know he is always watching over me. I remember all the good things about him. He helped me a lot."

Chelsea player drops the FA Cup

Chelsea have had to send the FA Cup back to the Football Association for a silversmith to repair it after a player - thought to be Jon Obi Mikel - dropped it while celebrating the Blues victory over Manchester United in May.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Galaxy facing financial turmoil

LA Galaxy are facing a potentially expensive and litigious club-versus-country controversy after selling ticket packages - costing up to $500 (£253) each - on the basis of a firm guarantee that fans would see David Beckham play in a major Los Angeles derby he will now probably miss because of international duty.

It is England's next match, a friendly against Germany at Wembley on 22 August, that threatens turmoil for Galaxy and a stampede on the refunds office at their Home Depot Center stadium in Carson, California. Galaxy have a game against their local rivals, Chivas USA, on 23 August. If called up for England, Beckham will miss it, and crucially Galaxy have already promised fans he will be there.

In a marketing drive in April, Galaxy advertised a special "Beckham pack" of tickets, comprising seats for two games: the season opener on 12 April against FC Dallas, and the August game against Chivas, who share the Home Depot - the match is billed as the 'SuperClasico'.

First England player in history to require his manager to leave Europe to scout him

David Beckham will be the first England player in history to require his manager to leave Europe to scout him.

Whether it is LA Galaxy's Home Depot Center or Colorado Rapids' Dick's Sporting Goods Park, the England manager will be on the road.

Beckham's performance in the victory over Estonia on Wednesday night has left England in an extraordinary situation. Restored to his place against Brazil last Friday nine games into the McClaren regime, Beckham now finds himself undroppable despite the fact he is signed up to play League One standard club football for the rest of his career.

What's on Sir Alex Ferguson's iPod

Said Ferguson : “I had to get my grandson Jake to sort out my iPod, though. He did everything. Nike gave it to me, but I said, ‘What is this?’. Jake said, ‘Grandad, it’s an iPod!’ as though it was the best invention in the whole world and the seventh wonder.

“I’ve got all my CDs on it... Sixties stuff, Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole. I’ve also got a lot of Mick Hucknall on it.

“There is Wee Andy Webber’s Scottish Medley as well. It’s absolutely hilarious. Somebody sent it to me from Scotland – you’ve got to keep your Scottish identity, haven’t you?

Odds slashed for Henry to join Liverpool

Bookmakers William Hill have been forced to slash their odds on Thierry Henry joining Liverpool from Arsenal after receiving a deluge of bets on the move. They have cut the chances of the France striker playing on Merseyside instead of in North London from 10/1 to 3/1.

The decision follows a 48-hour gamble on the transfer going ahead and Hill's spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "We started to take calls asking for odds for Henry to join Liverpool a couple of days ago and initially offered 10/1, not believing it was that likely a move for the Frenchman.

"However, after taking increasingly more calls and bets - mainly from the Liverpool area - we have shortened the odds significantly just in case there is something to the story, which has yet to emerge into the public domain."

The move has been the talk of internet sites for several weeks a couple of months now but if Henry does leave the Gunners it is more likely the destination will be Spain or Italy.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Scotland returns to the scene of one of their worst-ever games

Faroes manager Jogvan Martin Olsen has denied that the Faroe Islands are trying to play mind games with Scotland by forcing them to return to the scene of one of their worst-ever games.

While Italy played their match in the new Torsvollur Stadium in Torshavn on Saturday, Scotland have to return to Svangaskard Stadium, where they have twice failed to record a win.

The first attempt during Craig Brown’s reign back in 1999 ended in a 1-1 draw, but there was worse to come three years later when Berti Vogts was in charge.

Scotland trailed by two John Petersen goals after just 12 minutes and could have been further behind by half-time before second-half goals from Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson scraped a 2-2 draw.

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