Boyce ´sad´ for FIFA, Havelange talks up positives

Likely FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce said he is saddened by the controversy surrounding the organisation.

The 67-year-old Northern Irishman will become FIFA vice-president if Wednesday’s presidential election goes ahead, but his appointment will be overshadowed by Sunday’s suspension of Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner.

FIFA vice-president Warner and AFC presider Bin Hammam – the latter of who was originally to contest the election against current president Sepp Blatter until his withdrawal shortly before his suspension – are alleged to have paid cash to Caribbean Football Union officials in return for them voting for Bin Hammam in the ballot.

Boyce said he hopes the congress is not soured because of the controversy, or the ongoing speculation that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar in untoward fashion.

“I think the developments of the last few days, as I’ve said, I think they are very sad for football,” Boyce said.

“It’s a great honour I’ve said for me to become the FIFA vice-president, hopefully from tomorrow, and I can assure people that I will work for the good of football.”

“Football is a game that brings everyone together and people must be whiter than white.”

“And obviously, every decent person, is alarmed by these developments. They’ve yet to be proven and if they are proven, then that action will be taken against the individuals concerned.”

Boyce, life president of the Irish Football Association, said he was dismayed that the English and Scottish football associations had urged FIFA to delay the election. The English FA had already announced its intention to abstain from voting in the election.

“My reaction was like everything else at the moment – you never know what is going to happen within the next five or 10 minutes,” Boyce said.

“And things keep changing from time-to-time, so I’ve just got to speak with the associations to find out what is happening.”

“But as I’ve said before, I only take up my position as vice-president of FIFA after the election tomorrow takes place.”

Meanwhile, former FIFA president Joao Havelange – in the position from 1974 to 1998 – believes people are focusing too much on the negatives surrounding the body rather than the good work it does.

“You are talking about suffering, but I am going to talk about happiness,” Havelange said.

“FIFA has 208 countries affiliated and they look after all of them.”

“The competitions are taking place as usual. There has been a development in world football in every way; technically, financially and in disciplinary matters. Everyone looks for mistakes because they all want to sit in that chair.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Dignitaries stay mum on FIFA trouble

Dignitaries arriving at the FIFA congress in Zurich on Tuesday have said little on the controversy surrounding football’s governing body.

Allegations of corruption surrounding several high-profile executive committee members have erupted in the lead-up to Wednesday’s presidential election, with AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam withdrawing his candidacy shortly before his suspension over allegations of bribery.

FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has also been suspended, while questions have been raised on the way the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Incumbent Sepp Blatter is now the only nomination for president, and he received backing from Hungarian Football Federation president Sandor Csanyi when addressing reporters as he made his way into the congress.

Csanyi was, however, reluctant to elaborate on the scandal rocking FIFA.

“I’ve only just arrived and I wouldn’t like to talk about it,” he said.

“I just heard (the election won’t be postponed). I support Mr Blatter.”

“I think (it should go ahead). Definitely.”

It was more than reporters got from Task-Force Football 2014 member Sir Bobby Charlton, who was far happier to talk of retired Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes.

“I only heard today that he’s retiring,” the former United captain said.

“I think that we’ve tried as hard as well as we could (to keep him), but he’s his own man. He’s a great player and he will be badly missed.”

“He’s instinctive, really. He makes his mind up instantly. He’s got fantastic peripheral vision. He can see everything, even though he’s not looking that way. Brilliant player though.”

“Well he will (stay on as coach), which he’ll be very good at too.”

When quizzed on the trouble at FIFA, however, Charlton was less forthcoming: “I said I was going to speak about Paul Scholes. You ask FIFA,” he said.

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Schalke still to accept Bayern´s Neuer bid

Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt insists that the club have still not accepted Bayern Munich’s bid for goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

The 25-year-old shot-stopper caught the eye as Schalke reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, eventually losing out to English Premier League heavyweights Manchester United.

The Gelsenkirchen outfit also won the German Cup, but only managed a 14th-placed finish in the Bundesliga.

The form of Germany number one Neuer prompted interest from Schalke’s Bundesliga rivals Bayern, who are rumoured to lead the chase for his services.

But it appears Neuer’s move to Bavaria is still some way off being completed.

“There is nothing new. We had a meeting scheduled today in which we presented the offer Bayern Munich made for Neuer. We have talked about that but we haven’t made any decisions yet,” Heldt said on Tuesday.

“First of all, Manuel said in his press conference – in which I sat beside him – that he has a contract with us until 2012. It is my belief that one should honour such words. He never said that he wanted to leave the club right now, even while admitting that he has thought about it, and despite the fact that Bayern wants him.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Warner letter violates ban, says Blazer

CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer claims suspended FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has violated the terms of his ban.

On Tuesday, Warner urged members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to vote for current FIFA president Sepp Blatter in Wednesday’s election.

But with Trinidadian Warner suspended from all football-related activity after being implicated in a bribery scandal with Asian Football confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam, Blazer sees the move as a breach of that suspension.

Warner and Bin Hammam – the latter of who was originally slated to contest the election against incumbent Blatter – are alleged to have paid cash to CFU officials in return for them voting for Bin Hammam in the June 1 poll.

Qatari Bin Hammam pulled out of the election on Sunday, and later that day the pair were suspended from all football activity.

“We have clear evidence of a violation of his (Warner’s) suspension and we have reported that to the FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke,” Blazer said.

“He has also been meeting with (CONCACAF) members, which is against the rules of the suspension.”

Warner’s letter urged CFU members to vote for Blatter in Wednesday’s poll and implored them not to use the FIFA Congress to stage a protest.

“At our last meeting we agreed as a union to support the incumbent Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter in his quest to regain the presidency,” Warner wrote.

“I wish to assure you nothing has changed. Our mandate was set then and despite it all we must fulfil it.”

Warner was also adamant that there should be no protest on his behalf on Wednesday.

“I, Jack Warner, a servant and believer in the principles of this beautiful game do humbly besiege (sic) you, my brothers and sisters from the Caribbean Football Union to desist from initiating any protest action at tomorrow’s FIFA Congress,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, CONCACAF interim president Lisle Austin – appointed to the role on Monday after Warner’s suspension – has asked Blazer to explain his decision to engage Chicago law firm Collins and Collins to investigate Warner, leading to his suspension.

Austin also asked Blazer to cease working with Collins and Collins.

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Downing in dark on Houllier future

Aston Villa’s Stewart Downing is in the dark over the future of boss Gerard Houllier, with reports claiming he is poised to leave the club.

Houllier endured a turbulent first season at Villa Park after taking over from Martin O’Neill, with the undoubted low point the heart scare he suffered on April 20.

The club was left in the hands of assistant coach Gary McAllister while Houllier recovered, and the Scot successfully steered them to ninth in the English Premier League with seven points from a possible nine in their last three matches.

While it is widely expected Houllier, 63, will not return to top-flight management, Downing – currently preparing for England’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland – insists he does not know the Frenchman’s plans.

“We’ve seen the rumours going about, but we’ve not been told anything,” Downing said.

“As far as we are concerned, we got told at the end of the season he would be coming back and that he’s fit and well.”

“I think we just have to leave that in the club’s hands with (chairman) Randy Lerner and (chief executive) Paul Faulkner because I’m sure they will come out with the best outcome for the club.”

The midfielder said he would like Houllier to remain with the West Midlands club, insisting he has a great working relationship with the Frenchman.

“Obviously he came in at a difficult time, and he did quite well with the team,” Downing said.

“He’s been good for me personally and I’ve enjoyed working with him. And like I say, if he stays, brilliant. But if he goes, then I wish him all the best. He’s been nothing but good to me.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Conte named new Juventus manager

Juventus have done as expected and appointed former player Antonio Conte to replace departed manager Luigi Delneri.

Conte re-joins Juventus fresh from leading Siena to promotion from Serie B, and is charged with immediately reviving the fortunes of the Turin club after their seventh-placed finish this season.

Their inability to clinch a spot in European competition inevitably led to change at the helm, with Conte heavily tipped to replace Delneri since Juventus announced on May 21 that the former Sampdoria coach would depart.

Former Italy midfielder Conte made 295 appearances for Juventus during a 12-year stint, retiring in 2004 to pursue a career in coaching.

“Antonio Conte has returned to Juventus. This time to lead them not from the pitch, but from the bench,” a statement on the club’s website confirmed on Tuesday.

“He is the new coach. Conte has signed a two-year contract that will tie him to the Bianconeri until June 30, 2013.”

A Champions League winner as a player, Conte is the third arrival at Juventus since the end of the Serie A season.

Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo has been signed from AC Milan, while Swiss defender Reto Ziegler moves from relegated Sampdoria.

But it is Conte’s arrival that has been hailed as the most integral by president Andrea Agnelli: “We want to win, and we want to do it with Conte. He is the first piece of the jigsaw to return successful.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Young focused on England, not Villa future

Aston Villa winger Ashley Young refused to be drawn on his future at Villa Park ahead of England’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland.

The 25-year-old has been widely linked with a big-money move to English Premier League rivals Liverpool or Manchester United.

But speaking after England’s training session in London on Tuesday, he said his thoughts were focused firmly on his country’s crucial match with Switzerland at Wembley.

“To be honest I’ve not heard anything come out of the club officially so I’m not too sure what’s been going on,” Young said.

“I’m away with England and that’s what I’ve been concentrating on. We’ve got a massive game on Saturday and that’s where my thoughts are.”

“I’ve said I’ll speak to the manager and chairman at the end of the season. I’ve got to concentrate on this game and then we’ll see what happens regarding talking to them after this game.”

Young did, however, say he was behind Frenchman Gerard Houllier staying on at Villa, after it was widely reported the 63-year-old had parted ways with the Birmingham club.

When asked if he hoped the Frenchman would stay on, Young replied: “Yeah of course, he’s done great since he’s come in.”

“It’s been a difficult season for us but hopefully, fingers crossed, things will get sorted with him, with his health.”

Young also admitted that the absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney on Saturday would be a major blow for England.

“Wazza’s (Rooney) a great loss, but we’ve got a lot of players in the squad to come in and play in his position,” he said.

“I’m sure the boys are raring to go and looking for the opportunity to get themselves in the team and get that starting place.”

“There’s a lot of players fighting for positions and it’ll be a good week this week. We always meet up and have a good week before the games and everyone will prepare in the right way.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Rooney, Butt laud retiring Scholes

Wayne Rooney has described retiring Manchester United great Paul Scholes as the best player he had ever played with.

Scholes announced his retirement on Tuesday at the age of 36 after 676 appearances United, with the former England midfielder to take up a coaching position at Old Trafford.

Rooney said it had been a privilege to play alongside Scholes, hailing him the best he had worked with.

“He’ll be missed greatly. I just heard the news this morning,” Rooney told talkSPORT.

“We knew he’d make a decision but didn’t think it would be this quick. We’re all sad to see him stop playing.”

“He’s been great for United and England and he’ll be missed by all of us.”

“He hasn’t started that many games of late and I’m sure that’s come into his head and he’s made his decision.”

“But he’ll be a big miss for us. He’s the best I’ve played with and against.”

“He’s only small but it’s so difficult to get the ball off him. Every United fan will miss him.”

Scholes’ former Manchester United teammate Nicky Butt, who with Scholes, David Beckham and the recently retired Gary Neville formed United’s famous class of ’92, said his former team-mate would go down as one of the greatest players to pull on a United shirt.

“If you pick an XI for the greats of Manchester United from my era, Paul Scholes will definitely be in that,” Butt said.

“But I think he is up there with the top three or four players to have played for the club.”

“If you look at the different eras, you have got Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law, then you have the Roy Keanes, Bryan Robsons, Mark Hugheses, and more recently Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Scholes.”

“People from different eras will have different opinions but everyone from my era would put Scholes up there with the best that have played for United.”

“He was always a dirty little git. He was always kicking people and sliding in 10 minutes late but he always had a cheeky side to him so I do not think anyone speaks badly about him.”

“On the training pitch, and in the changing room, he got his job done and went home to his family and that has always been the case with him. But, when he was on the pitch, he gave it 100 percent and he was a pleasure to watch every day in training.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Carrick in doubt for England

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick missed England training on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland.

The 29-year-old was recalled to Fabio Capello’s squad for the first time since the 2010 World Cup after some strong late-season form.

But Carrick picked up knock in the Champions League final against Barcelona on Saturday, causing him to miss Tuesday’s session at Arsenal’s London Colney training facility. He is now in doubt to take his place at Wembley against Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side.

Only three strikers have been selected the squad, with Wayne Rooney suspended and Jermaine Defoe out through injury.

Darren Bent is set to lead the attack alongside either Fulham’s Bobby Zamora or Tottenham targetman Peter Crouch.

Tuesday’s session was the first Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has been involved in since being stripped of the captaincy in favour of Chelsea’s John Terry in March.

Ferdinand is due to meet with Capello at the team hotel where the Italian will outline his reasons for the decision.

England are joint top of Group G on 10 points, alongside Montenegro who face Bulgaria on Saturday.

Tue 31 May, 2011
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Sponsors express FIFA concern

Dubai-based airline Emirates are the latest FIFA sponsors to express disappointment over the corruption allegations surrounding the body.

Coca-Cola and Adidas have already issued statements outlining their worries about the controversy, and Emirates today added their weight to the chorus of discontent.

It has been a tumultuous week for football’s governing body, with allegations that Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam offered incentives to Caribbean Football Union officials for their vote in the June 1 FIFA presidential election.

CONCACAF president Jack Warner was also implicated in the allegations, with the organisation’s general secretary Jerome Valcke and existing president Sepp Blatter coming under fire for pressing on with the election despite Bin Hammam’s withdrawal on Sunday and subsequent suspension.

Now, Emirates have expressed disappointment at the saga.

“Emirates, like all football fans around the world, are disappointed with the issues that are currently surrounding the administration of this sport,” Emirates divisional senior vice-president of corporate communications Boutros Boutros said.

“We hope that these issues will be resolved as soon as possible and the outcome will be in the interest of the game and sport in general.”

Coca-Cola said they expected FIFA to sort out their problems as soon as possible.

“The current allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport,” they said in a statement.

“We have every expectation that FIFA will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner.”

Adidas reiterated their commitment to sponsoring the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but echoed the sentiments of Coca-Cola and Emirates that the current crisis was damaging to the game.

“Adidas enjoys a long-term, close and successful partnership with FIFA that we are looking forward to continuing,” a spokesman said.

“Adidas will be an official sponsor of FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil.”

“Having said that, the negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners.”

Tue 31 May, 2011
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