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In defence of Giuseppe Rossi

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American soccer fans aren’t noted for their nastiness but the reaction to Giuseppe Rossi, New Jersey native, scoring twice for Italy against the U.S in their 3-1 Confederations Cup defeat on Monday has been surprisingly vitriolic.

What has upset U.S fans is that Rossi was born and bred in the U.S. but chose to play for another country and then — to add insult to injury — celebrated when he scored twice against his country of birth.

Rossi has Italian parents (his father was a soccer coach) also holds Italian citizenship, moved to Parma when he was 12 and was part of the Italian club’s youth scheme before joining Manchester United aged 17. He has represented Italy at youth level before joining the full national side. He now plays in Spain for Villarreal and is the subject of some pretty intense speculation linking him with a move back to one of Italy’s top clubs.

There is now a facebook group with nearly 400 members called ‘We Hate Giuseppe Rossi’ which features a picture of the forward with the word ‘Scum’ superimposed on it. Twitter contributors have labelled Rossi a traitor and there is worse out there.

Fans come to praise Booth, not to boo him

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Matthew Booth stands out in the South African side. At 1,98m, he towers over his team mates and is also the only white player in the home team’s starting line-up at the Confederations Cup.

He is also very popular with the fans, the majority of whom are black, and who remember with particular affection the role he played as captain of the South African under-23 side when they beat Brazil at the Olympic Games nine years ago.

from Left field:

Spain’s sporting state of grace

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pauPau Gasol's triumph with the LA Lakers has prompted more articles in the Spanish media celebrating the country's incredible run of sporting success.

Gasol was a vital cog in the Lakers machine this season and joins a long list of Spanish champions in individual and team sports.

Crossed wires give Confederations Cup the personal touch

For fans seeking ticket information for the Confederation Cup, a number is listed on the FIFA site for a helpdesk with appropriate information.

The site, however, has inserted an extra 0 into the number so instead of dialing the correct number, calls go to the private line of the chief organiser, Danny Jordaan, increasingly bemused at the number of calls he is taking from the public about ticket availability and prices.

Oceania needs a rethink after New Zealand thrashing

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In the previous post, Martyn Herman looked at soccer’s international minnows while here Mark Gleeson discusses the particular plight of New Zealand.Oceania, as a confederation, threatened to disintegrate under the weight of a quick fire Fernando Torres hat-trick on Sunday night.The match-up in the Confederations Cup between European champions Spain and New Zealand, who represent FIFA’s smallest and least competitive confederation, was almost as one-sided as any major international in decades.As Torres banged in three goals in the first 17 minutes, so the legitimacy of the 11-member confederation came under a stark spotlight.Fortunately for Oceania’s cause, the Spanish managed just two more, albeit one profiting from a schoolboy error, but there will surely come a time when the gulf between the collection of Pacific island nations and the rest of the footballing world no longer produces a remotely equitable contest.Despite their best lobbying effort, Oceania are repeatedly denied a direct berth to the World Cup on sporting grounds. Their best team must playoff, usually against a South American country, or in the case for 2010, an Asian side, to qualify.Australia moved from Oceania to Asia because they felt it was uncompetitive and not advancing the standard of their game. Now New Zealand, where football is hoping to evolve from its current status as a minority sport, rules the roost against the islands, often barely breaking a sweat to dominate the confederation’s competitions.On the evidence of Sunday’s performance, New Zealand football would do well to join the Asian confederation too. They frankly need more exposure.Indeed Oceania’s collective cause is best served by folding into the Asian confederation where the island teams will find many other countries of the same footballing pedigree and have more competition too.Already Asia have created two tiers to accommodate its less proficient members and end years of ridiculous mis-matches.As Torres was riding roughshod in Rustenburg, I wonder whether that thought crossed the minds of any of FIFA’s top leadership.PHOTO: Spain’s Fernando Torres (C) rises above the New Zealand defence to score his third goal during their Confederations Cup soccer match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Confederations Cup shapes up well…except for the weather

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For all their scepticism about South Africa’s potential to host the World Cup, the build-up to the test event, the Confederations Cup, has so far gone without any major hitches.

It is a dream scenario for the home nation and FIFA, still trying to temper the doubters and persuade the world all will be ready by 2010, has added to the chorus of congratulations.

World Cup is golden opportunity for Africa — if it succeeds

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The countdown has begun for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, an event, now only a year away, that could change perceptions about the whole continent and show the globe a festival of sport that reverses obstinate stereotypes of a region in constant crisis and violence.

Africans are deeply frustrated by the tendency of foreigners, including investors, to see Africa almost as one country instead of more than 50 extremely diverse nations. Meltdown in Zimbabwe can impact on investors’ perceptions of countries thousands of miles away on the other side of the continent. By the same token, a successful World Cup will not only change the way people see Africa but also encourage future mega events and the huge investment that they can bring.

South African potential can emerge from mountain of bricks

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We are now less than a week away from the start of the Confederations Cup and the first true test of South Africa’s preparedness to host the 2010 World Cup.

It’s hard for a lot of people to take the Confederations Cup seriously, although in Germany four years ago it did develop into a summer festival and in the end proved a tasty appetiser before the main meal 12 months later.

Santana’s stuttering English is a good sign for South Africa

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South Africa’s Brazilian coach Joel Santana has broken into English at news conferences on just a handful of occasions.

It’s mostly after rare wins for the national side when the local media are in good humour and Santana seeks to charm them with his piecemeal vocabulary. Few notes are taken amid the mirth.

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