3 September ~ On July 14, the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) issued a press release stating that the two initial World Cup objectives (qualification for the tournament and qualification for the knock-out phase) had been achieved and thanking everyone involved. While it was obvious to all in Portugal that performances in South Africa had been disappointingly pale, the FPF seemed happy enough, and coach Carlos Queiroz saw his bank balance jump by €720,000 (£600,000) in bonuses.
Just over a week later, on July 23, the FPF launched an inquiry into Queiroz, based on a report by the Portuguese state-controlled Anti-doping Authority (AdoP). This claimed the coach had disrupted the taking of samples at the Portugal training camp on May 16 in Covilhã, in the north of the country, shortly before the squad were to leave for South Africa. When the anti-doping team had turned up at the hotel at 7.45 am and wanted to wake the players up, Queiroz was livid. "Why doesn't Luís Horta [AdoP president] go and do tests on his mother's c**t?" he spat at the members of the testing team.
Queiroz called several high-profile character witnesses to the subsequent FPF hearing. The FC Porto president, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, suggested that this kind of language was common in football and demonstrated it on a journalist in an impromptu press conference. "How's it going, you son of a whore?" he japed. Sir Alex Ferguson was naturally sympathetic with Queiroz: "He was only defending his players. He has always been a gentleman."
The FPF's disciplinary council suspended Queiroz for a month, meaning that he would miss the opening Euro 2012 qualifying games against Cyprus and Norway – Queiroz's assistant and perennial caretaker Agostinho Oliveira will take charge. The council did not find that Queiroz had disrupted the taking of samples, however, but AdoP did, and this week extended the suspension to six months. Queiroz will also miss the qualifiers against Denmark and Iceland.
But no one in Portugal seriously believes that Queiroz can continue. The FPF's action is seen as trying to nudge Queiroz out without having to pay compensation. He is unlikely to oblige – in an interview with TV channel SIC on Tuesday, he spoke of protecting "the honour, dignity, prestige and reputation that I have built up over the last 30 years". He is to appeal against AdoP's decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, a process that could drag on for many months.
Meanwhile, the Selecção is without a fixed coach. FPF president Gilberto Madaíl has said that this will not affect the team's performance in the upcoming qualifiers as "we have a lot of great players who can play on auto-pilot". ("I'm the auto-pilot," retorted Oliveira.) It would be reasonable to suspect, though, that the ongoing imbroglio could affect the squad psychologically ahead of those games.
There might be a danger that the FPF's failure to resolve the issue could also affect Portugal and Spain's bid for the 2018/2022 World Cups – in a poll during Tuesday night's discussion show, Trio de Ataque, 85 per cent of the respondents thought it would. Apparently, though, the subject was not broached during FIFA's inspection of FC Porto's Estádio do Dragão and Benfica's Estádio da Luz this week. Phil Town