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Volume 6 No. 197

People and Pop Culture

ManU Manager ALEX FERGUSON "pronounced himself a proud man after a statue of him was unveiled" by his wife CATHY FERGUSON at Old Trafford, according to Richard Jolly of ESPN SOCCERNET. Ferguson "paid tribute to his players as many of his past greats joined his current squad for a ceremony." The statue, made by sculptor PHILIP JACKSON and "showing Ferguson with his arms folded," is outside the North Stand. Former players that attended included ERIC CANTONA, ANDY COLE, DENIS IRWIN, GARY and PHIL NEVILLE, BRYAN ROBSON, PETER SCHMEICHEL, OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, RUDD VAN NISTELROOY, EDWIN VAN DER SAR and DWIGHT YORKE. Additionally, CRISTIANO RONALDO and DAVID BECKHAM prerecorded tributes "apologising for their absence." Ferguson joked: "Normally people die before they get a statue. I am outliving death." Ferguson's first captain Robson said, "The boss has probably got the best club manager's record ever in the world" (ESPN, 11/23).

Chelsea Owner ROMAN ABRAMOVICH "embarked on his ninth manager, RAFAEL BENITEZ, having just fired No. 8, ROBERTO DI MATTEO, despatched six months after winning the Champions League, the most important of all club trophies," according to Matthew Engel, in an opinion piece in the FINANCIAL TIMES. The ex-managers "are not, like ANNE BOLEYN, actually beheaded, the goings-on at Chelsea having replaced public executions as London’s entertainment of choice." However, Abramovich "really does pursue managers the way HENRY VIII pursued women." Benitez "is only meant to be staying at Chelsea until May, if that long." Abramovich "is now fixated on PEP GUARDIOLA, the former manager of Barcelona, who is enjoying a gap year doing not much in Manhattan." All big U.S. sports teams "are subject to socialistic restrictions that in any other walk of American life would be excoriated" -- salary caps, revenue-sharing and the player-draft "are all designed to equalise opportunities for victory." Yet Britain is content to leave its obsession, football, "to the mercy of a very un-British red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism." Clubs' on-field successes "depend on the owners’ objectives." Clearly, Chelsea’s players, ex-managers and, in a manner of speaking, supporters "have all benefited from Abramovich’s choice of hobby." However, int'l football "tells a different story." The Spanish team "won the last World Cup and the past two European championships." The German team is "invariably contenders." The England team "is an int'l joke." But there is more than sentiment at stake. The long-term sustainability of English football "hinges on the game being ultimately controlled by those who love it most." We are all fascinated by Henry VIII, but "no one wants him back on the throne" (FT, 11/23).

British Swimming National Performance Dir MICHAEL SCOTT, who oversaw the team at the London Olympics that "gathered only three medals in total in the pool," resigned Saturday night. Scott will leave his post on Friday "after learning that a key recommendation of the review that he himself had set up was that the national performance director must live in Britain." Scott has been based in Australia since his appointment in '07, "a decision that has always been hugely controversial" (SUNDAY TIMES, 11/25). Meanwhile, Swimming Australia CEO KEVIN NEIL has stepped down following the country's poor performance at the London Olympics (SA). In Sydney, Nicole Jeffery wrote it is "a case of perfect timing" that Scott has become available just as Neil quits and SA begins its search for his replacement. Scott "had intended to stay with British Swimming" until the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but he will now "be looking for a job in Australia." SA has "two on offer for which he is amply qualified" -- CEO and the role he held in the U.K., high performance director. Additionally, Athletics Australia is also hiring a high performance director (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/26).

OLYMPIC MOVEMENTS: Bangladesh Chief of Army Staff General IQBAL KARIM BHUIYAN and Bangladesh's Ambassador to Kuwait SYED SHAHED REZA "have been virtually elected unopposed as the president and secretary general" of the Bangladesh Olympic Association as no other candidates challenged them on the day of nomination submission at the BOA office (DAILY STAR, 11/22). ... Prestige Ticketing, the organization that provided the official in-venue hospitality at the London Olympics, appointed PAUL LEMON as head of business development. Paul joins Prestige Ticketing with more than 15 years experience in the sports ticketing and hospitality industry, "having worked all over the world on a range of major events including five Olympic Games." Prior to working with LOCOG, Paul was GM of Sportsworld Group in Beijing where he worked with a number of sponsors and National Olympic Committees on a range of complex hospitality programs (INCENTIVE TRAVEL, 11/22).

