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Volume 10 No. 23

International Football

Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua declared on Wednesday that "it was shocked" by Didier Drogba's transfer to Turkish club Galatasaray, "and will appeal to FIFA to protect the club's interests," according to Tang Zhe of the CHINA DAILY. Shenhua said in an announcement posted on its website that "it was stunned by Galatasaray's approach to a player still under contract." The statement said: "We understand Drogba's eagerness to play in the UEFA Champions League, but Shanghai Shenhua Football Club signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Drogba on July 1, 2012. Our club has complied with the terms of the contract and fulfilled our responsibilities and obligations from the start to now. Drogba is still a player of Shanghai Shenhua, and the contract between the two sides is still within the terms of validity" (CHINA DAILY, 1/30). REUTERS' Kazunori Takada noted Drogba "agreed to an 18-month contract with the Istanbul side on Monday." Shenhua said: "The Shanghai Shenhua Football Club is ready to gather evidence and submit the findings to FIFA in order to protect its interests" (REUTERS, 1/30).

NEED NEW APPROACH: The AFP wrote the signings of Drogba and Nicolas Anelka proved the cash-rich CSL "can lure big names but their abrupt departure shows China cannot yet compete with the top European clubs." Drogba "arrived in a blaze of publicity last year" after helping Chelsea win the Champions League, "pledging to help promote a sport plagued by corruption and low-quality homegrown players." But barely six months later, "the powerful Ivory Coast striker" has signed with Galatasaray, "giving no clue as to why he walked out" on a reported $300,000-a-week contract with Shenhua. A website said in an editorial: "As for his desire to strive to increase the level of Chinese football, that is already nothing more than a fantasy." Drogba's departure came after former French int'l Anelka, a teammate of the Ivorian at both Chelsea and Shanghai, "and said to be on a similar package," left to join Juventus last week on loan. Tom Byer, who recently became head technical advisor of a Chinese FA-administered schools football program, "suggested clubs would do better investing in youth development rather than in stars." Byer said, "The top-down approach doesn't work. It's old school, and no one can show me any example of it having worked this way anywhere else before." Byer "questioned the motives of the super-rich businessmen bankrolling the sport in China." Byer: "I don't think they are looking at it so much as a way to develop the game on a macro level. They are just looking to cash in on it" (AFP, 1/30).

DIFFERENT STANDARDS: In Beijing, Wang Zhenghua cited analysts saying that Drogba's departure "can be linked to the poor quality" of Chinese football. Although Chinese clubs, backed by wealthy tycoons, are able to recruit foreign stars, "the low standard of play" in the CSL "remains a daunting obstacle when trying to keep those players in China." Local commentator Zhang Lu said, "The overall level of Chinese soccer is low and far from the top-level European leagues." Shenhua goalkeeper Wang Dalei sent Drogba a farewell message saying, "It was an honor to play soccer with you." Shanghai BlueBoys Supporters Club Deputy Head Li Hui said, "These foreign big names come and go like passerby, because they may not be suited to Chinese clubs. If Drogba stayed at Shenhua, he would be wasting his talents" (CHINA DAILY, 1/30).

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has announced the national team will play Switzerland in a friendly on Aug. 14 at St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland (CBF). FOLHA DE S. PAULO noted the friendly will be played after the Confederations Cup, which will take place from June 13-30 in Brazil. Some of Brazil's other key friendlies in '13 include England (Feb. 6 and June 2), Italy (March 21) and Russia (March 25) (FOLHA DE S. PAULO, 1/30).

BANGLADESH TRIP: The Bangladesh Football Federation revealed that Barcelona will be playing a friendly in the country in August. BFF President Kazi Salahuddin said, "If everything goes well, [the Barça players] will come during the month of August during their Asia tour." Salahuddin added that the La Liga club was asking for €3M ($4.1M) in return for participating in the friendly (L'EQUIPE, 1/30).

Serie A side Lazio has been fined €140,000 ($189,900) and was handed a ban that could see it play its next UEFA club competition match behind closed doors for the behavior of its fans during Europa League matches against Tottenham and Maribor. Lazio was fined  €50,000 ($67,800) for the racist conduct of its fans, ignition of fireworks and incidents of a non-sporting nature at its Europa League group stage game against NK Maribor in Slovenia on Dec. 6. Lazio was also fined €90,000 ($122,000) for the racist behavior of its fans, throwing of fireworks, incidents of a non-sporting nature, late handling of its team sheet and late arrival at the stadium, at the group stage match against Tottenham on Nov. 22 in Rome. Additionally, Slovenian side Maribor was fined €17,000 ($23,059) and Tottenham €10,000 ($13,564) for crowd disturbances in the group games against Lazio. The fines were imposed by UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body (UEFA).

The Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank revealed that it "has awarded each player in the UAE National football team, who won the Gulf Cup in Bahrain earlier this month, with a first-class ticket to any destination in the world on Etihad Airways" (GULF NEWS, 1/30). ... Senegal will play its next World Cup football qualifier against Angola in neutral Guinea "after being banned from hosting home matches." The game will be at Conakry’s September 28 Stadium on March 23 (REUTERS, 1/30). ... The official UEFA Champions League final match ball has been unveiled, with adidas creating a design celebrating the six past European Cup showpieces held at Wembley (UEFA). ... The official 2014 World Cup Brazil poster was unveiled Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro. The poster was designed by Brazilian creative agency Crama. It was selected ahead of two other designs by a panel of judges (FIFA).