Category Archives: Football

(BBC) Paulo Lopes: The most successful third-choice goalkeeper of all time?


Paulo Lopes
Paulo Lopes started and finished his career at Benfica, rejoining the club in 2012 after a decade away

Twelve trophies in only 11 games in more than a decade at Benfica – Paulo Lopes might be the most successful third-choice goalkeeper of all time.

The quirky statistic came to light when the Portuguese retired in July after a 21-year playing career.

“Yes, they are correct,” the 40-year-old tells BBC Sport, adding jokingly: “I was born to win.”

Robert Green at Chelsea, Richard Wright at Manchester City, Lee Grant at Manchester United and the evergreen Stuart Taylor – all famous third-choice keepers, but none has a trophy haul to rival Lopes.

“I feel happy getting these numbers along my career,” says Lopes. “They are part of my achievements and show important and special moments of my career.

“I feel great pride and great satisfaction, because when I look at them [the trophies and medals], I feel it was a work, mostly a team work, but also they demonstrate my achievements as a goalkeeper.”

Lopes played for Benfica’s youth team, but never made a first-team appearance before he was released in 2002.

He spent the next decade alternating between the top two divisions in Portugal, making more than 200 appearances and helping Trofense and Feirense achieve promotion to Primeira Liga.

Then, aged 34, came the call to rejoin Benfica in 2012.

“I thought it was a joke,” says Lopes, recalling a phone call with director of football and Portugal legend Rui Costa.

Paulo Lopes
Lopes playing a rare first-team game at Benfica

Lopes finally made his senior debut for Benfica on 8 October 2012, the start of his most prolific season with the club when he played five games. That figure dropped over the following seasons, although he did play in the Champions League against Zenit St Petersburg in 2014.

“It was an enormous pleasure to get back to Benfica,” says Lopes. “It was the recognition of my work as a goalkeeper throughout my career and of my value as a football professional. There are few players chosen to represent Benfica.

“When I accepted the invitation, of course my will was to play more and it was with that goal that I got back. The best ones play for Benfica and only the best get the longevity to work for a space on the team.

“I’ve managed to do that for a long time. I felt happy. Those were years of success, being in the first string or not.”

Lopes says the decision not to play was out of his hands, but he “always respected the coach’s decision”.

In a decade at Benfica, he was behind goalkeepers such as Ederson, now at Manchester City, former Brazil and Inter Milan keeper Julio Cesar, and current Atletico Madrid number one Jan Oblak.

Julio Cesar, Bruno Varela and Paulo Lopes
Lopes with Julio Cesar (left) and Bruno Varela (centre)

He was part of the squad that won the Primeira Liga four seasons in a row from 2014 to 2017, plus two Portuguese Cups (Taca de Portugal), three League Cups (Taca da Liga) and three Supertaca Candido de Oliveira (Community Shield).

“In my modest opinion, I’ve done a good job and have always performed my work in the best way,” says Lopes.

“It’s obvious that I wanted to play more, but it’s important to consider that I was in one of the best teams in Europe, with the best players, so the inside competition is very strong.”

After retiring, Lopes became goalkeeping coach for Benfica’s under-23 side. Manager Jose Henrique, a legendary Benfica keeper, said Lopes is an “idol”.

“My connection with Benfica is strong,” adds Lopes. “There are few players that spend so much time on the same team and that return after many years.

“It’s been essentially arriving as a kid and leaving as an adult. Benfica is where I spent a big part of my life, where I learnt what it meant to be a football player and where I’ve developed a lot as a person.”

Asked to reflect on his career, he says: “With much pride in what I did, what I gave to football and the joy of having fulfilled the dreams I had when I was a kid, when I thought that one day I’d be a football player.”

Paulo Lopes
Lopes is now goalkeeping coach for Benfica Under-23s

(NYT) Google Turns Over Identities of Bloggers on Benfica


Benfica’s enormous popularity in Portugal has taken a hit the past year as blogs released damaging confidential information about the club.CreditCreditManuel De Almeida/EPA, via Shutterstock

Google Inc. and other internet service providers have turned over confidential user information to a Portuguese soccer team that may help it identify anonymous bloggers who have written about allegations of wrongdoing against the team.

The information was turned over as part of a lawsuit filed by the team, the Lisbon-based Benfica, earlier this year in United States District Court in California as part of an effort to stop the bloggers.

Benfica, the serial national champion, has been battling a tide of leaked information for much of the past year that has cast a negative shadow over it . The leaks have been drip-fed onto a specially created website since December, producing sensational headlines and leading to a crisis within a club that counts some of the country’s most important politicians and business figures as members.

However, Benfica was unable to stop the leaks through Portugal’s legal system. So the club, a two-time European champion, turned in April to California’s courts. It issued subpoenas to Google and a handful of other companies that own the platforms used by the bloggers.

The efforts have paid off. “We only confirm that we made agreements with those digital platforms,” said a spokesman for Benfica. He declined to provide further details of the information the team received.

In a statement, Google said it complied with the legal process. “Google gave notice to impacted users who then had an opportunity to challenge the legal process in a U.S. court,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

The owner of the popular Artista do Dia blog is among those whose user identity has very likely been passed on to Benfica by Google. He received an email from Google in September telling him he could try to quash Benfica’s demand through a legal challenge.

Faced with thousands of dollars of legal fees, the author, whose identity The New York Times has been confirmed, was only able to reply with an impassioned email, in which he outlined that he had not been responsible for the leak, and like many others, had written about a subject of enormous public interest.

“I thought Google and billions of users of Google services were protected by a company with principles and, above all, respect for users who trust their platforms,” said the writer, a professional services worker with two children. “I think it opens a very serious precedent that will only allow those with financial possibilities to remain anonymous.”

Benfica’s status within Portugal is immense. The team counts at least half of the country’s 10 million citizens as fans, the weight of which gives it a greater cultural and social significance than most ordinary sports teams. Even in good times, details of exploits inside its Estadio da Luz home dominate local media.

Porto’s Portuguese coach Sergio Conceicao, who leads one of Benfica’s top rivals.CreditFrancisco Leong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The leaks, which began last year, have purported to show influence peddling schemes that targeted top soccer officials and, perhaps most worryingly for the club, efforts to influence the refereeing system. Benfica denies wrongdoing. It has separately been charged with illegally obtaining confidential information from a mole working inside the justice ministry.

The bloggers’ cases are not without precedent. They are similar to a yearslong legal battle between Chevron and internet providers Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in which the company sought identity information belonging to activists, attorneys, journalists and others who have spoken out against the company.

Albert Gidari, consulting director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said under current regulations Google had little option but to comply with Benfica’s subpoena. Internet companies get hundreds of thousands of similar requests, said Gidari, who spent 20 years representing some of the world’s biggest technology companies including Google. “It isn’t scalable to know what’s behind each case,” he said.

Google already goes “one step beyond” what it is required to do by giving notice of the subpoena to users, he added.

Benfica’s search for the bloggers and web users has dominated the headlines since The New York Times first reported on the issue earlier this month. Benfica fans have also tried to unmask the identity of those behind the blogs. In at least one case, the name and photograph of a man suspected of being one of the bloggers was widely circulated on the internet but turned out to be wrong.

Fans of Benfica’s rivals, Sporting Clube de Portugal and F.C. Porto, are behind most of the blogs the team is targeting for legal action. Benfica alleges the two other teams are part of a conspiracy to discredit it, a claim that is typical in soccer in Portugal, where club executives frequently launch allegations against one another. The leaks first appeared on a weekly television show on Porto’s channel, before a website called O Mercado de Benfica appeared in December 2017.

Porto’s communications director Francisco Marques said he received the data anonymously from an individual purporting to be a fan of the club. Marques said he passed all the files he received to the police. He suspects the website publishing the leaked information is run by the same person.

In its lawsuit in California, Benfica claimed the details published online were “trade secrets” that buttressed its success in winning championships and cultivated an academy system that generated “more than any other club in the world” in player sales this decade. The claim did not mention police raids on Benfica’s offices or ongoing investigations into alleged results manipulation and corruption it faces.

“Despite commencing numerous actions, both civil and criminal, in Portugal, Benfica has thus far been unable to stem the tide of stolen information or identify the thieves. It is clear to Benfica that only with the cooperation of the hosting organizations will Benfica be able to stop the campaign to discredit it,” its U.S. lawyers wrote.

Gidari, the former privacy lawyer, said the suit seemed similar to others brought by other large organizations confronting the public disclosure of damaging information.

He added that though in some cases there may be valid reasons behind subpoenas, they are often “strategic lawsuits brought to silence critics.”

O.P. (DN) Portugal campeão europeu sub-19


Portugal no seu melhor!

Faltam me as palavras.

Viva Portugal!

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(DN) Portugal sagrou-se campeão europeu ao bater a Itália, após prolongamento, por 4-3. Jota bisou e foi o homem do jogo (e melhor marcador da prova com Trincão, que também faturou neste jogo). É o quarto título continental nesta categoria, o primeiro sub-19

Num jogo que levou as emoções ao extremo, Portugal só garantiu o título europeu de sub-19 com um golo de Pedro Correia aos 108′, depois de a Itália ter respondido às anteriores vantagens lusas (de 0-2 para o 2-2 que levou o jogo para prolongamento; de 2-3 para 3-3 já nos 30 minutos suplementares). Jota foi o homem do jogo e um dos mais valiosos do torneio, tornando-se o melhor marcador com Francisco Trincão, ambos com cinco golos.

Portugal marcou 17 golos em cinco jogos e um terço (o prolongamento da final), com Jota e Trincão responsáveis por mais de metade (dez). Os dois jogadores igualam o número de finalizações que deram o prémio de goleador a José Gomes no Euro sub-17, em 2016. Ou seja, a caminhada vitoriosa desta equipa já tinha começado. E nunca uma mesma geração tinha conseguido ganhar os dois torneios de enfiada. Histórico.

O jogo até começou com contrariedades: Diogo Costa tinha-se lesionado frente à Ucrânia, na meia-final (5-0) e logo aí João Virgínia assumiu a baliza (tendo sido chamado à Finlândia Ricardo Benjamim, para o banco). No aquecimento, Miguel Luís lesionou-se e Nuno Henrique, ou Nunes, saltou para o onze. A equipa não pareceu afetada, o que prova a qualidade geral deste grupo de 21 (com a chegada de Benjamim).

Pelo contrário, foi Portugal que jogou mais e melhor num encontro sem especulações ou predomínio do futebol físico. Foram jogadores finos como Trincão e Jota que deram o tom a esta final, disputada no Estádio Seinajoki. O tom e o ritmo do marcador: Jota (45’+1′) e Trincão deram uma vantagem que parecia encaminhar o título nos 90 minutos. Mas o recém-entrado Moise Kean virou do avesso a final, bisando em dois minutos (75′ e 76′).

Portugal acusou o golpe, mas continuou a ter as melhores oportunidades, embora os italianos nunca tivessem desistido de tentar ser felizes no ataque. Mas o 2-2 não se alterou e seguiu-se para prolongamento.

A equipa de Hélio Sousa provou que não ficara encolhida por deixar fugir dois golos de avanço. E no prolongamento, embora se notasse menos energia dos dois lados, a seleção portuguesa voltou para a frente do marcador. Jota bisou (104′). No intervalo dos 30 minutos suplementares, Portugal estava na frente.

Mas pouco depois (107′), Scamacca voltava a mostrar a face lutadora dos italianos. O 3-3 não tolheu os portugueses, que tiraram do coração para dar às pernas, sem perder grande discernimento na cabeça. Aos 115′, Pedro Correia, que tinha saltado do banco para substituir Trincão aos 101′, foi precioso na execução e fez o 4-3.

Nos últimos seis minutos, a Itália quase não conseguiu incomodar o novo campeão europeu (exceto um remate perigoso de Frattesi após mais uma jogada desconcertante de Moise Kean, aos 118′). E aos 121′, o árbitro deu por finalizada a final do Euro 2018 de sub-19. E Portugal sagrava-se campeã europeia.

Foi a primeira vez neste formato (sub-19, desde 2002), mas a quarta desde que o torneio arrancou em 1948. Então, como Torneio Jovem FIFA, mudando em 1955 para Torneio Jovem UEFA e em 1981 para Euro sub-18. Finalmente, em 2002, assentou em Euro sub-19. Portugal soma quatro títulos (1961, 1994, 1999 e 2018) e oito finais perdidas (1971, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2003, 2014 e 2017). A do último ano, frente à Inglaterra (1-2), teve agora a desforra (bem como a de 2003, em que Portugal foi batida pela Itália).

No ranking do torneio, Portugal salta do grupo com três títulos e, com quatro, persegue Rússia/União Soviética (6), Alemanha (6), França (8), Espanha (10) e Inglaterra (10). No total, as seleções de Portugal somam 13 títulos mundiais e europeus, sendo atualmente detentoras do emblema de campeão europeu em sub-19 e na categoria principal (título conquistado em 2016, na França).

Além do título, Portugal apurou-se diretamente para o Mundial sub-20 2019, que se vai realizar na Polónia (qualificação reservada aos cinco primeiros deste Euro). E será este grupo a defender um pecúlio que coloca Portugal no pódio (dois títulos, em 1998 e 1991), só atrás de Brasil (5) e Argentina (6).

(Independent) Cristiano Ronaldo to pay €19 million fine for tax fraud in deal with Spanish authorities


Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has reached a deal with Spanish tax authorities (Nick Potts/PA)1
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has reached a deal with Spanish tax authorities (Nick Potts/PA)

Spanish tax authorities have accepted a deal with footballer Cristiano Ronaldo to plead guilty to tax fraud and pay a fine of close to 19 million euros (£17m).

The agreement means the footballer will get a reduced prison sentence that is likely to be suspended.

A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the agreement will be finalised in the coming days.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

Ronaldo had already reached a tentative deal with the state prosecutor’s office but Spain’s tax authorities had yet to sign off the agreement.

Last year, a Spanish state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euro.

The prosecutor accused the Portugal forward of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights. The accusation does not involve his salary from his former Real Madrid club.

Ronaldo denied any wrongdoing when questioned by a judge last July. He left Madrid this month to sign for Italian champion Juventus.

In 2016, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi received a suspended 21-month jail sentence after being found guilty of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros.

(GUA) Mesut Özil reminds us why minorities have more than one identity

(GUA)The Germany footballer has been criticised for showing pride in his Turkish roots. But why should people of colour have to ditch their national heritage?

It’s often said that black people do so well in sport in countries where they are in a minority because it offers the only opportunity they have to compete on a genuinely level playing field. That’s a simplification, of course: the playing field is not completely level there, either; the ongoing and countless stories of overt racism, from football to athletics and tennis, are testament to that. And if there’s one thing recent events have revealed, it’s that while sport may be more meritocratic than other workplaces, for people of colour the rewards are still conditional.

The footballer Mesut Özil feels he is being penalised for his pride in Turkey, the nation of his heritage, by Germany, the nation of his citizenship. This episode has opened an emotive window into just how precarious national status can be. “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Özil said, announcing his retirement from the national team after criticism of his recent performances.

Özil, a key member of the German team that won the World Cup in 2014, had faced a backlash before this year’s tournament after posing for a photo with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – a hardliner widely condemned for human rights abuses. But the problem Germans have with Özil seems to be more about his statement of cultural allegiance with the Turkish nation.

You don’t actually need to pose with a problematic president to experience this disowning. I will never forget the way in which Mo Farah – the British long-distance runner who was propelled to national treasure status after his two 2012 Olympic gold medals – immediately became “Somali-born Farah” when the integrity of his coach’s techniques came into question.

Ben Johnson races to the 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics
 Ben Johnson races to the 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. ‘He was Canadian until he was banned for doping, at which point he became widely referred to as Jamaican-born.’ Photograph: Joe Patronite/Allsport

There are many other examples. Ben Johnson, the 100m world record holder, was Canadian – until he was banned for doping, at which point he became widely referred to as “Jamaican-born”. Yannick Noah, the French Open tennis champion who at one point seemed set for world domination, became camerounais when the dream expired.

The French experience is rather specific, as the row over the South African comedian Trevor Noah’s description of France’s World Cup triumph as a victory for the African continent – since that’s where so many players are descended from – reminds us. France has mastered the art of hypocrisy with its official “we don’t see race” stance. Instead, people of minority heritage are stigmatised as les issus de l’immigration – simply another way of othering them.

This prejudice is hard-baked into terminology across Europe. Visible minorities in Britain are labelled “immigrants” or, if they’re born here, “second generation immigrants”. Yet “indigenous” is a nonsensical term for a nation formed by millennia of immigration. Meanwhile, Brits abroad are seen as “expatriates”.

In the Netherlands, visible minority Dutch people were, until recently, allochtoon, a word many of them hate because – while it may initially have been well intentioned – it was always perceived as a way of distinguishing between white “indigenous” Dutch and non-white descendants of immigrants.

In Germany there were Gastarbeiter – who were invited from Turkey to compensate for German labour shortages, but whose long-term presence in the country was not fully accepted. Not surprisingly, some of their children feel an emotional attachment to Turkey (“I have two hearts”, Özil has said), yet Germany has decided that dual allegiances are no longer convenient.

