Rosol Rout Caps Fine Month for Czech Sports

Czech tennis player Lukas Rosol’s recent shock win over world no.2 seed Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon has completed a good month for the country’s sportsmen, with the Czech football team also reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.

26-year-old Rosol, barely known outside of his home country before Thursday’s victory, made headlines across Europe after upsetting the odds to defeat Spanish giant Nadal 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. His win has since been labelled “one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon and Grand Slam history” after defeating the 11-time Grand Slam winner.

Rosol had been ranked 100th in the world and was the clear underdog going into the match – the man himself admits that one of his main aims was simply to avoid losing in straight sets: “I don’t know what to say – I’m not just surprised but it’s like a miracle. I never expected something like this. There are so many emotions – I don’t know what to say. [Nadal] is a superstar and I’m very sorry for him. I played unbelievably today. I hope I can play another match like this. I’m very happy for my support. Before the match I was thinking to play three good sets so I don’t lose 3-0.”

The Brno-born right-hander’s reaction after winning said it all: it appeared that he realized this was likely to be the peak of a professional career that began in 2004. It was not only the best moment in Rosol’s career, but also one of the highlights in both Czech tennis and Wimbledon history.

Nadal – hardly a man used to losing – had previously reached the third round of every Grand Slam tournament since 2005, but showed admirable sportsmanship and maturity to graciously accept defeat and proceed to sign autographs when many players would have stormed off the court. Indeed, the Spaniard was able to put the loss into perspective, saying I’m very, very disappointed [but] it’s not a tragedy, it’s only a tennis match.”

Unfortunately, Rosol’s heroics ended in the next round, with a defeat to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber (a former world no.22) in straight sets. Nevertheless, it has proved to be an unforgettable tournament for the man ranked as the Czech Republic’s third-best tennis player in April 2012.

Earlier in June the Czech national football team had similarly impressed, albeit not quite on the same scale as Rosol, in successfully negotiating from a tricky Euro 2012 group that also included co-hosts Poland and a fancied Russian team. A 4-1 defeat to Russia, who boasted quality players such as Andriy Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev in their ranks, led to Michal Bilek’s men being written off by many pundits.

However, back-to-back victories over Greece and Poland propelled the Czechs to the top of Group A, booking a quarter-final clash with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. The heavy loss to Russia in their first group game meant that the Czech Republic became the first team to win a group with a negative goal difference.

As with Rosol’s third-round tie, the Czechs’ quarter-final proved to be one step too far, although it still took a late winner from Ronaldo to send Portugal to the quarter-finals. Losing 1-0 to a Portugal team ranked 17 places above them – that would only lose to Spain in the semi-finals on penalties – is nothing to be ashamed of.

The Czech Republic’s performances in these two sporting events,  in the Euros and Wimbledon the pinnacle of each’s 2012 calendar, means that the country’s 10.5 million population can be proud of a summer of success for Czech sportsmen.


Interview with a Soccer International: PNG’s Nathaniel Lepani on Barcelona, Brescia and Baggio

At first glance, Papua New Guinea forward Nathaniel Lepani’s career may not appear to be particularly unique. Since beginning his footballing journey in 2001 with Cosmos Port Moresby, Lepani has flitted between his homeland and the upper echelons of Australia’s Brisbane Premier League, also enjoying a spell at USA college side Menlo Oaks in 2002-03.

However, what very few realise is that Lepani almost secured a contract with Italian club Brescia Calcio, then enjoying their best-ever campaign in Serie A by finishing 7th and boasting players such as Roberto Baggio and Andrea Pirlo. Lepani trialled, unsuccessfully, for the club’s primavera youth squad in May 2001, a time the man himself describes “the year where I pursued my professional dream.”

Had he succeeded, Nathaniel would have gone down in history as Papua New Guinea’s most successful export. Few footballers from the country stray from the Oceania region, with even the national team’s most adventurous players plying their trade in Australia or New Zealand.

That’s not to say his career since hasn’t seen brilliant highs, including scoring four times in a Pacific Games clash with Kiribati in September, representing his country against the likes of Australia (and facing up against ex-Fulham midfielder Ahmad Elrich and former Tottenham defender Spase Dilevski), and bagging a brace against Samoa just two days after his 22nd birthday in 2004.

Nathaniel cites a three-year stay in Belgium, from 1991-94, as a large influence on his eventual career in football. Flanders club Overijse Voetbal Club, currently in the Belgian fourth division, boasted the youngster’s talents in their U12 and U14 sides during his time in the country. Lepani describes the experience as one that “helped to cement my footballing upbringing” – the taste of European football from an early age has almost certainly given the current Gigira Laitepo Morobe attacker an advantage over his Papua New Guinean peers.

Helping to dispel the “uneducated and uncouth” stereotype that has plagued 21st-century footballers, Lepani has attended universities and colleges in his native PNG, Australia and America. This, combined with a high-ranking job in the Oceania branch of food processing giants Nestlé, has limited Lepani’s time for football, resulting in a “year out” from club football in 2004, and spells at lower-league clubs more convenient for someone juggling work, education and sport.

The rest of this interview contains more than enough evidence to prove his well-spoken nature and articulate views. Enjoy.

What is the highlight of your career, either at international or club level?

I have to at least mention my experience at Brescia Calcio for no other reason than what it showed me in terms of the “professional” approach to the game and all that it encompasses.  It was also a relatively humbling experience in that when we (Primavera) played the first team in a practice match, the top players would all arrive in their fancy sports cars, while us younger squad members were dropped off or caught public transport.

In saying that, though, I can’t go past the experience of being able to represent my country and lining up before the game and hearing the national anthem being played. Playing for PNG may not be the most “glamorous”,  but it’s still an absolute honor nonetheless. I’d have to say my highlights would be my first goals for PNG, at U20 level in Cook Islands at the Oceania U20s World Cup Qualifers in 2001. I had picked up a groin strain in our first training session, so had to carry that through the tournament. Despite starting against Vanuatu in our first game (a 6-0 loss), I was benched for our Cook Islands one. Coming on as a sub in the second half I played the “super sub” role and bagged two goals in my 25 minute performance. So those were my first goals in PNG colors.

 It’s always enjoyable scoring goals, and of course scoring 4 in one game against Kiribati was fulfilling and certainly worth mentioning as a highlight, but funnily enough the atmosphere in which we played that game was quite negative, and to be honest it wasn’t one of my most memorable experiences.

“Lepani’s on trial with us, you say!?” Baggio’s place in football folklore lead to him being “cocooned” from the mere mortals

How did the trial at Brescia Calcio in 2001 come about? Not many PNG players make it to Europe, let alone Serie A…

Certainly not the most orthodox of ways. An Italian with close links to Brescia and other Italian Serie A and C clubs was working in PNG at the time.  Alongside a contact at Brescia Calcio (the team manager of the U16s), he set up a player agency with the objective of tapping into the Pacific Market for potential players to trial, and ultimately, play in Italy and possibly Europe as a whole.

I was fortunate that it was created at a time when I had just finished high school and had recently represented PNG at u20 level. So I had time and youth on my side, and had proven that I had the potential to succeed – which was the reason behind my selection. Admittedly as well, compared to the average Papua New Guinean, the means to support this trial was also a factor at the time, as I had to bear the costs of traveling to Bresica as well as room and board during the time there. I was one of two guys, Alex Davani being the second, who were selected to trial at Brescia from PNG.

Although it was reiterated to me that the trial could have lasted anywhere between a few days and a month, my month there showed me that I must have impressed enough for them to have kept me there during that time. While I was there 3 other trialists came and went, so during that time I was reassured that if the club had kept me there while other trialists came and went, then they must have seen something in me to keep me there.

Did you meet former FIFA World Player of the Year Roberto Baggio or current Serie A stalwarts Andrea Pirlo and Daniele Bonera during your trial? And just how good are players at that level?

I was desperately hoping to meet Baggio. But as he was in his twilight of his career then and had already confirmed himself in the pantheon of footballing Gods, not only in Italy, but the world as well, he was unsurprisingly kept “cocooned” by what I observed. I recall that during our game against the top team, he was training by himself on the other field, under the watchful eyes of a physio (he was injured at the time, I recall) and a television crew from Japan. I do remember Bonera, although possibly due to my ignorance, did not recognise him for the player he was. Same for Pirlo, although admittedly he became the player he is during his time at Milan.

I would like to think that although I didn’t make the cut, I gave as good as other players that I trained and played with. However there was one player who I noticed to be a bit extra special, [Abderrazzak] “‘Razza” Jadid. He was with the Primavera squad at the time, but last I saw he had made the first team and was loaned out to a few other clubs [Jadid currently plays for Serie B club Grosseto, on loan from Parma].