COACHES: Scotland's rugby head coach ANDY ROBINSON resigned Sunday "after a series of poor performances from his team." Tonga's 21-15 win at Pittodrie "turned out to be the last straw." Former South Africa and Italy coach NICK MALLETT "may be interested in the position, while Robinson's assistant SCOTT JOHNSON could also be a contender" (SUNDAY TIMES, 11/25). ... Russian Premier League club FC Spartak Moscow has fired coach UNAI EMERY in the wake of its 5-1 home defeat by the hands of rivals FC Dynamo Moscow. Spartak CEO VALERI KARPIN said, "Following a board meeting, it has been agreed that Unai Emery will no longer be coach of Spartak. The next steps the club will take will be announced in the coming days" (UEFA).

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Italy FA President GIANCARLO ABETE has apologized to English FA Chair DAVID BERNSTEIN following an assault on EPL club Tottenham fans in a Rome bar on Thursday. Abete said that he was condemning on behalf of "the whole Italian football family" what he said was a "disgraceful" anti-Semitic attack (BBC, 11/23). ... Irish Hockey named DARREN SMITH as the women’s field hockey national coach. Smith is a New Zealand native. She takes up the role following six years as assistant coach to the New Zealand men’s team that recently finished ninth at the London Olympics. Smith will take up the role in January (IRISH TIMES, 11/22). ... F1 driver MICHAEL SCHUMACHER, veteran of 305 grands prix, 91 race wins and seven world championships, has "bid farewell to a sport he has graced, upset, laced with controversy and at times turned into a processional march through the record books." The 43-year-old has begun his second retirement, three seasons after his return to the sport (AFP, 11/25). ... The FA revealed former ManU and Chelsea Manager DAVE SEXTON has died aged 82. Sexton lifted the FA Cup as Chelsea boss in '70 and went on to win the European Cup Winners' Cup the following season (REUTERS, 11/25). ... FIFA has denied DIDER DROGBA's request for special permission to leave his Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua on loan ahead of the official transfer period, "ending speculation he could join his former Chelsea club immediately" (AP, 11/22).

Jamaican sprinter USAIN BOLT has revealed he "definitely" wants to compete in the 100m at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. He missed the '06 edition in Melbourne, Australia with a hamstring injury and chose not to travel to Delhi, India four years ago, but he said that "he wants to compete again in Britain to complete his collection of int'l sprint titles." Bolt said, "That's the only title I don't have, so I think it's something I would like to go for, even if I just do the 100m" (London DAILY MAIL, 11/23). ... Spanish Olympian BARBARA GONZALEZ has been declared the new face of drinks brand Martini. She follows in the footsteps of CHARLIZE THERON, THANDIE NEWTON and MONICA BELLUCCI. Gonzalez is the first Spaniard to represent the Martini image worldwide (OLIVE PRESS, 11/21).

F1 team Red Bull Racing: "Vettel: "To win a third title, especially here where one of my heroes Ayrton Senna was from, it’s difficult to put into words."

South China Morning Post's JAMES PORTEOUS: "Most boring / uneventful weekend of Premier League this season? Rafa getting booed was pretty funny I suppose"

London Times' KEVIN EASON: "JB sprays champagne but where oh where is the world champion and where is his champagne???????"

Former FA Commercial Dir JONATHAN HILL: "Flight attendant just asked "Mr Hodgson to make himself known". Can't be many left who don't know him."

F1 driver FERNANDO ALONSO: "Under maximum pressure we have performed again above what anyone imagined.. ;) ! Proud of the work, the team and all of you..!!!"

Spanish daily sports newspaper MARCA: "¡¡Un millón de seguidores de @marca!! #Unmillondegracias a todos los amantes del deporte que cada día nos dais impulso a continuar creciendo" (Translation: "One million followers for @marca!! #Onemillionthanks to all the sports lovers that everyday give us motivation to keep growing")

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