iconimg Saturday, September 05, 2015

Hindustan Times
Madrid, October 09, 2012
Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas played down Tuesday the eight-point gap separating the defending champions from league leaders Barcelona, saying the disparity in the standings won't become important until December. Casillas said he was satisfied with his side's 2-2 draw against their arch-rivals Barca on Sunday, adding it was far too early to be overly concerned about Real's position in the table. "If we are still eight points behind in the month of December, I would be more pessimistic... but now, there are still numerous matches to play. A 2-2 at Camp Nou is a good result, even from the point of view of goal average," said Casillas.

As of now, Madrid stand fifth in the table but Casillas was quick to highlight that Tito Vilanova's Barca are not their only title challengers, refusing to discount Real's city rivals Atletico, who are joint top with Barca on 19 points after seven matches.

"One can't exclude Atletico Madrid, authors of a superb run after seven matches. This good start does not surprise me. (Coa-ch Diego) Simeone, since his arri-val, has formed a very compact team in all areas. It's a team that could fight up until the end for the title," said Casillas.

The veteran goalkeeper also voiced his support for teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in the race with Lionel Messi for this year's Ballon d'Or award. "I choose Cristiano, it's clear. Because he is a player who has brought us an awful lot during all these seasons and I know him well."

Cole free for England
London: Chelsea defender Ashley Cole has apologised to English FA chairman David Bernstein for a Twitter insult he aimed at the FA last week and is free to play for England against San Marino on Friday. Whether or not he earns his 99th cap in the World Cup qualifier at Wembley is up to coach Roy Hodgson but Bernstein said on Tuesday that Cole was free for selection.

The FA charged the 31-year-old with misconduct on Monday following Cole's offensive tweet after the governing body's independent commission had queried what they described as his "evolving" evidence in the John Terry racial abuse verdict.

Terry was found guilty of racially insulting Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand and banned for four matches. Cole gave evidence on his Chelsea team mate's behalf.  Cole deleted the tweet a few hours after it was posted on Friday.

Bernstein revealed that Cole had followed his apology to the FA on Friday with a personal apology: "He apologised immediately on Friday and he came to see me last night and apologised to me personally. He showed real contrition. He said he was really sorry. He is free to play for England over the coming matches. It is up to the manager to decide whether he plays or not."

Cole has until 4pm on Thurs-day to respond to the FA charge, that deadline falling just over 24 hours before the England match.

No team gb at rio: FA
london: Britain will not enter a men's soccer team for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, English FA general secretary Alex Horne said on Tuesday. Britain returned to the Olympic finals this summer for the first time since 1960 in Rome. It was also the first time since 1972, when they were eliminated in the qualifiers, that they had taken part in the event.

The issue is politically sensitive as the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland FAs feel their participation threatens their individual status within FIFA, world soccer's governing body. Wales players, including Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, were a part of Stuart Pearce's squad that reached the quarterfinals at London 2012 but there were no Scottish or Irish players involved.

"The pinnacle is the World Cup and we've got the Euros as well. We play as England and we are proud to play as England and I know Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are proud to play as their own individual entities and we wouldn't want to do anything to risk that," said Horne.

Horne said there was a possibility a women's team, which entered the Olympics for the first time in London and also reached the last eight, might be entered for the Rio qualifiers. "We are not ruling it out completely."