All the stuff being covered outside the unfriendly confines of the award-winning Dirty Tackle...

Patrice Evra did his Sergio Ramos impression during Manchester United's victory parade. [YouTube]

A former CONCACAF insider reveals the strip cluby details of life with Chuck Blazer. [Big Soccer]

Chuck Blazer sacked. [Yahoo!]

Barca's champions T-shirt. [The Beautiful Gear]

Remembering Paul Scholes. [Run of Play]

Pepe Reina imitates his new baby. [Kickette]

Football on the moon. [Just Football]

Ferguson warns Barcelona that Man United will fight on in the second leg. [The Gaffer]

Finally time to catch up. [Studs Up]

There has always been a lot of pontificating about athletes and celebrities and their poisonous affect on the impressionable minds of kids eager to emulate them -- especially this year with Wayne Rooney shouting obscenities into a TV camera. But it turns out young children don't care about these people nearly as much as adults do.

From the Guardian:

Simon Brownhill, an education expert at the University of Derby, said children aged eight or below were unable to grasp the concept of role models.

In a survey of 178 men working in nurseries and primary schools, Brownhill found that footballers such as Rooney and others from the Premier League's elite, thought to be idolised by many children, actually have little influence. [...]

"The men surveyed in the study, who work with young children every day, supported the idea that children are more likely to be influenced by people who are their own age, who share the same experiences and who live close by, such as friends and family, rather than by actors or sports stars such as Wayne Rooney. [...]

"A friend who, for example, shows no fear when going on a fairground ride is more likely to be a role model for a youngster."

Of course this survey raises a couple of questions. First, what about kids older than eight years old? (Answer: they're already horrible, so footballers can't make them any worse.) And second, why did they just survey men? Regardless, while these findings might clear Rooney of any unnecessary blame, the fact that kids are most influenced by o! thers th eir own age means Lionel Messi really needs to remain on his best behavior.

Photo: Getty

Though the Premier League season just ended, teams are already looking ahead to how they can improve next season. Some will pin their hopes on new players or different tactics, but Jack Wilshere thinks he has a different answer for Arsenal: complaining harder.

From Soccernet:

"It's no use just Robin van Persie going because it looks like it's just him having a go at the ref. If we all get round him..." Wilshere said.

"You just see the other teams do it and you think 'we need to do it as well'. Man United are the best at it. They get round the referee. We have to be more of a team and be more aggressive and show more authority."

It shows something, but I'm not sure "authority" is it. Hopefully this was just a joke and a dig at Manchester United that was lost in translation. If this is seriously considered a reasonable method of improving results by professional footballers though, it might be time to start letting referees use tasers.

Photo: Getty

Sadly, parents fighting at their kids' sporting events happens pretty much everywhere, but few get as vile as this.

During a match between Levski Sofia's youth team and Cherno, former Bulgarian international Daniel Borimirov (who has a son on Levski) and member of the 1994 World Cup team started a fight with other dads on the touchline that even prompted some of the kids to get involved. The worst comes at the end of the video, though. With the police doing nothing, Borimirov comes running in and sucker punches a guy in a white shirt just as he turns around (1:10 into the video). Then, as a final exclamation point, one of the kids throws something at the guy who got clocked.

This is why some people shouldn't be allowed to have kids.

Credit to Tri Korni for sharing.

As soon as Sepp Blatter asked "what is a crisis?" and immediately followed that up by stating that "football is not in a crisis" (whatever that is), it was made explicitly clear that logic and coherence had no part of his press conference on Monday. This is nothing new for a FIFA press conference, but what was new was how it ended -- with attacking journalists unnerving the man at the top of an organization with absolute power.

Though he, of course, dismissed questions about how Qatar allegedly "bought" the 2022 World Cup and how reports of corruption keep popping up from both outside and inside FIFA, Blatter couldn't keep the frustrated press at bay. When they demanded answers and refused to settle for his non-answers, Blatter told them that they were "not in a bazaar." And concluded with a lecture on respect and elegance. It was very different from Blatter's normally calm and supremely confident approach.

Anyway, according to the Press Associations' Martyn Zeigler this is a picture of the bribe money Mohamed Bin Hammam gave to Caribbean FA officials while he was seeking votes for his presidential campaign...

Blatter might have to build a wall out of that stuff between him and the media the next time he tries to have a press conference.

Video via 101gg

Plagiarism is never a fun subject, but when the world's most popular news website is the one doing it, something needs to be said. In a post about Shakira trying to teach several Barcelona players how to dance during her concert on Sunday night, I ended with a reference to our running joke from the "If it continued..." series.

Here are the last two sentences:

Pique then felt up his girlfriend while a stadium full of people watched (again) and the footballers returned to their place in the front row. At which point Busquets fell down clutching his face.

Hardly anything worth plagiarizing there, right? Well, The Daily Mail disagrees...

Not only is the last sentence copied word for word, but so are the 11 boring words that end the sentence before it. Lame! In a kind of flattering way.

Of course, the Daily Mail's reputation is far from admirable! , but ri pping off lines from nonsensical football blogs is pretty low even for them.

And in other plagiarism news, Bleacher Report swiped bits from an entire series of posts from The Equaliser. But they were at least "good" enough to take down the offending article.

Inside the costume for Lille's creatively named "Doggy Dog" mascot is French international Adil Rami. Sunday's 3-2 win over Rennes not only marked the end of Lille's double winning season, but also Rami's last match with the club before joining Valencia. He promised a surprise to celebrate the occasion and this was it.

Though his moves may not have been as good as Kevin Prince-Boateng's (who celebrated Milan's Scudetto win with a Michael Jackson routine), I think Rami wins because you would have no way of knowing it was him just by watching this clip.

Rami's other tribute to the club -- dying part of his hair red like a poor man's Rufio -- did help him stand out, though...

Photo: Getty

Swansea City beat Reading 4-2 in an epic Championship playoff final on Monday to become the first Welsh club to win promotion to the Premier League and the tens of millions of pounds that come with it. Once the final whistle blew, the entire time put on T-shirts with Besian Idrizaj's name and picture on them in tribute to their former teammate who died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack shortly after last season. He was just 22 years old.

Despite the fact that Idrizaj played just three matches for Swansea a whole season ago, it was nice to see that even in a moment of such joy, they still value and promote his memory.

Another part of the tribute was prompted by a Facebook group started by Swans fans. It called for a remembrance of Idrizaj in the 40th minute of the match, since that was his shirt number.

Said Swansea defender Angel Rangel before their playoff semifinal against Nottingham Forest the day after the anniversary of Idrizaj's death (via Wales Online):

"We all know this weekend was the anniversary," said Rangel. "We have spoken a lot about that as a squad and we know getting to Wembley and winning promotion is the best thing we can do for Besian.

"He was very well liked here and if he was still here he would be part of this team and playing with the rest of us.

"Everyone has been affected by it, but it is extra encouragement for us to go on and be successful.

"It has been a difficult time, an emotional time, but this would be our own tribute to Besian."

Between this and Barcelona letting Abidal lift the Champions League trophy the other day, it's almost enough to counterbalance the soul-crushing ugliness of FIFA. Almost.

Photo: Getty

After all the jokes about Sergio Busquets falling down and clutching his face for no good reason (including the one at the end of this post that The Daily Mail plagiarized), it finally happened for a reason. And at the very beginning of the Champions League final, no less. Michael Carrick blasted him with the ball square in the head and, as he's practiced so many times before, Busquets went down clutching his face.

Was it karma? Was it some kind of chronic premonition Busquets has been having? Or was it just an inevitability of life? We may never know. But in that moment, the universe was in perfect harmony.

Inter beat Palermo 3-1 in the Coppa Italia final and they got a special two for one deal for their troubles. In addition to the usual TIM Cup, the winning side also received a special trophy commemorating the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification.

The weird part? With Javier Zanetti busy with the main trophy, Marco Materazzi got to hoist the anniversary cup. Even though Materazzi didn't play in the match, only made one Coppa Italia appearance this season and 10 appearances for Inter in total. But he is the senior Italian player/mascot in the squad.

After winning the treble last season and losing to their city rivals in Serie A this season, this must soften the blow a bit. And Jose Mourinho will probably take the credit. Both for the trophy and the unification of Italy.

Photo: Getty Images

Because everything just happens to work out perfectly pretty much all the time in Barcelona these days, Gerard Pique's girlfriend Shakira just so happened to be performing in town the day after they returned from their Champions League final win over Manchester United. Fresh off their open-top bus parade earlier in the day, Pique and several of his teammates continued their celebration by attending the concert.

During the show, Shakira called them all up on stage one by one to the shrieking delight of the crowd and once everyone got their hugs from the Colombian pop star and former Real Madrid fan, a public dance lesson commenced. Shakira demonstrated her signature hip-shaking moves for the six footballers and told them to follow her lead. Out of the freshly crowned European champions, Sergio Busquets probably did the best job of mimicking her, while Xavi thrusted like a stripper and Bojan automatically failed for wearing jean shorts (seriously, Bojan?! Jorts?!).

Pique then felt up his girlfriend while a stadium full of people watched (again) and the footballers returned to their place in the front row. At which point Busquets fell down clutching his face.

CONCACAF president Jack Warner threatened a "football tsunami" would soon hit FIFA, and after he learned of the suspension handed to him and the Asian Football Confederation's Qatari president Mohamed Bin Hammam over allegations of handing out cash bribes, he unleashed the first storm. Via highly professional information outlet that is the Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors Facebook page.

In Warner's rambling, cut-throat response to his punishment, he shared a message from FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke (pictured above, center) that casts even further doubt over how Qatar managed to win the 2022 World Cup, which has already been subjected to one round of vote buying accusations.

Says the utterly unreliable source that is FIFA vice president Jack Warner:

On May 18 when I realised that the political battle between Blatter and Bin Hammam was getting out of hand I wrote Secretary General Valcke telling him, among other things, that the outcome of the elections may cause some fracture in the Arab world which we can ill afford now and that I will like to ask Bin Hammam to withdraw from the race. To which Jerome replied to me and I quote :

"For MBH [Mo! hamed Bi n Hammam], I never understood why he was running. If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB [Sepp Blatter]. Or he thought you can buy FIFA as they bought the WC [World Cup]. I have a bet since day one, he will withdraw but on June 1st after his 10 min speech. By doing so he can say he push Blatter to make new commitments bla bla bla and get out under applause. Before means he is a looser. So...He will get some votes. Less than 60 today after CAF support. It will be the "coup de grace" if you would officially send a message as the CONCACAF President by saying CONCACAF supports unanimously. So I am not giving you an advice but just my feeling about what I think is the situation."

Even if Warner can produce documents to back up this quote, and the fact that FIFA executives generally accept that the World Cup was bought can be proven, Jack's tsunami probably still won't be in the forecast. A passing thunderstorm, maybe, but, like cockroaches, FIFA's ability to survive anything is unmatched.

Now, implicating his alleged co-conspirator in a separate bribery case may seem like an odd way for Warner to defend Bin Hammam and himself, but it just goes to show how widespread the corruption is in this organization. They can't defend themselves/attack their fellow members on one matter without bumping into incrimination on another. It's like they're all trying to make their way through a gold-plated house of mirrors and we just have to sit and watch.

Photo: AP

While everyone was distracted by the Champions League final, Mohamed Bin Hammam withdrew from the FIFA presidential race. But, according to Mohamed Bin Hammam, that has nothing to do his impending bribery case or how the details of it were reported by the Telegraph shortly after his announcement.

From the AP:

"Recent events have left me hurt and disappointedon a professional and personal level," bin Hammam wrote on his personal website. "It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great pricethe degradation of FIFA's reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable.

"I cannot allow the name that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals. The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first. It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election."

Bin Hammam decided to run for the presidency after playing a key role in Qatar winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

"I pray that my withdrawal will not be tied to the investigation held by the FIFA ethics committee as I will appear before the ethics committee to clear my name from the baseless allegations that have been made against me," bin Hammam said.

