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Volume 10 No. 24

International Football

Retired football player David Beckham said Thursday he sees a "bright" future for the Chinese game despite past corruption scandals and the dismal performance of the national team, according to the AFP. Visiting Shanghai as ambassador to the Chinese Super League, the recently-retired former England captain "defended his decision to take up the role, which has been viewed as an ambitious attempt by the football authorities to improve the battered image of the Chinese game." Beckham said, "People questioned why I wanted to be involved in something that, like I said, in the past had a bad name or there was corruption involved. For me, the past is the past. I'm only interested in the future and it's going to be a very bright one" (AFP, 6/20). REUTERS reported "the graft issues and problems with on-field violence have been blamed for China's lack of success" at the int'l level, with the team qualifying only once for the World Cup, in '02. CSL Deputy General Zhu He Yuan said, "Obviously everyone pays attention to Chinese football, we know that it is going through a rough time, but we are working very, very hard. We invited David Beckham to inspire kids to participate in the game and to inspire more people to watch the game and from his last two trips we have achieved this goal" (REUTERS, 6/20).

BECKHAMANIA: In London, Mark Blunden wrote seven people were injured Thursday in a stampede to catch a glimpse of Beckham "when he visited a Chinese university." Shanghai police said that "three police officers, two university security guards and two students were hurt." More than 1,000 people "had gathered at a stadium in Shanghai Tongji University when the police cordon was stormed" (EVENING STANDARD, 6/20). Also in London, Leo Lewis wrote in Beckham's first moments outside the car, "everything seemed to be proceding in line with usual Asian levels of Chinese Beckhamania" -- students hung from windows or rooftops, others climbed trees for better view, others still pressed themselves against the campus gates and behind cordons of security guards. But as Beckham set foot in the football training ground, "it was clear that Shanghai's university students were cut from a more passionate cloth than elsewhere." A door was broken down and "the authorities rapidly lost control." Guards lost their footing "as the human tsunami washed inexorably" toward Beckham. The event was canceled in the tumult "and Beckham's stay cut down to just five minutes." Photographs that have emerged in the aftermath show heaps of shoes, bags and other possessions lost in the chaos, "and snaps of anguished students weeping at an opportunity squandered" (LONDON TIMES, 6/20).

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said that Brazil "will benefit" with more than just new football stadiums from hosting the 2014 World Cup, as "unrest in the country continued to overshadow the Confederations Cup," according to Andrew Downie of REUTERS. In an interview with Rio's O Globo newspaper, Blatter said, "In football, the whole country gets the legacy. Football involves the whole country. The country improves airports, hotels, highways, telecommunications, sustainability programs." Blatter and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff "were booed by a capacity crowd at the Confederations Cup opener on Saturday and other matches have provided a rallying point for protests" (REUTERS, 6/19). INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's Andrew Warshaw reported Blatter said that "the protestors should look at the bigger picture in terms of the investment being made and the benefits they will bring." Blatter: "Brazil asked to host the World Cup, we did not impose the World Cup on Brazil. They knew that to host a good World Cup they would naturally have to build stadiums." On Wednesday, protesters "blocked the main access road to the stadium hosting Brazil's game against Mexico, forcing official FIFA vehicles to be diverted away from the Arena Castelao" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 6/20).

PARTY'S OVER: The AP reported beyond complaints about transit fares, protesters "haven't produced any concrete demands," mainly venting their anger at not just the government of President Rousseff, but "with the entire governing system." A common chant at the rallies has been "No parties!'' Twenty-two-year-old deomstrator Yasmine Gomes, who squeezed into the plaza in central São Paulo where Tuesday night's protest began, said, "What I hope comes from these protests is that the governing class comes to understand that we're the ones in charge, not them, and the politicians must learn to respect us'' (AP, 6/20).

PELÈ'S PLEA: In London, Joe Leahy reported Pelé "shocked" Brazilians by urging them to “forget” the protests and concentrate on cheering for the national team. Appearing on a local TV station, Pelé said, "Let’s forget all of this mayhem that’s happening in Brazil, all of these protests, and let’s remember that the national team is our country, our blood." The remarks "have appalled many Brazilians" and "also threw a spotlight on the increasing politicisation of football in a country in which the sport is a national obsession" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/20). REUTERS' Todd Benson reported while "revered by football fans the world over," Pelé's image "has been tarnished at home by a string of perceived clumsy comments over the years," once prompting former Brazilian striker Romario to famously comment that "Pelé when silent is a poet." Social media users "were less than complimentary about his latest comments, many saying the Brazil great's wealth meant he knew little of how ordinary Brazilians lived." One Brazilian posted on her Facebook page, "Now Pele takes it upon himself to record a video telling the population to forget this commotion and back the squad. The national squad, FIFA, the stadiums costing millions, go to hell." Another wrote, "Go to the hospitals, take a bus with no security, then I want to see if you keep saying stupid things" (REUTERS, 6/20).

