Archive for November, 2010

Buffon wants to stay at Juve

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluca Buffon has played down speculation linking the him to Manchester United, Alex Ferguson admitted this weekend that he expects Edwin van der Sar to retire at the end of the season and the Manchester United manager has been in the market in search of a replacement for the Dutchman.

Buffon who has played his entire career in Italy might be interested in playing in the Premier League, but the Italian has insisted such speculation is nothing more than transfer gossip, with his attention focused solely on Juve’s Serie A title this season.

“I have no intention of leaving Juventus,” the 32-year-old told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I feel good here and I have no contract problems. My wish is to respect my contract and see it through until 2013. Then we will see if there is the option to renew.

“Manchester United? They are a great team I have faced a few times and have a few bitter memories of, nothing else.”

Buffon is currently working back to full fitness and hopes to back in the Juve team by the New Year; the Italian has been struggling with a long-standing back injury which flared up at the 2010 World Cup finals.

Uefa President Michel Platini has suggested that last night’s ill timed Panorama programme on FIFA corruption won’t have any bearing of England’s bid to host to 2018 World Cup finals when FIFA make their final decision on Thursday.

He said: “I don’t think this [programme] will have an effect, no – but I think what may affect the decision is the atmosphere going back a long time and what people have been writing about FIFA in the British press for many years.”

Panorama accused three FIFA executive committee members of taking bribes, and accused the FIFA vice-president Jack Warner of attempting to supply ticket touts during the 2010 World Cup. Panorama also accused African confederation president Issa Hayatou, whose voted England 2018 had high hopes of capturing, Brazil’s Ricardo Terra Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay of taking bribes.

Warner has been accused that he “ordered [2010 World Cup] tickets costing 84,240 US dollars from the FIFA ticket office but the deal subsequently fell through”.

The BBC has since defended a documentary which was aired last night, alleging three FIFA officials took bribes in the 1990s, but the English FA have criticised the BBC in a statement saying; “We stand by our previous position that the BBC’s Panorama did nothing more than rake over a series of historical allegations none of which are relevant to the current bidding process. It should be seen as an embarrassment to the BBC.

“The 2018 team are entirely focused on winning the bid for England.”

Calcio Fiorentino – does that ring any bells in terms sports?  It is almost certainly not one you played at school but it has weathered the centuries well and is still played in its home town of Florence.   It has been played since the sixteenth century.  The game – Calcio for short – must be the original extreme sport.  And boy, oh boy – is it extreme.


It is played by the sort of men who, if you met them in real life are probably real gentlemen.   Yet if you were to come across them on a dark night you would probably be forgiven for hurrying past them or turning tale and running.  These men look mean.   On the Calcio Fiorentino pitch they seem to be participating in a pitched battle, like something out of Highlander, Italian style.

The game is a combination of football and rugby and is very much an archaic predecessor of the two.  Throw in some high powered martial arts and a fearlessness about being hurt that most professional soccer players would be dumbfounded by and you have a bruising, anarchic and exhilarating spectacle of sport.

If you are Italian then you already know where this sport originates but in the English speaking world we know the place as Florence.  The word calcio is the Italian verb to kick – and so the sport could translate as Florence Kick or Florence Kicking.  We like the term FK itself – it is short and sweet and there are two missing syllables in the middle that would otherwise make up a naughty word.  But you do want to exclaim F**K!!! when you see this sport in action.

Funnily enough, kicking is one of the few forms of violence that is not countenanced on the Calcio Fiorentino pictch.   If a boot makes purposeful contact with a head that is considered a definite foul, as is sucker punching.


However, pretty much everything else is fair game.  Head butting – yes, why go ahead, sir!  Punching – as long as it is not of the sucker variety then that too is fine.  Elbowing – of course!  As for choking – go for it.  It seems at first sight that there is very little to avoid the local hospital in Florence being half full every time this game is played.  Yet there are some rules – otherwise this would not count as a sport.

Like most ball sports the object of the exercise is to score more points than the opposition.  This is done by netting the ball in to the goal.  So far, so straightforward.  Yet the goal mouth runs the entire width of the field – a 100m x 50m sand pit.  You can see why there is such a melee with such a wide goal.

The game is played with no breaks, no time out and no substitutions over a period of fifty painful, agonising and emotional minutes.  Eight officials (is a main referee, six linesmen and a field master ) prevent complete anarchy from breaking out, which may seem like quite a number.  When you take in to account that there are twenty seven men on either side in this full throttle, high energy game then that doesn’t seem an inappropriate amount.


As you can imagine the sport, while hugely popular and an immense draw for tourists, is rather too rough and tumble to play all year round without the players suffering too many injuries and concussions.  So, it is restricted to three matches each year in the gorgeous Piazza Santa Croce at the heart of Florence each year.

As many as ten players from each team are simply there for the brawl (which is, after all, part of the game).  In other words they are there not for their skill with a ball but there skill to propel other players skywards, to the earth or in to oblivion.  Their job is to physically stop the other team from getting to their goal.   

The rest are generally football and rugby types whose skill and speed will hopefully help them avoid the clutches of the brawlers. It must be said though, that there is usually plenty of blood spilled in the fifty minute duration of a match and a number of unconscious players.  If you like your sports rough and ready, then this is the one for you.

The three games are played among four teams.  These are the Santa Croce who play in Blue and the Santa Maria Novella who play in red.  They are joined in competition by the Santo Spirito who wear white and the San Giovanni who play in green.

Originally the sport was devised for sons of the nobility but after a hiatus of a few hundred years it was brought back and now anyone can play. Plus there are no hard feelings at the end of the match.

The game originates in the sixteenth century and must have been going some time before the first rule book was published in 1580.  It must itself have been an evolution of the Roman sport of harpastum, which like calcio had a team of 27 on each side.  The impression from contemporary descriptions is of a game fairly similar to rugby.


There is much pomp and ceremony before the game starts, as you can see in the video above, which also includes a lot of action!

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David Beckham hopes he can help in successfully persuading Fifa delegates to vote in favour of England’s 2018 World Cup bid. Fifa’s executive committee will meet this Thursday in Zurich and decide which country has won the right to stage the tournament. England face competition from Russia, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Holland, and the decision is expected to be close

David Beckham will head to Zurich later this week, along with Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron in a final effort to secure the tournament for England. The former Three Lions captain is remains confident about England’s chances of landing the World Cup and is keen to play his part in the process.

Speaking on England’s chances, he said: “Hopefully I will make a difference. There are many people, like Prince William, who have been involved and working hard for the bid and to get it to this final point.

“We are going to Fifa and a lot of delegates because we need to tell those people about why we feel it is the right thing for us to get the World Cup.

“I feel that at the end of the day it is down to what the bid team have done. England have a history and tradition (in football) and it is about the benefits that can be generated by having the World Cup in England.

“Obviously it is something that people have worked hard for and quite a long time for, and now it is up to the next few days.

“We are confident that we have put in the best bid that we can do.”

Beckham expects to take part in promotional events and meet people ahead of the decision, but added: “But it is just the importance of us being there and the team being there.

“It is very important now to just stay positive and just hope for the best because really we have put the best bid in that we can do.

“The point that we have always hammered home is that we have always believed we can put on the best World Cup and that we can work as a team.

“We always believe the best about England and football but we are not over-confident.

“We believe we can host the World Cup best but we just need to let everybody know that we are ready for it. It is important for many generations of people, not just in our country but all over the world.”

Luka Modric believes Spurs can
win the Premier League title

Spurs play-maker Luka Modric has today insisted that Tottenham can win the league title for the first time since 1961, should the team retain there consistent form this season. Spurs have beaten the like of Arsenal and Chelsea and also winning their European encounters with Inter Milan and Werder Bremen this month.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has already insisted that his side can mix up with the best in order to battle it out for top spot and Spurs currently sit fifth in the table, six points behind leaders Manchester United.

“Everything is possible!” Modric told Sportske Novosti.

“We have enough potential to be champions of England. But of course it is on us to take what we can take.

“Morale is sky high, we are in heaven in the dressing room – the atmosphere is unbelievable and we really enjoy the football, which can be seen on pitch.

“We can beat everybody in this league but then again we have one problem – we have to play much better against teams which are not at the top of the table.

“That is our problem. We just can’t lose points against teams from the second part of the table.

“And whoever wants to be champions has to play as good against the top clubs and all the rest too.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s future looks glum

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has laughed off reports that Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola could be in line to replace the Italian at Stamford Bridge; Speculation had been mounting since the weekend that current Blues owner Roman Abramovich wanted the Spaniard to succeed Ancelotti at Stamford Bridge following a low point of Chelsea’s season

Ray Wilkins was axed as Ancelotti’s assistant earlier this month and, on Saturday, the club confirmed Frank Arnesen would be leaving his position as sporting director at the end of the season.

Speaking after Sunday’s 1-1 dismal draw at Newcastle United, Ancelotti refused to drawn in answering questions over his future.

“I have heard of Pep Guardiola, to be frank,” said Ancelotti, whose Premier League champions lost top spot to Manchester United at the weekend.

“But you don’t have to ask me – the coach is always the last to know. Don’t ask me.

“We are not interested. We focus on our training and our matches.”

Ancelotti also laughed off the claims that Chelsea are aiming to appoint Beguiristain as Arnesen’s successor in West London.

The Italian joked: “I don’t know this name. I think there was a player at Barcelona, but I don’t know what job he is doing now.”

Martin Johnson impressed with England’s performance

England boss Martin Johnson is confident his side are making progress despite finishing their autumn campaign with defeat to South Africa. Yet Johnson insists England is no longer a collection of individuals, but a team gelling together and ready to embark on the Six Nations tournament in little more than two months time.

Although losing the final game against the current World Champions, England show displays of grit and determination to overcome Australia and Western Samoa after losing the first game against New Zealand.

“We’re far better for getting through a Test series,” he said.

“It’s a learning experience emotionally, controlling the ups and downs and dealing with the intensity for some of the guys and they have done it very well really.

“We do expect more. We set our standards and we did not meet those clearly.

“But we are playing good teams. You make mistakes and errors and people get injured and you get penalised and you disagree and all these things, but you have to overcome them.

“The team’s going in the right direction and we can be a pretty good team but consistency is the key.

“Everyone in the autumn series, with the exception of the All Blacks, has been a bit up and down. Good Test teams go out and are difficult to beat every week.”

Johnson is under no illusion that there is room for improvement, but he is happy with how the side has developed during the autumn campaign.

“You always want to improve and move on and we have certainly done it,” said Johnson.

“As a group just having the time together and going through ups and downs is huge. I think we’ve got a team now definitely. Everyone wants to be in it. It’s very competitive to get in it.

“The medics have done a great job keeping everyone fit and healthy and the coaches have done a great job as well.

“No-one’s going to sit back and think we’re anywhere near there. There is a long way to go and a long way we can go.

“Loads of great pluses. Everyone who has played has played well. For those guys in sub-10, sub-20 Test matches everything is new and absorbed.”