I don't think those prayers are going to help much because not long after Bin Hammam regurgitated this lame excuse, the Telegraph published an excellent piece of journalism ! from Pau l Kelso that reveals FIFA to work exactly how you think it does.

The report alleges up to 25 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) officials were each offered envelopes containing $40,000 (24,000) in cash, split into four $10,000 "stacks" of $100 bills, to persuade them to vote for Bin Hammam in this week's Fifa presidential election.

Seven whistle-blowers have told investigators the cash was presented as a "gift", and that they were told "not to tell anyone about the cash, not to discuss the cash with the others and not to show anyone the money".

The alleged offers were made in one-to-one meetings following a special summit of the CFU, arranged by Warner to allow Bin Hammam to present his election manifesto in Trinidad earlier this month

And that's just the beginning. Sepp Blatter is also implicated in the report, as it says that Jack Warner stated that he was aware of the payoffs and didn't object. This should be shocking, but given FIFA's reputation, the only shocking thing is that corruption this brazen hasn't been caught sooner.

So now with Blatter the only presidential candidate remaining and this sham of an election finally negated, the only question that remains is whether these revelations will prompt the ethics committee to do anything meaningful in response. And the answer is: probably not.

Photo: Getty

(Select the closed captioning option on the YouTube page for English subtitles.)

Clubs try a lot of things to prove that they care about far away fans in order to squeeze the most cash out of them during summer tours. This is one of those things.

In a scene reminiscent of Wayne Campbell from Wayne's World trying to learn Cantonese to impress Tia Carrere, several Arsenal players and their manager (who picked up some Japanese when he took charge of Nagoya Grampus Eight for a season) try to show their Chinese fans just how much they care by butchering their language. Some give valiant efforts, while others resort to holding up cue cards and making funny faces (Johan Djourou). Wenger, meanwhile, speaks as if he's doing mouth exercises.

Kieran Gibbs thanks you for eating Arsenal.

Video via 101gg

Since Shakira wasn't around to make out with him in public, Gerard Pique celebrated Barcelona's Champions League victory like the goofball that he is. When the sprinklers on the pitch went off as Barcelona began their party, Pique stuck his head directly in the line of fire, which may or may not have reminded him of the time he took a blast of magic spray directly into his mouth.

Like the winner of a college basketball tournament, Pique also cut the net off one of the goals...

And what did he do with it once he removed the whole thing?

He wore it like it was some kind of Lady Gaga costume.

Taking blasts of water to the head and pretending he was being eaten by a net monster wasn't all, though. He also found time to fall into a team picture.

I! 'm not s ure what happened here. But I'm quite certain it made him bleed.

The world would be a worse place without Gerard Pique.

Photos: Getty, Reuters

Two short months ago, Barcelona defender Eric Abidal underwent surgery to have a tumor removed from his liver. Less than six weeks later he returned to training and since then he's resumed playing to win a La Liga title, earn a recall to the French national team and start in a Champions League final. But that wasn't enough.

Since Barcelona's 3-1 win over Manchester United for the European crown played out as if it was a script transcribed by one of the magical cherubs that Pep Guardiola keeps as house servants, the finishing touch that any Hollywood producer would love came when it was time to receive the trophy. Instead of regular captain Carles Puyol or match captain Xavi being the first to lift the trophy, Abidal was given the armband before the walk up to collect their winnings so he could carry out that duty in a show of personal triumph.

And if you had trouble getting the dust out of your eyes after seeing that, we'll understand.

Photo: Getty Images

Barcelona's second Champions League final win over Manchester United in the last three years once again proved just how dominant they are. There's no denying it. There's no way to blame it on a UEFA/UNICEF conspiracy. They're just that good.

Many observers wondered if this side was on the brink of a downturn after winning every trophy available to them in 2009, so how do they respond? With a 3-1 win over Man United in London for Europe's top prize that included all three of their forwards scoring, all three of their midfielders providing the assists and maintaining possession so consistently that, at times, you would forget their opponents were even on the pitch. And to top it all off, the deciding goal came from a typically great shot from Lionel Messi, who's astonishing 31 goals in 33 Spanish league games this season were only bested by Cristiano Ronaldo's record-breaking 40 goal season.

Man United's defenders stood and watched as the reigning World Player of the Year took a shot from the top of the box that just curled way from the outstretched fingers of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. That broke the 1-1 deadlock in the 54th minute after Wayne Rooney pulled the Premier League champions even before halftime. And in the 69th minute, David Villa sealed it by putting one in the top corner just because he can do that.

Messi got a lot of grief for not scoring a single goal in the World Cup last summer, but with another key goal in a Champions League final, he proved once again that he does come through in big matches (at least, for club if not for country). He also proved that when he trips a pitchside microphone wire while rushing to celebrate his goal in the corner, it's the microphone that goes tumbling down and not him.

This is it. Manchester United play Barcelona at Wembley Stadium in London in what has become the most watched annual sporting event in the world. It's a rematch of the 2009 UEFA Champions League final (which Barcelona won 2-0) and both sides are looking to claim the cup for the fourth time. Are you excited? Because Dimitar Berbatov certainly is. Ha-HA!

You can find serious business previews and primers for this match pretty much everywhere else online and in print. So here we'll just do it the Dirty Tackle way.

How They Got Here

Barcelona: Playing fierce rivals Real Madrid a dizzying five times across three competitions this season (including four times in 18 days last month), Barcelona won their third straight Spanish league title this season. Making through that gauntlet against Real was more demanding than a Champions League final in many ways. But according to Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, they were only able to do so thanks to a conspiracy that involved both UEFA and club sponsor/internationally respected charity organization UNICEF. Although, this could just be what the Make a Wish Foundation wanted him to think.

Manchester United: While besting a relatively weak Premier League field on their way to an English record 19th top flight league title, they made it past Marseille, Chelsea and over-matched Schalke in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. They won their semifinal over the German side by an ag! gregate score of 6-1. Which is kind of like preparing for a final exam by reading a Dr. Seuss book.

Pre-Match Preparations

Manchester United: Took a team trip to see "Jersey Boys" in the West End.

