Thursday, February 18, 2010



February 17, 2010
By Tom Adams

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is not one to mince his words, and the man who only recently said "if [the John Terry scandal] had happened in, let's say, Latin countries then I think he would have been applauded" now has critics of South Africa firmly in his sights.

Sepp Blatter is unhappy with criticism of South Africa
Taking exception to the negative publicity that has surrounded South Africa and the country's ability to host the finals, Blatter declared: "Every year, 11 million tourists go to South Africa and nobody says they should not go there. It's a kind of anti-Africa prejudice. I think there is still in the so-called Old World a feeling that 'why the hell should Africa organise a World Cup?'. Colonialists over the past 100 years have gone to Africa and taken out all the best things - and now they are taking all the best footballers. There's no respect."

A good point, perhaps, but it is no surprise to see Blatter take a considered historical perspective on the matter. After all, he once described Cristiano Ronaldo as a slave, in no way trivialising one of the greatest travesties of human history and one that the continent of Africa was deeply afflicted by.

In fairness to the FIFA boss, he has done much to promote Africa's cause in football and his complaints clearly have some merit. But if he is seeking to address issues of respect and African football, why has he not taken action to confront the bewildering decision of CAF to suspend Togo from the next two instalments of the African Nations Cup after a terrorist atrocity resulted in their withdrawal from this year's competition in Angola? Actions speak louder than words.


A fractured ankle sustained by Ashley Cole has thrown the English public into a blind panic over who will fill the left-back slot at the World Cup if the Chelsea man does indeed fail to prove his fitness to Fabio Capello. Wayne Bridge - any lingering issues with John Terry permitting - Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines are among the leading contenders but Birmingham City's Liam Ridgewell also hopes his name is being mulled over by Fabio Capello and Franco Baldini. "I've been playing centre-half and left-back as well and hopefully I've shown - like Joleon Lescott - that I can one day play for England as well," Ridgewell said, while knocking together a voodoo doll of the Manchester City man. "Capello has obviously got to look elsewhere with people getting injured - so hopefully he will come and watch myself and others in action." Liam Ridgewell: the best solution to the left-back dilemma since Michael Ball?


In January, Patrick Vieira was one of a number of players who changed clubs to further their aspirations of playing at the World Cup finals and it appears his move to Manchester City could provide the France midfielder with the springboard he needs to guarantee his place in Raymond Domenech's squad. Having failed to secure regular first-team football under Jose Mourinho at Inter, Vieira has now been promised he will captain his country in South Africa if he can edge out the likes of Nigel de Jong and Vincent Komany and become a permanent fixture in Roberto Mancini's side. "If he gets a run of matches Patrick Vieira is the captain of the France team," Domenech told Orange Sport. "What matters is that he gets a run of matches and if he gets a run of matches. Patrick Vieira is the captain of the France team and that's it. There's not even a debate."

PLAYER IN FOCUS: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Ruud van Nistelrooy: Will he be going to South Africa?
He may have retired from international football after Euro 2008 but the Dutchman is determined to force his way into Bert van Marwijk's plans, hence his move to Hamburg in January. In only his second appearance for the club at the weekend, Van Nistelrooy came off the bench to score twice in two minutes and give Hamburg a 3-1 victory over Stuttgart. Quite whether he deserves a place in the Dutch squad having failed to play a single qualifier is up for debate, but the fact that his predatory skills remain undiminished is not. With Van Marwijk sure to take note of his decisive performance, Van Nistelrooy said: "I do hope that I will be able to help him a bit in South Africa."


Vicente del Bosque does little to help diplomatic relations between Spain and Liverpool by admitting he would be happy to see the injured Fernando Torres miss a large portion of the season at Anfield. "The fewer games Fernando plays for his club, the better it will be for us," Del Bosque said. "We want him not to play too many games, to recover completely for the World Cup and have had some rest in between. We'd like him fresh for the tournament. We hope Liverpool's loss will be our gain." Given Torres has suffered numerous fitness problems on international duty in recent years, that's not exactly the best way to butter up Benitez.