Germany doesn’t get to decide what the children of those it has treated as second-class citizens for so long get to do with the rights they have now acquired. Nor do France and Britain. Nor do the leaders of European countries that invented racial categories – necessary for the purposes of their own plans for enslavement and colonisation – get to unilaterally decide that these are no longer relevant, now that it’s become inconvenient for them to face up to the legacy of their own creation.

We get to define our identities, our allegiances and our relationship to our heritage. Özil’s identity as both Turkish and German – quite apart from being perfectly logical – is his by right to express. French people of African heritage have earned the right to their unconditional Frenchness, whether or not they play football, and no French person can stop them celebrating being part of the African diaspora.

This matters. In Britain, for example, many black people benefit from the struggle our parents and grandparents faced to secure citizenship and economic security – although the recent Windrush scandal reminds us that battle is still not over – and now have the luxury of choosing how we want to self-identify. And many of us are actually growing closer to our countries of heritage, despite having never lived there.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this. Similar connections can be found in the Irish and Italian diasporas in America, and in Jewish people everywhere. But for some reason it’s deemed more problematic when people of colour wish to organise around shared cultural or national heritage. It’s part of a belief that somehow Britain did us a favour by letting us come to this country, with our brown faces and strange faiths and all, for which we should be uniquely grateful.

The problem is, European countries didn’t “let” their migrants in; they needed people to rebuild their countries, offering in return low wages and poor living conditions. The descendants of those workers are still processing the racism, prejudice and disadvantage that resulted. But the one thing no one can take away is what we decide about who we are.

(JN) Na bola com mulheres bonitas – Nuno Melo

(JN) “Falamos de forma individual com todas as operadoras para que deixem de focar nas raparigas que podem ser consideradas atraentes. É trazer uma carga sexista desnecessária ao futebol”. O pedido mais idiota do fenómeno desportivo universal foi feito assim, pelo dirigente da FIFA Federico Addiechi. Se há certeza dos nossos tempos é que a imaginação delirante do “politicamente correto” consegue ser estupidamente infinita, mesmo na crença estranha de um mundo virtualmente assético e assexuado.

E se o jogo for de futebol feminino? E se se der o caso de as jogadoras, a começar, serem realmente bonitas? Não sendo olhar pecado – por este caminho, já não é certeza -, será que o italiano responsável pelo programa de diversidade da FIFA reparou alguma vez na sueca Josefine Oqvist, na brasileira Laisa Andrioli, na australiana Ellyse Perry, na americana Hope Solo ou na francesa Corine Franco, só para ter em conta alguns, poucos, exemplos ? Fazer o quê? Filmar poucochinho em campo, para que não se notem? E depois o quê? Não focar entre os adeptos os feios, os negros, os brancos, os amarelos, os coxos? É que onde acaba o sexismo também pode haver quem ache que começa a discriminação.

Dito isto, lá em Zurique, na sede da FIFA, não terão mesmo nada melhor com que se entreter? É que assim de repente, antes do pecado da beleza, expurgada das bancadas para uma espécie de “buraco negro” das teleobjetivas, há certamente outros assuntos que beneficiariam muito do zelo crítico e censório da FIFA. A tendência para uma certa prodigalidade nos gastos, os representantes corrompidos por causa das escolhas para a realização de campeonatos, os processos judiciais e detenções por fraude, extorsão e lavagem de dinheiro, o pagamento de 71 milhões de euros durante cinco anos a Joseph Blatter, Jerôme Valcke e Markus Kattner, até as campanhas descaradas de Michel Platini – inabilitado depois de receber de Blatter dois milhões de francos suíços – contra Cristiano Ronaldo, escolhido várias vezes com toda a justiça melhor jogador do Mundo, a contragosto do francês. Grande Cristiano…

Já agora, conviria que a FIFA se recordasse que durante muito tempo a atenção prestada às mulheres ajudou precisamente a mostrar que o futebol não é um desporto de homens apenas. Num estádio de futebol cabem todos. E na verdade, nas alegrias do fenómeno desportivo, todas as pessoas são bonitas. Deixem-nas lá em paz.


(Economist) France’s victorious footballers do Emmanuel Macron a favour

(Economist) “Democratic heroes”, he believes, bring out the best in the French

WHEN Emmanuel Macron was a child, growing up in the northern French town of Amiens, he was a fervent supporter of a southern club, Olympique de Marseille. In 1993, the year they won the European Champions League, the club’s captain was a certain Didier Deschamps. On July 15th, under torrential rain after France’s victory at the World Cup final, it was as president that Mr Macron clasped in a tight embrace the same Mr Deschamps, captain of the French team that won the World Cup back in 1998, and now manager of the French champions.

Today France welcomes home Les Bleus, their national team, after a 4-2 defeat of Croatia in Moscow. A million people descended last night on Paris as the sun began to set, chanting, rocking Metro carriages, clambering onto bus shelters and up lamp posts, and setting off flares and firecrackers. The capital’s arteries emptied of cars and turned into a flag-waving, chanting human flow.

The team will this afternoon parade down the Champs-Elysées (past a station that the Paris Metro briefly renamed “Deschamps-Elysées”) in an open-top bus, to a reception hosted by Mr Macron at the presidential palace. They have warmed hearts and made history. Mr Deschamps has become only the third person to win the World Cup as both player and manager. Kylian Mbappé, a striker who grew up in the Paris banlieue of Bondy, is only the second teenager, after Pelé, to score a goal in the World Cup final.

Football for Mr Macron, who did not conceal his joy in the presidential box during the match, is more than just a sport. A left-back when he played as a student, he enjoys the game, and took his presidential campaign to Sarcelles, a Paris banlieue, where he kicked a ball about with youngsters. Yet football matters to him for other reasons too, and not least because, although he will doubtless be accused of exploiting victory for political ends, he may well get a poll bounce as the country’s mood lifts. In 1998 the sitting president, Jacques Chirac, saw his popularity leap from 45% in June to 59% in August after France’s victory. It remained above 50%, amid a broad economic recovery, for the next 18 months.

One reason this victory suits Mr Macron is that, at a time when the president is accused by his detractors of contempt for those less fortunate than him, and of a drift to the political right, football in France represents the sort of social mobility that he approves of. Sport, he said on a trip to Marseille during the election campaign last year, “kills house arrest” for those living in the country’s banlieues. Greater Paris, ringed by brutalist housing estates where many families of immigrant origin live, has a thriving network of after-school amateur football clubs that has become a giant talent pool for the national team. Training and talent are central to Mr Macron’s vision of how to combat poverty, and football offers a potent symbol of this.

A second reason is that the team itself has become a classy advertisement for France. In 1998 the country was still so unsure about its multicultural identity that the team was tagged “black, blanc, beur” in reference to its multiracial make-up. At the tournament in South Africa eight years ago, the French side, made up of supersized egos, went on strike during a training session, and later departed in disgrace after crashing out of the tournament. This year Mr Deschamps has forged a side of likeable team players, who were as boisterous in the dressing-room after the match as they were disciplined, focused and ruthless during the tournament. Mr Mbappé has spoken of wanting “to give everything to France”. Antoine Griezmann, another goalscorer, tweeted simply, “CHAMPIONS DU MONDE. Vive la France!”.

Mr Macron, who will have enjoyed the symbolism of victory in Russia, which he suspected of trying to hack his election campaign, has a final reason for embracing this team. This is to do with what he calls “democratic heroes”. From the president’s speech at Johnny Hallyday’s funeral, to that during the entry of Simone Veil to the Panthéon, Mr Macron regards the celebration of the lives of popular, or historic, figures as a chance to try to bring out the best in the French. Liberal democracies, he has argued, faced with the dark menace of nationalism, need heroes if they are to rouse a positive national spirit and defeat the “sad passions” fanned by populists. In the 23 players and their manager who brought home the World Cup, the luckiest man in French politics has found his heroes.

(BBG) Cristiano Ronaldo’s Move to Italy Is a Big Score for Jeep

(BBG) Italy’s Juventus Football Club SpA is paying a total of more than $130 million to nab star player Cristiano Ronaldo from Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid Football Club. The Italian team won’t be the only one trying to cash in on the Portuguese footballer’s fame.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, whose Jeep logo is plastered across the chests of Juventus’ black-and-white-striped jerseys, could get a huge advertising boost in the deal. If Ronaldo can lead Juventus to the UEFA Champions League finals, the media exposure for that one year will be worth about $58.3 million, according to Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group Inc. That would be quite a return on the $20 million Fiat Chrysler pays each year for its Juventus sponsorship, according to SportsPro.

