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Volume 6 No. 212

People and Pop Culture

Italian football player ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO and American TV actor PATRICK DEMPSEY "are planning to create excitement in one of the world's most famous motor races," according to Fogarty & Lynch of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Del Piero, currently the "marquee player" for A-League Sydney FC, has joined forces with Dempsey, the "main attraction" of hit drama Grey's Anatomy, to enter a team in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car endurance classic in France. The pair has formed Dempsey/Del Piero Racing, a U.S. team that will also contest the American Le Mans Series. Del Piero said, "I have had a passion for motor sport since I was a young boy growing up in Italy" (SMH, 1/23). The AAP noted Del Piero and Dempsey's team will field three drivers in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race: Dempsey and veteran U.S. racers JOE FOSTER and MICHAEL AVENATTI. It "remains unclear who will drive in the ALMS series," but it "is not expected" Del Piero will drive in either (AAP, 1/22). 

UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI said that match-fixing and illegal betting are the "biggest threats to the future of football," according to Gregory Blachier of REUTERS. Although racism and incidents of crowd violence have "also plagued the sport," Platini said that the end of uncertainty about results "would kill passion for the game and even the sport itself." Platini said, "Racism, violence do not affect just football but the public. On the other hand, we are directly concerned by match-fixing. For me, this is the big shame. If tomorrow, we go watch a game already knowing the outcome, football is dead." Platini also discussed racism, praising AC Milan midfielder KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG for "walking off the pitch during a match this month in protest against abuse." Platini: "It was wonderful. I really liked it a lot. I even called AC Milan to congratulate them" (REUTERS, 1/21).

Swedish coach SVEN-GÖRAN ERIKSSON "will try to convince" former England captain DAVID BECKHAM to join him at UAE club Al Nasr after he signed an 18-month contract as a technical adviser, according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. When asked about the possibility of signing free agent Beckham, Eriksson said, "If he wants to come I'm sure they would open the gates for him. I still speak with him, although I don't know where he will finish up." Beckham, 37, has been "linked with moves to France, England, China and Australia" (REUTERS, 1/22). In Abu Dhabi, John McAuley noted Beckham "represents one of world football’s most coveted players." He is said to be considering offers from 11 clubs, and would therefore "presumably prove unattainable for Nasr." While the arrival of Eriksson should have little impact initially, the former Benfica, Lazio, Sampdoria and Man City manager confirmed that he has taken the position to help guide the club toward a "more prosperous future." Eriksson said, “It’s a long-term job. If you want to change things in football it’s not done overnight” (THE NATIONAL, 1/21).

Puma has appointed VOLFANGO BONDI, 47, as GM Europe with immediate effect. He succeeds SERGIO BUCHER, 49, who has decided to leave the company. Bondi is based at Puma’s headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, and reports to CCO STEFANO CAROTI (Puma). ... Havas Sports & Entertainment appointed GORDON LOTT to the position of managing director for the network's London-based office. Lott joins HS&E after eight years at Lloyds Banking Group where he was head of Olympic Marketing & Group Sponsorship since '07. Lott takes over from KEITH IMPEY, who after seven years leading the HS&E U.K. team, will now focus on the global side of the business and develop global projects (HS&E).

COACHES/MANAGERS: KEITH HILL "has returned for a second spell" as League Two Rochdale manager, replacing JOHN COLEMAN, who was sacked on Monday. Hill's "first game at the helm will be at Cheltenham" on Friday (BBC, 1/22).

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Serbian tennis player NOVAK DJOKOVIC "has been named Balkan Athlete of the Year." The 25-year-old beat out Turkey's ASLI CAKIR ALPTEKIN, who won the women's 1,500m Gold Medal at the London Olympics. Croatian SANDRA PERKOVIC, women's discuss champion at the London Games, came third in the annual poll (REUTERS, 1/22). ... NBA Houston Rockets G JEREMY LIN "is reportedly being courted" by the Pontifical Council for Culture to attend a Vatican-sponsored int'l conference. The event will aim to instill "moral and ethical values in athletes following numerous high-profile sporting scandals in recent years involving alcohol, sexual misconduct and performance enhancing drugs" (WANT CHINA TIMES, 1/21). ... French cyclist STEVE HOUANARD has tested positive for the presence of EPO in a urine sample collected during an out-of-competition test on Sept. 21 and will be suspended for two years (Int'l Cycling Union) ... Serie A club U.C. Sampdoria President RICCARDO GARRONE died Monday "after a long illness." The 76-year-old, who ran the ERG energy group, took control of Sampdoria in '02 and "helped steer them back to Serie A in his first season" (ESPN, 1/22). ... Britain marathon runner MARA YAMAUCHI has decided to retire from elite competition. Yamauchi will return to her previous employment at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, but will continue to be active in the running world (UK Athletics).

Brazilian footballer RONALDINHO: "De volta à seleção. Feliz, muito feliz!" ... ("Back with the seleção. Happy, very happy!")

London Times' KEVIN EASON: "Whatever happens, Lewis Hamilton must be going over the fine print of the contract and wondering what the hell is going on"

British Cycling Head of Communications SCOTT DOUGAL: "Last day for @Pete_Maxwell! Taking a step down leaving British Cycling but he's off to sort out the Football Association."

BT football pundit JAKE HUMPHREY: "'Ambitious' is the word I'd use to describe our plans. All will be revealed in good time. Hope you're ready for us... #BTSport"

Havas Sports & Entertainment U.K. Managing Dir GORDON LOTT: "Thanks for so many warm welcomes and kind messages, delighted to be joining @Havas_SE and and can't wait to get started."

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