Kickoff change angers teams
Valencia and Real Betis Balompie on Tuesday reacted angrily after the Spanish Football League (LFP) announced changes to the kickoff times of their respective March 2 games. Valencia’s match at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid was moved from midday to 9pm, while Betis’ game at Villarreal was switched from 9pm to midday, prompting accusations that the LFP was showing a lack of consideration and respect for the clubs and fans. The league said the games were switched to accommodate a ceremony at Villarreal to pay homage to the home fans for how they reacted to Saturday’s tear gas attack at El Madrigal. “As a result of this change, a large majority of the hundreds of Valencianistas who had previously been able to attend the game at Vallecas [in Madrid] have had to cancel their plans,” eighth-placed Valencia said on their Web site. Unlike most major European leagues, where kickoff times are set months in advance, the LFP typically finalizes them couple of weeks before matches. Bottom club Betis said they were especially angry as their Europa League last-32 second leg with Rubin Kazan in Russia is on Thursday next week and they had planned the return assuming they would not be playing at Villarreal until Sunday night. “Bringing forward the time will damage Betis in both sporting and economic terms as the travel plans were finalized days ago,” the club said on their Web site.
Fulham sack five, hire two
Only weeks after appointing them, Fulham have officially dismissed manager Rene Meulensteen, assistant coach Ray Wilkins and technical director Alan Curbishle, the Premier League’s basement club said on Tuesday. The London side’s revolving door continued to spin, with first team coaches Mick Priest and Jonathan Hill joining the exodus of backroom staff following the appointment of Felix Magath as manager on Friday. Fulham also announced the fired staff’s immediate replacements, with Tomas Oral named as first team coach and Werner Leuthard responsible for conditioning. The 60-year-old Magath was named manager despite Meulensteen only being given the job in December last year after Martin Jol’s sacking, with the Dutchman initially having joined in mid-November to work alongside his compatriot. Meulensteen has described the appointment of former Bayern Munich coach Magath as a sign Fulham were hitting “the panic button.” German Magath has extensive coaching experience in the Bundesliga, but has never worked abroad before.
Fulham, who have been in the top flight since 2001, are four points from the safety zone with 12 games to go.
FIFA keeps Curitiba venue
Contrite officials in Curitiba, Brazil, conceded that they underestimated the demands of hosting FIFA World Cup matches as the Arena da Baixada’s venue status was confirmed on Tuesday after world soccer’s governing body had considered ditching the city over stadium construction delays. FIFA backed down on the threat to remove Curitiba from the event program, saying they were satisfied enough had been done to ensure the stadium’s completion by mid-May — one month before the tournament starts. Reginaldo Cordeiro, the city official in charge of World Cup preparations, and Parana State World Cup coordinator Mario Celso Cunha said FIFA’s threat led to an overhaul of the work schedule and a new financing model for the stadium. “It was good that [FIFA general secretary] Jerome Valcke came and tugged at our ears. It was good for us to wake up,” Cordeiro said.