NEYMAR'S SUPPORT: REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported Brazil forward Neymar "has voiced his support" for the protesters. Neymar wrote on Facebook, "I'm Brazilian and I love my country. I have a family and friends who live in Brazil. For that reason, I want a Brazil which is more just, safer, healthier and more honest. The only way I can represent and defend Brazil is on the pitch, playing football. From now on, I will enter the field inspired by this movement" (REUTERS, 6/20). The AFP reported teammate David Luiz "also spoke out in support of the mass protests." Luiz: "I'm in favor of demonstrations without violence. Citizens have a right to express their opinions and the fact they're not happy. It's a way of achieving their demands and improving the situation in the country." Teammate Dani Alves said, "Order and Progress without violence for a better Brazil, a peaceful Brazil, an educated, healthy, honest and happy Brazil" (AFP, 6/20).

About 500 supporters from clubs throughout the country "staged a demonstration at the Premier League’s headquarters in London" Wednesday, "calling for reduced ticket prices," according to Tony Barrett of the LONDON TIMES. The protest, organized by the Spirit Of Shankly and the Football Supporters’ Federation, "attracted fans from about 40 clubs" including Liverpool, ManU and Arsenal. EPL CEO Richard Scudamore met protest representatives, including FSF CEO Kevin Miles, "for an hour and a half while the demonstration continued." Miles said, "From the Premier League we encountered some sympathy, a restatement of their commitment to price-stretching, and an acknowledgement that local support is important. But this is the start of a process, not the end. The turnout on the march... successfully brought home the strength of feeling among fans" (LONDON TIMES, 6/20). In London, Giuseppe Muro reported the demonstration against spiraling season-ticket prices and expensive away days "also called for an end to games being moved around for the benefit of television." Spirit Of Shankly member Mark Scully said, "Today is the start. This is to show that we are serious. We have to start speaking in their language, which is money. I would like to see this build into a boycott of matches" (EVENING STANDARD, 6/20).

ON THE GROUND: Also in London, Arsenal Black Scarf Movement member Matthew Bazzell was one of five fan representatives who were granted a meeting with Scudamore. He wrote about the meeting in a piece for the Independent. As you would expect, Scudamore "is impressive in a Tony Blair sort of way." We are realists and doubt if Wednesday "will achieve very much." Here are "my conclusions:"

  • Home ticket pricing is unlikely to change because currently most clubs are well attended.
  • Away ticket pricing however is becoming a worrying issue for the Premier League.
Scudamore told us that "the clubs we support represent the top end of ticket pricing and implied that generally things were good elsewhere." I "challenged him on this because most fans I talk to would dispute this" (INDEPENDENT, 6/20).

U.K. bakery chain Greggs "have held talks" with the Scottish Premier League over plans to "seize control of the football pie market," according to John Ferguson of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. Senior figures from both organizations, and a number of clubs, "have been in secret discussions that could spark a bake-over takeover." Greggs "are interested in striking a deal to sell half-time hot snacks at all games." An SPL insider said, "Any overall deal would be difficult because the clubs have individual contracts but Greggs are most interested in the big clubs with high volumes of sales." Any deal with Scottish Third Division Rangers "would be tricky" because former Owner Craig Whyte sold off £2M ($3M) of future earnings from match-day catering at Ibrox "to pay for the leasing of kitchen equipment" (DAILY RECORD, 6/20).

A lawyer involved in the landmark Bosman ruling 18 years ago "asked a court on Thursday to overturn a UEFA attempt to limit the spending of top European soccer clubs in a second challenge to its 'break-even' rule." UEFA "will bring in Financial Fair Play regulations next season." Jean-Louis Dupont, representing Belgian player agent Daniel Striani, "asked a Brussels court to examine the rule and believes it will have to seek the opinion of the European Court of Justice on the matter." Dupont "is arguing that the FFP contravenes EU competition law and the right to free movement of workers, services and capital" (REUTERS, 6/20). ... Brazil's government has revised its calculations about the cost of the work necessary to host the 2014 World Cup. In February, costs were estimated at $12.3M, but according to data released Thursday, costs are now expected to reach $13M. The work, which is progressing in the 12 host cities, ranges from stadium construction to road projects to improve the quality of public transportation (LA AFICION, 6/19). ... UEFA President Michel Platini "has revealed that there is nothing that the football can do about Monaco's spending, until they qualify for competitions in Europe." He said, "For now, Monaco are not in any UEFA competitions, so they are not in our thoughts. When that happens, we’ll talk" (DAILY POST NIGERIA, 6/19). ... A relieved Platini "has heaped praise on Israel" following the European U21 championships that ended with Spain beating Italy 4-2 to retain the title. He said, "The stadiums were wonderful and well organized, the pitches excellent and the atmosphere in the stadiums was great with many families and young children attending. That is exactly the type of tournament that I like to see" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 6/20). ... China's "embarrassing" home defeat to Thailand in a football friendly match over the weekend "has sparked speculation that the Chinese national team deliberately threw the game" (WANT CHINA TIMES, 6/20).