Europe

With more Norwegian players leaving every week, Ole P Pedersen explains why the player drain to the English league is causing concern back home

I never thought I would see Norwegian footballers be a major part of English football. But there are now more Norwegian internationals than Scottish in the Premiership: cheap, solid footballers who can run all day, never drink and accept lower wages than their British compatriots.

Bribe scandals are the in thing in European football, not least in Portugal, as Phil Town reports

FC Porto may have cruised comfortably into the last eight of the Champions League, but their apparent health and vigour belies a domestic game lurching from scandal to scandal.

It was an unhappy captaincy debut for Vinnie Jones as Wales are torn apart by a classy Holland. Chris Hall reports from Eindhoven

10:30: While their supporters shake off some well earned hangovers and prepare to catch up on sleep during the one and a half hour journey south from Amsterdam, the Welsh squad stroll purposefully into PSV Eindhoven’s Herdgang training complex. New captain Vinnie Jones is lost in his own thoughts, coming to terms with his surprise elevation from hod carrier to standard bearer. Had the group included some of its missing stars - Giggs, Hughes, Rush, and er, Horne - it’s unlikely they would have created much more than a ripple of mild curiosity apparent in the faces of the onlookers. One of PSV’s many youth teams were waiting to take the field, hoping to impress the ex-internationals who coach them, and the gallery of parents cooing encouragement from the safe confines of the cosy clubhouse. Bobby Gould looks tense and wary, perhaps still clinging to the belief that those absent talents would have made a difference to tonight’s daunting encounter.

In the build up to the 1998 World Cup Simon Harris assesses whether Hungary's fortunes may be changing for the better – and explains how they came to sink so low in the first place

Poor old Ferenc Puskas. It doesn’t matter which Hungarian team is playing in Europe, his old club Honved, Ferencvaros, Ujpest or lesser names like Videoton or MTK, the foreign press are there waiting for their Puskas quote.

Phil Ball examines why the city of Pamplona in Northern Spain has long been a haven for expatriate British footballers

Since the construction of the new motorway, San Sebastian to Pamplona only takes 50 minutes by car now, over the rainy mountains and down into the meseta that opens out into southern Navarre. To the east of the city, on the old road up to the French Pyrenees, Club Atlético Osasuna are training in a downpour. You can tell they’re in the Second Division now – First Division sides regularly attract hundreds, sometimes thousands to training sessions. Here there are at most a dozen assorted kids and pensioners moping on the cold stone steps of the training ground.

Ori Lewis explains how newly promoted Hapoel Taibe blazed a trail in the Israeli first division

The new Israeli league soccer season is different to all the others in one significant respect. For the first time in the state’s history a club from the Arab sector is participating in the 16-team National League.

This Italian season is different from its predecessors in at least one significant resepct. Filippo Ricci reports

Castel di Sangro is a village in the centre of Italy. Not far from Rome, heading east, lost in the mountains. There are 5,635 inhabitants. There is a football stadium, obviously, named Teofilo Patini, that can hold 2,100 people. At the end of last season Castel di Sangro were promoted to the second division, Serie B. Never in the history of Italian football has a small village team got so high up the league. When they beat Ascoli away in the final of the promotion playoff, the entire population waited to greet the team on their return.

What makes Ajax so good? It seems to have a lot to do with what they teach their under 12s, as John Perlman reports

On the last Sunday in April, Ajax fans thronged up the Middenweg that runs through Amsterdam’s eastern suburbs and covered their beloved old De Meer Stadium in red and white for the very last time. The players responded to the occasion – it’s a habit they have – and hammered Willem II of Tilburg 5-1 to secure a 26th league title, Ajax’s third in succession.

Up until the mid-1970's Ajax were just one of four first division clubs in Amsterdam. Karel Stokkermans explains what happened to their local rivals

It is over a decade ago since Ajax last played a match against local opposition – a second round cup tie in December 1983 against the amateurs of DWV, which they won 6-0.The last league derby in Amsterdam was nearly two decades ago: on March 19th, 1978, when Ajax beat FC Amsterdam 5-1.

A fans' pressure group has come to the fore in Italy recently. Roberto Gotta explains who they are and what they want

The recent upheavals in Italian football – the players’ strike and the battle over the control of TV rights – produced a curious side effect: FISSC’s name was in the papers again, as big a surprise as a postcard from a long lost relative.

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