FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses the media in Zurich

Sepp Blatter believes FIFA has a responsibility to shape society


Even while they prepare to be the world’s center of attention with the 2014 World Cup, FIFA are busy trying to polish up their reputation. It’s been tarnished recently, with more and more allegations uncovered about the underhanded ways in which Qatar went about securing votes for the 2022 World Cup.

Then, of course, there’s Brazil. The country spent an estimated $11.5 billion to ready themselves for the World Cup, yet many of the planned infrastructure projects were never even begun. Stadiums are still not complete, planned railway upgrades have yet to be finished, and six in ten believe hosting the tournament will be bad for Brazil.

Protests that began last summer are expected to continue through the World Cup, with citizens making their opinions heard on education, healthcare and public transportation (or lack thereof).

Brazil president Dilma Rousseff appealed to the people of Brazil on Tuesday, asking them to come together and support the tournament. But Sepp Blatter has a different idea in mind. Speaking to the FIFA Congress on Wednesday, Blatter said:

FIFA is shaping society. My vision for FIFA in this changing world is that we must become one of today’s pioneers of hope. Football is about freedom, equality and respect. People have the right to want a better world for their children to grow up in. Football should be a force for positive change in the world and not an obstructor to it. And so should FIFA.

One wonders just how much the FIFA president believes his own words. The organization awarded the next two World Cups to Russia and Qatar, neither of which promote freedom in regards to sexuality. Despite increasingly public demonstrations of racism, FIFA has yet to crack down – although Blatter insists it will happen. Last year, a female executive resigned from FIFA’s governance committee, accusing the organization of blatant sexism.

Blatter may talk a good talk. But most soccer fans are skeptical of his ability to walk that walk. In fact, they’re more likely to believe they’ll see soccer played on another planet first – as Blatter so intriguingly mused about in the same speech.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.