Letter from...

The long-running referee-bribery scandal is still a matter for the courts, but the football authorities are not allowing the legal niceties to get in the way and the casualties are mounting. Phil Town reports

While the so-called Apito Dourado (“Golden whistle”) bribery case continues to trundle through the criminal courts four years after the events, the Portuguese League have taken some decisive action. In what has come to be known as the Apito Final (“Final whistle”), various clubs, club presidents and match officials have been found guilty of dirty deeds and dealt a range of penalties, including fines, suspensions, point-docking and, in one high-profile instance, relegation.

French speaking Belgium has been eclipsed politically thanks to industrial collapse, and the rise of the country's Flemish half has been reflected in football, too – until now, reports John Chapman

On Sunday April 20, Standard Liège defeated Anderlecht 2-0 to become Belgian champions for the first time in 25 years. Standard’s coach, the former national-team goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme, was given the keys to the city and politicians queued up to talk about the rebirth of Wallonia.

Fidel Castro has resigned and his island republic is opening up more and more to the world – and that includes embracing football, formerly a failure in a sea of sporting success, writes Matt Norman

When Fidel Castro officially stepped down as president of Cuba on February 18, the debate over his legacy began instantly, with detractors and supporters in equal numbers queuing up to declare his half-century reign as one of either tyranny or triumph.

Bayern Munich will have a new coach next season. For now, everyone is happy. But, as Karsten Blaas reports, the club’s relations with Jürgen Klinsmann haven’t always been cordial

Bayern Munich are always big news in Germany. Thanks to Franz Beckenbauer’s and Oliver Kahn’s womanising, Mario Basler’s drinking and Stefan Effenberg’s obnoxiousness, the club did their best to earn the nickname FC Hollywood. But when they announced that Jürgen Klinsmann would be their new coach – a two-year contract starts in July – the public response verged on the lunatic, even by Bayern standards. Half-a-dozen TV stations rescheduled programmes in order to cover the press conference and the broadsheets commented in their politics sections. Even chancellor Angela Merkel stated how happy she was about the return of the prodigal son.

Many people would struggle to place the home city of CFR Cluj on a map, but the club could be hosting Champions League matches next season. Andy Hockley reports on an unlikely stirring in Transylvania

As Romania’s league enjoys its two-month winter break, an unfamiliar name occupies top spot in the table. The club are 100 years old, but their recent rise has been nothing short of dramatic.

Nor for the first time, Dick has been dastardly. Advocaat has turned his back on Australia despite signing a contract to coach them to the 2010 World Cup, leaving the Socceroos in the lurch. Matthew Hall reports

In November, Dick Advocaat guided Zenit St Petersburg to their first league title since 1984 with a win over Saturn Moscow. The Dutchman was thrown in the air by celebrating players and came back to earth with a bump and an offer for a one-year contract extension worth $4 million (£2m) after tax. Considering the offer, Advocaat did what many men in his position might have. He switched off his mobile phone

A night of European glory has given Tampere United, from their country’s third city, a major lift. But football in these climes has its own particular challenges, as a well wrapped-up Egan Richardson reports

When Tampere United clung on to a 1-0 lead at home to Levski Sofia in the Champions League second qualifying round in July, they shocked themselves, their fans and Finland’s journalists. Levski qualified for the group stages last season and nobody had given Tampere much of a chance. It was still unclear whether the return leg would be televised in Finland until the day before it was played, as most channels had thought the tie would be over by then and hadn’t bothered bidding for the rights beforehand. In the end, a small free-to-air sports channel cobbled together a sponsorship deal with a local hotel and paid the rights fee in the nick of time. A good job too, as the game in Sofia was a famous victory with Jari Niemi scoring the only goal in another 1-0 win.

Concerns over dodgy club owners are not confined to England – and some regions are far worse off. Henry Mance reports from a country where gangsters use drug money to own players and win titles

“I left a message to see if you needed players, because I could get you some, and you’d just have to pay the salary, you understand? The players have a certain gratitude towards me.” A decent offer perhaps, but this is from no agent or chairman. It’s from Jorge 40, one of Colombia’s most feared paramilitary leaders, finding time in a hectic schedule of drugs and violence to dabble in the transfer market. He’s offering a director of his local team, Valledupar, several players on loan from Real Cartagena and América de Cali. The drugs influence is back in Colombian football, if it ever went away.

In preparation for Euro 2008, several stadiums are being remodelled and rebuilt. Unfortunately, tickets in these modern but small venues already seem scarce. Graham Dunbar looks towards next summer

Getting all passionate about sport – or just getting passionate at all – is quite an untypically Swiss thing to do. Congratulations then, Team Alinghi, on successfully defending the America’s Cup in July and reminding us that sport matters in an emotionally restrained nation that will co-host Euro 2008 with Austria. The Nautical Society of Geneva clubhouse – nominal home to Team Alinghi, despite the sailing taking place off Valencia – will never make anyone’s list of great sporting venues, but neither, too, will the Stade de Genève, one of four Swiss venues next summer.

Did Giorgio Chinaglia try to make the president of Lazio an offer he couldn’t refuse? Matthew Barker reports on a playing legend being charged with extortion

Giorgio Chinaglia has never been a man to waste too much time worrying about what others might think of him. Certainly few in Italy are expecting the one-time Azzurri striker to turn up at a Rome courthouse on October 26 to answer accusations of extortion and trying to manipulate share prices.

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