Jeep, which makes the iconic Jeep Wrangler, is the crown jewel in Fiat Chrysler’s stable of auto brands. The company forecasts global sales of 1.9 million this year, more than double the 730,000 sold five years ago. Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne wants to bump that to 3.3 millionby 2022, a goal Ronaldo could aid, especially with Hispanic soccer fans, said Chris Chaney, senior vice president at San Diego-based brand consultancy Strategic Vision.

“I can see the fit and where it will help strengthen things,” Chaney said. “The freedom and the adventure, the openness that Jeep represents, it’s appealing to everybody, but it’s particularly appealing to Hispanic new-car buyers.”

Both Turin-based Juventus and Fiat Chrysler are controlled by Italy’s Agnelli family. A spokesman for Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on the value of the soccer deals.

The Agnelli family, which has owned Juventus for more than 90 years, controls Ferrari NV and Fiat Chrysler through its holding company, Exor NV, which owns 64 percent of Juventus. Andrea Agnelli, the cousin of Exor CEO John Elkann, has been chairman of Juventus since 2010. Beyond Jeep, Juventus sponsors such as Adidas, Allianz and Samsung are poised to benefit from Ronaldo’s move.

Juventus in January 2017 presented a new branding strategy to expand revenue from sales of merchandising internationally. Its efforts come as some of its rivals have been sold to Chinese investors, highlighting the value of Italian soccer teams. Juventus, winner of a record seven consecutive Serie A championships, has seen its share pricerise about 35 percent since talk of a deal for the star player surfaced last week.

Ronaldo scored 451 goals in 438 games since he joined Real Madrid in 2009, helping the club to win four Champions League titles, and La Liga, Spain’s top soccer division, twice. Also the UEFA Champions League’s all-time top scorer, Ronaldo earned $61 million dollars in salary and bonuses last year, plus an extra $47 million via endorsements, according to Forbes, making him the third-highest paid athlete in the world behind FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi and American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

His value to marketers is compounded by his huge presence on social media. He has 74.5 million followers on Twitter, compared with 6 million for Juventus and less than 1 million for Jeep. On Instagram, he has 134 million followers, compared with about 10 million for Juventus.

(BBG) Ronaldo Bid Reports Send Juventus Shares to Four-Month High

(BBG) Shares of Juventus Football Club SpA surged following reports the Italian soccer club is poised to sign five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Current club Real Madrid would consider a fee of about 100 million euros ($117 million) for its record goal-scorer, a fraction of his 1 billion-euro release clause, Spanish sports website Marca reported. The 33-year-old agreed to accept a 30 million-euro salary from Juventus, Spanish newspaper As reported, saying the clubs still need to reach a transfer agreement.

Juventus shares rose as much as 9.7 percent in Milan, the biggest intraday rally since a crucial Champions League winin March for the team that would later crash out in a quarter-final defeat at the hands of its Spanish rival, sealed by a penalty goal from Ronaldo. The stock has climbed 23 percent in the last five days as speculation of a possible transfer gathered pace.

While a fee of the reported amount may seem high for a player in the twilight of his career, it would be a coup for the Turin-based side known as “la Vecchia Signora,” or The Old Lady, given Ronaldo’s global brand appeal as well as his on-field talent.

Ronaldo is a “marketer’s dream” who would entice fresh revenue to Juventus through sponsorships, full stadiums and potential broadcasting rights, Robert Wilson, a lecturer in sports business management at Sheffield Hallam University in the north of England, said by email.

The fee would top the 80 million pounds ($105.8 million) Real Madrid paid Manchester United for the Portuguese star in 2009.

Also the UEFA Champions League’s all-time top scorer, Ronaldo earned $61 million dollars in salary and bonuses last year, plus an extra $47 million via endorsements, according to Forbes, making him the third-highest paid athlete in the world behind FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi and American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

His most recent exploits came at the World Cup in Russia, where he scored a breathtaking hat-trick against Spain in the group stage before Portugal was eliminated by Uruguay in the first knock-out round.

A spokesman for Juventus declined to comment and Real Madrid didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

(S-E) Fiat factory workers are angry at Juventus signing Cristiano Ronaldo

(S-EThey are angry that the company, which owns shares in Juventus, have the money to sign Cristiano but not to increase their worker’s wages

After Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo were knocked out of the World Cup by Uruguay, the striker has been the main focus in the media after being linked with a Real Madrid exit. In the last few days the idea he could end up at Juventus is gathering pace and they’ve moved ahead of other teams such as Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, there’s a problem emerging for the Italian side. The car manufacturing giant FIAT owns 29.18% of the Agnelli family’s businesses via Exor N.V., who own the majority of the shares – 63.77% – in Juventus. In fact, Juventus’ current president, Andrea Agnelli, was one of the founding members in the mentioned company, which also includes Ferrari and The Economist Group.

Juventus are willing to pay €100m in transfer fees plus another €120m in wages across his four seasons at the club. This investment of €220m is in order to finally win the Champions League again. However this huge quantity of money has generated a problem for the workers at the FIAT car manufacturing plant. “After Higuain, now Cristiano Ronaldo is coming? It’s embarrassing. The workers at FIAT haven’t had a wage increase in ten years. With Cristiano’s wages, you could give every worker a €200 pay rise. In these ten years we’ve lost 10.7% due to inflation that we’ve never gotten back. And now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, FCA, is spending €126m annualy in sponsorship, of which €26.5 is for Juventus,” criticised Gerardo Giannone of the DER agency.

(Economist) Why so many World Cup sponsors are from China

(Economist) Many Western companies have withdrawn their support

CHINA’S footballers have only qualified once for the finals of the men’s World Cup and that appearance—in South Korea and Japan in 2002—was forgettable. The Chinese team failed to score a goal and conceded nine, crashing out of the tournament at the group stage. But even though China is sitting out the current tournament in Russia, it is still having a considerable impact. Seven of the 19 corporate sponsors are Chinese. Why so many?

The World Cup is the marquee tournament for FIFA, the Zurich-based multi-billion-dollar enterprise that governs world football. It is hard to overstate how closely FIFA’s business model is tied to the quadrennial event, which is its primary source of revenue. FIFA booked $5.4bn in revenue for the four-year business cycle ending with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, thanks largely to the television rights and corporate sponsorships that are the cornerstones of its balance sheet. The former brought in $2.4bn in revenue and the latter $1.6bn during that cycle, helping to offset the $2bn operational costs related to the staging of the tournament. The World Cup is one of the world’s most-watched television events, so big companies have traditionally relished the platform it offers their brands, and competed fiercely for the sponsorship slots on offer.

That has changed. In 2015 American prosecutors indicted some 40 individuals and entities associated with FIFA on a broad range of corruption charges, including racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy. The charges stoked long-bubbling concerns among the organisation’s corporate partners about whether their associations with FIFA exposed them to reputational and financial jeopardy. Companies such as Emirates, Continental, Johnson & Johnson and Sony refused to renew their sponsorship contracts when they expired. Few lined up to take their places. Of the 34 sponsorship slots on offer for the tournament in Russia, only 19 have been filled, a stark change from 2014 when sponsorship packages were sold out long before kick-off. (It should be acknowledged, though, that the corporate world might have reacted differently if the 2018 World Cup had been scheduled for, say, Portugal and Spain, rather than a Russia increasingly mistrusted by the West.) FIFA’s only new deals since the scandal broke have been with companies from Russia, Qatar (which hosts the tournament in 2022) and China, whose businesses seem to be less concerned about being associated with FIFA. Among those Chinese companies are Vivo, a mobile-phone company; Hisense, an electronics manufacturer; Yadea, an electric-scooter company; Mengniu, China’s second-largest dairy company; and Dalian Wanda, a conglomerate with interests in property and cinemas.

Around one in five Chinese people watched the 2014 tournament on television, but football’s popularity in the Middle Kingdom has not previously translated into large numbers of Chinese sponsors of the World Cup. Only one Chinese company sponsored the 2014 tournament, so the change with this year is notable. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, an avid football fan, has made no secret of his wish for his country to qualify for another World Cup, host the tournament and eventually even win it. According to Nielsen, a research firm, the presence of Chinese sponsors at this tournament “can be seen as the country’s corporations rowing behind the national effort to develop the game and attract the World Cup”. They are speaking to FIFA in a language it understands: money.

(GUA) US, Canada and Mexico beat Morocco in vote to host 2026 World Cup


Delegates of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrate after winning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
 Delegates of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrate after winning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico after they beat Morocco by a margin of 69 votes to host the tournament which will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.

The Moroccan bid used its final address to Fifa congress to point out the country has a ban on weapons and would not hike up ticket prices to increase profit, a thinly veiled swipe at its rivals. But it was not enough to sway the room as it lost the vote, with the United 2026 bid receiving 134 votes to its 65.

