Wednesday, June 4, 2008
BANNED: F.C. Porto Out of Champions League
Portuguese champions F.C. Porto have been banned from the 2008-2009 Champions League for the sins of their forefathers; well, forebrothers? The club was whacked today for a guilty finding on match-fixing charges dating back to 2003/04, the club's Champions League-winning season under Jose Mourinho. Five referees were also found guilty here; these guys were either paid off in cash or with prostitutes--honest to God. The club was docked six points in the domestic league, and president Pinto da Costa was suspended two years.
Porto will appeal the decision, which is a harsh one five years after the fact.
The bigger question, however, is who gets slotted in Porto's stead? Sporting, which finished second, goes to the group stage while Vitoria Guimaraes goes to the third qualifying round for finishing third. Is Benfica entitled to a qualifying round spot, and Guimaraes moving into Porto's group-stage spot? Or will UEFA go outside of Portugal to another deserving third- or fourth-place finisher? Time will tell on that.
The sad thing is that Portugal is a second-tier football country in Europe, and no stranger to corruption. Benfica Upfront refers to an interview conducted with Porto player Costinha in Sabado. The upshot is the absolute stink coming out of the top clubs in that country, and the depths of corruption, payoffs and an organized-crime feel to their methods of doing business.
Another thing that bears watching: Now that Porto is out of the Champions League, is there anything keeping its young stars such as Quaresma, Lisandro Lopez and others in Porto? Why wouldn't they bolt for greener pastures that include regular appearances in Tuesday and Wednesday CL matches?