Barcelona: Messed around with pictures of Cesc Fabregas at their temporary training ground.

Key People


Pep Guardiola (manager): The Golden Pep has already developed a supernatural reputation in his mere three years in charge of the club he was with for most of his playing career. In those three years, he's won an astonishing nine trophies and worn a wide array of vests. He walks on water whenever he doesn't feel like swimming.

Lionel Messi (goal machine): Though Cristiano Ronaldo scored nine more La Liga goals this season, Messi's 31 goals in 33 league matches and 11 goals in 10 Champions League matches were often dazzling and matched his childlike joy for game. Which is symbolized by his completely made up love for playing with Lego toys in his down time.

Andres Iniesta and Xavi (midfield masters): You may remember Iniesta from such moments as "Scoring the winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final" and "staring in a fictitious film called Vampire Babies: Transylvanian Knee Suckers." You may not remember Xavi, though, because he rarely gets the accolades he deserves.

Gerard Pique (defender): He used to play for Manchester United. He also dates Shakira and bleeds. A lot. But aside from all that, he's a great defender.

Manchester United...

Sir Alex Ferguson (manager): Legendary manager who has already accomplished great things with a team that isn't the best he's ever had. He's famous for giving his players the "hairdryer treatment" -- which involves yelling so close to someone's face that their hair melts out of their head -- when he's angry and maintaining a telekinetic power over match officials that causes them to add a ridiculous amount of injury time to the end of matches in which his team is losing. Oh, and if you mention scandalous midfielder Ryan Giggs around him, he will try to ban you from events that he doesn't have the power to ban you from.

Edwin van der Sar (goalkeeper): He's been a key to their success for years, but this season especially. It's his final match before retirement and it's already been announced that if Man United win, he will be the one who lifts the trophy -- an honor that usually goes to the team captain. Not that he needs any extra incentive to play like the best in the world.

Nemanja Vidic (terminator): Team captain. Relentless defender. Deadly cyborg.

Wayne Rooney (angry goal scorer): Recovered from abysmal form at the World Cup and during the first part of this season to finish strong. In October he received death threats from Man United fans when he demanded a move away from the club because he thought they couldn't match his ambitions for success. He changed his mind when they offered him a fat new five-year contract. Now it's like nothing ever happened.

Chicharito (happy goal scorer): Surprised many by scoring 20 goals (and using just about every part of his body to do so) in his first season with the club. He is obsessed with "sweating this shirt to death" and says he will "never stop running." In Mexico he is known as The Baby Killer. Fear him.

And, just to cover all the bases, let's say every other player on both teams is key, too. If someone not listed here by name scores or does something important, we'll pretend we talked about him at length. Deal? Deal.

How They Win

Manchester United: Battle for 90 minutes, scoring goals through sheer determination. Then getting a winner when the referee mysteriously adds 15 minutes of injury time (also known as "Fergie Time").

Barcelona: Pass the ball several thousand times, maintaining possession until the opposition collectively slip into a coma, at which point Messi scores several wonder goals and giggles.

Commentator Talking Points

Some wor! ds, phra ses and points you're likely to hear from the match commentators...

-Compulsively calling Messi "Little" as if it's part of his name.

-Describing Barcelona's style as "the way football should be played" and every other team's as "anti-football." Because tailoring your style of play to your team's strengths/limitations is basically evil.

-Referring Barcelona's midfielders as "geniuses." I'm pretty sure none of them have cured any diseases, though. But Xavi might be close to one for the common cold.

-This Man United team "isn't the greatest, but it's Ferguson's greatest accomplishment." It's like a compliment and put down all in one!

-Quips about how Alex Ferguson likes to drink wine with opposing managers after matches. Not because he's a raging alcoholic, but because he's a cultured gentleman, you see.

-Constant reminders that this is van der Sar's last match. And how it would be a fairytale ending for him if his side won. And we all want fairytales to be real, don't we?

-Lots of other stuff that you will try your best to ignore.

What To Do After The Match

If you support the team that wins: Celebrate until you forget your name and your neighbors try to have you deported.

If you support the team that loses: Pretend you didn't really care in the first place. That it's just one game and you were planning on crying and listening to The Smiths all night anyway.

If you're a neutral: Pretend you support the team that wins.

Enjoy the game, everybody.

Photos: Getty, AP

Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney are getting just about all the attention ahead of the Champions League final, but the guy most likely to score with his liver is, of course, Chicharito. But if you think Chicharito wants to be a superstar like those two, you're wrong. He just wants to run. Forever.

From the Telegraph:

[W]hen he was asked if he aspired to the status of the Argentinian double Ballon d'Or winner, Hernandez was quick to play down his achievements.

"No. I am a player of this great team," he said.

"What obsesses me is sweating this shirt to death, and I will never stop running.

"I don't aspire to be like Messi. I'm just a simple footballer."

"I'm not obsessed with goals. The goals are the result of the work of the whole team. The forwards only have the good fortune to score them. In a team like ours, even Edwin (van der Sar) can claim the goals."

Has there ever been someone so humble and dedicated to murdering shirts with sweat? I don't think so. I also don't think Wayne Rooney will be letting Edwin van der Sar take credit for his goals anytime soon.

Photo: Getty Images

There is absolutely no way this wasn't done on purpose.

Two giant Champions League final match balls were put in London's Trafalgar Square for the weekend's festivities and, combined with Nelson's Column, they create a graphic image that represents the match's standing as the biggest annual sporting event in the world. The photographer knows it. And the woman touching those balls knows it.

Also, because of this, visiting Barcelona fans may or may not have started referring to Trafalgar Square simply as "Piqueton."

Photo: Getty via The Offside

Bitter former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon is apparently still holding onto a lot of anger for the club and what more reasonable way to express that anger than to go on the radio and compare Jose Mourinho to Adolf Hitler?


Despite the inability to overtake rivals Barcelona in the league and in Europe, Mourinho is thought to still have the backing of supporters, something Calderon was keen to comment on.

"You can have millions of fans cheering for you, but Hitler was also acclaimed by millions of people before he took a tumble," the lawyer told Catalan radio station ONA FM.

