Saturday, March 24, 2007

Weekly Football News Roundup 03/24/07

03/24/07

Inter and Milan receive mail with bullets

The two Italian giants, Inter and Milan, have received letters containing fans' warnings and bullets for hunting rifles, prompting the police to start investigations.
Bullets sent by mail may be interpreted as a serious mafia threat against somebody targeted for liquidation, but the police have stated that the content of the messages is but mildly offensive and that it is unlikely that the senders are connected to the mafia.
In the letter received by Milan, a previously unknown fan grup called "Brigate Rossonere Toscana" call on the club directors to change players and the coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Similarly, on March 13th Inter received an envelope with several bullets and a letter with bland threats against the chairman Massimo Moratti, coach Roberto Mancini and several other club officials.

In this case the police opted to treat the message as a "low profile threat" probably originating from disgruntled fans of other teams. The motive may be the Federation's decision to award the 2006 championship to Inter after Juventus and Milan were found guilty of tampering with referees.


Ref accused of celebrating Ajax's goal

A gesture by the referee Eric Braamhaar during the the big match between PSV and Ajax in Eindhoven created a controversy in The Netherlands. After Ajax scored their fifth goal in a 5-1 win that reopened the title race, the ref clenched and waved his fist in a typical celebratory gesture.

Upon learning that PSV officials were upset, Braamhaar said he did not celebrate Ajax's goal, but his own correct decision to apply the advantage rule in favour of the visitors just before the goal was scored.

Germany to inaugurate new Wembley in August

"El clásico" of international soccer, the match between England and Germany, has been scheduled for the inauguration of the new Wembley on August 22th, said the German team-manager Oliver Bierhoff.

This gentleman is, lest we forget, the author of one of the famous goals scored on the old Wembley turf: the golden goal in the Euro 1996 finals between Germany and Czechia.

Incidentally, Germany won the last game played on the old Wembley, on October 7th 2000 by 1-0, so it understandable that the old enemies will mark the opening of the new, homonymous ground.

What does the future hold for Ronaldinho?

The Spaniards call it "culebrón", a long snake. The Italians describe it as "tormentone", something that causes a prolonged agony. Like a tv show that goes on for years with a convoluted plot and an apparently unlimited number of episodes. This year's culebrón is Ronaldinho's future, which may see him stay at Barcelona, or be transferred to Inter or Milan.

"If Ronaldinho leaves Barcelona, then we'll be the ones who sign him. If for no other reason, then to prevent him from going to Inter," said Milan's chairman Silvio Berlusconi.

"It will not be a problem for us to pay the transfer fee," adds the media mogul, only to irritate his neighbours and Barcelona alike.

On the other hand, Roberto Assis, Ronaldinho's brother and agent, has comforted Barca's fans by saying that his "client" feels just fine at Camp Nou. Still, this is just one episode of the soap opera that is destined to torment us until late August.

Hooliganism resurrects as Lampard attacked by a raging fan

Two fans stormed the field at the end of the FA quarterfinals match which Tottenham lost to Chelsea 2-1 and one of them attacked Frank Lampard in a scene reminiscent of the times when hooliganism was rampant in the British game.
Lampard ducked and managed to avoid the full impact of the blow before the guards intervened and overpowered the assailants.

The English FA condemned the incident and promised to investigate the level of security at White Hart Lane, while the men were detained and banned from attending soccer games.


Oliver Kahn banned for a game for "improper conduct"

Bayern Munich's first choice keeper Oliver Kahn was given an one-match suspension by UEFA and a 12,400 euros fine because of a heated argument with doping control officials at the end of the team's 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the Champions' League.
Kahn and teammate Lucio, who just received a fine, argued with the doctors over the protracted period of time it took them to collect the samples.

The keeper's suspension is a heavy blow for the Bavarians, who will have to rely on the substitute Michael Rensing for the away game against Milan on April 3.
"I have never heard of a player being punished so severely for such a mild offence," said the coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who still hopes the UEFA may overturn the sanction on appeal.

"We have some hope our appeal will prosper, like in the case of Mark van Bommel," added Hitzfeld, alluding to the initial two match ban for the Dutchman, which was halved after Bayern pleaded for leniency.


Rafael Benites pledges to continue at Liverpool

The Spanish coaching magician Rafael Benitez has rejected claims he will take over at Real Madrid next summer, as the Spanish press has been claiming over the past weeks.

"I am completely dedicated to Liverpool and will go nowhere. I understand that there have been speculations regarding my possible transfer to Real Madrid, something that fills me with pride. I am a native of Madrid and I have already worked there. Still, let me make clear that I am happy at Anfield and in England and I'm looking forward to working at Liverpool in the future."

Benitez won two prestigious Primera División titles with Valencia and a UEFA Cup between 2001 and 2004. At Anfield he managed to emulate the successes by winning the Champions' League and the Supercup in 2005 and the FA Cup last season.

Klasnic's second kidney transplant succeeds

The Croatian international Ivan Klasnic finally has a new, functioning kidney. After the first transplant failed due to the rejection of the organ donated by his mother, the second surgery succeeded as Klasnic's body accepted his father's kidney.

The family announced that the second attempt would be made after Easter, but the Werder forward underwent the surgery on March 16th in Hannover in total secrecy.

Klasnic is reported to be doing well and is expected to be released to home care this weekend. The 27-year-old believes he will return to professional soccer and in an optimistic scenario he could return to light practice next summer.

The Croatia boss, Slaven Bilic, has greeted Klasnic with a message:
"First of all, I wish him a happy return to a normal life. Soccer can wait."

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