Europe

Dan Brennan looks at the shifting rivalries in Moscow, heavily influenced by the secret policeman taking his ball away

Moscow is probably second only to London in its surfeit of local derbies. The Russian capital cur­rently provides six premier league sides and, one blip aside, has been the home of the champions of the nat­ional league since it was formed a decade ago. There is a generally accepted hierarchy among the city’s teams, based on success, tradition and support, that reads: Spartak, Dynamo, CSKA, Torpedo-Luzhniki, Lokomotiv and Torpedo-ZIL. But this does not tell the whole story, which is one of ever-changing fortunes influenced by political machinations.

Holland's version of the FA Cup is so underappreciated, many teams field their reserve squads to compete as well. Ernst Bouwes investigates

If the FA Cup is the best and most exciting cup competition in the world, the Amstel Cup, org­anised by the Dutch FA (KNVB), has to be a contender for the worst. Nowadays, the clubs playing in European competitions are given a bye as far as the last 16. This is only fair, according to the KNVB. “We need our best clubs to do well in Europe to gain points for us in the UEFA ranking,” says the KNVB’s Henk Kesler.

The FA of Ireland have been castigated in a report sparked by the World Cup fiasco. Brian de Salvo hopes they take it more seriously than the last one

“The FAI is experiencing a confused present and faces an uncertain future.” That’s not a quotation from Genesis, the sports management consultancy ap­pointed to report on the organisation of Ire- land’s governing body after their World Cup campaign, who produced a damning indictment of the FAI. It’s the verdict of a previous report, pre­sented as long ago as 1996, which highlighted “a lack of vision, direction and planning… indecisive structures and… reluctance to consider necessary change.” Little has changed since. Will it now?

Barcelona fans are coming to terms with the arrival of Louis van Gaal and the departure of Rivaldo. Strangely, says Phil Ball, they might see it as a fair swap

As in the Middle Ages, when physical ugliness was considered to be a sign of a dysfunctional soul, the Spanish cannot bring themselves to say anything nice about Louis van Gaal – El Enano Veneno (the poisoned dwarf) as they dubbed him during his first mandate with Barcelona from 1997 to 2000. Laurent Blanc, after his brief sojourn at the Camp Nou, called him “inhuman”, and Win­ston Bogarde said he found him “heartless. He has no compassion – like a robot.”

The fantastic sums of money spread around by Serie A clubs in recent years are finally taking their toll. Roberto Gotta reports on a rude awakening for Italy

So, poor Alvaro Recoba, Ronaldo and Christian Vieri will have to cut back on croissants and cappuccinos. A few weeks have passed since Internazionale’s golden trio exercised a trait of surprising common sense (or possibly opportunism) and asked that their salaries be reduced for the coming season. In total, it mean they will earn between €675,000 and €1.35 mil­lion (£425,000-£850,000) a year less than stated in their contract. Which makes for a lot of croissants, although they will hardly be suffering too badly – Vieri will still earn £2.84 million a year and his colleagues won’t be far behind.

Paul Pomonis reports on the corruption scandal that has dragged Greek football through the mud

Although news had leaked out about a huge scoop, the extent of the revelations about cor­ruption in Greek football made by a famous investigative reporter, Makis Triandafylopoulos, left everybody breathless. On March 31, Triandafylopoulos presented live on TV a ser­ies of taped phone conversations made during the 2000-01 season.

No one else would do it, so Neil McCarthy felt compelled to hand out some awards to the French presidents who have so enriched the past season

Each season, the French Players’ Union stage Les Oscars du Foot, televised live and attended by the squads of all 38 professional clubs. This year, Bor­deaux’s striker Pauleta won player of the season and Djibril Cissé won best young player. For some reason, though, none of the 38 club presidents turned up for the Oscars and only two sent apologies. France Football magazine remarked on this and suggested that per­haps the organisers would have more success in at­tracting them if they awarded an Oscar for president of the season.

It looks like Sheffield, but the Eindhoven derby hasn't been on a level playing-field for 50 years. Ernst Bouwes goes in search of PSV's forgotten neighbours

When he saw Jan Louwers bending over to adjust the ball on the penalty spot, Lieuwe Steiger check­ed his position on the goalline once more by looking at one of the posts. Watched by a capacity crowd (and then some), the PSV keeper had been beaten by local rivals EVV once that afternoon. Now the score stood at 1-1. The losers of this local derby could be out of the cham­pionship play-offs for 1955, the first year of Dutch pro­fessional football. When Steiger looked up again to prepare for the penalty, he saw Louwers grin­ning sheep­ishly. There was a space on the penalty spot where the ball should have been. The Eindhoven striker had al­ready taken the kick, hoping he could surprise the keeper. So he did, almost hitting a photographer with his miscue.

Aside from the chevron on their shirts, Filippo Ricci explains that Sampdoria are now unrecognisable from the team that came so close to European glory just a decade ago

On April 21, Sampdoria lost 2-0 at home to Serie B’s bottom club, Crotone, a team from a tiny town in Cal­abria. The result left the once-mighty club just four points above the relegation zone with six games to go. Ten years ago, Sampdoria lost the last the Euro­pean Cup final before the start of the Champions League, 1-0 to Barcelona at Wembley. On paper, it’s a long jour­ney, on the pitch, a quick and irreversible plunge.

Shaul Adar reports on a team that has inspired hope and relief in a beleagured Israel

It has been an annus horribilis, for Israel in general and for Israeli football in particular. On one recent Saturday evening, during the broad­­cast of a live game from the local league, a suicide attack took place in an Orthodox part of Jerusalem. For 12 minutes the shocked view­ers could see the game continuing on one third of the screen, while the other two thirds carried live pictures from the carnage scene.

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday