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Robinson retires from Wales
April 2, 2009, 7:27 AM
Filed under: Carl Robinson, FIFA, Toronto FC

Wales midfielder Carl Robinson has announced his retirement from international football.

The 32-year-old Toronto FC midfielder made his Wales debut in 1999 against Belarus and won his 52nd cap off the bench in Saturday’s loss to Finland.

Robinson was an unused substitute in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Germany.

“It’s not an easy decision, it’s not one I’ve made lightly, I’m a very patriotic boy and I’ve enjoyed playing for my country,” Robinson told the BBC.

Robinson started his career as a trainee at Wolves, going on to play for the likes of Portsmouth, Sunderland and Norwich before moving across the Atlantic to Major League Soccer side Toronto in 2007.

“I’ve travelled from the other side of the world to play for my country now for the last two years, but I just feel the time is right,” added Robinson, who scored his one Wales goal against Northern Ireland.

Wales manager John Toshack is in the process of overhauling the national team.

That saw Arsenal’s 18-year-old Aaron Ramsey make his full debut against Germany, while Wales can call on other youthful midfielders such as Joe Ledley and Jack Collison.

“The direction that John wants to take the Welsh football team is the right direction with a number of good young players coming through and I just think it’s time to move on,” Robinson said.

“If I was in this country I’d still carry on playing (for Wales)… but this is a decision purely on my life now is in North America, I want to play as long as I can over in North America with the objective of getting into management.

“After chatting to my family and after chatting to John in my room on Sunday night at length, it’s the right decision for me.

“What I’ve learned over the past five or six years with John has been fantastic and I appreciate him including me in the squad.”

This week’s home defeats to Finland and Germany ended Wales’ faint hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

“We can’t qualify now, I’m looking at it longer term, there’s 18 months now before the next qualifying campaign starts,” Robinson said.

“I’m 32 years of age, it’s a two-year campaign, hopefully we can qualify in that campaign which will be four years, I’ll be 36 and it doesn’t take a genius to work out I’ll be too old.”

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TFC loses two to int’l play for CLB game
March 25, 2009, 9:13 AM
Filed under: Amado Guevara, Carl Robinson, Columbus Crew, FIFA, Toronto FC

Two bubbles burst for Toronto FC this week, one at BMO Field with the protective winter roof deflated, the other in John Carver’s lineup with two key deletions for Saturday’s game in Columbus.

The team’s chances of duplicating last Saturday’s emotional season-opening road win in Kansas City took a hit with two-goal hero Amado Guevara and the savvy Carl Robinson leaving for respective World Cup games with Honduras and Wales. The loss of the midfielders is the kind of major inconvenience that contributed to TFC’s troubles in gaining early-season traction in its first two MLS seasons.

But coach Carver is not as worried this year, with the MLS becoming more sympathetic to all its clubs’ international plight with regard to the schedule. Carver also has last weekend’s 3-2 victory to build on and the chance to audition some other players who already have made it hard for him to pick a starting 11.

“It’s only two players at the moment, which is a big change from last year,” Carver said yesterday at BMO. “The good thing is the league has shown common sense and we’re very grateful. They’ve given us an option of when we want to play (around certain World Cup qualifiers) or given us a weekend off from playing.

“We chose to play this weekend, because further down the line, there will be more of our internationals away. And we’ve also started (the MLS season) a week earlier. So they’re coming around to my way of thinking. But we appreciate their support.”

Pablo Vitti, who sat out last Saturday in favour of defensive specialist rookie Sam Cronin, likely will play beside Cronin against the Crew, the defending league champions.

“We have to get on with it,” Carver said of the smudged lineup. “I’m not going to cry. Columbus will have a couple of guys missing as well, so it should be evenly matched.”

The Crew has three absentees, Frankie Hejduk (USA), Alejandro Moreno (Venezuela) and Duncan Oughton (New Zealand), but league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto will be giving Toronto fits.

“We have to be mindful of him,” TFC’s Canadian sparkplug Dwayne De Rosario warned. “I think our defenders can handle him, but it’s a real step up from Kansas City.

“It would have been nice to see a player of (Guevara’s) calibre keep that momentum going on our team. But he has a bigger deal coming up to represent his country. It’s sad to see him go, but that just makes guys want to step up a little bit more to fill the positions and prove themselves.

“The strength of this team right now is that we have some young guys mixed with some veterans. They’re learning very fast.”

Carver had a tough call in going with rookie Stefan Frei in goal, but lingering problems from a dislocated finger by veteran Greg Sutton sealed the decision.

GREAT JOB

“I don’t think anyone would have been able to stop the two goals (K.C.) did score,” De Rosario said of Frei. “There were some low ones, but he didn’t give up any rebounds. It was a lot to ask to start the season.

“Sam did a great job out wide. He hasn’t played that position all pre-season, but did fantastic.”

