All in the game



Witness: Hernandez may well be unlikely ally for Suarez

LUIS Suarez, you’ll remember, was charged by the FA with racism after a complaint was made by Patrice Evra following the game between Liverpool and Manchester United in October.

Suarez is expected to admit that he used the term “negrito” when addressing Evra, but will argue that the word, meaning “little black fella”, is not offensive and is commonly used in South America.

“I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him, and even they were surprised by his reaction,” he said.

Those team-mates are thought to be the two United Spanish speakers who played that day, David de Gea and Javier Hernandez, and for one, at least, it’s going to be tricky denying he ever used the word. As featured on Steve Angelsey’s Daily Mirror blog, a clip from a 2007 interview with Hernandez when he talked about his then Chivas team-mate Omar Esparza: “I liked the goal of the negrito, I think it’s a sign that Chivas youth are ready to respond in big games.”

Suarez, you suspect, might now be tempted to call Hernandez as a witness.


Healing hands: American Samoa goalkeeper 'cured'

STAR of the week? American Samoa goalkeeper Nicky Salapu, the sole survivor of that 31-0 setback against Australia 10 years ago. Those who thought he might retire his gloves after the experience underestimated him, his perseverance rewarded last week when he was a member of the side that beat Tonga 2-1 in their Oceania World Cup qualifying game.

It was American Samoa’s first triumph in 17 years, after 30 consecutive defeats in which they were outscored 229-12. And Salapu did his bit to help his country make history, making a decent save or two in the game. “This guy’s got major demons going on, he’s totally driven by the 31-0 score and erasing it for himself and his family,” said coach Thomas Rongen. “He said to me after the win, ‘I’m healed, I’m cured.’ There are incredible scars there.”

Sadly, Salapu won’t make it to Brazil, American Samoa’s 1-0 defeat to Samoa on Saturday ending their (albeit slim) 2014 World Cup qualifying hopes. Still, Salapu has an even bigger ambition: “For me personally, after that (31-0) experience, I really want to go back and play Australia one more time before I die.” Nicky? Don’t do it.

Name game: May take Long time to shake off Hodgson's label of 'Tintin-plus'

“The boy’s performance today was so good I’ve literally run out of expletives to describe it.”

– Fleetwood Town manager Micky Mellon, as heard by a Private Eye reader on Radio 5 Live. It’s assumed he meant “superlatives”, but you never know.

“Doctors advise caution but players are adventurous. Shane is the adventurous side of adventure. He is Tintin-plus.”

– After that tribute from Roy Hodgson, you suspect Shane Long will be stuck with the name for life.

“He looks like he is being controlled by a 10-year-old playing on his Playstation.”

– Gary Neville’s take on Chelsea defender David Luiz. Surprisingly, it wasn’t intended to be a compliment – most 10-year-olds we know can make Michael Carrick look like Lionel Messi on Playstation.

“I’m not a doctor, a pharmacist or a miracle worker. God took seven days to make the world.”

– Fiorentina manager Delio Rossi looking for a week to put things right.

“I just think he wanted a toy. He takes all the oil money and has built the club for a personal whim . . . if they don’t win something quickly he could easily draw the curtains, go somewhere else and buy another toy.”

– Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis suspects that Sheikh Mansour will soon get bored playing with Manchester City.

No fond farewell: 'LA Times' journalist not won over by Beckham's contribution

SO, was the American press beatifying David Beckham after he completed his five-year contract with LA Galaxy by helping them win the MLS Cup?

Well, some were, but Bill Plaschke in the LA Times?

“In the fifth year of a five-year contract that was mostly filled with empty promise – not to mention an empty locker – Beckham can forever say that at least he left us with a championship. And, believe me, after the game, he was saying it . . .
“Certainly this title will soften Beckham’s legacy here, but did Sunday night really prove doubters wrong? When he was paid $32.5 million to change the face of soccer in Los Angeles and barely hung around long enough to change his socks?
“Beckham helped bring this town a soccer title, but he was supposed to help bring it an entire soccer movement, and he never even tried.”

Not the warmest farewell you’ll ever read.

You have to hope he’s kinder to our Robbie.

Smoke bombs, firecrackers, forced time-outs, burning stands: Just another week of European derby action 

GERMAN clubs Hansa Rostock and St Pauli don’t like each other a great deal, the rivalry between their supporters somewhat intense. So, when they met in a league game last week the atmosphere was a touch rowdy, the game halted for 10 minutes when Rostock fans set off smoke bombs and firecrackers after their team fell behind.

Usually, if missiles continue to rain down on the pitch during a game, the referee decides to abandon it, but they’re clearly hardy folk in this part of Germany. The players were content to continue, all they asked was that they be shielded by umbrellas as they took corner kicks.

Speaking of lively derbies, Partizan Belgrade got the better of their Red Star neighbours on Saturday, but how any of the players or officials could see what was going on with all that firework-induced smoke billowing around the stadium, only they know.

There were two 10-minute interruptions during the game, one when a fire crew tried to put out a mini inferno on the track around the pitch, while the Partizan players stayed in the dugout at half-time – in freezing weather – because when they tried to make for the tunnel firecrackers rained down on them.

A quiet European derby week other than that? Certainly, if you exclude Sporting Lisbon supporters setting fire to their section of Benfica’s stadium because they were in a huff about losing 1-0.

Figure of fun: Dalglish makes Carroll seem like a bargain

YOU have to hand it to Kenny Dalglish. Since Liverpool paid €41 million for Andy Carroll to replace Fernando Torres, who, of course, jumped ship for Chelsea in a €59 million move, he’s gone out of his way to take the pressure off the young Geordie by talking down that price tag.

“The price we paid for Andy seems to be a problem for some people, but not us,” he argued last week.

“We are looking at it from the point of view that he cost us minus £15 million (€17.5m).

“That’s a good argument against people who say he’s replaced a £50 million striker.”

It’s a form of creative accounting, really, but an impressive one.

From here on in Carroll shall be known as the minus-£15 million man – and that should certainly lower expectations.