Samuel Eto’o calls José Mourinho a ‘fool’, but soccer’s age fraud problem still a concern

2 Comments

While fighting for time in Chelsea’s squad, Samuel Eto’o had reason to keep his mouth shut. Now that he’s away from the Blues and preparing for the World Cup, the Cameroonian international can finally hit back at José Mourinho, who earlier this year implied the man he’s coach with Chelsea and Inter Milan was older than he’s listed.

“Today, I am 33 years old,” Eto’o told AfricanFootball.com. “And it is not because a fool called me an old man that you must believe it.”

Mourinho’s comment came in an off-the-record conversation that was eventually distributed by French broadcaster Canal+. Explaining why he felt his club wouldn’t win the Premier League, the Blues’ boss pointed to the lack of talent at striker, casting doubt on Eto’o’s claimed age.

“Will we win the title?” Mourinho queried in a conversation broadcast on Canal +. “No, we don’t have any scorer. Samuel Eto’o? He is 32-years-old, maybe 35, I don’t know.”

Eto’o would go on to finish the 2013-14 season with 12 goals in 32 all-competition appearances. Fernando Torres added 11, while Demba Ba finished with eight.

Age cheating isn’t something to be taken lightly, but neither are Mourinho’s words. Whereas the outspoken boss is known for using his time in front of the microphones to serve his whims, the quotes Canal+ released were off-the-record. Perhaps he was making a joke, maybe exaggerating his woe, but this wasn’t just Mourinho being tossing out a good quote. This wasn’t supposed to be a quote at all.

Eto’o responded as you’d expect, with an annoyed dismissal, but these are the kind of doubts that hover over African players. It’s unfair, it’s lazy, but unfortunately, it’s also not an entirely baseless concern. Just as Major League Baseball began taking new steps after a series of prominent age-fraud incidents, soccer needs to adopt measures to combat this type of cheating.

FIFA has started making progress my using MRI scans of players’ wrists to discern if a player might be too old for age-restricted tournaments. On the club-level, though, it’s unclear where the incentives lie. A player can make more if he’s understood to be younger. Agents have a greater chance to place the player. Competition between teams is such that being willing to take a chance on a player that might be older could land you a talent while another club wavers.

As the rumors around Radamel Falcao attest, this isn’t purely an African concern. The issue is less about geography than urgency. FIFA is taking steps, but in the club world, there’s no huge push to implement similar measures. At the levels of Falcao and other players who command eight-digit transfer fees, teams will usually take every step possible. Lower down the totem pole, players are more likely to land a deal without the same precautions.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

Photo by Visual China/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

Photo by Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy/Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
Leave a comment

An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
Leave a comment

It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.