Donald J. Trump


The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations – a great deal of hard work!

The United States-led bid was judged by a Fifa taskforce to be vastly superior to its north African rivals on technical grounds, with a total of 23 stadiums, already built or under construction, at its disposal. Morocco, while enticing some federations with its commitment to fan engagement in a footballing nation, would have had to build or renovate all of the 14 stadiums in its bid book.

That difference – alongside the promise of £4bn in extra profit for the federations – was enough to convince some undecided voters to side with the United 2026 campaign, which opened its final 15-minute pitch by handing the stage to Alphonso Davies, a 17-year-old Canadian born in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. “In Canada, they’ve welcomed me and I know they’ll welcome you,” he said.

Of 211 federations, 203 submitted a vote. That number accounted for the four bidding nations who were ineligible, plus three American-governed territories who abstained because of a perceived conflict of interest plus Ghana, who did not attend congress after corruption allegations. The way the federations voted was made public for the first time, perhaps the most surprising revelation being Russia voting for the United 2026 bid despite political tensions between the nations.

The Fifa heirarchy, including the president, Gianni Infantino, preferred the North American bid which has promised to generate around an $11bn (£8.24bn) profit for Fifa compared to the projected $5.7bn (£4.48bn) a Morocco World Cup would raise. The Moroccans had been keen to emphasise its more fan-friendly pricing in contrast with the United 2026 bid which stated an average ticket price of $431 (£322), a significant increase on the Brazil and Russia World Cups.

It was the first World Cup vote since 2010, when the FA suffered humiliation after Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament. Allegations of corruption immediately followed that vote with Qatar securing the 2022 event. The prospect of a more controversy-free World Cup also swayed Fifa in favour of the United 2026 bid.

Infantino took the opportunity to claim the Fifa landscape has drastically changed since he succeeded Sepp Blatter. “It was clinically dead when I took over two years ago,” he said. “Now it is alive. There are no longer additional costs in the balance sheet.”

Proceedings at congress, held at Moscow’s Expocentre on the outskirts of the city centre, came to an unexpected halt halfway through as Infantino announced the arrival of Vladimir Putin. Most of the hall rose to their feet to greet the arrival of the Russian president but the FA delegation, led by the chief executive, Martin Glenn, remained seated. Putin offered little alternative to David Gill, the English Fifa council member, but to shake his hand as he made his way along the line of those on the stage.

Eight years ago when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup in Zurich, Putin spoke mainly in English as he thanked the audience “from the bottom of my heart”. He struck a different, more serious tone this time round although he was full of praise for Infantino, calling him a “good front man and true fighter”. Infantino responded in kind, thanking Putin “on behalf of the entire world of football … from the bottom of our heart a big thank you for your engagement, for your passion, for really making us feel part of the same team”.

Putin closed his speech by saying in English: “Welcome to Russia.”

+++ P.O. (BBG) FIFA’s New Competition Will Destroy World Soccer: Alex Webb


…In my opinion, and i agree with the Author, there is already too much discrimination between the rich and the poor Soccer Clubs.

…With this new proposed competition it will be the end of World Soccer as we know it.

…Between corruption and these idiotic measures one doesn’t know what is Fifa’s rationale anymore…

…Unless it is to perpetuate the “cosy club” in power there.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(BBG) Another big pot for champions will worsen the divide between rich and poor clubs.

FIFA seems to be on the cusp of creating an oligopoly which could destroy club soccer around the world.

Two years after assuming the chairmanship of the sport’s global governing body, Gianni Infantino is seeking to create a new competition which will see the world’s top clubs compete for a $1.9 billion prize pot.

It risks exacerbating the wealth gap between the world’s biggest and smallest clubs to such an extent that the trend of recent years, where just a handful of clubs have any realistic chance of winning a title, is sure to get even more acute.

It’s unclear how entirely the league will be structured, but the Financial Times has reported that it will consist of 24 club teams competing in a tournament once every four years, which will be held in one region or country. It is likely that the top-performing teams from the continental tournaments (the respective Champions Leagues in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa) will then get a chance to compete for the global trophy.

The plan doesn’t have a straight shot to fruition. The Spanish are dead set against it, and controversy has prompted FIFA to delay the approval vote.

But were it to be realized, it would give the richest clubs a chance to become yet richer, giving them more financial clout to secure the world’s best players and qualify for the top prizes, and so on. England’s Premier League is instructive. English clubs competing in the Champions League, Europe’s top club competition, generated sales averaging 398 million pounds in the 2015-2016 season, according to consultancy Deloitte. The average Premier League club that didn’t participate in a European competition posted revenue of just 110 million pounds.

The ramification of that financial dominance is reflected in who has won England’s Premier League title. There are 20 clubs in the league at any one time, but just six teams have won it since its inception in 1992. With the exception of a single win each by Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City, the only winners have been Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Under Infantino’s new plan, the 24 teams from around the world that would compete would all receive some extra revenue, while the teams that get stuck in domestic leagues would receive no money. The 24 would also benefit from greater global exposure, letting them secure additional sponsorship and retail income.

It could be yet worse for non-European leagues. Competitions outside the region, including the continental ones, are significantly less lucrative. The handful of teams who qualify for Infantino’s championship would therefore benefit significantly from the vastly expanded income, which should translate into substantial dominance at home.

The logic from the FIFA side is clear. The organization secures a major payday once every four years from the World Cup, and so the timing of this new tournament could even out those peaks and troughs.

But at what cost? Not only could it create a further imbalance in the club game, the current plan will also see private companies take a 49 percent stake in the new venture, according to the FT. FIFA is, ostensibly at least, a nonprofit which aims to reinvest all surplus revenue back into the game. That’s all well and good if you agree with the premise of the tournament, but given its effect, the added factor of handing over so much power to private investors whose primary motive is profit rather than the good of the game is troubling.

When considered holistically, global soccer is a huge business. But individually, even the biggest clubs are really little more than SMEs: Manchester United’s 2017 revenue was 581 million pounds. FIFA has to ask itself: Is its primary motive to make a handful of clubs richer, or supporting the sport itself? This proposal achieves the former at the expense of the latter.

(ECO) O Sporting é o novo BES? – Editorial

(ECO) O Sporting já bateu no fundo? Não, ainda não, mas corre o risco de se transformar no novo BES. Mas, neste caso, não haverá um ‘Bom Sporting’ ou um ‘Mau Sporting’. Simplesmente, não haverá Sporting.

Uma crise sem precedentes, um nível de violência que chocou o país, suspeitas de jogos comprados, indícios de corrupção. O Sporting bateu no fundo? Não, ainda não. Quando se vê um histórico do clube como José Maria Ricciardi, sem meias-palavras, a pedir a demissão imediata do presidente do clube, Bruno de Carvalho, a alertar para os riscos que o clube está a atravessar do ponto de vista económico e financeiro, rapidamente vem à memória o que aconteceu no BES, os seus avisos, à data isolados dentro da família, e depois a queda de um grupo que parecia indestrutível. O Sporting é o novo BES? Já estivemos mais longe.

O que se passa no Sporting nos últimos meses de forma pública e notória – e podemos imaginar hoje o que já se passava nos gabinetes – permite dizer sem arriscar muito que o que está em causa é mesmo a sobrevivência de um clube histórico. Para lá das dimensões judiciais na sequência do inacreditável ato de violência de que foram alvo os jogadores e o treinador do clube, há uma dimensão empresarial que é absolutamente crítica para o Sporting ultrapassar esta crise. E tendo em conta que Bruno de Carvalho continua agarrado ao poder – tal como estava Ricardo Salgado no BES -, parece que quer ser responsável por uma última decisão: a falência do Sporting. Recorde-se, o Sporting quer adiar um reembolso do empréstimo obrigacionista de 2015, no valor de 30 milhões de euros, previsto para de 25 de maio, para novembro, e tem uma assembleia geral de obrigacionistas no próximo dia 20… Se não for aprovado, o risco de ‘default’ é enorme. Talvez se perceba melhor, agora, porque é que o BCP e o Novo Banco decidiram ‘perdoar’ 94,5 milhões de euros de dívida. Para tentar receber algum a prazo, coisa que, agora, parece mais distante.

Agora, em vez de apresentar já a demissão ou, no mínimo, acelerar a convocatória de eleições, quer reunir a assembleia geral para discutir o estado do clube. Mesmo? Há dúvidas? Há dois riscos evidentes para uma ‘besização’ do Sporting, um primeiro imediato e outro a prazo, e cada dia que passa aproxima o clube do abismo:

  1. Em primeiro lugar, a falência económica e financeira, na sequência de um possível (mais do que provável) pedido de rescisão dos contratos dos melhores jogadores por justa causa. Seria um rombo ingerível, e neste quadro, é no mínimo questionável perceber quem é que estará disponível para investir em obrigações da SAD do clube, desta vez são 15 milhões de euros, que vão ser emitidas nas próximas semanas. A NOS, o principal patrocinador, mantém para já os contratos, mas Miguel Almeida já deixou avisos.
  2. Em segundo lugar, os casos judiciais conhecidos nos últimos dias sobre as suspeitas de compra de resultados nas modalidades ditas amadoras e também no futebol podem ter consequências desportivas gravíssimas, eventualmente até à descida de divisão.

O Sporting parece, por estes dias, bloqueado numa crise institucional, porque está refém de um presidente, mas poderá ultrapassar esta fase se Bruno de Carvalho sair já, antes que o clube caia na crise financeira. Esta é a linha vermelha para evitar uma catástrofe. É ‘só’ isto que está em causa. Mais do que procurar novos candidatos à presidência do clube, o Sporting e os seus órgãos sociais têm de demitir Bruno de Carvalho com caráter de urgência, sob pena de virem a lamentar o que não fizeram. Porque aqui não haverá um ‘Mau Sporting’ e um ‘Bom Sporting’. Nem vão aparecer fundos americanos ou asiáticos para tomarem conta do clube. Simplesmente, não haverá Sporting.

(OBS) O Futebol já não é deste mundo – Rui Ramos

(OBS) O futebol tornou-se um mundo aparte, onde as leis e as regras não se aplicam. É por isso que, por vezes, parece que Alvalade fica na Venezuela e Alcochete na Síria.

Deve ter sido por volta de 1949, numa palestra radiofónica, que o capitão Jorge Botelho Moniz avançou esta tese (cito de memória): se em 1910 já houvesse um campeonato de futebol, como havia nos anos 40, nunca teria acontecido a revolução republicana em Lisboa. O seu raciocínio era este: em 1910, o republicanismo na capital arrastava para comícios, discussões e zaragatas o tipo de pessoas – caixeiros do comércio, trabalhadores das oficinas e serviços urbanos, empregados de escritório, etc. – que, trinta anos depois, iam aos estádios e discutiam e brigavam, não por causa da monarquia e da república, mas por causa do Benfica e do Sporting.

Esta teoria seria perfilhada muito seriamente pela oposição anti-salazarista, que sempre viu no futebol, ao lado do fado e de Fátima (os três F), um dos instrumentos da ditadura para distrair as massas dos seus deveres revolucionários. A multidão lisboeta que a 1 de Maio de 1974 saiu à rua a vitoriar o MFA, ainda umas semanas antes, a 31 de Março, festejara entusiasticamente Marcello Caetano no estádio de Alvalade, durante um Sporting-Benfica. Tinha sido preciso um golpe militar para quebrar o encanto.

Esta semana, não sei o que diria o capitão Botelho Moniz. A sua teoria está confirmada, no sentido em que é à volta dos clubes que as pessoas se permitem hoje em dia experimentar emoções fortes, como o tribalismo e o facciosismo outrora associado à política, à religião ou à aldeia no tempo das lutas de varapau. Mas precisamente por disso, aconteceu algo não previsto na teoria: o futebol tornou-se também uma das vias pela qual, contra a educação e a propaganda dos regimes em que vivemos, esses instintos fatais arranjaram modo de persistir e de regressar. De modo que é agora por causa do futebol que estamos à beira, não digo de uma revolução, mas de alguma comoção de Estado.

Ainda não tivemos uma guerra com pretexto num jogo de futebol, como as Honduras e El Salvador em Julho de 1969, mas já temos “terrorismo”, como se viu no assalto militarizado às instalações do Sporting em Alcochete. É nas claques do futebol que aqueles que gostariam de ser guerreiros de uma tribo do Amazonas hoje encontram a sua floresta. É também no futebol, que políticos de segunda linha, empresários suburbanos, ou advogados anónimos têm a sua oportunidade de fazerem de Césares com os seus circos.

A mania de ver no futebol uma espécie de nova religião não ajuda, porque manifestamente inibe as autoridades. Todos receiam mexer no novo ópio do povo. Assume-se, por isso, que nada pode acontecer a um clube de futebol, aos seus dirigentes e adeptos. É essa impunidade que explica como, de repente, temos demagogos a presidir a clubes, mafias a organizar jogos, e adeptos que são terroristas. Há obviamente, em qualquer sociedade, por mais bem formada, gente cuja vocação é ser demagogo, mafioso, ou terrorista. Se não fosse no futebol, seria em outra coisa qualquer. A questão está na possibilidade que o futebol lhes dá para serem tudo isso impunemente. Por isso, parece por vezes que Alvalade fica na Venezuela e Alcochete na Síria.

O futebol tornou-se um mundo aparte, onde as leis e as regras não se aplicam. Há quem, por essa razão, queira agora mudar Portugal, o mundo e a natureza humana. Não digo que não desse jeito. Mas antes disso, experimentem este remédio mais simples: sujeitem o futebol à lei, com todo o rigor. A primeira vez que um clube fosse dissolvido por dívidas, despromovido por batota, ou banido por causa da violência dos seus adeptos, fosse esse clube grande ou pequeno, voltaríamos talvez a ter apenas um desporto.

(OBS) Agora o futebol quer chamar a polícia? – Miguel Pinheiro

(OBS) É o novo mantra da intelligentsia futebolística: “À Justiça o que é da Justiça, ao desporto o que é do desporto”. É só mais uma forma de cobardia: ninguém tem coragem de enfrentar clubes e adeptos.

Não se deixem enganar: o que aconteceu esta terça-feira em Alcochete não é só um caso de polícia. Foi comovente ver como toda a gente, de políticos a dirigentes desportivos, falou sobre as agressões aos jogadores do Sporting com as mãos a segurar o Código Penal. Parecem tão sérios, não parecem? Mas essa é apenas uma forma cobarde de evitar tomar decisões difíceis; e é uma forma de entregar um tema incómodo às secretarias dos tribunais, onde ficarão durante anos antes que alguém entre na cadeia.

Eis o novo mantra da nossa intelligentsia futebolística: “À Justiça o que é da Justiça, ao desporto o que é do desporto”. Onde é que já ouvimos isto? Claro que a Justiça tem que fazer o que costuma fazer. Mas o desporto, e quem manda no desporto — sendo que quem manda no desporto adora aparecer nas televisões a dizer que manda no desporto –, fica apenas a assistir, de camarote, à longa liturgia de detenções, acusações, julgamentos e recursos de um ou dois (ou vinte) adeptos violentos, como se não precisasse de fazer mais nada?

Depois da invasão do centro de treinos de Alcochete por um bando de encapuzados, formou-se uma interminável fila de nulidades retóricas. O secretário de Estado do Desporto apareceu nas televisões, muito cheio de si e empertigado, a declarar que os agressores “não são adeptos do desporto”, mas “criminosos”. A Liga de futebol profissional repetiu a mesma coisa, quase palavra por palavra, num comunicado onde escrevia que “os executores destes comportamentos não são adeptos de futebol, mas sim criminosos”. A Federação Portuguesa de Futebol, toda ela impotência, limitou-se a pedir que “as autoridades públicas não olhem a recursos para levar perante a justiça os responsáveis por atos criminosos que não podem deixar de ser punidos”. Pedro Proença, presidente da Liga, afirmou, contristado, que “o futebol não é isto”. E o inamovível Bruno de Carvalho disse à Sporting TV, com a tranquilidade de quem fuma um charuto, que “isto é um caso de polícia, não é desportivo”.

“Não são adeptos do desporto”? Claro que são. “Não é um caso desportivo”? Claro que é. “O futebol não é isto”? Claro que é. O ponto, aliás, está precisamente aí: o que está em causa neste momento é aquilo em que se transformou o futebol português — numa república independente onde não há lei nem punição, onde só há deslumbramento e subserviência.

Basta olhar para a nossa classe política: o primeiro-ministro e os ministros aparecem, inchados, nas bancadas presidenciais dos estádios; os deputados, submissos, recebem os presidentes dos clubes no parlamento; os presidentes de câmara, solícitos, entregam as sedes dos municípios às equipas que vencem campeonatos; os políticos no activo, excitados, participam em debates na televisão que competem com circos.

E basta olhar para as autoridades: os adeptos em viagem na autoestrada destroem estações de serviço sem que haja detenções; a Segunda Circular é transformada num enorme parque de estacionamento em dias de jogo sem que haja multas; as claques lançam petardos sem que haja sanção.

Durante anos e décadas, os evidentes crimes que existem no mundo do futebol foram escondidos e protegidos por políticos engravatados, por responsáveis engravatados e por comentadores engravatados. Hoje, quando tudo se tornou insustentável, estão a tremer de medo, como sempre. Incapazes de enfrentar clubes e adeptos, fazem de conta que não é nada com eles e dizem, virginais, que o melhor é chamar a polícia. Agora é que querem chamar a polícia?

+++ (Metro) Liverpool ‘begin talks’ over £87 million deal for Portuguese superstar Bruno Fernandes – Reds transfer news

(Metro) PLUS… Trent Alexander-Arnold set for new contract AND a place in England’s World Cup squad.

Bruno Fernandes of Sporting CP competes for the ball against Atletico Madrid (Image: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno)

Liverpool will look to unleash a brand new midfield on the Premier League by pairing Naby Keita with £87 million Sporting Lisbon man Bruno Fernandes.

Fernandes, 23, has been in red hot form for the Europa League quarter-finalists netting 13 goals with 18 assists this season report The Metro,

They cite sources in Portugal who believe Jurgen Klopp has been mightily impressed with the international midfielder – who has been capped four times by Fernando Santos’ side.

And they say the Reds have already begun talks to bring him over to Anfield this summer to partner Keita.

The energetic player only signed from Sampdoria in the summer.

Trent Alexander-Arnold set for new contract AND a place in England’s World Cup squad

Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner show their appreciation to the fans (Image: Andrew Powell)

Liverpool are set to reward Trent Alexander-Arnold with a quick-fire contract upgrade after his breakthrough season at Anfield.

It’s believed talks will place in the summer to fast-track the defender onto a better deal after making huge strides this season.

And there’s more good news for the Reds starlet, with Gareth Southgate now certain to include him in his squad for the World Cup in Russia this summer.

The 19-year-old full-back committed his future to Liverpool last summer signing a long-term deal.

Fans vote unanimously for one club who has best home AND away support

Liverpool fans hold up banners and scarfs prior to Champions League match against Manchester City(Image: Getty Images Europe)

A poll of over 4000 fans of top-flight teams have voted Liverpool as the best home and away supporters in the Premier League.

The research conducted by Sky Sports said the majority of fans asked claimed that the Reds are the loudest both at Anfield and on the road.

 According to the results, Jurgen Klopp’s men topped the table followed by Newcastle and Crystal Palace as the noisiest home fans.

In fourth place were Liverpool’s rivals Man United, whose 75,000 seater Old Trafford produces a hefty racket with Stoke City propping up the top five.

(BBC) Cristiano Ronaldo bicycle kick: Night Juventus Stadium rose to applaud Real Madrid forward


Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo flew through the air to score a sensational bicycle kick against Juventus

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane’s reaction said it all.

Hand to his head, a look of disbelief on his face at what he had just seen, he turned and bellowed his approval. As a player, the Frenchman scored plenty of stunning goals himself in Turin – but what he had just witnessed from Cristiano Ronaldo was special.

Ronaldo’s second goal for the Spanish giants in their 3-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg victory at Juventus was one of the great strikes – the 33-year-old Portuguese rising almost unnaturally high before acrobatically firing the ball into the corner of the net with an incredible bicycle kick.

Seconds after the ball hit the net, the Juve fans followed Zidane’s lead, rising to applaud the man who has, in all likelihood, ended their interest in the Champions League for this season.

BBC Radio 5 live’s Pat Nevin, who was at the game, was equally stunned. “When the ball comes across to him you think: ‘Oh, you’re not going to try an overhead kick.’ And then, bang! Oh wow! Just see it, watch it,” said the former Scotland winger.

“It is unnatural. People are talking about how Ronaldo is getting a bit older now – but there is nothing wrong with that body if he can do that sort of thing. The timing of it is extraordinary, the imagination to do it is extraordinary.

“A lot of the Juventus fans stayed behind to applaud Ronaldo. To turn around this coliseum to his side – wow. Call it genius if you like.

“It is one of the great goals you will see in football.”

Ronaldo’s goalscoring stats…

Cristiano Ronaldo scores a bicycle kick for Real Madrid against Juventus
Another view…
  • Ronaldo has scored 19 goals in his past nine games for Real – 25 in his past 13 for club and country.
  • He has scored 39 goals in 36 games for Real this season – more goals than anyone else who plays in one of Europe’s top five leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain).
  • The Portuguese has scored in his past 10 Champions League games – all nine this season and last year’s final – netting 16 times in that run.
  • Ronaldo is the Champions League’s all-time top scorer with 119 – 19 clear of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
  • He has scored nine of his past 11 shots on target against legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
  • Ronaldo has scored the first Real Madrid goal of a Champions League game in 10 of the past 14 games.
  • He has scored 22 goals in Champions League quarter-finals, one more than Juventus. Only five teams, including Real Madrid, have scored more.
  • Ronaldo has either scored (14) or assisted (three) 68% of Real’s 25 Champions League goals this season.
  • He has scored in each of his six games against Juventus – nine goals in total. No player has more against a single opponent in the Champions League.

Ronaldo on Ronaldo – ‘My best ever goal’

“Obviously people are talking about the second goal, it was amazing, probably the best of my career,” Ronaldo said after the game.

“It was spectacular. I jumped very high and it’s a goal that will live long in the memory.

“I’ve been looking to do it for a while, but it depends on the circumstances of the game. It just came to me to give it a go, you always have to try it. I tried it today and it came off”.

Speaking about receiving a standing ovation, he added: “It was one of the most poignant moments of the night. To receive applause from a stadium like this, which has been graced by great players, is a unique experience.

“When I was a kid, I liked Juventus and the fact that their fans have clapped me will stay with me.”

‘One of the great goals’

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo looked like he could not quite believe what happened

“It is one of those ones where you just say: ‘Oh, you’re just egging it up a bit, you’re exaggerating for pure commentary purposes,'” said Nevin.

“No, absolutely no. That is one of the great goals you will see… I was going to say Champions League football, but, basically, football.

“Talking about how high his foot is, when he goes for the kick there Mattia de Sciglio is jumping up to head the ball and Ronaldo’s foot is above his head. It has to be seven and a half feet.

“I would love to be able to tell you how to score a goal like that, but I never have. But if you don’t practise that and you try it in a game you can break your back. You need technique to get up and hit it – but you need to be able to land properly as well. He has all this in his mind and computes it in a millisecond. It is special.

“He knows how to time his form, usually when Real are looking to win something, like the Champions League. He also wants to win that Ballon d’Or. Normal humans don’t think along those lines on a football pitch, they think about how to win a game. But he is so far ahead.”

BBC World Service’s John Bennett said: “I don’t think he has scored a better goal than that.

“I remember the Porto one [for Manchester United in 2009]. It is how you judge great goals. The technique for that overhead kick makes it the greatest goal Ronaldo has ever scored.”

‘A Playstation goal’ – what they said

Gianluigi Buffon and Cristiano Ronaldo
Gianluigi Buffon was beaten twice by another legend of the modern game at Juventus Stadium

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon: “Ronaldo is an extraordinary champion. Together with Lionel Messi, he is the only one that punctuates his team’s most important victories, and is to be compared to [Diego] Maradona and Pele.”

Juve defender Andrea Barzagli: “Cristiano made up the second goal. It’s a Playstation goal. When you come up against one of the best in the world like Ronaldo, you need to be perfect. If you give him any space, he’ll punish you. He scored a goal that will go down in history – and unfortunately it was against us.”

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri: “I don’t know if Cristiano’s goal is the best in the history of football, but it’s certainly an extraordinary goal. You can only congratulate him for what he’s doing at present.”

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane: “Cristiano Ronaldo is different. He’s a different player to everyone else and he always has this desire to do something extraordinary in the Champions League. He never rests on his laurels.

“His overhead kick was remarkable, yet he missed two much easier chances. That’s football.”

‘What planet did you come from?’ – How Europe reacted

European papers reacted to the goal on Wednesday. The goal” – Marca, “Artwork” – Corriere dello Sport, “CR Wow”- La Gazzetta dello Sport, “What planet did you come from? – AS, “Is the greatest!” – Abola, “On another planet” – L’Equipe

‘Ronaldo can now leave Earth’ – social media reaction

Stoke striker Peter Crouch, who scored a famous bicycle kick of his own for Liverpool against Galatasaray, tweeted: “There is only a few of us who can do that.”

BBC Match of the Day presenter and former England captain Gary Lineker, tweeted: “Seen a lot of great goals in my time but that is absolutely breathtaking from Ronaldo.”

Former England striker, Michael Owen tweeted: “OMG. Please, if you do one thing tonight make sure you see Ronaldo’s second goal. His first was awesome. I’ve no words to describe his second.”

Former Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa tweeted: “Ronaldo can now leave Earth and play with Martians. He has done everything here.”

Ex-England and Manchster defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted: “The opposing fans in the stadium applauding the great Cristiano after the bicycle kick and rightly so. Keeps on upping the ante – relentless.”

NBA start LeBron James on Instagram: “Are You Not Entertained!?!?! That’s just not even fair. Nasty!!”

LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahmovic, who scored a 30-yard overhead kick against England in 2012, said: “It was a nice goal, but he should try it from 40 metres.”

What you said on #bbcfootball…

Ed: I’ve always said Ronaldo’s the best ever. He can score any type of goal and he’d arguably be the top scorer in every major league.

Josh: Is there anything Cristiano Ronaldo can’t do? Not content with just being a goal machine he’s gone and scored arguably the greatest goal in the history of the Champions League too… Wow, I have actually ran out of superlatives to describe this man!!!

Simon: Yeah, Ronaldo is good, but has he ever scored on a rainy night in Sto- oh, he actually has…

Fabian: Dear ladies and gentlemen, if you ever had doubts that Ronaldo wasn’t the best player ever; please think again! WHAT A PLAYER!

‘My goal was better…’

Zinedine Zidane's stunning goal was at Glasgow's Hampden Park
Zinedine Zidane’s stunning goal was at Glasgow’s Hampden Park

His manager may have been impressed by Ronaldo’s goal, but we will leave the final say to Zidane, who also scored one of the great Champions League goals – a magnificent volley in the 2002 final for Real against Bayer Leverkusen.

Which goal was better he was asked…

“Oh mine! Definitely mine.”

(GUA) Inside the Sporting Lisbon academy, where Ballon d’Or winners are made

(GUA) Sporting have developed Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo and eight of the 11 players who started for Portugal in the Euro 2016 final

Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo and Nuno Valente all passed through the Sporting academy.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo and Nuno Valente all passed through the Sporting academy. Photograph: Torsten Silz/AFP/Getty Images

“Effort, Dedication, Devotion, Glory.” Those are the first and last words the young hopefuls see as they enter and leave the Sporting Clube de Portugal academy. I had visited Benfica’s €15m complex the night before and was immediately struck by the contrasting values at this rural complex in Alcochete. Perhaps it was the €0.40 coffee served to me in the clubhouse by a bronzed pensioner who was wearing a permanent scowl. Without extravagances, this is a place for football.

As coaches gathered around a portable TV to watch Primeira Liga highlights and plan what the evening would have in store, I couldn’t help but daydream about the players who had walked these corridors and slept in the rooms next door, back when they owned nothing more than a pocketful of ambition. Sporting have produced Portugal’s two most capped players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luís Figo, both of whom have won the Ballon d’Or, the Champions League and a shedload of leagues and cups. There are signed pictures and murals of the pair plastered all around the facilities.

“Listen to me,” says Miguel Miranda, the goalkeeping coordinator at the academy. “Messi is a freak, a one-off and clearly the best ever, but what Cristiano has done to be anywhere near his levels speak volumes about the man. He came here from an island with nothing: a skinny boy with many bad habits who liked to run at defenders. Now he is a complete player: a beast. We use him as an example in every room here: from the gymnasium, to the psychology classrooms and the dressing rooms. He sacrificed himself to get everything he has now.”

While wandering around the six training pitches and talking to Miranda, I notice a theme: the ball is continuously zipped out to wingers who are encouraged to drive at isolated full-backs. “Cristiano, Figo, Nani, Quaresma – we’ve always specialised in wingers here,” he says. “Coaches limit touches for central players, who are encouraged to spread the ball wide into wingers, who have unlimited touches to create chances from wide.” Miranda says the country’s top wingers make their way to Alcochete as the academy has a history of producing “free-range players, not battery-caged ones”.

“Ten of our boys were in Portugal’s 23-man squad that won Euro 2016. Of the eight from here who started in the final, five are attackers. The other two came on as wingers! We like the boys to be free to express themselves on the pitch. We love creative kids.”

Sporting became the first Portuguese club to open an academy in 2002. Like both Benfica and Porto, a 4-3-3 template runs through the veins of the youth system. Yet, all of their coaches take “field trips” to different football cultures, such as Barcelona’s La Masia, Ajax’s De Toekomst and various hotbeds of youth talent in South America, to see how things are done elsewhere and absorb knowledge from other philosophies.

Three Sporting academy graduates – Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and João Mário – in action for Portugal at Euro 2016.
Three Sporting academy graduates – Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and João Mário – in action for Portugal at Euro 2016. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

After witnessing an Under-16 player fail to control three 20-yard passes in a row just minutes after he had beaten three opponents and finished from 25 yards, I joke with Miranda that I cannot work out if he is the best or worst player I have ever seen. “He’s gone,” says Miranda with a cutting frown. “Look at his skin. Look at his legs. He’s finished. I’m serious. We do physical examinations on the boys every three months. This boy isn’t at the levels he needs to be and he’s finished maturing. We check players’ skin for acne, knees and other joints for growth.”

“If a player isn’t performing at the standard we require for their age and their body has stopped developing, then we will release them. We prefer skinny, awkward teens to the finished product at 15. Again, here, Cristiano is the perfect example. We don’t want them to be professional at 14. We want them to be professional at 20.”

Aurélio Pereira, the club’s long-serving director of youth recruitment, has overseen the discovery of Figo, Paulo Futre, Simão Sabrosa, João Moutinho, Cedric, Ricardo Quaresma and Nani, among others, but Ronaldo is the real darling for the club. The 70-year-old’s eyes light up when he reminisces about Ronaldo tying weights to his legs and racing past traffic in the streets outside the academy to gain strength and speed.

“As soon as we make contact with a player coming from far away, our objective is to bring them over to the Sporting Academy,” says Pereira. “We are responsible for a massive change in the lives of young players who could become greats one day. We find the strong and weak points of each individual and change their training to reflect that.”

Sporting insist they are interested in developing people, not just players. Eric Dier, who spent eight with the club before signing for Tottenham, has testified to that. “They pride themselves on bringing you up as a polite and respectful person. They would never get angry with you if you missed a pass but they would do if you were disrespectful to someone. There was no shouting. A good player for them was someone who could understand when they made a mistake and correct it for themselves.

“When I first came to England to play I saw coaches having a go at players when they made mistakes. They would literally be talking them through the game. In Portugal the coach would sit on the bench and not say a word. We’d just play. It was a matter of us making mistakes and learning from them by ourselves. You understand the game a lot better that way. For me, the sign of a bad player is someone who makes the same mistake twice.”

Miranda is adamant that making each player happy in his day-to-day life matters to the club. “Correct diets and sleeping patterns are of high importance here and having the correct lifestyle has an enormous effect on performance. When players perform well on the pitch, they find everything else easier, eventually becoming content with life’s challenges. The development of humans is of great importance.”

Ronaldo’s success tells its own story and so too does that of Figo, who has gone on to prosper in multiple avenues. He is fluent in five languages, runs bars and restaurants around Portugal, works for the Stop TB Partnership to serve people affected by tuberculosis, is on the board of a charity run by Internazionale, and even ran to be Fifa president.

As I said “boa noite” to the still scowling waiter at the end of the night and made my way out of the academy, I walked past a shirt signed by Ronaldo and the other youth graduates who helped Portugal win Euro 2016. The Ballon d’Or winners, European champions and professionals spread around the world are all a testament to the “effort, dedication, devotion, glory” motto that was instilled in them here.

(Independent) Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo to build children’s hospital in Chile

(Independent) The 32-year-old also recently raised £600,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation by selling his 2013 Ballon d’Or.

Cristiano Ronaldo is to build a children’s hospital in Chile, according to his lawyers.

The Real Madrid forward is joining Italian businessman Alessandro Proto in the venture in the Chilean capital of Santiago, with work due to be completed in 2020.

The paediatric hospital is reportedly just the first to be built in an initiative which will see many more built across South America.

“Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo will build a paediatric hospital in Santiago Chile, in 2020,” announced an official statement from New York-based law firm Brafman & Associates.

“Cristiano, up to now the only player in the history to have won the ‘The Best FIFA Award’ for the best player in the world, and Alessandro is very happy with this initiative.”

Ronaldo, who was recently named as the winner of the Ballon d’Or for a record fifth time, is the world’s highest-paid footballer according Forbes and the venture is just the latest as part of his humanitarian work.

The 32-year-old is an ambassador for Save the Children, Unicef and World Vision and earlier this year raised £600,000 for Make-A-Wish Foundation when he sold his 2013 Ballon d’Or trophy.