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Spanish Superior Sports Council (CSD) President MIGUEL CARDENAL wrote on Tuesday in an "open letter" in Spanish newspaper El Pais that "Barcelona should be treated with more respect," according to Tim Hanlon of REUTERS. Cardenal's comments followed "criticism of the Catalan club for their handling of the Neymar transfer." Cardenal: "As long as there is no conviction, and we are at the very early stages of a case where no one can foresee the outcome, Barça have reason to maintain their stance that they acted within the law and met the necessary rules. They have shown themselves repeatedly to be willing to comply scrupulously with their obligations in case there has been any error. I am completely against the disproportionate response that has taken place recently. I would not be doing my job correctly if I did not speak out when an emblem that has given so much to our sport as is the case here is attacked and accused." Cardenal's decision to "publicly back Barça was questioned by CARLOS MARTINEZ GORRIARAN, spokesman for the UP and D party." Gorriaran said, "I think it is very strange that a Secretary of State decides to defend a football club that is being investigated. As a member of the government he should dedicate himself to guaranteeing the legal process" (REUTERS, 3/4). The EP reported Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) spokesperson SORAYA RODRÍGUEZ "pointed out that Barcelona is under investigation." Rodríguez "admitted that she did not read Cardenal's article but expressed her 'maximum respect' for the ongoing investigation" (EP, 3/4).
Cricketer GRAEME SMITH was seen "as a brash, arrogant and aloof South African," but "no one can dispute the impact" he had on the world stage as he became "the most successful captain in test history," according to Nick Said of REUTERS. Smith's decision to retire from int'l cricket just nine weeks after JACQUES KALLIS quit "will usher in a new era for South African cricket, which now finds itself shorn of experience and potentially in a leadership crisis." He has "been the face of South African cricket over the last decade and played a key role in taking the side to the number one position in the test rankings." While many South African cricket fans "have struggled to warm to him, few would argue that he deserves a place among the game's greats" as he has won a record 53 tests as captain, many of those "thanks to his own prowess with the bat" (REUTERS, 3/4). The AAP reported Smith "shocked teammates" and the "wider cricket community" with the announcement. Smith: "This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life. I have a young family to consider, and I felt that retiring at Newlands would be the best way to end it because I have called this place home since I was 18 years old.’’ Test side vice-captain AB DE VILLIERS is "most obvious successor," although the leadership of national Twenty20 skipper FAF DU PLESSIS "is highly rated in the country." Cricket South Africa CEO HAROON LORGAT admitted Smith’s decision "came as a surprise." Lorgat: ‘‘We must respect him for deciding to call time'' (AAP, 3/4).
Adidas AG CEO HERBERT HAINER had his contract extended by two years until March '17. Hainer has been the adidas CEO since '01 (adidas). ... Handball Bundesliga (HBL) club HSV Hamburg has appointed HOLGER LIEKEFETT as its new managing director. The 51-year-old, who previously worked for Danish brewery Carlsberg, "will be officially introduced on Wednesday." Liekefett "will succeed" former Managing Dir CHRISTOPH WENDT, who "was released in mid-February" (SID, 3/4). ... Grenada PM DR. KEITH MITCHELL and former Jamaica PM EDWARD SEAGA "have been named to a nine-member task force established by the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football" to study the viability of a professional football league in the Caribbean. The task force "also includes" Pro League club W Connnection Owner DAVID JOHN WILLIAMS (TRINIDAD EXPRESS, 3/3). ... SURASIT SANGKHAPONG was elected unopposed as president of the Southeast Asian Weightlifting Federation. The 63-year-old "is the first Thai to take the position at the three-year-old federation and will be in office for four years." RUANGRIT UPALANALA was also named the association’s secretary general (BANGKOK POST, 3/4). ... Scottish Premiership side Celtic CEO PETER LAWWELL "has been elected to serve" on the main exec board of the European Club Association. Lawwell will join other existing board members including Chair KARL-HEINZ RUMMENIGGE of Bayern Munich, AC Milan's UMBERTO GANDINI, EDWIN VAN DER SAR of Ajax and Arsenal representative IVAN GAZIDIS (PA, 3/4). The Peruvian FA announced that Argentine PABLO BENGOECHEA will coach Peru's national team through December, with the option to extend his tenure for the 2015 Copa América. Bengoechea previously served as an assistant to former Peru coach SERGIO MARKARIÁN (MARCA, 3/4).
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EPL side Crystal Palace's JASON PUNCHEON has been fined £15,000 ($25,011) and "warned as to his future conduct after he admitted a Football Association charge for Twitter comments he made" in relation to Talksport analyst NEIL WARNOCK, who coached Puncheon at Queens Park Rangers in '11. Puncheon "took exception to comments made by Warnock on Talksport after the player had missed a penalty against Tottenham in January and posted several comments on the social media site -- in which serious claims were made" (PA, 3/4). ... The England & Wales Cricket Board has recruited former Super League referee STUART CUMMINGS, who recently "stepped down from his position in charge of the Rugby Football League's match officials department," to work with its umpiring panel this summer (London GUARDIAN, 3/4).
PUYOL TO LEAVE BARÇA: Barcelona captain CARLES PUYOL "announced he will leave Barcelona at the end of the current season, but may still continue his career at another club." Puyol has been "dogged by knee injuries going back more than 18 months," and admitted last May that he had "come close to retiring when suffering several setbacks" during the '12-13 season. Puyol, "who turns 36 in April, has also been hampered by knee problems throughout the current campaign." He held a "surprise news conference" before Barça training on Tuesday afternoon to announce the decision (ESPN, 3/4).
RONALDO ON WORLD CUP: Former Brazilian footballer RONALDO wrote an article in Spanish newspaper El Pais 100 days before the start of the World Cup. In the article, Ronaldo wrote, "It seems like it was yesterday when Brazil won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup. I remember the feeling I felt knowing my country was going to host the most important football event on the planet. ... Effectively, with the celebration of the World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016, we have the opportunity to show the world that we are a country that is passionate for sports. But we also are a strong country economically and a leader in biotechnology and we are among the greatest producers of meat, minerals and soy" (EL PAIS, 3/4).
TENNIS HALL OF FAME: Former BBC Sport commentator JOHN BARRETT has been inducted into the Int'l Tennis Hall of Fame. He joined the BBC in '71 and became the corporation's "Voice of Tennis" until his retirement in '06. He is also "a tennis historian." Cambridge graduate Barrett "is only the eighth journalist to be honoured by the organisation" in its 60-year history and will be one of five people to be recognized this year. Others in the "Class of 2014" are former world No. 1 LINDSAY DAVENPORT, five-time Paralympic Medalist CHANTAL VANDIERENDONCK, coach NICK BOLLETTIERI and former U.S. Tennis Association President JANE BROWN GRIMES (BBC, 3/3).
London Telegraph's HENRY WINTER: "100 days to go to World Cup. Hodgson gets a question from Brazilian TV. #eng manager praises Manaus. "The stadium is quite fantastic""
Bloomberg's TARIQ PANJA: "Romario who had his license revoked for drink driving this weekend is guest of beer brand Devassa at Rio's Carnival tonight"
Sunday Times' JONATHAN NORTHCROFT: "Liverpool's accounts show why they couldn't just throw money at the Konoplyanka deal. But also why £14.5m for Aspas/Alberto might hurt them"
London Telegraph's PAUL HAYWARD: "If they abolished technical areas managers couldn't convey vital instructions such as "push up" and "get back." Or do those finger dances."
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