He just compared a football manger to Hitler. Where do you even begin with that? I mean, that's the kind of statement that you don't even dignify with a response. Unless you're Jose Mourinho. In which case, this will probably be something he hammers away at all summer. He's probably feverishly drafting up a whole catalog of responses right now, in between trying to sell Karim Benzema and laughing maniacally over Real Madrid sacking his nemesis Jorge Valdano.

Calderon wasn't done there, though. Most people would go out on the Hitler comparison, but Calderon still had to talk about current Real president Florentino Perez and work in a reference to erectile dysfunction...

"I feel sorry for Madrid and Florentino. Yesterday [during the announcement that Valdano will leave Madrid] I had the sensation of seeing a student who didn't know the lesson taking a primary exam," he added.

"They talked so much about dysfunction! that t hey may as well of been talking about erectile dysfunction. It reflects a pathetic picture. It was like seeing a corpse in search of a coffin."

Well, it takes one to know one, Ramon. It takes one to know one.

Photo: Getty Images

Coming off a 4-0 win over Avai (in which Ronaldinho scored), you'd think everyone at Flamengo would be happy and getting along. They're not. During a training session this week, cameras caught Willians delivering what really looks like a deliberate elbow to the face of Negueba as they both went for the ball. Negueba reacted, uh, dramatically and Willians was taken for a walk over the surrounding woods as some kind of timeout.

So, yeah, looks like there might be some trouble brewing at Flamengo.

Video via 101gg

Viktor Kassai: Does not take guff from Sergio Busquets.

Howard Webb became the youngest Champions League final referee last year at age 38 and on Saturday he will lose that record when 35-year-old Hungarian Viktor Kassai takes charge of this year's final.

So will Kassai be working for the UNICEF conspiracy or does he sing "Glory Glory Man United" in the shower? Here's what the Guardian says about him:

Kassai is highly regarded within refereeing and has a reputation for letting the game flow. He refereed the World Cup semi-final between Spain and Germany last summer [as well as the U.S.'s loss to Ghana] and has taken charge of four Champions League matches this season, including United's 1-0 win in Valencia in the group stages. [...]

Kassai, who speaks fluent English and German but not Spanish, has been a Fifa referee since 2003. He has officiated at more than 60 Uefa matches and he took charge of the 2008 Olympic final.

He speaks English but not Spanish and has a reputation for keeping his cards in his pocket. Advantage Man United because they might get away with playing more physical? Or advantage Barcelona because he won't be able to understand what Busquets says? Hard to say. Then again, maybe this will be one of those rare matches where no one notices the ref and the post-match discussion isn't dominated by irate calls for technology. Hahaha imagine that!

Photo: Getty

Lyon beat Potsdam 2-0 in the Women's Champions League final at Craven Cottage on Thursday and this is how defender Laura Georges reacted upon lifting the cup. Now, the women's trophy is quite nice. Nicer than the men's, I'd say. Still, there's no way the trophy alone could elicit a facial expression more fitting for someone looking inside the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. Was there a squirrel in there? A cartoon stick of dynamite?

Whatever it was, congratulations to Lyon. I hope whoever wins the men's trophy can muster a response half as spectacular.

So that wins best reaction, but best hair goes to goal scorer Wendie Renard...

Even Potsdam's Fatmire Bajramaj was in awe. Perhaps this epic diversion helped Lyon win. I would suggest that Wayne Rooney tries to quickly grow a similar hairdo to use against Barcelona, but, you know, that wouldn't really work for an infinite number of reasons.

Match highlights and analysis can be found at All White Kit.

Photos: Getty

All the stuff being covered outside the unfriendly confines of the award-winning Dirty Tackle...

Who knew that learning what not to do in the event of a horrific disaster could be so much fun? [YouTube]

Nike Champions League final player exclusive boots. [The Beautiful Gear]

Is the Champions League final going to be the last hurrah for this Barca team? [Slate]

Breaking down Arsene Wenger's end of season letter to Arsenal fans. [ATD]

Could Guardiola cut it away from Barcelona? [Guardian]

Rino Gattuso considering a move to Russia. [Football Italia]

Expansion fee for MLS's 20th team could be between $75 and $100 million. [SBD]

The best Champions League final moments from recent years. [The Spoiler]

Michael Carrick: The ghost hides himself behind success. [Futfanatico]

Accusations of corruption against top FIFA officials keep piling up and now they're even being made by other top FIFA officials. Though these accusations damaged FIFA's already ravaged public image, brought calls for a postponement of the upcoming presidential election and sparked the possibility of a revote for the 2022 World Cup hosting duties, FIFA has been keen to do all their "investigations" in the privacy of their own back room. Why? Because they don't have to answer to anyone. They hold supreme power over their international kingdom.

Well, almost supreme power. There is the small matter of keeping their sponsors -- the corporations that hand over the vaults of cash that serve as FIFA's lifeblood -- happy. And it seems the so far ambivalent sponsors are finally realizing that all this bad press for FIFA is also bad press for them.

From the AP:

Asked about the problems facing FIFA ahead of the presidential election, Adidas said in a statement: "the negative tenor of the public debate is neither good for the sport of football nor for FIFA as an institution and its partners."

Keep in mind that Adidas has not only been a FIFA sponsor for more than 30 years, they're also FIFA's leading sponsor. Forget about angry journalists ! or angry fans or angry FIFA executives -- if the top sponsors are angry, that could actually mean consequences.

Somewhere, in the bowels of FIFA headquarters, a large robot is flailing its arms and saying, "Danger, Sepp Blatter, danger!"

Photo: Getty

Lionel Messi

Hahaha I stole Pique's face hair. ... I hope Shakira doesn't think I'm him and try to kiss me. ... Kissing is gross. ... This Pique beard is itchy. Maybe that's why he bleeds all the time. ... I really hope we beat Manchester United. ... I can't believe Pep promised to buy me all the Lego Pirates of the Caribbean playsets if we do. ... The boat is going to be so much fun. ... I can't wait to play with the boat. ... And give Pique his beard back...

