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Sports

Some words of soccer foolishness and soccer love

On Soccer

Columns are supposed to have a voice. This one has many.

In fact, the din echoing around the soccersphere is so loud that it is sometimes difficult to find remarks of substance amid all the hot air being spouted.

Take Carlos Tevez, for instance. Just the other day, Manchester City’s Argentine striker was sounding quite sincere when he talked about how much he missed his family in Buenos Aires.

“No amount of money, no cars and the lifestyle, can make up for the moment when I leave my two daughters at the airport,” he said. “Do you think money solves everything? It solves nothing. People think I should be happy because I have everything, but I can’t buy time with my daughters and my family.”

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Then Tevez, who also spent a couple of years with Manchester United, went on a television program on Argentina’s Telefe network and said what he really felt.

“There’s nothing to do in Manchester,” he said. “There are two restaurants. Everything is small. It rains all the time. You can’t go anywhere. . . . I will not return to Manchester. Not for vacation. Not for anything.”

Given that stance, we should soon be expecting Tevez, 27, to give up the $400,000 a week that City’s owner, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, pays him, right?

Fat chance.

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Still in Manchester, we turn to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Olympic champion and world record holder.

After winning a 200-meter race in the rain in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday night, he scoffed at his recent less-than-stellar performances.

“I have nothing to worry about,” he said. “I’m still the champion. . . . Am I back in business? I was never out of business. I think business was just slow. I think people expect too much of me sometimes.”

Not that Bolt, 24, doesn’t expect much of himself. Here’s what he told the BBC just a day or two earlier: “I really want to try soccer after I retire because I’ve watched a lot of football over the years and I think I could be a good contender.

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“I definitely think I’m good enough to play for Manchester United. I’m good enough because I’m quick, I have a little skill — I have to refine it a little bit, but I should be good enough.”

Fat chance.

Bolt might perhaps want to reflect on a line tossed out last week by Guus Hiddink, the 64-year-old Dutch coach whom Chelsea is trying to lure away from Turkey’s national team and back to Stamford Bridge.

“At my age, most of my story is behind me,” Hiddink said.

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While Bolt was doing his thing in Oslo, the original Ronaldo — not Portugal’s Cristiano — was doing his thing one last time in Sao Paulo, appearing for 15 first-half cameo minutes in Brazil’s 1-0 friendly victory over Romania.

It was the two-time World Cup winner and three-time world player of the year’s final appearance for the national team, and his speech to the crowd at halftime was as heartfelt as his retirement announcement in February.

“Thanks to all of you for what you did in my career,” he said. “When I cried, you cried with me. When I smiled, you smiled with me.”

Not doing much smiling last week — but then, does he ever? — was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran.

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Speaking to reporters in Tehran, he blasted FIFA for making Iran’s women’s team forfeit an Olympic qualifying match against Jordan because the Iranian players’ outfits, including headscarves, did not conform to FIFA dress and safety codes.

“These are the dictators and colonialists who want to impose their lifestyle on others,” Ahmadinejad fumed. “We will deal with those who carried out this ugly job.”

More hot air, of course, but sad as it is to see Iran’s female athletes being pawns in all of this, it is amusing to see the Iranian (tin) pot calling the Swiss kettle black.

Shifting a little east from Iran to Azerbaijan, we come to Berti Vogts, who was a good enough player to have won a European championship with Germany in 1972 and a World Cup in 1974. He was also a good enough coach to have led Germany to its 1996 European championship.

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Since taking charge of Azerbaijan’s national team, however, Vogts, 64, has been somewhat — OK, a lot — less successful. He has won only two competitive games in three years.

Azerbaijan’s latest loss, to Kazakhstan in a Euro 2012 qualifier, apparently was the last straw for some fans. One tossed a roll of toilet paper Vogts’ way and two others tried to present him with a jug of water that in Muslim countries serves the same purpose as a bidet in France.

Vogts was flabbergasted.

“I have experienced many things but nothing like this,” he said. “I do not have words to describe this.”

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Then he found the words: “There are idiots all over the world,” he said. “You can’t tar the whole country with the same brush because of three idiots.”

grahame.jones@latimes.com


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