From Lisbon to L.A., some stories we’d like to read in 2010

On Soccer

With the new year just underway, here are a selection of stories we would like to read in 2010 but realize probably are unlikely ever to see the light of day.

Brazil soccer: A soccer column in Sunday’s Sports section looking irreverently ahead to 2010 included the following passage: “Brasilia —Lulu, the president of Brazil and no relation to the 1960s English pop singer, has decreed that the country can field only players with names consisting of four or fewer letters.” The president of Brazil is Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the pop singer Lulu is Scottish, not English.

JOHANNESBURG -- Former world champion France was knocked out of the World Cup today when South Africa scored a 1-0 victory on a late penalty kick following a hand ball call against French forward Thierry Henry. Television replays indicated that Henry had made no contact whatsoever with the ball.

LISBON -- A 20-year-old American youngster who has bounced from club to club in the U.S., Portugal and France while getting almost no playing time and earning indifferent reviews has sued a Portuguese writer who penned an unauthorized biography of the player. The book is titled “Freddy, Adieu.”

DAMASCUS -- Jack Warner, the FIFA vice president who was taken hostage in Syria several weeks ago and held for ransom, has been released unharmed. The kidnappers apologized and said it had been a case of mistaken identity. They said they thought Warner was someone important.

LOS ANGELES -- Bob Bradley, coach of the U.S. men’s national team, has asked Pia Sundhage, coach of the U.S. women’s national team, to consider calling up his three daughters for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. Bradley’s son, Michael, plays for the men’s team, which is heading to the World Cup in South Africa this summer. “There’s nothing Michael can do on a soccer field that my girls can’t do just as well,” U.S. Soccer quoted Bradley as saying.

TURIN -- A spokesman for Juventus said Saturday that the club’s failure to win the Serie A title could be due to what he called “the increasing unwillingness of Italian referees to accept gratuities as they had done so unhesitatingly in the past.”

FUNCHAL -- Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo has bought his native island of Madeira and indicated that he plans to turn it into a theme park focusing on his career. Ronaldo, 24, already owns the world’s largest collection of mirrors.

NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer today said it had signed the most significant player in its 15-year history and would pay the player a league-record salary, surpassing that of David Beckham. As per league policy, the identity of the player, the salary he will earn, the club he will join and the position he plays were not revealed.

BANGKOK -- The inclusion of goalkeeper Kosin Hathairatanakul, defender Rungsun Wivatchaichoke, midfielder Phitchitpong Choeichiu and forward Teerathep Winothai into the starting lineup for Thailand’s national team Monday caused the country’s play-by-play announcers to go on strike.

PARIS -- Zinedine Zidane, a World Cup winner with France in 1998 and runner-up in 2006, has told France Football magazine that he intends to help Algeria prepare for its first-round World Cup games against Slovenia, England and the United States. Zidane said the Desert Foxes “know how to use their feet,” but he would teach them “how to use their head.”

CHICAGO -- The board of directors of the USA Bid Committee to bring the FIFA World Cup to the United States in 2018 or 2022 met Monday and saw members Drew Carey and Henry Kissinger iron out their differences. Carey promised not to fall asleep again when Kissinger is talking, and Kissinger promised not to bomb Cambodia again.

PRETORIA -- In a last-minute switch brought about by the woeful record compiled by the national team in the two years leading up to the World Cup, South Africa will now be represented in the tournament by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

BRASILIA -- Lulu, the president of Brazil and no relation to the 1960s English pop singer, has decreed that the country can field only players with names consisting of four or fewer letters. As a result, starting for Brazil will be goalkeeper Doni (AS Roma); defenders Juan (AS Roma), Alex (Chelsea), Cris (Olympique Lyon) and Dede (Borussia Dortmund); midfielders Kaka (Real Madrid), Dudu (Olympiakos) and Melo (Juventus); and forwards Pato (AC Milan), Love (Palmeiras) and Jo (Everton).

LONDON -- England’s World Cup hopes suffered a serious blow Tuesday when Coach Fabio Capello included goalkeeper David James on his 23-man roster for the tournament.

DURBAN -- Following the lead set by Japan in 2002, the South African government has denied Argentina Coach Diego Armando Maradona entry to the country because of his history of drug use. Argentina’s players were said to be “unanimously in favor” of the decision.

LOS ANGELES -- The Fox Soccer Channel announced Wednesday that, in a reversal of previous policy, from now on it will employ only on-air commentators who know something about the sport.

CAPE TOWN -- Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, FIFA’s ancient president, was recovering in a local hospital Friday from puncture wounds suffered in a fall from the tribune of honor at the city’s World Cup stadium. In the tumble, Blatter was impaled on half a dozen vuvuzelas, the annoying plastic horns that he has long championed as being part of African soccer culture.