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Volume 6 No. 216

International Football

Argentina club Tigre accused police of pulling guns on its players and "refused to emerge from the dressing room" for the second half of its Copa Sudamericana final on Wednesday, according to REUTERS. As a result, São Paulo was declared winners of the tournament after it had taken a 2-0 lead into halftime. The incident, in which Tigre said that it was attacked by around 20 men, "followed a brawl involving players and officials as the teams left the pitch at halftime in the second leg of the final at São Paulo's Morumbi stadium" (REUTERS, 12/13). In Buenos Aires, Eleonora Gosman reported five Tigre players "finished their night in a Brazilian police station." Tigre President Rodrigo Molinos said, "Our players came down to the dressing room where six security agents (from the stadium) were waiting to assault them." São Paulo President Juvenal Juvencio had a different opinion of why the Argentinians did not come out to finish the game. Juvencio: "In the second half they were going to suffer a route and for this reason they decided not to come out" (CLARIN, 12/13).

A CHAOTIC SCENE: Tigre defender Mariano Echeverria said, "We got to the dressing room at halftime and there were guys waiting for us with sticks and guns. After 10 minutes of fighting, the police came and took us." He added, "The referee was with us and saw the players get beat up. The assistants were in there too. They saw everything that happened at halftime" (EMOL, 12/13). The AP wrote the chaotic scenes in São Paulo are "sure to trouble FIFA," which already has been frustrated by slow preparations for the World Cup. Violence on and off the field "still blights many matches in South America, with Brazil and Argentina particularly affected." During the World Cup, FIFA relies on local officials and police to "enforce safety at the stadiums" (AP, 12/13). Former Tigre President Sergio Massa made the following comments to the Argentinian FA. Massa: "It's one of the most shameful pages in Brazilian football. We came to play a game of football, not a war. All this makes us very sad. We don't want to win or lose a game in the offices, but the AFA are going to have to make a strong protest" (PA, 12/13).

AC Milan has struck up a commercial partnership with Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande, according to ESPN. Representatives from Evergrande had been in discussions with AC Milan VP Adriano Galliani "in recent days." The negotiations "resulted in a deal being reached whereby both clubs will arrange mutually beneficial player loans and first-option schemes," with work set to start on youth football programs as Milan continues to strengthen its business links to potential Chinese investors (ESPN, 12/12). ... FOOTBALL ITALIA reported there are "rumours this partnership could see a Chinese player loaned to Milan in January and the exchange of youth academy prospects" (FOOTBALL ITALIA, 12/12). Meanwhile, Brazilian midfielder Elkeson "is set to join" Evergrande after being released by Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo. The 23-year-old will travel to China on Jan. 4 and will "undergo a routine medical examination" (IANS, 12/12).

The "chronic under performance" of China on the int'l football stage "has spurred the government to implement a more hands-on approach to the game" that will be seen in five cities, according to Tang Zhe of the CHINA DAILY. To "explore new avenues to develop" Chinese football, Qingdao, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Dalian and Wuhan were chosen by the General Administration of Sport of China and the Chinese FA for a pilot program. CFA VP Wei Di said that the association "is now working with the five cities to achieve specific targets." Those goals include the improvement of the local football associations, training, competition and evaluation systems, as well as "the policy-making of the local sports authorities." Wei said, "The pilot cities had to have a strong soccer history, a considerable foundation, the support of local government and an energetic local association." Wei said that the CFA has allocated RMB 10M ($1.6M) to five cities this year "to help them organize" more football activities and encourage retired players to take up coaching posts. The CFA "expects to provide more funds in '13 for venue construction and renovation" (CHINA DAILY, 12/13).

Chelsea player Frank Lampard believes that the introduction of goal-line technology "will add the same element of drama to football that the use of the Decision Review System has brought to cricket," according to Matt Hughes of the LONDON TIMES. Chelsea became the first English club to be involved in a match using goal-line technology "as part of a FIFA experiment" when it beat Mexican team Monterrey in the Club World Cup semifinal in Yokohama, Japan Thursday. Lampard and his disallowed goal in England's World Cup defeat against Germany helped persuade FIFA President Sepp Blatter that "the case for technology was unanswerable." Lampard is "uncomfortable with being cast as a history-maker but is happy with a change he believes should have been made earlier." Lampard said, "It's too important an issue to let it go any more. It's a no-brainer to bring it in and make the calls correctly. I think it will add magic. I'm a big cricket fan, and it's added magic to cricket." FIFA is giving trials to two different goal-line systems, with Chelsea using GoalRef, after Hawk-Eye was used in the match between Brazil side Corinthians and Egypt's Al Ahly in Toyota City Wednesday night (LONDON TIMES, 12/13). ESPN's Gabriele Marcotti opined now it has become an "either/or" debate: "Either the game implements goal-line technology to determine when the ball crosses the line, or it puts real live human assistant referees behind the goal." UEFA President Michel Platini, "an avowed opponent of technology in the game," favors additional assistant referees. Blatter, however, "wants goal-line technology." It is "time for Platini and Blatter to put this either/or debate mentality to one side." If technology and more referees are "worth having, there is no reason we can't have both." They "don't interfere with each other," but rather they "complement each other." Whatever "political beefs may or may not exist between the two men, leave them out of this discussion." Decisions should be made "for the good of the game, which, funnily enough, happens to be FIFA's slogan" (ESPN, 12/12).

English football will introduce quotas for referees and coaches as part of an "unprecedented campaign to tackle racism," according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The plan will be adopted early in '13 and include the demand that at least 10% of entry level officials and coaches throughout the game be from ethnic minorities. There will also be moves to "increase the involvement of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in all forms of football, while Asian role models will be sought to encourage Asian children to play the game." Confidential hotlines will be set up for players to "report any form of bullying and discrimination, and fans will be able to text, email or maybe even tweet their complaints about any form of racism." The Professional Footballers’ Association will back the FA proposal of a minimum five-game ban for racist abuse. Furthermore, the latest video and audio technology will be used to "identify supporters guilty of racist gestures or chanting at matches." The anti-racism education process being introduced will "not just involve cultural lessons for overseas players and managers coming to England." The document has been distributed to all 92 League clubs, which "will be expected to sign" the charter for action against homophobia and transphobia launched by the government last year (DAILY MAIL, 12/13).

Brazilian club Flamengo "may challenge Lionel Messi's calendar year record, saying that former Brazil captain Zico scored 89 goals in '79." Barcelona's Messi scored his 87th and 88th goals of the year "having thought he had broken Gerd Müller's '72 record of 85 on Sunday." Flamengo Head of Research and Statistics Bruno Lucena said, "We are upset. Messi still hasn't passed the milestone" (REUTERS, 12/12). ... Malaysia's FA said that it "had protested after Thailand provided a run-down training pitch" for the Suzuki Cup clash. Malaysia team official Subahan Kamal called it a "paddy field" (AFP, 12/12).