With regards to the first team players, there was certainly a higher level of urgency and skill in their approach to their play. I was fortunate to see them in both training and during games, and their composure and reading of the game was the same. I think back now and realise that the standard I saw was probably reflective of a mid-bottom level club in Serie A (arguably the top league in the world at the time). So it still astounds me to think that if that was the standard there, imagine what it would have been at AC Milan, Roma or Inter?

What are your strengths as a player, and which famous attacker would you compare yourself to in terms of playing style?

Despite always being on the “slight” side in terms of body build, I think it’s contributed to my strengths as a player. My agility, balance, speed and ability to read the game are certainly up there as strengths. Playing in both Australia and the US, where the physical aspects of the game are more apparent, I have always had to ensure I made my mark on the game through other ways. And I think in that sense I can appreciate and admire how players like Xavi and Iniesta have been able to excel.  In terms of playing style and a player I most resemble, I’d have to say Pedro Rodriguez at Barcelona. I may not be as quick as I was, but I definitely see a bit of how I played, in him, whenever I watch Barca play.

Returning to matters closer to home, how far has football in Papua New Guinea come in recent years?

I think the introduction of the National Soccer League [in 2006] has certainly helped to create a nationalised league that challenges all clubs/franchises to operate in a semi-professional manner and strive to lift their standards, both on and off the field. I definitely think that the success of Hekari [winners of every NSL title since 2006, and OFC Champions League winners in 2010] has shown the rest of PNG that it is possible to achieve success at a domestic level and carry that on to a regional level too, and challenge the status quo. So in that sense, football has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years. There can certainly be many more improvements in a domestic sense, but I think there has been enough of a foundation created that it is really up to us as players and future administrators and club management to continue to lift that standard.

Nathaniel emulates Barcelona forward Pedro during a 2011 clash with Tahiti

What division in England would you compare the PNG National Soccer League to in terms of standard?

To be honest, apart from the Premier League and the understanding that there’s the “second” division below that, and so forth, I am not familiar at all with the divisions in England to make enough of an informed comparison. I would say that purely skill-wise, we would probably be comparable to the 3rd or 4th tier of the League [League One/League Two]. However in overall approach to the game (changing rooms, pre/post-game “rituals”, physios, training equipment, etc) I would say we are still near “Sunday League” level, unfortunately. It’s frustrating to say, but apart from Hekari, there is a huge gap in the approach to the game that most teams in the NSL have. The introduction of player payments/wages was supposed to bring the level up to “Semi-Professional”, however in my opinion it’s still lacking.

What are the differences between top-flight football in PNG and in Europe? How big is local interest in the game?

PNG is the one country in the world that likes to boast that its national sport is Rugby League. This is certainly the case for support at a grassroots level.  Having said that, soccer has always had its following from different corners of the country. So when it comes to games and certain teams playing, there will always be followers of the game. Again, Hekari has certainly raised the profile of the game in recent years, and alongside the introduction of the NSL, coverage has become more national and therefore players more identifiable. Coverage on the national TV channel also assists in this. I still wouldn’t say it’s at the same level as rugby league players in the country, but still recognisable enough in certain crowds.

Port Moresby has always had 2 to 3 teams in the NSL at any given season, and due to the lack of suitable playing venues, most of those home games are held at the same field. So game days are often double headers. Because of that, crowd numbers are usually respectable (for PNG football standards) – up to 1,000. However for bigger games (O-League, Internationals), the crowds can swell to about 5,000 – 7,000. Lae, which has always been a stronghold for football players and supporters in the country also turns out in numbers for NSL games in Lae at the stadium there.

How did living in Belgium at a young age aid your football development, and how did the move come about? Belgium must be very different to PNG…

I was fortunate to have lived in Belgium for three years (’91-’94) when I was growing up, which helped to cement my footballing “upbringing”.  I didn’t become a teenager until I returned to PNG, but it still had a bit of a bearing on my “formative” years as a footballer. As I mentioned earlier, I think the “holistic” approach to the game really showed me what it’s like to play football in a setup that accepted that football is not only about what happens on the field during the game day.

I was fortunate enough to have lived in and experienced several cultures and countries growing up, due to my Dad’s work commitments. Belgium was no different. Our move there was due to Dad being posted there for work. Belgium  is definitely a huge change from PNG. Although I did live in Hawaii prior to Belgium, so that change in itself was also a major one.

Lepani was overjoyed to be playing for Overijse while in Belgium

Do you support any English or European clubs as a result of your travels abroad?

Simply put, FC Barcelona. I’ve actually been a fan ever since we lived in Belgium, and not just a recent convert like I’m sure millions of fans have been due to their recent incredible success. Their “original” dream team was just starting to gel and even at my age I recognised their brilliance. I was definitely fortunate to be living in Belgium at the time, so had access to TV and media coverage of them. So had I been in PNG I doubt I would have known of them, let alone most of the other European teams. Of course nowadays it’s easy to be drawn to support various teams due to their team make up (I enjoy the style of play of numerous players plying their trade in several top European teams), however I’m a stalwart fan of the Blaugrana. “Mes que un club”!

In England I do follow Arsenal (my brother’s team [Nathaniel’s brother Andrew has also represented PNG at international level]). An Italian close friend and teamate at Menlo, Chris Antinnuci convinced me of AS Roma’s merits. And I’ve been a fan of Totti ever since. In hindsight I was also unlucky to have missed Guardiola during his time at Brescia as well.

 How disappointed were you not to make the PNG 2012 Nations Cup squad? It must have been a bittersweet feeling to see that your brother Andrew was included, but you weren’t.

Extremely. I won’t go into details, but I did have a lengthy talk with the gaffer [former Australia boss Frank Farina] and was given a reason – I had an untimely accident which left a gash across my right knee requiring 7 stitches and one week out from training camp – for my ommission. I can’t say I blame him for that decision, considering that I agree that only the fittest and experienced of players should be selected. But I still feel that had I been given the opportunity to prove my fitness and see out the healing of my knee, that my experience and presence in the squad of 23 (regardless of whether I would have been a starter or not) would still have been beneficial and warranted. My brother has also struggled with juggling work commitments with national team duties, so in fact I’m extremely happy for him that he’s made it.

How much does it mean to represent your country against some of the best footballers in Oceania, and who is the best player you’ve ever faced?

For sure it means a lot. There’s so much passion and potential in Oceania that although we cannot be compared to the heights of Europe or South America or even Asia, there are still some very skillful players that I believe given the opportunity to play in established leagues in Europe would excel (although I’m not sure about the weather!).

I was fortunate enough to have played against the Australian U20s and U23s squads. And in both squads Nick Carle was a member. He may not have fulfilled his potential in Europe, but he’s one of the most skillful players I’ve been up against. I still remember our game against them at U20s level (they ran out winners 6-0). It was near cyclonic conditions – to be honest it was probably fortunate for us that the conditions were so horrendous, or else they really would have ripped us apart. But during the game that was literally played in puddles,  Nick would always be able to caress the ball and flick it up slightly to get it out of the water and just knock it patiently to his team mates. He helped to set Scott McDonald (another quality player) for a hat trick that game, if I remember correctly. But he was certainly the most skillful I had come up against.

 Finally, who do you tip to win this year’s Nations Cup? New Zealand will surely start as favourites, but the Solomon Islands are on home soil, and PNG have been labelled the “dark horses” of the competition…

I’ve just watched PNG fall to Solomons 0-1, so there goes my instinctual answer of PNG! And in the earlier game by all accounts the Kiwis [New Zealand] struggled in their 1-0 win over Fiji. On the face of it, New Zealand should just turn up at the tournament and walk away winners, such is the quality of their team of near fulltime professionals, compared to the majority of “amateurs” who make up the rest of the Pacific countries. But having the tournament hosted out of their comfort zone, always means the Kiwis are going to have to work for their win.

I still think they’ll go all the way to win it, but not without some strong challenges along the way. The Solomon Islands are on home soil, but if their first game is anything to go by, they’ll have to step up to go all the way. With the crowd behind them, maybe that’s the extra gear that they’ll need. Fiji should be able to bounce back from their loss and challenge as well. I see the winner of Fiji and Solomons as going through as the second placed team in the group. I’m sorry to say but after the 1-0 loss to Solomons and next game against New Zealand, PNG really are up against it to progress. Crazier things have happened, but we certainly are up against it.

Having said all that, I’ve been impressed with the Francophone teams, particularly New Caledonia – they play a particular style of football that stands them apart from the other Pacific teams. After several years of underachieving, I think Tahiti are also getting back to their best.

All in all, I think it’ll be an exciting few weeks of football. And I think even if New Zealand win, I think the performance of the teams will show that the gap is closing between New Zealand and the other Pacific nations.

Thanks for your time.

No problem at all.

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Photos: Baggio –; Lepani – Andrew Molen/Nathaniel Lepani; Overijse team – Tim Beeckmans.

3-2 Win Ends In Heartbreak For Both Teams

It’s not often that both clubs come away disappointed from a 3-2 win, but that’s exactly what happened at Edgar Street, home of Hereford United, in today’s clash with Torquay.

This game was of critical importance to both clubs: Hereford, second-bottom in the table, needed to win and hope relegation rivals Barnet slipped up in order to secure their own safety, while Torquay desperately needed the three points to overcome Crawley and Southend in the battle for third place and automatic promotion to League One.

The Bulls would have been high on confidence for a side fighting the drop, having shocked Crawley 3-0 in their previous outing. Cheered on by the majority of the 5,000-strong crowd at Edgar Street, Richard O’Kelly’s men were certainly in with a chance of surprising the league’s surprise package Torquay. The Gulls had suffered an uncharacteristic blip in form, drawing with Southend and Crewe at home and losing to AFC Wimbledon away, placing even bigger significance on this trip to the Welsh border. Torquay fans had been hoping Hereford would be relegated by the time the sides met on the last day, making their job significantly easier, but it was not to be.

Despite beginning brightly, Torquay were punished by Hereford’s prolific taking of chances: three first-half goals without reply had their fans relishing the prospect of another impressive win that would secure another season in the Football League. The scoring was opened by Delroy Facey, a former Premier League forward with Bolton Wanderers, and the Bulls never looked back: further goals from Harry Pell and Rob Purdie made the lead comfortable and seemingly put the result beyond all doubt. It would take a miracle now for Torquay to grab the victory they so dearly needed. As Gulls manager Martin Ling later admitted “We didn’t play well, but everything they touched turned to gold!”

Hereford’s second came from a penalty after Lee Mansell was adjudged to have fouled Purdie ten minutes before the break. After custodian Bobby Olejnik had extended his excellent penalty-saving record with a spot-kick stop against Crewe a week earlier, Gulls fans would have been quietly confident the Austrian could repeat the trick, but Pell proved otherwise. Purdie found the net himself four minutes later to give Torquay a mountain to climb in the second half.

That mountain was reduced to a very large hill just 13 seconds after the break when substitute Ryan Jarvis dispatched Joe Oastler’s strike beyond Hereford goalkeeper Adam Bartlett. Torquay continued to press for a route back into the game, and just after the hour Taiwo Atieno, another sub, reduced the deficit to a single goal after pouncing on a rebound from Kevin Nicholson’s free-kick. The impossible was now simply unlikely, but unfortunately for the Gulls and their 1,400 travelling fans, that was as good as it got.

As news of a breakthrough from Barnet in their game against Burton reached Edgar Street, the atmosphere among the home fans unsurprisingly become more subdued. Even a win would now not be enough, and the tension on the pitch was evident as Torquay skipper Lee Mansell enjoyed “fisticuffs”, as a Final Score reporter put it, with Bulls defender Byron Anthony in the closing stages.

A mammoth eight minutes of injury time simply delayed the agony for both sets of fans – Hereford were condemned to the Conference and, contrary to the oft-heard chant at Plainmoor, the Gulls were not going up – automatically, at least. Although the Yellow Army will be disappointed to have to endure the lottery of the play-offs after such a great season – the Gulls had been tipped for mid-table mediocrity at best by so-called “experts” – they should look back on Martin Ling’s first season in charge with pride and satisfaction. Whether Ling can conjure a return to form from his small, tired squad remains to be seen. What is certain is that Cheltenham will prove to be tough opponents in the play-off semi-final.

Hereford came so close to saving their skins after showing late improvement, losing just one of their final six league fixtures. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and it is fair to say that relegation always looked likely – a dire record of one win in their first thirteen games set the tone for an appalling season that has included embarrassing 6-1 and 4-0 reverses at home. Should Richard O’Kelly, only appointed in March, stick around for next season, they could bounce back at the first attempt. Hereford fans will certainly hope so.

Swiss Super League not so super after all

Recent events suggest that the Swiss Super League, the country’s highest division, is struggling to live up to its name. The league’s 2011-12 season has been plagued by financial crises as well as protests from both fans and clubs.

The biggest disaster, though, has been the bankruptcy of Neuchâtel Xamax, two-time Super League winners. As a result of the club’s consistent financial difficulties, the Swiss Football Association has expelled Xamax from the Super League mid-season, and demoted it to the 2. Liga – the Swiss fourth tier – for the 2012-13 season.

In the first half of the season, Xamax had amassed 26 points in 18 games and were in a comfortable fourth place in the ten-team league. However, Xamax had their license revoked on 18 January 2012 after failing to provide the necessary financial documents and guarantees. Just eight days later the club officially announced their bankruptcy amid claims from ESPN that Neuchâtel were “suspected of falsifying a bank document produced as a financial guarantee last year” – the apparently forged document was said to contain basic spelling and grammar mistakes as the club desparately tried to cover up their problems.

Bungling Bulat has reason to worry after being arrested for financial mismanagement

Xamax’s chairman, Russian businessman Bulat Chagaev, must be cursing his decision to take over the club in May. What followed has been the most turbulent 12 months in the club’s history, and Chagaev’s public humiliation doesn’t end there – shortly after Xamax’s bankruptcy was announced, he was arrested for “financial mismanagement” and is suspected to be responsible for a large part of the club’s debts of at least $8.7 million. Guilty or not, the Russian was clearly not cut out for football – he had already sacked four coaches in just nine months.

While Chagaev attempts to clear his name and avoid prosecution, the rest of the club has battled bravely on. A poll on Xamax’s official website asks “How are you willing to help rebuild Xamax?” – unfortunately for the willing volunteers, 10% of supporters say they don’t want to help at all. They have seen their club lurch from one disaster to the next, and even dedicated, loyal fans will eventually decide enough is enough.

It is a sad fall from grace for the Stade de la Maladière side, whose former players include the Senegalese pair of current West Ham midfielder Papa Bouba Diop and ex-Wigan striker Henri Camara, as well as Swiss defender Stephane Henchoz, who enjoyed a six-year spell at Liverpool between 1999 and 2005.

As if Xamax’s troubles weren’t enough, the Swiss FA has also had to deal with troublesome side FC Sion. The club have ignored a FIFA-sanctioned transfer embargo to sign six players this season, and have made no attempt to hide this, fielding ineligible players in no fewer than 12 matches this season.  The Swiss FA have responded with a huge 36 point deduction, leaving Sion bottom of the table with little hope of staying up. The scale of the points deduction is best highlighted by the fact that without the 36-point penalty, Sion would be second in the table, challenging for the title.

Even fans of teams at the top of the league still have reason to be unhappy. Second-placed Luzern have been troubled by fan protest over the club’s banning of flags in its Swissporarena ground. Luzern fans responded by remaining silent during home matches, creating an eerie atmosphere that forced the club to back-track on its decision and re-allow fans to wield flags during games. This isn’t the first time Luzern supporters have made their feelings felt – after a 2010 clash with Basel was rescheduled to avoid a clash with a Roger Federer match, both sets of fans threw thousands of tennis balls on to the pitch to delay the game and make sure the events overlapped anyway.

Xamax's gates will remain closed for the unforeseeable future

Although this season has been particularly turbulent for the Swiss FA, the Super League has a history of issues, especially financial ones. Lausanne-Sport were relegated to the fourth division in 2003 after going bankrupt, and like Xamax, Servette dropped out of the Super League mid-season in 2005.

Despite returning to the top flight this season, Servette’s financial worries have reappeared: December 2011 reports suggested that the club was unable to pay players’ wages, and in February 2012 Servette filed for bankruptcy once more.

The Swiss FA’s punishments may look severe, but with FIFA threatening to expel the country’s clubs from European competitions unless action was taken, the Swiss governing body had little choice. As Sion said in a club statement following their points deduction: “This decision is an intolerable attack on fairness in sport but comes as no surprise to the club which did not expect any courage on the part of the ASF in the face of FIFA”.

For a league that has slipped down the FIFA coefficient rankings in recent years, resulting in the loss of its second Champions League place, the Super League could really have done without these problems. Until something changes, Swiss clubs will continue to break the rules and enter bankruptcy with alarming regularity. It is not a sustainable situation.

Watch the infamous tennis ball protest below:


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Dane Eldridge Tries Hard

Contemporary rugby league surrealism and hot takes on Shane Warne