Cronin, who was playing for Wake Forest University only a few months ago, rewarded Carver’s faith, while taking his cues from Robinson.

“Carl took me under his wing,” Cronin said. “He told me not to try too many things early to take myself out of the game and the game would come to me. As the season goes on, I can have more of an impact in each match.”

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Blatter: MLS should switch to traditional schedule
March 12, 2009, 7:21 AM
Filed under: FIFA, MLS

FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants Major League Soccer to switch to a traditional soccer schedule that starts in late summer and ends in the late spring.

Currently, several MLS teams share stadiums with NFL franchises and don’t have access to arenas on many weekends in the fall. The schedule creates difficulty when players transfer from MLS to Europe and back and causes MLS matches to be played on days set aside by FIFA for national teams.

“American football plays in winter, so they can only play from March to October, which means you are not in the right season,” Blatter said Wednesday before watching Manchester United beat Inter Milan 2-0 in the European Champions League. “The best American players are playing here, and this is the basic problem with the MLS.”

MLS has said it hopes to eventually make the switch but it can’t for now because it shares several stadiums with NFL teams. Eight MLS teams are in soccer stadiums built for the league, two share with NFL teams that are controlled by the same owners as the soccer club sand New York shares with NFL teams through 2009 before moving into its own stadium.

DC United plays in a city-owned ground where it is the primary tenant, Houston is at the University of Houston’s college football stadium and San Jose and Kansas City are at temporary homes.

“This league was founded after the 1994 World Cup, but is still struggling to get the position they should have according to the number of football players there are in the United States,” Blatter said. “It has the highest number of young players in any sport,” he said. “But the league has not found yet its position. It can only find its position if the league has its own stadiums.”

Blatter welcomed David Beckham’s announcement that he intends to buy an MLS franchise when he retires as a player. Last weekend, Beckham’s loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy to AC Milan was extended through the end of the Serie A season, and the English midfielder is to return to the Galaxy in July.

“This is absolutely a good idea if a footballer who has made lot of money out of football invests it again in football,” Blatter said.

On another topic, Blatter reiterated his preference for single World Cup hosts, suggesting that Spain should abandon its joint bid with Portugal if it wishes to stage the 2018 tournament. The United States is among the bidders to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, and Blatter said there is a “general understanding” that Europe will play host in 2018 after South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.

A decision on the 2018 and 2022 hosts will be made by the 24-member FIFA executive committee in December 2010.

“The executive committee has taken the decision as long as we have individual candidates able to organize the World Cup alone then this should be the principle,” Blatter said.

FIFA, soccer’s governing body, relies on the World Cup for 90 percent of its revenue and expects to earn $3.2 billion in television and marketing revenue from the 2010 tournament.

Blatter said Wednesday the organization will remain in a “comfortable situation” until 2010, but is braced for a bleaker financial outlook after that when deals for future tournaments must be negotiated.

“We are in a financial crisis in the world and football has not yet so much been touched by the first wave of an economic tsunami,” Blatter said. “But the second wave will touch football, especially with the sponsorship of club football and sport in general. Look at Formula One and motor sport—they have already lost sponsors.”

While Blatter welcomed foreign investors putting money into clubs, he expressed concern that teams were losing their local identities, especially in England’s Premier League.

“In England, the clubs don’t belong to the fans they belong to investors,” said Blatter, who favors the German model in which there is majority local ownership.

Blatter said he has met the Florida-based Glazer family, which owns Manchester United, and associates of Liverpool co-owner George Gillett Jr., from Colorado.

“I can only thank them for putting money in football. I cannot say they should not do it,” he said. “It is definitely good for football that they bring money in. But perhaps it is not the right solution, but it’s good as long as football, with that money, keeps the moral and ethical duty of football.”

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Legal experts back FIFA 6+5 Rule
March 1, 2009, 9:41 AM
Filed under: FIFA, MLS

BRUSSELS — Efforts by FIFA to introduce national quotas for footballers playing for European club teams would not violate EU laws, according to a report drafted by legal experts released Thursday.

“There is no conflict with European law,” said legal expert Juergen Gramke, after presenting his report to lawmakers at the European Parliament.

Gramke headed a study into the FIFA plan conducted by the Dusseldorf, Germany-based Institute for European Affairs. FIFA commissioned the study.

FIFA’s so called “six plus five” rule would force clubs to start matches with at least six players eligible to play for the national team and a maximum of just five foreigners.

Players from all over the world ply their trade in Europe’s wealthy football leagues and many of the top teams regularly feature more than five foreigners.

Officials have said that restrictions on soccer players who hold a European Union passport would contravene laws that guarantee the free movement of labour within the EU.

The study concluded that EU law provides for the “regulatory autonomy” of sporting associations like FIFA. However the EU has strongly objected to any opt-out for FIFA or other sporting bodies, arguing that footballers are wage-earners and have the same employment rights as other workers in the 27-nation bloc.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed Thursday’s report.

“This study confirms that we are not breaching European law in defending the six plus five rule,” he said in a statement.

“Through six plus five, we wish to encourage the development of young players, protect national teams and maintain competitiveness and the unpredictability of results. This is why six plus five is beneficial to football.”

He said the plan was also backed by the International Olympic Committee and by other team sports like basketball, ice hockey and rugby, which “all face the same problems.”

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TFC to play Inter Milan?
February 21, 2009, 2:03 AM
Filed under: FIFA, International Friendlies, Toronto FC

Inter Milan, who has won the past three consecutive Serie A titles and is on course to win a fourth this spring, is currently in talks with Major League Soccer about playing against a team of the league’s all-stars this summer, officials said.

The 2009 MLS All-Star Game is slated to be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on July 29.

Inter’s visit could be part of a larger North American tour, which could include visits to New York, Toronto and Edmonton, officials said.

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Dwayne De Rosario’s Ultimate XI
February 19, 2009, 8:17 AM
Filed under: Dwayne DeRosario, FIFA, Toronto FC

Dwayne De Rosario has played on four Major League Soccer championship teams and has been a league all-star three times since joining the league in 2001. After successful stints in San Jose and Houston, De Rosario is back in his native Ontario, playing his first season for Toronto F.C. He won back-to-back goal of the year award in M.L.S. (2004 and 2005), so perhaps it should not be a surprise that De Rosario went with a tantalizing, offensive-oriented Ultimate XI.

Goalkeeper — Peter Schmeichel

A defenders dream! Any mistakes and he is the keeper who would save your job. Dominant presence in the box with his size and strength, but for a big guy he is agile on his feet. Intimidated opposing offenses; very vocal, a great organizer. Schmeichel always came up with big saves for Manchester United and rarely made mistakes.

Defender — Franz Beckenbauer

Here is one of the most intelligent and hard defenders. Was a rock in the defense for Germany. Had great vision and was always composed.

Defender — Paolo Maldini

Has shown over the years why he is one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game. He is the Don for Milan and a true leader for the Rossoneri Has captained Italy and is a loyal player to Milan.

Defender — Cafu

One of my favorite wing backs. Endless engine … a personification of the hard-working player. Has achieved so many titles I don’t know were to begin. A nightmare for left-sided midfielders and strikers.

Midfielder — George Best

Now let’s be honest — his name says it all. Great vision good with both feet, an absolute legend to the game of football.

Midfielder — Diego Maradona

Has brought a flair into football. It was nearly impossible to get the ball off his feet. His skill was one of class and his attitude towards winning was immense. Another true legend!

Midfielder — Zinédine Zidane

I could have given this spot to Michel Platini so one could only imagine the respect I have here for both! Zidane’s composure on the ball was truly admirable; he could have dribbled his way calmly out of any situation and won the World Cup single-handedly for France. A big-game player!

Midfielder — Rudd Gullit

Loved watching those flashing locks dominate the field. One of the most solid, composed intelligent midfielders Milan has ever had. Even though Clarence Seedorf is another favorite of mine who also had locks, Gullit was a force that couldn’t be reckoned with. He took control of the midfield and helped Milan to a number of Serie A titles.

Striker — Pelé

The world greatest player. A class act on and off the pitch. He changed the game for all football lovers with his speed, skill, vision, flair etc. He was like a football monk. Known for the bicycle kick, which I call “the Pelé.” The first player to really take football to the forefront of everyday life, and he still remains humble and passionate for the sport. He broke all barriers to race in his day because all fans loved to watch him play and couldn’t help but admire his dominance. Message to the world: a black man in the all-white of Santos of Brazil! Beautiful.

Striker — Romário/Ronaldo

Sorry, I couldn’t decide between these two greats. Romário has scored the most goals of any footballer in the world regardless what anyone says. He’s a finisher. For a short man, he was good in the air and deadly with his feet. He wasn’t the workhorse forward, but that’s why I had to use the word striker. A true clinical finisher, which leads me to Ronaldo, WOW! Where do I start, a mix of power, speed, skill who will terrorize any defender. Has the lead in scoring on every team he played and has been a dominant player in the Dutch, Spanish, and Italian leagues, and internationally. Both can score on the the smallest of chances, two all-time legends who have blessed the game.

Striker — Marco van Basten

As a big man definitely, van Basten had the skill to back it. Scored some fantastic goals and created some of the most memorable moments in football. Could hold the ball, was dangerous with crosses and was ever so clever with his back to goal. I think beside his strength, Van Basten’s best attributes were ability to read the game. He always precisely timed his runs in the box and could mesmerize fans with his runs off the ball. A very unselfish player with great workmanship and also a clinical finisher.

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