Police to quiz Roma-bound Adriano over gang links

Controversial Brazilian striker Adriano failed to appear at a police interview Monday in connection with alleged links to a drug-dealing gang that has been accused of murdering police officers.

Adriano had been summoned for a 1700 GMT meeting to be quizzed by chief Luiz Alberto Cunha de Andrade.

But he did not show in person, instead sending his lawyer Adilson Fernandes to ask for the meeting to be delayed, a police spokesman told AFP, adding that no date had been set for the footballer to re-appear.

The news could be a blow to Serie A side AS Roma, for whom the Flamengo striker — known as much for his goalscoring talents as the controversy he courts off the pitch — will sign in June.

Adriano, who has played for Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Parma in Italy’s Serie A but failed to make the cut for Brazil’s World Cup squad, is suspected of being involved in financial dealings with members of a drugs gang run by Fabiano Atanasio da Silva in the Vila Cruzeiro favela.

Da Silva has been accused of being involved in the shooting down of a police helicopter on October 17, 2009, an incident which led to the death of three police officers.

In October 2008 he was also accused of the murder of a prison chief.

According to local newspaper reports Adriano is also being investigated after two controversial photographs of the centre-forward came to light.

On its front page O Dia daily published a picture of Adriano making the initials ‘CV’ with his fingers. In Rio CV is also an abbreviation for the Comando Vermelho criminal gang.

Another picture shows the 28-year-player posing with a rifle.

Both pictures are believed to have been taken when Adriano lived in Italy.

A press spokesman for the player told the paper Adriano had simply posed with a “replica gun which is used for paintball”.

Local police last took an interest in Adriano in April when he was called to explain why one of his motorbikes was registered to the mother of a known drug dealer, Paulo Rogerio de Souza Paz, who is also a childhood friend.

That case has yet to be closed.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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South Africa defeat Guatemala 5-0 in World Cup warm-up match

It was a record night for South Africa and captain Aaron Mokoena Monday as the 2010 World Cup hosts outclassed Guatemala 5-0 in a warm-up match.

The winning margin was the biggest since Bafana Bafana (The Boys) returned to international football in 1992 after 28 years of apartheid-induced isolation, bettering four-goal margins against Chad and Thailand.

And it came on the day centreback Mokoena became the first South African footballer to win 100 caps and wore those figures on the back of his shirt just in case anybody was unaware.

The victory also stretched to 11 matches the unbeaten run of the host nation in friendlies since Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira returned last November for a second spell in charge.

Katlego Mphela converted a penalty in each half and Reneilwe Letsholonyane and second-half substitutes Surprise Moriri and Bernard Parker were the other scorers for a team that led 2-0 at half-time.

But South African supporters would be well advised not to get carried away as a Guatemala side ranked 114 do not inhabit the same football planet as Group A rivals Mexico, Uruguay and France, all top-20 nations.

“Technically we were not brilliant but our attitude was very good. Our opponents often had nine men behind the ball so it was good to score five goals,” said Parreira.

“I am not in a very good mood, however, as tomorrow I trim my squad from 28 players to 23 and cut some dreams. For three months I have seen wonderful commitment from all my players and I thank them.”

Caretaker Guatemala coach Francisco Melgar said: “South Africa are ready for the World Cup and can defeat Mexico in the opening match. The stage is set for Bafana to have a good run.”

Guatemala lie 31 places below South Africa on the FIFA order of merit suggesting they would struggle to contain the home team and so it proved with early pressure yielding a 12th-minute goal.

But the penalty converted by Mphela with goalkeeper David Guerra diving the wrong way should not have been awarded as big-screen replays showed Gustavo Cabrera handling outside the area.

Unadventurous fullbacks have clipped the attacking wings of South Africa in previous warm-ups and it was pleasing for Parreira to see leftback Lucas Thwala create the second goal with a run and cross that Letsholonyane fired home.

The second half was just three minutes old when Moriri added a third, firing past substitute Marvin Barrios from close range after Mphela set up his Mamelodi Sundowns team-mate.

Niger referee Chaibou Ibrahim was not having a good game and the 40,000 crowd were stunned on a cold, clear night when he awarded the Central American minnows a penalty after the ball struck Thwala on the chest.

However, captain Guillermo Ramirez made a hash of the spot kick, timidly striking the ball to his right and Josephs guessed correctly to parry a shot that was cleared.

Yet another dubious penalty came on 56 minutes with the ball hitting the leg of a Guatemalan and when the protest storm blew over, Mphela sent Barrios the wrong way.

Steven Pienaar struck a post from a free kick before Parker snatched the record fifth goal eight minutes from full-time by unleashing a rising shot from the edge of the area that flew into the roof of the net.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Barcelona do not rule out Ibrahimovic sale

Barcelona have not ruled out the sale of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the club’s director general Joan Oliver said Monday following controversial comments made by the player’s agent last week.

The agent, Mino Raiola, was quoted as saying by Spanish media that Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola should go to a psychiatric hospital if he did not make greater use of the 28-year-old in the upcoming season.

“We didn’t like Mr Mino Raiola’s statements at all, especially the tone. The reference to the coach is in very bad taste,” Oliver said in comments published on the club’s website.

“The club doesn’t need money. We don’t want to sell. But if things get too complicated, there will be no option but to sell the player. However, that’s not the intention of the club at this moment,” he added.

Ibrahimovic, who joined Barcelona in July 2009 from Inter Milan, has had a mixed first season at Barcelona.

He scored 16 times for the club in the Spanish league but failed to win over fans and ended the season on the substitutes’ bench.

His centre-forward role was taken over by teenager Bojan Krkic and he will face even more competition next season from Spanish international striker David Villa who joined Barcelona from Valencia earlier this month.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Bellamy sees Cardiff future

(GSM) – Manchester City and Wales striker Craig Bellamy has revealed that he could be playing for Championship side Cardiff City next season.

The 30-year-old, who was born in Cardiff, feels he has only one career option left, if Manchester City let him go.

While reports have recently linked the former Liverpool striker to Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, German club Wolfsburg, it seems the Bluebirds is his preferred destination with his family well-settled in Cardiff.

When quizzed about his future during a visit to Sierra Leone where his charity operates, he said: “There’s more than one or two people run that club [Man City] so if I get the vote of confidence off five or six people then I’ll stay.

“But if it’s a couple in other people’s favour then it might be a little bit different because I do want to be wanted, like every player does.

“I’ve never once and I would never once sit back and pick up my money.

“I just couldn’t do that to myself – it would be lying about who I am as a person so I’ll probably look for that next challenge.

“But I’ll be very shocked if it’s another English club, I’d be very, very shocked.

“And playing anywhere else in Europe would be too much of a strain on my family because they do live in Cardiff so it really only limits me to maybe on place so that would probably be it.”

Bellamy found the net 10 times in the Premier League last season, as City narrowly missed out on a Champions League place.

On the contrary, Bellamy’s future employers, Cardiff City, missed out on a place in the Premier League following a 3-2 loss to Blackpool in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Schwarzer’s tough expectations on WC ball

(GSM) – Fulham star Mark Schwarzer feels that the new World Cup ball would test goalkeepers to their optimum, especially at altitude.

But the Australia and Fulham shot-stopper is grateful that he has 19 days of preparation in South Africa before their opening game against Germany on June 13.

Schwarzer, who is likely to face Denmark in a warm-up match tomorrow in Johannesburg after recovering from a thumb injury, said: “The ball is difficult.

“You have got to take time to adjust to it. That’s why being here so much earlier is enabling us to do that.

“It’s not pretty but everyone is in the same boat and you just have to get on with it.”

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Mokoena becomes first South African to win 100 caps

Aaron Mokoena became the first South African footballer to win 100 caps when he led his country in a World Cup warm-up against Guatemala in this northern city Monday.

The central defender popularly called Mbazo (The Axe) made his debut in a 2-1 away victory against Botswana in a regional Castle Cup encounter 11 years ago.

While Mokoena has always been chosen in the middle of the backline for Bafana Bafana (The Boys), English club Portsmouth usually deploy him in a defensive midfield role.

The 29-year-old from Johannesburg is the latest centreback to skipper his country, following in the distinguished footsteps of retired stars Neil Tovey and Lucas Radebe.

Tovey led South Africa to glory in the 1996 African Nations Cup with a 2-0 final triumph over Tunisia and was succeeded by Radebe, who became a defensive giant with then English Premiership club Leeds United.

World Cup hosts South Africa complete their friendly fixtures against Denmark near Pretoria Saturday before facing Mexico on June 11 in the opening match of the June 11-July 11 tournament.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Lahm targeting semis

(GSM) – Germany’s new captain Philipp Lahm has revealed that he is targeting a place in the World Cup semi-finals for his team this summer.

The Germans, who have not won the showpiece tournament since triumphing in 1990, have had a less-than-ideal preparation for South Africa.

Michael Ballack’s injury in the FA Cup final means he will play no part in the competition, handing the armband to full-back Lahm.

Along with Ballack, Heiko Westermann, Rene Adler, Simon Rolfes and Christian Trasch are also sidelined as the list of injuries grows longer for Joachim Loew’s men.

But Lahm is still optimistic of his side’s chances of success, and the semi-final stage he feels would be an acceptable milestone.

“The fact that we have lost players who are enormously important for us is a shame,” said the Bayern Munich defender.

“But we still have a top squad which can go far.

“Clearly our goal as the German national team is to reach the semi-finals. And clearly we also dream of more.”

Germany have been handed a difficult draw for South Africa, as they will play in Group D alongside Serbia, Ghana and Australia.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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USA coach Bradley expects great World Cup

United States coach Bob Bradley said Monday that South African winter conditions could help deliver a thrilling World Cup.

He spoke briefly after the ‘Stars and Stripes’ swapped hot, humid conditions at home for a chilly, overcast Johannesburg evening when they became the fifth national team to arrive for the June 11-July 11 tournament.

“We have been here before and know the conditions,” he said, referring to the silver medals USA collected at the dress-rehearsal Confederations Cup in South Africa last June.

The Americans stunned European champions Spain in the semi-finals and led 2-0 in the Johannesburg final before Brazil stormed back with three unanswered second-half goals.

“This World Cup is in winter and that is good for football because teams are going to play at a high pace. I think it is going to be a great World Cup,” said the coach who included son and midfielder Michael in the 23-man squad.

USA face England in the central platinum city of Rustenberg on June 12 in a repeat of a fixture that caused a World Cup sensation 60 years ago with the Americans triumphing 1-0 in Brazil.

Their other Group C fixtures are against Slovenia on June 18 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg – a match likely to decide who joins England in the second round – and Algeria on June 23 in Pretoria.

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Premier League trio in Park pursuit

(GSM) – Monaco star Park Chu-young could be on his way to the Premier League, with Aston Villa, Everton and Fulham all linked with a swoop for the striker.

The 24-year-old, who has found the net nine times in 22 appearances for Monaco, is set to spearhead South Korea’s attack during the World Cup this summer.

And the former FC Seoul player could put himself in the shop window with some decent displays.

While Park admits he is flattered with the speculation, he says he is happy with life at Stade Louis II.

“It’s always a good feeling when other teams show interest in you,” he said.

“I’m happy here at Monaco and the club have looked after me well. I don’t feel like leaving so soon.”

Mon 31 May, 2010
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Barca continue Fab pursuit

(GSM) – Barcelona president Joan Laporta has insisted that he has not given up hope of signing Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas this summer.

Fabregas, a product of the Barca’s youth academy, has been hotly pursued by his former employers, who feel they have every right to have the 23-year-old back from Arsenal.

And the midfielder’s declaration of interest in a move back to Camp Nou has given the Catalans every hope of successfully capturing him.

Fabregas informed Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger earlier this month of his desire to leave Emirates Stadium, giving Spanish champions hope of tying up a deal despite admitting they face difficult negotiations with Arsenal.

“We are being prudent in the sense that we are not going to do things that are not logical,” Laporta told the Spanish press.

“We have a player who has expressed his intention of coming to Barcelona. He (Fabregas) has said it and I want to thank him publicly for that decision.”

With Fabregas’ contract at the club expiring in 2015, Laporta admits that Arsenal hold all the cards.

“We are working on it,” Laporta said. “We will try to achieve his signature and if we don’t get there with time, at least we will have opened a path.

“The possibility is always there but the other part (Arsenal) has to defend their interests and perhaps has a different strategy. We are trying to find a halfway point for both sides to agree.”

Mon 31 May, 2010
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