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FIFA sends 1,300-page corruption probe to Swiss prosecutors

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has sent 1,300 pages of internal investigation reports into suspected bribery and corruption to Switzerland’s attorney general.

However, FIFA said Friday it was legally barred from publishing the full reports or commenting on the evidence or conclusions.

The documents complete a 22-month probe by legal firm Quinn Emanuel, which FIFA retained in the fallout from United States and Swiss federal prosecutors revealing their sprawling investigations of soccer corruption in May 2015.

[ MORE: What’s left for each PL club? ]

FIFA has said the U.S.-based law firm, whose hiring helped add $30 million to its published legal costs in 2015, is key to helping retain its institutional status as a victim of corruption and not an accomplice.

“FIFA understands and has agreed that the reports will also be made available to the U.S. authorities,” FIFA said in a statement.

In a case identified with former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the FIFA-commissioned reports will arrive at the U.S. Department of Justice and Brooklyn federal prosecution under new leaders in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Switzerland attorney general Michael Lauber remains in control of his office’s investigation, which already opened proceedings for suspected criminal mismanagement against former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his former right-hand man, Jerome Valcke.

[ MORE: Crew, ‘Caps swap Tchani, Manneh ]

Blatter and Valcke, FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general since 2007, were both suspended from office in September 2015 and later banned from soccer by the FIFA ethics committee.

It is unclear which other senior FIFA staffers or soccer federation leaders worldwide could be implicated and ultimately indicted on the basis of the investigation reports.

In an interim finding last year, FIFA accused Blatter, Valcke and long-time finance director Markus Kattner of self-dealing in agreeing to each others’ contracted salaries and World Cup bonuses totaling $80 million. FIFA fired Kattner last May.

In the documents, FIFA does not make a judgment on which individuals could or should be prosecuted, according to a person briefed on the contents. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the reports are confidential, also said some key witnesses refused to speak.

Still, Lauber’s office has “acknowledged FIFA’s close and consistent cooperation,” FIFA said in its statement.

Lauber is also key to sealing the contents of FIFA’s more than 1,300 report pages and more than 20,000 pages of evidence to preserve the integrity of his team’s investigation.

[ MORE: FIFA announces World Cup expansion details ]

The Swiss lawyer’s office criticized the German soccer federation last year when it released in full a 361-page report into suspected corruption linked to organizing the 2006 World Cup. By publishing so much evidence, the “risk of collusion” by suspects, including soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, was increased, the Swiss federal department said then.

The Swiss investigation of Germany’s World Cup organizers spun off the broader FIFA case, which was formally launched in Switzerland in November 2014. Then, Blatter and FIFA ethics committee judges sent Lauber reports from an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests led by former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.

Swiss prosecutors have examined at least 172 suspected money-laundering transactions through Swiss banks in a case that Lauber’s office has said proceedings could take up to five years.

The U.S. case was launched years earlier and had a first star witness in former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, the most senior American in world soccer during Blatter’s presidency. Blazer ran CONCACAF, the North American soccer body, from apartments in Trump Tower in Manhattan and rarely filed tax returns.

U.S. federal authorities have indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 soccer and marketing executives, and marketing agencies, including several former FIFA vice presidents from the Americas.

The case mostly involves bribery linked to regional tournaments and World Cup qualifying games in Latin America, plus a direct link to FIFA in payments totaling $10 million through its accounts, signed off by Valcke in 2008.

Prosecutors using Blazer’s testimony allege the money was bribes funneled from South African organizers of the 2010 World Cup in exchange for hosting votes from CONCACAF delegates on the FIFA executive committee.

Forfeits totaling more than $200 million have been agreed to by people who admitted guilt to U.S. authorities.

FIFA last year made a restitution claim for a share of the money, including for enforced legal costs, based on “harm to its business relationships, reputation and intangible property.”

Miguel Almiron knew nothing about MLS, everything about Tata

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Miguel Almiron’s future is going to be a big part of the story for as long as he’s in Atlanta United, but his past is in focus following another cool post in The Players’ Tribune.

It’s a cool read, for sure, to examine Almiron’s rise from “too skinny” kid without a club to one of the top prospects this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but the story of why he came to Atlanta is an argument for the “big name” manager (Tata Martino in this case).

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

Before the Paraguayan youngster was the talk of the transfer market, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the No. 1 jersey sale in the league, he was being recruited to the Georgian expansion outlet.

“I didn’t know much about MLS. I didn’t know where Atlanta was. I didn’t know anything. But Tata was manager, and that was all I needed to know.”

Given that Martino arrived not too long before Almiron, the following Tweet makes the point I’ve been trying to make as well as anyone:

Sevilla manager reportedly told team of cancer diagnosis at half

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When it comes to locker room tales, few compare to this one.

Any big comeback, especially one as high profile as Sevilla’s stunning second half against Liverpool, inspires the question, “What was said in the team room at halftime?!?”

Down 3-0 at halftime and in danger of bowing out of the UEFA Champions League, Sevilla manager Eduardo Berizzo gave his team some very serious news.

[ MORE: Liverpool fan trouble in Sevilla ]

According to Spanish reports relayed by The Telegraph, Berizzo informed his players of his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Sevilla confirmed that Berizzo is battling adenocarcinoma, saying, “Future medical tests will determine a course of treatment. Sevilla FC wants to show maximum support to its manager in these moments and wishes him a prompt recovery.”

It adds extra weight to Ever Banega’s postgame comments:

“We have to go out there with that attitude, for the fans that always back us and for the coach who has turned this around. He is the most important of all of us, he has us on the right path and we are with him to the hilt.”

Our best to Berizzo, and — sorry Reds supporters — it’s pretty cool Sevilla was able to rally after such stunning news.

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones