Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Gianni Infantino Plays Down FIFA’s Interest in European Super League; Journalist Apologises For Racist Report On Ansu Fati and More (Football Round-up)

Short Passes (Football News Round-up): Gianni Infantino plays down FIFA’s rumoured involvement in planning of the breakaway European Super League | Ansu Fati subjected to racist news report, journalist apologises | Little known Sassuolo could be top of Serie A table on weekend | Arsenal labour, Leverkusen dazzle, Napoli shocked in Europa League | Promo of IM Vijayan Unplugged, the three-part documentary on the Indian football legend, launched.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the global body’s focus is fully on the revamping of the Club World Cup and nothing else.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is not that keen on the  European Super League (ESL), he told Swiss media, trying to distance himself and the global body from the breakaway competition. “As FIFA president, I’m interested in the Club World Cup, not the Super League,” Infantino said. He added that FIFA’s focus is solely on the revamped Club World Cup -- a 22-team tournament whose inaugural edition is scheduled to be staged in China in 2022

There have been reports doing the rounds that some big clubs of Europe were in negotiations about setting up a breakaway continental competition with support from FIFA. Infantino tried to play down those reports. The global body had, in fact, declined to comment on the breakaway league after rumours surfaced earlier this week, followed by reports in various media outlets that 12 big clubs in Europe are mulling a separate competition.

Also Read | I-League Set to Begin on January 9, Say AIFF Sources; No Decision on Federation Elections Yet

“For me, it’s not about Bayern Munich against Liverpool, but Bayern against Boca Juniors," he added. “Liverpool have 180 million fans worldwide. Flamengo have 40 million fans and 39 million of them are in Brazil. Liverpool have maybe 5 million fans in England and 175 million fans around the world,” he elaborated.

“I want clubs from outside Europe to have global appeal in the future. That’s my vision: to have 50 clubs and 50 national teams who can become world champions.”

Racist Remark on Fati by Journalist

It wasn’t something new, and yet it isn’t something to get used to. If Mario Balotelli’s representation as King Kong atop Big Ben was a moment of grave error in editorial judgement, then eight years on, those grave errors have continued and only amplified. Become more direct even.

Balotelli’s racist representation came via cartoon. Ansu Fati faced it via a more direct medium, that of words. 

Also Read | Mohammedan Sporting’s Ghosts Refuse to Disappear

The Spanish newspaper ABC in its report on FC Barcelona’s game against Ferenvaros, wrote this about Fati: “Ansu in full flight has something of a gazelle about him, of a very young, black street seller that you suddenly see running along Paseo de Gracia when someone shouting ‘water, water’ [to warn other street sellers] announced that the local police have arrived.”

The newspaper known for its right wing views and the writer, Salvador Sostres, drew instant  condemnation — notably from Fati’s teammate Antoine Griezemann — and issued a half baked apology soon after. 

As I attempted to highlight the beauty of Ansu’s movement, and his class as a young player, some expressions were interpreted as racial discrimination,” his statement said. “That could not be further from my intentions, or opinions, which are very favourable towards the player, as I have always expressed in my match reports since he made his debut. I deeply apologise for the misunderstanding and to those who may have been offended.”

Local media reports suggest Barcelona may take legal action over the matter.

Sassuolo, the unlikeliest leaders of Serie A

Sassuolo, a team that have spent most of their history in the lower and amateur levels of Italian football, will spend at least 72 hours atop Serie A if they can beat Torino on Friday. The club is one among very few that do not come from a provincial capital city to play in the top league of Italy.

Compared to Atalanta, thanks to their relentless attacking football and habit of surpassing expectations, Sassuolo have scored four goals in each of their last three games and are second with 10 points.

A win over Torino (yet to win a point) would take them one point ahead of current leaders AC Milan — who do not play until Monday when they host AS Roma.

Sassuolo manager Roberto De Zerbi is an ardent Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola admirer and his style of play echoes the duo’s clubs Leeds United and Manchester City. De Zerbi, in fact, is so committed to keeping the ball that he was full of praise for Manuel Locatelli last week after the midfielder gave away possession on the edge of the area rather than boot it clear — a situation that allowed their opponents Bologna to score.

"We must not be afraid of losing the ball, because that can happen. If we want to play from the back and take the initiative, we will be repaid in the long run," he said. 

The club finished eighth last season, and having managed to keep their squad mostly intact, are aiming even higher this time.

Arsenal stumble to win in Vienna

In a week where Arsenal’s PR machinery, team management, manager, squad and distant ownership have struggled to reconcile fans with Mesut Ozil’s absence, they will travel to London with a win from their opener in the Europa League. Thomas Partey may have arrived, but Arsenal are anything but in the mood for one.  

In a laborious game, that at times felt like Birbal’s slow cooked biryani, Vienna lived up to their name, pressing, haranguing and rushing the visitors down with vigour not unlike most of the Premier League. And it was that vigour that gave them their opener, Taxiarchis Fountas scoring after a horrible error from Bernd Leno attempting to play out from the back. The goalkeeper made similar errors twice more in rapid succession and was lucky on both occasions to not concede and increase the margin of Arsenal’s misery.

Also Read | What is AIFF’s Game Plan to Address the Elephant in I-League Room?

It took going down a goal to get Arsenal out of their stupor. David Luiz (70’) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (74’) scored in quick succession to ensure Arsenal would travel back with three points, but the performance will provoke more questions than provide answers.

Mikel Arteta faced a barrage of Ozil questions in his pre match press conference, saying at one point that he was worried no one was asking him about the game because it would be a tough one. He was not wrong on that count. It was a tough game, made tougher by Arsenal’s lack of any real penetration in the final third. A team low on creativity has benched its lone artist. The questions will continue to arrive. 

In other big games of the first matchday of the competition, Bayer Leverkusen demolished Nice 6-2 and Napoli lost 1-0 to AZ Alkmaar. Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan registered comfortable victories over Austria’s LASK and Scottish champions Celtic.

IM Vijayan Unplugged Promo Launched

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel launched the promo of a three-part documentary on Indian football legend IM Vijayan. 

The documentary, produced by The Week, narrates the career and life of Vijayan, considered one of India's greatest footballers of all time. Vijayan's career, which began with Kerala Polica, saw him play for Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, FC Kochin, Churchill Brothers and JCT. He was a lynchpin in the star studded JCT side that won the inaugural edition of the National Football League in 1996-97.

Vijayan, who has officially joined Kerala Police as a cop, won the SAFF Championship thrice (1993, 1997 and 1999) with the national team. He played 66 matches for the country, scoring 29 goals, including one just 12 seconds into the match against Bhutan at the 1999 SAFF Championship. 

Read more sports stories from Newsclick

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram