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Volume 6 No. 217

International Football

Liga MX club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente, or Xolos for short, "suddenly finds itself in the finals of Mexico’s top league, hosting top-seeded Toluca at sold-out Estadio Caliente on Thursday night in the first leg of the two-game series," according to Mark Zeigler of U-T SAN DIEGO. The second leg is Sunday at Toluca, and "the team with the highest combined score is crowned champion." Tijuana? A champion? It is something "almost unfathomable for this city of 1.6 million people that has long been regarded as a Mexican backwater." Club Assistant GM Roberto Cornejo said, "I don’t think we’ve even realized the scope of it all because we’re concentrated so much on beating Toluca and winning the championship. But you can notice it. People are just happy." Another sign, "there is a booming industry of counterfeit Xolos jerseys." Cornejo said, "It’s an issue, But what’s the cliché? Imitation is the highest form of flattery." Football "is Mexico's NFL in terms of interest and obsession, and Liga MX is rapidly becoming one of the better (and richer) leagues on the planet." Sports-betting company Caliente Owner & Tijuana’s former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon "purchased rights to a second-division team in Tijuana and began building" a football stadium in the far turn of the Agua Caliente thoroughbred racetrack. Estadio Caliente "has since expanded to 20,000 seats, and construction is underway to complete an upper deck with luxury suites along the west sideline" (U-T SAN DIEGO, 11/28).

The Brazilian Football Confederation officially announced Luiz Felipe Scolari as the head coach of the national team, according to Alliatti & Seda of GLOBO ESPORTE. Former Brazil Manager Carlos Alberto Parreira was also confirmed as the new technical director. CBF President José Maria Marin explained why he chose the pair and not Spaniard Pep Guardiola. Marin said, "I want to thank the people, that with the best of intentions, suggested a foreign coach. A foreign coach deserves our respect for quality and knowledge. I know him as coach of a club, and not a national team, which is totally different. This does not diminish the respect for this coach known internationally as a big time coach, and I endorse his qualities" (GLOBO ESPORTE, 11/29). FOLHA DE S. PAULO reported that in his first interview since being named coach of the Seleção, Scolari "showed he still has a sharp and provocative tongue." Scolari was questioned on the current inexperience of the team and the pressure the players will face playing a World Cup at home. In his response he brought up the bank that competes directly with national team sponsor Itaú. He said, "If they do not want pressure its better not to play in the Seleção. Go work for the Banco do Brasil, in an office" (FOLHA DE S. PAULO, 11/29).

Brazil has a reputation for "being one of the world's more violent societies," but organizers of next summer's Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup insist that security will not be a problem at either event, according to the AFP. Organizers are "pointing to the country's ability over the years to deal with huge carnivals, particularly in Rio de Janeiro, drawing hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists from around the globe." And they insist that they will be able to draw on that experience when fans will "flock to two of the biggest dates on the int'l sporting calendar" after drawing up extensive security plans in conjunction with FIFA. The "wide-ranging plan" was drawn up in August and clearly designates zones requiring special protection while organizing coordination between the police and the armed forces. The plan also "defines the main potential risks" to the tournaments running smoothly -- namely, fan violence, organized crime and terrorist threats. Special Justice Ministry Secretary for overseeing major events Valdinho Jacinto Caetano said, "Our objective is to have no problems in order to allow everyone to enjoy the festival." Caetano added airport and port security "is already being stepped up" owing to the Confederations Cup and also a visit by Pope Benedict. The military "will stand guard on land and sea borders" (AFP, 11/29).

The majority of Germany's top football clubs "disagree with UEFA President Michel Platini's plans to reform Europe's top two club competitions," according to the DPA. Platini "proposed to scrap the Europa League in '15 and at the same time increase the number of participating clubs in the Champions League to 64."

  • Hannover 96 Sport Dir Jörg Schmadtke: "It is pretty dull and a waste. We are very happy with the Europa League."
  • Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp: "I don't think anything of it. I don't have the impression that the Champions League or the Europa League need a reformation. It is just as stupid as combining the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga."
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Lucien Favre: "It is dangerous if always the same teams compete in the Champions League. This would make the rich even richer and the gap between the clubs would widen."  
  • VfB Stuttgart Sport Dir Fredi Bobic: "Should you still call it Champions League then? If you integrate the Europa League into the Champions League then it is more like a Europa League."
  • Schalke Manager Horst Heldt: "Fundamentally, the Champions League is supposed to stay the top club competition."
  • Bayer Leverkusen Sport Dir Rudi Völler: "You shouldn't immediately condemn the idea and listen to it for now. The importance for the Bundesliga is how many teams will participate in the Champions League."
  • Bayern Munich President Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: "We are no friends of the idea to replace quality with quantity. We are against scrapping the Europa League and especially against increasing the number of teams in the Champions League."
Rummenigge, however, was in favor of a proposal by the European Club Association "that would allow the Europa League champion to participate in the following Champions League season." Favre called it, "A good idea." And Bobic also welcomed the idea, "You can do that" (DPA, 11/29).

Scottish FA CEO Stewart Regan wants Scotland to "play a major part in the hosting of the Euro 2020 football championships," according to the Scotland DAILY RECORD. UEFA President Michel Platini has proposed a cross-Europe tournament for what will be the 60th anniversary of the championships and SFA chiefs "are to press the case for Glasgow to be one of those cities." The SFA is still keen on "hosting the tournament alongside Ireland and Wales," which has been proposed earlier. Regan and SFA President Campbell Ogilvie are attending a meeting of Europe's top football executives in Dublin at which the various options will be debated. Regan told the BBC: "Platini's proposal is for 13 cities as opposed to one or two countries, or three in the case of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, which was our suggestion earlier in the year. Irrespective of the outcome, there is a great opportunity for Scotland, either as the country as a whole or Glasgow putting its hat in the ring to be one of the host cities" (DAILY RECORD, 11/29).