Europe

The investigation took six years, but Juventus’s doctor has just been convicted of doping players. Matt Barker wonders if the 1990s record books will be rewritten

Having cake-walked qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League and with the side sitting comfortably in pole position in Serie A, this is shaping up to be a vintage season for Juventus, under new coach Fabio Capello. But the findings and verdict of a recent anti-doping inquest threaten to taint the club’s image. The investigation was prompted by the comments of Zdenek Zeman, a former Roma, Lazio and Napoli coach, now at Lecce. In a 1998 magazine interview, the Czech declared it was “time for Italian football to come out of the pharmacy”, pointing the finger at Juve in particular and talking of a process that had “started with [Gianluca] Vialli and has arrived finally with [Alessandro] Del Piero”.

Robbie Meredith reports on how teams from the Republic and Northern Ireland are warming up for a new cross-border competition with some amicable friendlies

Appropriately, in an island awash with mythology, the most enduring myth in Irish football is about to be exposed to reality. For a number of years an all-Ireland competition has been prescribed as the cure for the moribund state of domestic football in Ireland, north and south. Now, for the first time since the cross-border Blaxnit Cup was abandoned 25 years ago, competitive all-Ireland football is returning.

The Vikings are leading the way in Europe: a new competition for the top teams in Denmark, Norway and Sweden is attracting plenty of interest, including from Margot Dunne

There is, as anyone who has ever witnessed the voting at the Eurovision Song Contest can tell you, a bond between Scandinavian countries born of more than a shared love of herrings, saunas and flat-pack furniture. It was perhaps inevitable that Norway, Swe­den and Denmark would sooner or later link their football together in some way as there have been mutterings about it for many years. Thus the formation of the Royal League (so named because the three nations are all monarchies) comes as no surprise. They are, after all, broadly similar countries whose football clubs face roughly the same problems.

Adrian Mutu's failed drugs test is just the latest, albeit highest-profile, indication of the doping problem sweeping Romanian football, writes Ben Lyttleton

The biggest surprise about the reaction in Romania to Adrian Mutu’s positive drugs test was that anyone was surprised: a week earlier, three Farul Constanta players were banned for failing dope tests, while Robert Sandu, nephew of FA president Mircea Sandu, is awaiting trial for dealing large amounts of drugs to a client list allegedly packed with high-profile sports stars.

Despite UEFA clearing the oligarch of a conflict of interest, Roman Abramovich still has significant influence at Chelsea's Champions  League oppenents CSKA Moscow, writes Kevin O'Flynn

The story may sound familiar. A wealthy Rus­sian benefactor invests huge sums in a football club, outstripping league rivals by millions and hiring a Portuguese European Cup-winning coach to take them to Champions League glory. This is not Chelsea, however, but Russian champions CSKA Moscow. The money smells the same; of Russian oil and Roman Abramovich. Despite UEFA clearing the Chelsea owner of a conflict of interest, some are still asking whether the billionaire or his associates are trying to create two super-clubs. The similarities between the two stories received wider attention when CSKA were drawn against Chelsea in the Champions League – no one is allowed to have a majority stake in two clubs in the same competition – but the connections had long been known in Russia.

Since launching Sky Italia last year, Rupert Murdoch has found himself at odds with Italian prime minister Silvio Burlusconi in the chase to secure rights to Serie A matches. Matt Barker weighs up his chances of success

Sky Italia launched in July last year, amid Square Mile scepticism and a fair bit of local disapproval. Undaunted, and with BSkyB confidently cited as the archetype, the new channel quickly set about securing rights for Serie A coverage, aiming to reach three million subscribers by the end of this year and to break even by the end of next.

Phil Town looks at how Porto have fared since winning the European Cup

Luigi Del Neri never got to warm the coach’s seat at the Estádio do Dragão. FC Porto had a chew on him at the ChampionsWorld Series in America and spat him out within the 30-day trial period provided for by Port­uguese general labour law. They didn’t like him. Not one bit. But just how do you follow an act like José Mourinho, who, in two years, had left the greatest impression of any coach in the history of the club? He was without a doubt the great architect of Porto’s success, helped by the club’s ability to buy key players such as Benni McCarthy and Carlos Alberto, but also by his unerring ability to get the best out of previously modest players that had cost little or nothing, such as Maniche, Derlei, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira. 

Paul Doyle hails Shelbourne's Champions League exploits

To get an idea of Shelbourne’s standing in Europe until recently, consider the sheer contempt with which Croa­t­ia’s Hajduk Split prepared for their crucial Champions League second-round clash with the League of Ireland winners. Vic­tory would set up a glamour clash with the mighty De­portivo La Coruña and Hajduk were so convinced that honour would be theirs that Shels manager Pat Fenlon claimed his Croatian counterpart simply blank­ed him when the draw was made in Switz­erland and instead went straight up to the Span­ish team’s officials to make arrangements.

 

Ori Lewis reports on the day that an Arab-Israeli side from a town of less than 22,000 people won the national cup and qualified for Europe, thus making a bold statement about uniting Arabs and Jews in Israel along the way

The night of May 18, 2004 will be marked in Israeli history books as a milestone for the country’s Arab minority, a sector that has long complained of institutional discrimination and that over the years had never been repaid fully for agreeing to become loyal citizens of the Jewish state.

The terrorist attacks in Madrid led to the election defeat of the Spanish government and left football uncertain when to play and how to pay its respects, writes Phil Ball

It’s not often that sport takes second, even third, place in the ranking of things in Spain, but the deaths of almost 200 people in Madrid on Thursday March 11 reduced football’s normal role as the country’s protagonist to the status of awkward bystander.

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