Sir Alex Ferguson



We must win for the good of football. ... We must win for the good of mankind. ... We must win for the good of the plants and the animals and whatever lives in Puyol's hair. ... We are football. Everyone else is anti-football. ... Including Gandhi, the Dutch and whoever invented balls used for sport. ... I'm trying so hard to shoot laser beams out of my eyes that I think I might pass out.

Wayne Rooney

It's time for the whats! ... First, I'm going to score a goal against Barcelona so awesome that it will make old people's heads explode. F***ing what! ... Then, I'm going to be those Barcelona elves so bad that they run all the way back to the North Pole. F***ing what! ... Then, I'm going to teach my son how to karate kick a watermelon. F***ing what! ... Then, I'm going to eat raw meat until I vomit. F***ing what! ... Then I'm going to Skype with a prostitute. F***ing what!

Photos: Reuters, Getty

When fans throw something on the pitch, play usually stops. That's not how Dinamo Bucharest's Elis Bakaj does it, though. When his own fans threw a large blazing firecracker just in front of him as he made a move towards goal in the Romanian Cup final against Steaua Bucharest, he tried to play on like dodging firecrackers is a part of the game.

The referee did stop play for a moment after that, however, and it seems being unable to take advantage of the diversion hurt Dinamo because they ended up losing the match to their rivals by a score of 2-1.

Video via 101gg

No matter how you feel about Manchester United, it's hard not to like Park Ji-Sung (or at least hate him less than his teammates) and the relentless way he plays the game. In 2009, he became the first Asian to play in a UEFA Champions League final and he will be the only one again this year if he plays on Saturday. By the Associated Press' streamlined logic, this supposedly means that he will have the support of the entire continent behind him.

Regardless of whether this is true or not (note: Barcelona are pretty popular in Asia, too), his fans sound pretty fantastic. But apparently not fantastic enough to make him enjoy being famous. From the AP:

Little wonder then that the Old Trafford mail room is so full of parcels for him, even rivaling star striker Wayne Rooney's haul of fan-mail.

"They send me everything from food, clothes, sweets," Park said. "I have been sent money before because the notes in South Korea changed and they sent me the new ones so that I could see them because I'm living here. Maybe they're worried I'll forget about home!" [...]

"I actually don't like being a famous person, but I play for Manchester United so I get that attention and there aren't many Asian players in Europe or the Premier League, so that's more attention for me and I have to play better than other players in Europe." [...]

"Even though I am famous when I finish my career my fame will be decreased so it will be more relaxed at home," he said. "I left my country for 11 or 12 years a! nd I mis s it so I will definitely go back there I just want to be a normal person."

Even if it's just to remind him of home, who else has fans that send them money?! Granted, he certainly makes enough on his own to not need it, but if that doesn't make you love being famous, nothing will.

Photo: Getty

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp will never be confused with Mark Twain, but that didn't stop The Sun from giving him a regular column and for that, we should be thankful. The latest example of his hilarious brand of nonsense comes in the form of a timely and ridiculous comparison between Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney.

This is what old Harry has to say about Messi:

A mate of mine said to me the other day, after watching Messi destroy a team on his own, that the Argentine looks like the sort of bloke you'd find sitting in a bookies in the afternoon, smoking a fag and betting on horses.

He's a skinny runt who looks nothing like a modern-day footballer really.

He has funny little legs that move awkwardly when he runs and if he turned up at your club as a 16-year-old, you'd send him away with a pat on the head and tell him he'd no chance of making it.

Don't get him wrong, though. Even though he describes Lionel as some sort of goofy gnome who looks like he spends his days smoking cigarettes and betting on horse races, he still thinks he's "undoubtedly" the best player in the world (with Ronaldo second and Rooney "definitely in the top 10"). However, I don't think you'll ever find a stranger preamble to that point. Well, until Harry writes another column about Messi.

Well this is just sad. Scotland played Wales in a Nations Cup match on Wednesday at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and it looks like about 18 people showed up. Scotland won 3-1, but when you have so few people in a 51,700-seat stadium, it's kind of amazing they even bothered to finish the match.

Was this match supposed to be a surprise? Did they go with the Eric Cartman "you can't come" marketing technique? I know a midweek match between Wales and Scotland isn't the biggest draw in the world, but come on -- you'd think they would be able to fill at least one full section of seats.

Here's the most depressing picture of a goal celebration you'll see today...

Wales' Robert Earnshaw does his trademark acrobatics for a ball boy and a guy who isn't even watching as he claps. Wales then gave up three goals in the second half to lose the game.

Photos: Getty

"Everybody is doing it!" laughed FIFA president Sepp Blatter at a press conference to announce the governing body's latest initiative to convince the public that corruption is actually a good thing. Assembled as a response to bribery allegations against Asian Football Confederation leader Mohamed bin Hammam and FIFA vice president Jack Warner, as well as their retaliatory bribery allegations against Blatter and several other top FIFA officials, the men joined together to launch the "Corruption is Cool" campaign.

"Look," Blatter said as he propped his feet up on the table, "we took an inventory and discovered that everyone at FIFA -- even the janitors -- are corrupt in some way. And since we don't have to answer to anyone and our sponsors couldn't care less, we decided that it would be easier to convince the people that corruption is what's best for football than to end the good thing we have going here. So, the 'Corruption is Cool' campaign will be in the same vein as our campaign against racism and homophobia. Except this one we will actually act on."

When asked how the janitors could possibly be corrupt, Blatter said that they admitted to cleaning some offices and private bathrooms at FIFA's Zurich headquarters better than others in exchange for honorary titles such as "Knight of the Round Ball" and "Duke of Peleville."

Blatter outlined several programs that will be a part of the new campaign, including "Kickback Camps" -- where children will be taught how to properly solicit a bribe and how to make it appear as if they're helping others when they're really just lining their own pock! ets.

"This will be our greatest legacy," Blatter concluded. "One day, all of the world's children will be playing football and taking bribes in harmony with each other."

