Random notes from Monday’s FIFA ceremony in Zurich

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Leave it to FIFA to create an hour of needless content around two revelations that could have been zipped up in about four minutes – and that’s with both acceptance speeches!

But never mind that. Abby Wambach won her first FIFA Women’s player of the Year honor (congrats!) and Leo Messi claimed his unprecedented fourth Ballon d’Or.

Yup … dancers, weird mascots, bad speeches (along with a few worthy moments, if should be said) all to find out that Messi had outdistanced Cristiano Ronaldo (the only real competition, it should be said) for the 2012 world honor.

(MORE: No suprises, as Leo Messi wins at unprecedented fourth)

Here are some other memorable moments and facts to consider (of the completely random nature):

Messi was not listed on 52 of the 508 official ballots. Fools. Just fools.

For the record, Ruud Gullit is the only former MLS manager to ever host a FIFA Ballon D’Or ceremony.

Sepp Blatter’s speech to open the ceremony would have raised indignant cries of “hypocrisy” or even “ignorance” … if it wasn’t just so comically bad.

If you’re interested, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann voted Messi first, Andrea Pirlo second and Cristiano Ronaldo third. All the ballots are here.

If I find the man or woman who said, “Dancing! We need more dancing at the ceremony! … Maybe even some shirtless men throwing fake kung-fu!” … we are going to have words.

So as not to sound like a total FIFA basher, the video mash-up of former player of the year winners, which included some wonderful, old footage, was pretty sweet.

In case you were wondering, the man conducting interviews for FIFA’s official feed on the red carpet before Monday’s announcement thought U.S. women’s national team players Alex Morgan and Hope Solo were beautiful and were wearing beautiful dresses. He didn’t feel the need to say something similar about the handsome, fit and well-dressed men he interviewed. It seems that the sexist attitudes around world soccer’s governing body trickle down from the top.

I’m not quite sure what to say about Messi’s seriously fancy outfit. Polka dots, yo!

Speaking of wardrobe, here’s what blogger-funny man-good dude Shawn Francis said about Brazil’s Marta, who was up for Female Player of the Year: “Marta wearing Tina Turner’s dress from the Private Dancer tour, I see.” Good one, Shawn!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stunning goal against England wasn’t even among the nominees for FIFA Goal of the Year … which delegitimizes the award in my mind. No reason to even talk about it.

Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque was named Men’s Coach of the Year.

Former U.S. manager Pia Sundhage was named Women’s Coach of the Year.

Singing! Of course, there had to be singing!  At least one tune was of the unscripted variety, as Sundhage sang out a nice, quick little tribute to Alex Morgan and Wambach in the audience, essentially saying she was there because of players like them. A very nice touch. And very, uh, “Sundage.”

source:  Someone said the song was Olivia Newton John’s “If Not For You.” I cannot confirm this. And if I could, I certainly would not admit it.

Two-time Ballon D’Or winner and former Brazilian great Ronaldo (pictured) is only 36, but he has added so much weight, he is nearly unrecognizable.

Gullit, 49 minutes into the ridiculously, overly long ceremony: “The tension is mounting!” Uh, no … it really wasn’t. Whatever tension might have been linked into this one (truly, not so much) leaked about around the time the Brazil 2104 mascot went bouncing around on the stage. Or when Gullit put on a Gullit wig. (He really did that.) Or when some lady nobody knew sang a song nobody knew. Or when … oh, you get the message.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

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PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

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The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga