Europe

Henrik Manninen reports on how a side in Lapland have benefited from a long-established relationship with Zambia

In January 1994, two Zambian footballers touched down at the Arctic Circle for a trial with Finnish side RoPS. Returning home after two weeks in the snow and freezing conditions of Rovaniemi few expected this to be the start of a partnership that is stronger than ever today.

This year saw the first ever Champions League final held on a Saturday. Alan Tomlinson considers the real reasons for a switch from mid-week

It was all over by the Monday. At 1pm the desks were down in Madrid’s Westin Palace Hotel, the signs to the UEFA operations room were all gone, only the occasional Ford – proudly boasting its longevity as a UEFA Champions League sponsor – pulled up outside the hotel, and the fleet of luxury VIP coaches had disappeared. The noticeboards in the hotel lobbies announced business as usual for the dealmakers of the corporate world, or the richer end of the conference business.

Other candidates bidding to stage the 2018 World Cup hope to benefit from recent indiscretions in England. Saul Pope reports

The official Russian reaction to Lord Triesman’s recent comments about Russia buying World Cup referees for Spain was to call the suggestion “absurd” and to embarrass the FA into sending a belated apology. Ordinary fans were equally incensed, many suggesting that it typified English conceit towards any nation other than the US.

Henrik Manninen says goodbye to an old favourite and explains a possible embarrassment of riches in Stockholm stadiums

“Sweden’s Rasunda Stadium is one of just two venues in the world – California’s Rose Bowl being the other – that has hosted the final of both the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. This football-specific stadium, located in the district of Solna some four miles north-west of Stockholm city centre, is famed for putting spectators right on top of the action, and it still generates a fantastic atmosphere for the ever-competitive Sweden national team.”

James Eastham attends a star-studded charity match and feels that a similar situation would look very different in England

May 25, 5pm. Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez’s private jet touches down on the tarmac at Marck aerodrome, 183 miles north of Paris. Out steps a smiling Zinedine Zidane. He strides over to greet 200 or so supporters eagerly waiting for an autograph or photo.

A football club set up for asylum seekers in Vienna has found itself pressurised by the Austrian state. Paul Joyce explains

“FC Sans Papiers is a fight against racism and discrimination using modern and elegant means – sport,” explains its president Dr Di-Tutu Bukasa, who founded the side in 2002. Inspired by the French political movement of the same name, the Viennese team offers asylum seekers who lack an Austrian residence permit the chance to play regular lower-league football.

After 17 years of separation, James Baxter assesses future plans for a possible footballing reunification in central Europe

Nostalgia for Czechoslovakia, the federation that broke up in 1993’s “Velvet Divorce”, is fashionable in the modern-day Czech and Slovak Republics. Politically, the divorce, though amicable, is absolute. Sport might be another matter, however. There has been frequent talk over the years about merging the countries’ ice hockey leagues. Now there is a similar idea for football. Representatives of the Czech and Slovak football associations recently met to discuss a possible return to a joint top division.

Berlin has just lost its only top-flight club, but reaction to Hertha's relegation has been fairly muted. Paul Joyce explains

In March 2009, Hertha BSC were top of the Bundesliga and went on to finish fourth. The Berlin club were relegated a year later, however, having been bottom of the table since September. For the first time since 1997, Germany’s capital will be without top-flight football next season.

A club's sudden demise has left many fans angry, or worse, suspicious. Saul Pope sheds some light on events in Russia's capital

At this year’s New Year celebrations, FC Moscow fans toasting their side would have been looking forward to the new season. The club had finished in the top six the previous year, was in the semi-final of the Russian Cup and had a promising young manager in Montenegrin Miodrag Bo┼żović. But in early February they suddenly found themselves without a club after their main investor announced they were stopping sponsorship and removing the club from the league. This sponsor is Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest producer of nickel, based in Taimyr, a peninsula 6,500 kilometres from Moscow.

Dermot Corrigan reports on the very different approach of a club bucking the trend of financial chaos in the League of Ireland

The self-made millionaire who takes over a football club, bringing initial success followed by disappointment and disaster, is a stock character in football, as fans of English clubs as disparate as Chester City and Crystal Palace know well. But the story of Wexford Youths and Irish property developer/philanthropist/philosopher Mick Wallace is different. Or so it seems anyway.

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