Photo: Getty

Tuesday was not a good day for Helsingborg goalkeeper Par Hansson. When his side scored first against Malmo, the home fans did not appreciate it and threw a firecracker that landed near him. With a ringing in his ears, Hansson received treatment on the pitch and while that happened, a Malmo fan marched up from behind him and gave him a shove before being taken down by a delayed swarm of police and Helsingborg players.

The referee ordered all the players off the pitch after that and the match was abandoned 20 minutes later. A series of incidents involving fireworks at Swedish matches has prompted the SvFF to ban them from stadiums and referees are required to stop play if they see them in the stands.

Anyway, hopefully Hansson just went home and took a nap after all this.

Davey Becks skipped an L.A. Galaxy league match to play in best friend Gary Neville's testimonial against Juventus at Old Trafford on Tuesday. The mere fact that he was back at his former home and wearing a Manchester United shirt for the first time since 2003 was, of course, more than enough to gobble up the spotlight that was supposed to be on the retiring Neville (but was actually going to be on scandal subject Ryan Giggs). And as if putting in a fine performance and playing the full 90 minutes while prompting giddy chants of "Fergie sign him up" wasn't enough, Davey even played the part of security enforcer by catching a young pitch invader late in the second half.

Becks was preparing to take a corner kick when a couple of kids attempted their invasion. One was caught right away while the other fulfilled his desire to waste everyone's time by scampering around the pitch and evading a trio of stewards. Becks, meanwhile, just stood with his hands on his hips, waiting for his superior gravitational pull to attract the kid to him and when it did, he wrapped him up with a bear hug.

From there, the herd of stewards took over and moved to expel the two kids from the stadium as Davey made a point to argue that they should be let go and showed his displeasure when they weren't. He then struck his corner kick and carried on being the one and only Davey Becks.

Photos from the evening right his way...

Paul Scholes can't even avoid contact during pre-match photos.

Both Beckham and Michael Owen wore No. 7, probably to avoid a dressing room fight that would've left Owen with 17 broken bones.

Nicky Butt searched the crowd for "Welcome home Nicky Butt" signs. He didn't find any.

"Be still, Gary. I have to be sure my face is in the shot."

Photos: AP, Reuters, Getty

All the stuff being covered outside the unfriendly confines of the award-winning Dirty Tackle...

Tennis player a Liverpool fan Caroline Wozniacki is in Paris for the French Open and between matches, she's apparently spending her time doing keepy-uppys. [YouTube]

Nike reveals Manchester United's 2010/11 home kit. [The Beautiful Gear]

Premier League managers name their best players of the decade. [The Offside]

Ryan Giggs chooses an unfortunate place to sit. [Kickette]

The Guatemalan Manchester City. [IBWM]

The importance of not believing everything you read about superinjunctions. [Twisted Blood]

Respect The Adu! American Pele! He used to date JoJo! [The Shinguardian]

Serie A team of the season. [Unprofessional Foul]

The thought process of the amateur footballer. [Surreal Football]

Slighted Aston Villa players invade the stands after nonplussed fans fail to come onto pitch. [The Gaffer]

Davey Becks' new underpants line. [Studs Up]

And finally, thank you so, so much to everyone who voted for DT in the EPL Talk awards. We won the Best Blogger and Funniest Football Site categories. And although we missed out on winning the Best Blog category for the third straight year, we will still reward your support with some fun stuff and giveaways this summer. Thanks again, everyone! [EPL Talk]

Not pictured: Mario Balotelli.

It seems so much was made of the possibility that Carlos Tevez would opt to travel back to Argentina to see his family rather than attend Man City's FA Cup parade on Monday that no one bothered to make sure Mario Balotelli would show up. So, while Tevez hoisted the trophy from an open-topped bus surrounded by thousands of fans, Balotelli was in Milan doing whatever it is he does.

From the Telegraph:

Balotelli's failure to attend could lead to the former Inter Milan player, who earns 170,000 a week, being fined a fortnight's wages. Club sources suggested he had been allowed to return home for family reasons.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Balotelli was also absent from the club's Player of the Year awards and prompted the embarrassing situation of full-back Micah Richards collecting the Young Player of the Year award, given to Balotelli, due to the Italian's absence.

So just what was Mario Balotelli doing instead of attending these events? Given his reputation for giving large sums of money to the homeless and helping bullied children before speeding off in his Maserati, here are some possible excuses:

-Building houses for orphans (before speeding off in his Maserati).

-Finding a cure for feline AIDS (before speeding off in his Maserati).

-Playing Jenga.

-Making some much needed repairs to his Maserati! (before speeding off in his Maserati).

Photo: Getty

Kevin-Prince Boateng set the bar for celebratory dances quite high with his Michael Jackson routine, so Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin opted to set the opposite end of the scale. Udinese finished the Serie A season in fourth place to earn a Champions League qualifying spot and following their 0-0 draw against Milan on Sunday, they set up a small stage on the pitch. From there, the spastic dancing began.

From Football Italia:

The tactician [Guidolin] had promised to do the Moonwalk after securing Champions League preliminary round qualification, but his efforts were a little underwhelming.

"Let's not go there," he laughed. "I kept my pledge, but I really am a terrible dancer!

"As a Coach I am one of many, and I won't complain about that, but nobody can beat me at cycling mountain ranges in the over-50 class. I have to say, I am the best at that!"

Cycling mountain ranges in the over-50 class? That's...pretty specific. Meanwhile, despite Guidolin admirable and joyous effort, Boateng retains the title for dancing after Serie A matches in the under-60 class.

Carlo Ancelotti was unceremoniously sacked in a corridor at Goodison Park following Chelsea's season-ending loss to Everton on Sunday. The following is a transcript of how we imagine his conversation with Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay went.

Gourlay: Carlo, I have a message from Mr. Abramovich for you.

Ancelotti: OK. What is it?

Gourlay: He says he hopes you have a nice summer, that you're welcome to use one of his less favorite yachts whenever you want, that you're sacked and that he hopes you have a nice summer. Wait, did I already say that?

Ancelotti: I'm sacked?

Gourlay: Right. And you can use one of his less favorite yachts. How great is that?!

