Adriano’s latest comeback came to its inevitable, boozy end last week—put out of its misery by a series of Facebook photos and a video that showed the Flamengo striker partying in a Rio de Janeiro discothèque, microphone in hand and dancers by his side. He made a much better striker than he does a rapper, but these days it’s hard to even believe the now-30-year-old was once one of the most formidable forwards on the planet.
In a statement released by his press agency on Monday, Adriano confirmed what he really had no choice but to confirm, and what those of us who have followed his career—it’s euphoric highs and extreme lows—have heard time and again: that he will be taking yet another break from football, to be followed by yet another comeback.
“I thought a lot, talked to my family and friends and came to the conclusion that the best thing to do is return [to football] in 2013,” he said. “[Flamengo] have to concentrate on their final stretch of matches and I have to regain 100 per cent of my fitness…I’ll keep training with even more vigour…Believe me: this decision was made taking everything into consideration,” he said.
I’ll provide a rather more in-depth look at Adriano’s situation in this space on Friday, but this piece by writer/actor/director Rodrigo Beilfuss (written 20 months ago amid dishearteningly similar circumstances) is a good primer if you’ve happened to have lost track of Adriano, both the player and the person.
African Champions League: The chaos of their semifinal tie with Nigerian side Sunshine Stars well behind them (a group of players and fans had tried to prevent the second leg from taking place as the Egyptian Football Association was still unwilling to restart play following February’s Port Said riots), Al-Ahly earned a 1-1 draw with visiting Espérance—the reigning African champions—thanks to an 88th-minute equaliser by substitute Al-Sayed Hamdy. Towering Esperance defender Walid Hichri had given the guests the lead (and important away goal) when he opened the scoring four minutes after the restart. The second leg will be played in Tunis on November 17.
Warriors disbanded: The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) has disbanded the country’s senior men’s national team, nicknamed the Warrors, in the wake of a match-fixing scandal that resulted in 15 lifetime bans being handed out to officials and players late last month. Former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya was among the disciplined and is thought to have been the architect of the fixing scandal that also included a betting ring based in Singapore.
“The Warriors, if indeed they were Warriors, have been dissolved en masse,” announced ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube on Friday. “We will rebuild from the under-20 and under-23s. These are people who are clean. The team has been discarded in its entirety.”
Zimbabwe’s results on a recent tour of Asia sent up a red flag that something might be amiss within the squad and football association, and last month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualification tie with Angola—in which Zimbabwe led 3-1 after the first leg—brought about even more scrutiny. Angola scored twice in the first seven minutes in the return match in Luanda to seal progression to the South Africa finals on away goals.
Evergrande repeat: The ninth instalment of the Chinese Super League reached its conclusion on Saturday with Guangzhou Evergrande wrapping up a campaign that saw them clinch the title the week before with a 1-0 win over 10th-place Liaoning Whowin. The championship is Evergrande’s second in a row, and on both occasions they claimed the trophy with a week to spare.
Dario Conca, whose 10 goals paced the side, told Brazilian outlet Lancenet! that he was glad to have won a third title in a row—a streak that also included the 2010 Brasileirão with Fluminense. “Titles are the most important thing an athlete can earn,” he said. Conca, for the record, also earns a lot of money. After moving to Guangzhou in 2011 for a then-Chinese record fee of nearly €8 million, the playmaker was handed a wage packet that put him among the highest-paid footballers in the world.
Didier Drogba’s Shanghai Shenua finished a disappointing ninth in the standings, 10 points back of the Champions League places. Drogba, for his part, scored eight goals after joining the club in July. Romanian striker Christian Danalache, formerly of Unirea Urziceni, led the league with 23 tallies.
Ganso coming back early: When Paulo Henrique Ganso joined Sao Paulo from Santos in September, it was widely understood that the injury-plagued 23-year-old would only return to competitive football for the 2013 Paulista state championship. But after resuming full training the playmaker is now in line to make an appearance on November 18 against Nautico.
“[Ganso’s training] has been positive, not only technically and physically but also emotionally,” remarked Sao Paulo manager Ney Franco on Friday. “Every athlete misses being with the group, kicking the ball. Now Ganso can integrate with his teammates. Everything has its time and we are respecting all stages of his recovery,” he said.
The Brasileirão is in its final stretch with just four rounds remaining. Sao Paulo are fourth in the standings—eight points up on Botafogo and Internacional—and are a safe bet to qualify for the first stage of the Copa Libertadores. Fluminense lead the division with 73 points and look a safe bet to secure their second title in three seasons.