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August 13, 2009

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Mourinho-led Italians take a beating

SERIE A teams Inter Milan and Lazio acted like tourists and drank wine worth more than US$10,000 when they were in China last week for the Italian Super Cup.

Italian champion Inter lost 1-2 to Italian Cup winner Lazio in the season curtain-raiser played in front of 70,000 fans at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing on Saturday night.

Although moving the match from Italy to China was a success, the behavior of the clubs fell below the standards the organizers expected of their guests.

"The two teams from Italy were just like two luxury tourist groups," Wang Bo, who looked after the teams on behalf of organizers United Vanson International, told the Beijing News. "Just on wine, they ran up a bill of 70,000 yuan (US$10,240)," he added. "They were extremely inconsiderate, they didn't think about anybody else's needs at all."

But Vanson spokesman Ma Jian said yesterday that Wang's comments were made in passing to the reporter and did not represent the company's official position.

Wang's complaints compound the impression that the trip was a public relations disaster for Inter and its coach Jose Mourinho in particular.

The Beijing News had a particular grievance with Mourinho after he lambasted its reporter in the post-match press conference.

Asked why Lazio, playing on the same pitch and in the same searing heat that Mourinho had previously complained about, was able to win, the Portuguese rounded on her.

"After the first two questions, I know why Chinese football is so rubbish and why China has won gold medals in so many sports but not football, because the journalists are so unprofessional."

Mourinho expanded on the shortcomings of the Chinese media after a question from Xinhua News Agency, saying he could only conclude that they did not "understand a thing".

The Chinese media responded by branding Mourinho arrogant and stories of other snubs and jibes circulated on the internet.

On Monday, Inter posted a statement on its Chinese language Website defending him against accusations that he would not meet China's national team coach. "Jose Mourinho today firmly denied the reports that he refused to meet China's coach Gao Hongbo," it read. "After Inter's training in the Olympic Sports Centre in the afternoon of August 5, Gao met and talked to Mourinho..."

Meanwhile, the head of the professional footballers association said Italian football should restore foreign player quotas to ensure domestic talent has the chance to flourish.

"Useless foreign players have been flooding our championship for ages, making club presidents spend too much and taking places from Italians, who are often better" Sergio Campana told La Gazzetta dello.

"I'm going to propose the introduction of a limit on foreigners in the regulations. It's legally possible both for non-European Union and EU citizens. We have to go back to the past when there was a real limit on foreign players."


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