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Soccer corruption trial continues as FIFA gathers in Russia

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When soccer officials gather this week in Russia for the World Cup draw, some will have a wary eye on reports from a New York courtroom.

FIFA leaders will be joined by delegations from 32 World Cup teams as guests of President Vladimir Putin on Friday evening in Moscow. They await the match schedule of soccer’s greatest event, which kicks off next June.

At the same time as a one-hour show in Putin’s presence at the State Kremlin Palace, it will be Friday morning in Brooklyn, and the third week of testimony draws to a close in a soccer corruption trial already revealing more secrets and alleged criminality of officials linked to FIFA.

The integrity of Russia’s World Cup bid has been questioned since a widely discredited FIFA executive committee voted in 2010, though its name is all-but absent so far in court. The 2022 World Cup host Qatar, however, has kept cropping up in each of the first two weeks, even though the three South American former soccer leaders on trial did not vote in FIFA’s double choice.

Here is a look at the current talking points in the trial:


The three men deny charges they took part in a 24-year scheme involving at least $200 million in bribes paid by marketing firms in exchange for lucrative broadcasting rights for prestigious tournaments. They are:

– Jose Maria Marin (Brazil): Former president of the Brazilian soccer federation arrested in a raid on a hotel in Zurich on the May 2015 day that shook FIFA.

– Juan Angel Napout (Paraguay): Arrested in a second wave at the same luxury hotel in December 2015. As the FIFA vice president for South America, Napout was portraying himself as an agent of anti-corruption reform before being indicted.

– Manuel Burga (Peru): Former Peruvian soccer federation president and below the top-tier of South Americans who had influence at FIFA. Also indicted in December 2015, and arrested in his native Peru.


The star witness in the first week in court was also among the first indicted people in May 2015: Alejandro Burzaco, the former head of an Argentine sports marketing company, pleaded guilty to get a reduced sentence.

In the second week, two prosecution witnesses testified in deals to avoid prosecution.

Santiago Pena worked for Argentina-based Full Play Group, which held marketing rights to South American qualifying games for the World Cup, the Copa America and Copa Libertadores tournaments. His bosses, father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, were indicted in May 2015. They have avoided extradition to the U.S., and Pena said they remain in Argentina.

Jose Luis Chiriboga is a soccer agent who admitted laundering $2.8 million for his father, former Ecuador soccer federation president Luis Chiriboga. He was convicted of money laundering last year in his home country. Jose Luis Chiriboga said he forfeited a $400,000 Miami apartment in his non-prosecution deal.


Pena said his Full Play bosses asked him to keep a ledger of off-the-books payments to soccer officials, including South American soccer federation presidents. Two payments Pena said were labeled “Q2022” – an apparent but unexplained reference to World Cup host Qatar.

A $750,000 payment went to Rafael Esquivel, the former Venezuelan soccer leader. Esquivel was arrested in Zurich in May 2015, and has pleaded guilty to various conspiracy charges.

Another “Q2022” payment was for $500,000 to Luis Chiriboga. Neither had a vote when FIFA picked World Cup hosts.


It is a difficult season for Qatari soccer and television executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi, even as the French club he presides over, Paris Saint-Germain, emerges as a Champions League contender.

Last week, Al-Khelaifi’s role in a Qatar-backed potential deal to buy a majority stake in Full Play was detailed. The deal was dropped in May 2015 when Full Play’s controlling partners were indicted.

In October, Swiss federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal proceeding against Al-Khelaifi for suspected bribery linked to Qatar-owned beIN Media Group’s agreement with FIFA for some 2026 and 2030 World Cup broadcast rights. He denied wrongdoing and was later questioned about allegedly providing an Italian luxury villa for a top FIFA official to use.

Pena testified that lengthy negotiations involved Al-Khelaifi and Qatar Sports Investments, the sovereign wealth fund which owns Paris Saint-Germain. It was called the “New York project,” because a 51 percent stake was valued at $212 million, the same three digits as the New York City telephone code.

QSI confirmed the talks, saying it was one of many such deals it evaluated that did not happen.


Another potential Full Play deal lapsed in May 2015 involving Nike and rights to provide kits for Chile’s national team, Pena testified. He said the agreement would have included payments for soccer officials.


Corrupt South American soccer officials were given code names of car manufacturers in the Full Play ledge of payments, witness Pena said of his Excel spread sheets.

Napout was “Honda” and his fellow defendant Burga was “Fiat.” “VW” was the tag for Carlos Chavez of Bolivia

A former Beatle also came up in testimony. Pena testified that more than $10,000 was deducted from an amount owed to Napout in 2010 as credit for Paul McCartney concert tickets provided to him.

Status of FIFA cases:

More AP FIFA coverage:

Osorio: Jonathan Gonzalez has a “promising future” with El Tri

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The Jonathan Gonzalez situation still stings for many U.S. Men’s National Team supporters, and the encouragement from Mexico’s camp regarding the midfielder’s bright future isn’t making things better for Americans.

