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Infantino slams “fake news” about FIFA

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MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) Gianni Infantino waged a strident defense of his FIFA leadership by lashing out at “fake news” and “alternative facts” promulgated about a governing body he insists has recovered its reputation and can be trusted.

Addressing his second congress of soccer nations as FIFA president, Infantino invoked the rhetoric favored by U.S. President Donald Trump while taking on his critics on Thursday.

Infantino took charge of world soccer in February 2016 after Sepp Blatter was forced out for financial wrongdoing, a branch of a wider scandal that saw FIFA executives indicted by American authorities.

“We are rebuilding the credibility of FIFA. The new FIFA is a democracy it is not a dictatorship,” Infantino said. “New FIFA, it is a transparent organization, not an organization that is fiddling around with facts and figures. It is a deeply honest organization, not an organization that looks to spend money without purpose.”

But Infantino blamed media for distorting coverage of his attempts to rebuild the scandal-battered organization.

“Sadly, the truth is not what is necessarily true but what people believe is true.

“There is a lot of fake news and alternative facts about FIFA circulating. FIFA bashing has become a national sport in some countries.”

Infantino did not cite any specific reports but it comes in the week ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert and FIFA prosecutor Cornel Borbely denounced the decision to remove them from their posts.

Infantino made no mention of Eckert and Borbely, who said the president was jeopardizing the post-Blatter reform process by ousting them at the end of their terms. FIFA first embarked on a reform mission in 2011 after election bribery allegations, but a deeper financial scandal exploded four years later with raids in Zurich and the arrest of soccer officials.

“Where were all these self-proclaimed good governance and compliance gurus who were supposed to control FIFA when all this was happening?” asked Infantino, whose former bosses at UEFA were often cited by reform advisers as a barrier to progress. “They all miserably failed. It’s not me saying it. It’s the facts saying it.

“We will not accept any good governance lesson from any of these individuals who have miserably failed in protecting football, protecting FIFA, and in protecting football from FIFA.”

Expanding on the reform supervisors, Infantino said: “What did they do? They simply rubber-stamped a sick and wrong system. It is not me saying it, it is the criminal courts saying it all over the world.”

FIFA has spent tens of millions of dollars on experts to protect its victim status in criminal investigations and reclaim cash from corrupt officials. Infantino issued a plea to officials still hoping to profit through bribery, embezzlement, and fraud.

“If there’s anyone in this room or outside of this room who still thinks he can enrich himself, that he can abuse football, I have one clear and strong message to tell him: Leave football and leave football now. We don’t want you.”

There was applause, and no sign of anyone leaving the room.

FIFA officials remain under criminal investigation in Switzerland and the United States. FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes including at least $850,000 from Kuwaiti officials. The case implicated Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, who quit the contest this week to seek re-election to the FIFA Council as a consequence of the allegations.

“A big thanks goes from my side and FIFA’s side to all the authorities who prosecute those who are involved in corruption in football,” Infantino said. “Thank you.”

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarris

USMNT celebrates winning 2017 Gold Cup – Video

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The U.S. national team won the 2017 Gold Cup title on Wednesday night and the Stars and Stripes celebrated in style.

[ MORE: Recap | Ratings | 3 things ] 

After beating Jamaica 2-1 in a tense final in Santa Clara, Calif. the champagne corks were soon popping as veterans and youngsters danced the night away to celebrate the USMNT’s first trophy since their Gold Cup success in 2013.

This was the USA’s sixth Gold Cup title and for many (Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey to name a few) it could be their last piece of silverware for the USMNT.

Watch them drink in the celebrations below as Bruce Arena (celebrating his third Gold Cup title) pulled off a veteran move to remove his suit jacket before getting drenched.

The U.S. are once again champions of the CONCACAF region.


Arsenal confirm Alexis Sanchez will return to training

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed Alexis Sanchez will return to training with Arsenal this Sunday.

Sanchez, 28, is yet to sign a new contract at Arsenal and has just 12 months left on his current deal, but it appears that Wenger isn’t planning on losing his Chilean superstar anytime soon.

Below is what Wenger has to say about Sanchez and Shkodran Mustafi returning to training this weekend after their exploits in the 2017 Confederations Cup which saw both men play in the final on July 2.

“Alexis and Mustafi, their first training session will be on Sunday, the day we play against Sevilla [in the Emirates Cup],” Wenger said. “They are practising on the day. First of all you make a really good check up of where they are, how much they have worked during their break. After, once you know where you stand, they need an adjusted programme and to see how quickly you can fit them in again.

“Of course it depends as well on what is the need in the squad, what is their quality. All of these things together make your decision. Do you put them on the bench when they are not ready [to start]? It is easier to put a striker on the bench than a defender, sometimes. Because in a short period they can make an impact. We’ll see.”

Manchester City hammer Real Madrid in LA

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Manchester City went full Beastmode on Real Madrid in the second half of their International Champions Cup game in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Neymar to PSG on? ]

In front of a record 93,038 fans, City scored four goals in the second half with Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Raheem Sterling all netting before youngster Brahim Diaz finished things off in style.

Kevin De Bruyne was in particularly menacing form with the Belgian at the heart of everything good for Pep Guardiola‘s men.

Despite the hammering Real Madrid did score the goal of the night with youngster Oscar Rodriguez smashing home a beauty into the top corner form distance in the 90th minute.

Click play on the video above to watch the highlights.

City now head to Nashville, Tennessee where they face Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday with both teams finishing off their U.S. tour in style in Music City.

Real Madrid travel to Miami, Florida for the small matter of an El Clasico against Barcelona to finish off the International Champions Cup tournament Stateside.

Report: Neymar agrees five-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain

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Paris, are you ready for Neymar to become the main man?

[ MORE: USMNT win Gold Cup title

The Brazilian has scored all three of Barcelona’s goals during their preseason wins over Juventus and Manchester United in the U.S. but was his game-winner on Wednesday in Washington D.C. his final strike in a Barca shirt?

L’Equipe is reporting that Neymar has agreed terms on a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain but that the French giants are now trying to get Barcelona to reduce the $260 million transfer fee which is Neymar’s release clause.

Per the report Neymar will earn over $34.1 million annually while reports in Spain suggest that both clubs want the Brazilian superstar to make a decision and are eager to push the deal through by next week if it’s going to happen.

Neymar, 25, is said to want to leave Barca and be the main man at PSG.

With Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez around at the Nou Camp, it’s easy to understand that Brazil’s captain feels a little underappreciated sometimes but with Messi now 30 years old and Suarez 31, surely Neymar can wait it out a few years before he takes over Messi’s throne at Barca?

Hmmm, with the five-time World Player of the Year recently signing a new contract until 2021, Mess is going nowhere and maybe that was the trigger for Neymar and his representatives to look elsewhere as he’s about to enter his prime.

On top of all that the ongoing investigation from the Spanish authorities into his transfer from Santos looms large over the global superstar, but after winning two UEFA Champions League titles, three La Liga trophies and two Copa del Rey’s during his four years at Barca, would he really walk away?

His teammates and manager have been speaking about that posibility during Barca’s preseason tour of the U.S. and nobody seems too sure if he will remain. If anything the word “hope” is getting thrown around a lot rather than a definitive “yes” or “no” and even Gerard Pique had to back track on a social media post where he posed with Neymar and used the caption “he stays” to sum up the situation.

PSG are reportedly working around the clock to figure out how on earth they can finance this deal but it is becoming increasingly obvious that they are the only club who can afford to sign Neymar and their Abu Dhabi owners are doing all they can to make it a reality.