Ancelotti: But I'm sacked? How can you tell me such news like this?

Gourlay: (shrugs) We do this kind of a lot. At this point it's like sneezing.

Ancelotti: Where is Mr. Abramovich? Can I hear this from him?

Gourlay: Uh. I don't know where he is. He's definitely not here. He's probably having lunch with P. Diddy inside a castle or something.

Ancelotti: Who is that crouching behind you? Roman, is that you?

Gourlay: Uh -- no. That's not Mr. Abramovich. That's my nephew. Dan. He's shy. And he has a beard.

Ancelotti: I doubt your nephew Dan wears miniature working yachts a! s shoes. Mr. Abramovich, please come out and tell me what is going on.

Gourlay: Again, that is definitely not Roman Abramovich crouching behind me and scratching the back of my leg with his beard. Now if you'll excuse me, Carlo, I must be going.

[Gourlay backs away slowly, trying not to reveal Roman Abramovich crawling behind him]

Ancelotti: Can I at least travel with the team back to London?

Gourlay: Um, no. Avram Grant will be here to pick you up in his rickshaw sometime before Tuesday. Anyway, good luck. And remember the yacht deal. Oh, and I heard Phil Scolari will be hosting a mixer for former Chelsea managers next month. That'll be a blast!

Ancelotti: I just had- AH!

Vladimir Putin: PUTIN SACKED

Photos: Getty Images, AP

Jose Mourinho has finally broken his most recent self-imposed silence to take a few thinly veiled shots at Barcelona and UEFA (and, of course, their shady partner in crime and charity UNICEF) in a video message to Real Madrid supporters. Jose hasn't spoken to the press since being given his five-match ban from UEFA after the first leg of the Champions League semifinal last month. But since spontaneous combustion becomes an increasingly real possibility with the passing of each day he doesn't make a public statement, Jose finally got his shots in.

From the Independent:

"Finally, I want to end with a very simple wish, which is that next season we recover certain principles that nobody should ever forget, and which this season some football professionals and some institutions have sometimes forgotten, and which must be the basis of our sport.

"To talk of fair-play, of respect to your opponents and of the red card to racism must not just be words, they must be facts.

"I repeat, I have the hope that next season we can recover for our sport these absolutely fundamental principles."

His reference to racism is, of course, a jab at the allegations of Sergio Busquets' taunts against Marce! lo and U EFA's failure to punish him. And his reference to "respect" is, uh, probably about refraining from publicly questioning the integrity of match officials and accusing charities of fixing football matches. Or something.

Jose's subdued video right this way...

Did someone sedate him before filming this? That sigh at the end makes me think Florentino Perez loaded him up with horse tranquilizers just before this.

When Sampdoria sealed their relegation from Serie A with a loss against Palermo, captain Angelo Palombo was so distraught that he wept on the pitch like he just put down Old Yeller. It was a disastrous season -- going from fourth place last year to finishing 18th being dropped down to Serie B -- and one that will hurt Sampdoria fans for some time. So to poke those wounds while they're still wide open, fans of fierce city rivals Genoa CFC (who finished 10th this season) held a massive mock funeral in the streets for their doomed neighbors.

From the Guardian:

With nothing riding on their last game against Cesena, Genoa's supporters took the time to enjoy the relegation of their neighbours Sampdoria. A five-minute silence was held by supporters during the game to mark Samp's passing, and afterwards a 30,000-strong 'funeral' procession carried a coffin draped in Sampdoria's colours through the city.

30,000! 30,000 people poured into the streets to take part in an elaborate joke at their depressed rivals' expense. And it wasn't just the coffin painted in Sampdoria's colors, either. They also had pallbearers in special robes carrying it, along with priests and even a crying/laughing "widow" dressed in black (55 seconds into the video).

Genoa fans better enjoy being the city's only Serie A club next season because Sampdoria fans will certainly be plotting their revenge as they hope for a quick return to the top flight. And for Genoa to suffer the same fate they have.

Credit to HyperVocal for the spot. Photos of the event here! . < /p>

Prepare to call the five-second rule as you pick your jaw up off the floor because 21-year-0ld Javier Cortes is about to put it there. Pumas won the Mexican Clausura on Sunday by beating Morelia 2-1 thanks to Cortes' brilliant 77th minute winner. The 21-year-old weaved through three defenders and fired a shot past one more diving opponent and the goalkeeper to give Pumas the title and prove they deserved it.

After the match, even Cortes himself couldn't hide how impressed he was with Javier Cortes. From Reuters:

"Really, that was the move of my life, that was the goal for the championship," Cortes said. "I dared to have a go, I dared to shoot and how good it was to get that goal," he told reporters after the Pumas' lap of honour.

And after that, he dared to party all night long.

Hearing that Maradona took drugs won't shock anyone. But hearing that FIFA vice president and Argentine Football Association head Julio Grondona knew about systematic doping among his national team? Well, that probably won't surprise anyone either.

In an interview on Monday, Maradona made accusations against the man who dismissed him from his post as Argentina's manager after last summer's World Cup. Prompted by Grondona's recent references to Maradona's struggles with drug addiction, the football legend revealed Grondona's hypocrisy and the measures taken to ensure Argentina qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. -- from which Maradona was sent home early after failing a drug test.

From the AP:

"Why weren't there any anti-doping controls in the match with Australia if we had them in all the other games?" Maradona asked during an interview on The Football Show. "They give you 10 anti-doping controls and only the match that decides whether Argentina will go to the United States or not, there is no anti-doping control. That's the cheat and Grondona knew about it.

"What happened is that to play against Australia we were given a speedy coffee. They put something in the coffee and that's why we ran more." [...]

"We took whatever the doctor gave us," Maradona said. "To go to the World Cup, we'd have taken even orange juice. I'm saying it now because Grondona talks about drugs as if he didn't know anything about drugs in football and the sickness I suffered."


I' ;m assuming Maradona means there was something other than caffeine in this "speedy coffee." I don't know what he has against orange juice, though. Did someone tell him that cocaine has vitamins in it and orange juice is like crack at some point? Because that would explain a lot.

Photo: Getty Images

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