[ MORE: Where does Zlatan rank among stars to come to MLS? ]

El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio reaffirmed his belief that Gonzalez is one of the many promising prospects within the Mexican national team ahead of the country’s friendly against Iceland on Friday.

Gonzalez, who switched his national team allegiance to Mexico from the U.S. earlier this year, has been called up for the match after the 18-year-old made his Mexico senior team debut against Bosnia back in January.

“Jonathan, to start with, is part of a group of Mexican players that I’ve referred as having a good present and a promising future and that excites me to continue, along with Edson Alvarez, Omar Govea and others that aren’t here like Orbelin [Pineda] and Erick [Gutierrez],” Osorio said at a news conference on Thursday.

“Gonzalez is a good midfielder and can fight for a place with anyone. Like everyone, he has to improve a lot of things to win a place.

“After deciding to play for Mexico, it is our responsibility to give him a platform to develop and consolidate himself as a player.

“That’s why he’s in this call-up, and hopefully he can establish himself and show the qualities I mentioned.”

The former USMNT youth prospect has quickly become a regular for club side Monterrey, who currently sits sixth in the Liga MX table.

Gonzalez has appeared in 38 matches across all competitions for the four-time league champions and earned honors in the Liga MX Best XI following the 2017 Apertura season.

USMNT reveals new kits ahead of Paraguay friendly

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U.S. Soccer’s teams has donned some pretty sweet kits in the past, but this go around has particularly patriotic feel about it, and we like it.

[ MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has joined the LA Galaxy ]

The U.S. released a video on Friday (below) with several USMNT stars, including Bobby Wood and Tyler Adams wearing the new kits ahead of Tuesday’s international friendly against Paraguay.

The home jersey features a flag design engraved on a white kit, which is representative of the American flag. Meanwhile, the away version holds a similar design, but with a blue base for the jersey.

Meanwhile, the USWNT will don their new kits on April 5 when they take on Mexico in the first two matches in the U.S. The two rivals will meet three days later for the second meeting.

What do you think of the latest U.S. Soccer kits? Let us know what you like or dislike about it in the comments section below.

UEFA Nations League gets $94 million prize fund for 55 teams

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA says it has created a 76.25 million euro ($94 million) prize fund for the inaugural Nations League.

The first champion will earn 7.5 million euros ($9.25 million).

The Nations League is replacing most international friendlies. All 55 UEFA members will play group matches in four tiers through November. The Final Four will be in June 2019.

UEFA says 12 top-ranked teams in League A will each get 1.5 million euros ($1.85 million). Group winners will get 1.5 million euros ($1.85 million) extra and advance to the final tournament, and the winner will get another 4.5 million euros ($5.55 million).

League B will pay 1 million euros ($1.23 million) per team, while in League C it’s 750,000 euros ($925,000) and in League D it’s 500,000 euros ($617,000). Group winners will double their money.

Alexis Sanchez discusses Man United struggles

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Alexis Sanchez appears to be struggling with his disappointing start to life at Manchester United.

The Chilean star, 29, became the highest-paid player in the Premier League when he arrived from Arsenal in January in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Sanchez has scored just one PL goal.

Sanchez has failed to make his mark on a consistent basis as United have also crashed out of the UEFA Champions League.

What does Sanchez put his lack of form down to?

In an Instagram post he left a caption saying that he was mentally exhausted: “I know you are tired. I know you are psychologically and emotionally exhausted. But you have to smile and continue”.

Speaking to the Chilean media ahead of their friendly against Sweden in Stockholm on Saturday, Sanchez revealed he has been struggling with the lack of impact he has had at United.

“The change of club was something that was very abrupt – it was the first time I’ve changed clubs in January – but many things have happened in my life that are difficult… As I am self-demanding, I expected something better. After my arrival at United, it was hard to change everything very quickly. I even hesitated to come here [to Sweden].”

Sanchez has looked better in a central role behind Romelu Lukaku but he hasn’t been used there often enough by Jose Mourinho.

At Arsenal he had the license to roam free in the attacking third but in Mourinho’s more defensive, rigid system he appears to be struggling to get on the ball in the right areas in and around the box. Sanchez has cut a frustrated figure out on the left wing and has given the ball away on multiple occasions as he tries to make the difficult passes and open up opposition defenses.

It appears that Sanchez is perhaps trying to hard to impress United and given his all-action displays, that is not easy to do.

United need more of him in the final third than out wide or tracking back to help out his own defense if they’re going to seal their top four spot and win the FA Cup to see out the final months of the season.

There’s no doubting Sanchez’s quality as we all know just how good he can be from his four seasons at Arsenal.

Yet, as he acknowledged himself, something at United isn’t quite right.