Getty Images

Bizarre episodes surround FIFA trial in Brooklyn

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) A juror dismissed for sleeping during hearings. A defendant allegedly making a throat-slitting gesture to intimidate a witness. A judge admonishing a defendant for taking a paper clip and a pen from her clerk’s desk.

The trial of South American soccer officials charged in the FIFA bribery scandal is not only about corruption. It also has drawn some attention because of a series of bizarre episodes that have happened over three weeks of witnesses giving testimony and journalists going in and out of a Brooklyn courtroom to report on an investigation that has shaken the soccer world.

[READ: As it happened: The 2018 World Cup draw]

On Thursday, for example, U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen admonished defendant Manuel Burga, former president of the Peruvian soccer federation, for allegedly taking a paper clip and a pen from her clerk’s desk.

“No one, no party, nobody should be touching anything in this bench area,” Chen told him.

The federal judge actually tightened Burga’s bail conditions a couple of weeks ago when Burga allegedly sought to intimidate a witness by staring at him in the courtroom and making a slashing gesture across his throat. The defense said Burga was merely scratching a rash on his neck. The witness, Alejandro Burzaco, a former marketing executive from Argentina who testified about paying millions of dollars in bribes, was shaken by the gesture and the trial was delayed at least an hour.

Burzaco and others have testified how they brokered the bribes paid to soccer officials in exchange for their influence in awarding lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and other major soccer tournaments. More than 40 defendants have been charged in the corruption case, with many, including Burzaco, pleading guilty in hopes of getting reduced sentences.

Besides Burga, the trial has other two defendants: Jose Maria Marin, former president of the Brazilian soccer federation, and Juan Angel Napout, former president of the Paraguayan soccer federation and former president of CONMEBOL, South America’s soccer governing body.

In another bizarre event, Chen this week dismissed a juror who slept during testimony. A couple of hours before lawyers and Chen had discussed how to dismiss the juror without embarrassing him, it was decided to do take the action in the courtroom without any other jurors present.

“We need the full attention of any juror. So I apologize but we’re going to have to let you go,” Chen told him. He was then escorted after his belongings were brought to him by U.S. Marshals.

Besides journalists, Chen’s courtroom has been filled with relatives of the defendants and lawyers from companies who have an interest in the case and who take notes continuously. Defendants sometimes eat sandwiches and salads in the court’s cafeteria alongside lawyers, journalists and court staff.

Testimony has generated headlines around the world. A former Argentine government official, Jorge Delhon, killed himself hours after the court was told he took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for handing out television rights. On Thursday his name came up again when a witness gave more details about how he paid money.

Eladio Rodriguez, an Argentinian who worked for Burzaco, said that in 2013 he registered a $2.6 million payment to an entity he named “the government”.

“Everything that says government was Delhon,” he said.

Delhon dealt with the now-defunct government program Futbol para Todos (Football for All), which broadcast local soccer matches on public TV.

Mourinho on muted celebrations from Lukaku, himself

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s a lot of buzz about celebrating, and not celebrating, when it comes to Manchester United.

Star striker Romelu Lukaku‘s post-goal actions were muted for a second-straight week, and manager Jose Mourinho appeared nonchalant on the bench.

[ RECAP: WBA 1-2 Man Utd ]

For Lukaku, that could be down to his status as a former West Brom player (and to be sure he was quite energetic in support of Jesse Lingard‘s insurance goal).

As for Mourinho, this is a man who was quite critical of Man City’s celebrations after winning a derby at Old Trafford. And Jose isn’t one to let a story line die unnecessarily.

Here’s Mourinho when asked about Lukaku’s non-celebration, from the BBC:

“Maybe he looks to the bench and sees his manager doesn’t celebrate. Maybe he loves West Brom. Maybe he remembers the team that helped him early in his career.

“I will celebrate if my team scores a winning goal in the last minute. But you have to have more maturity and keep your feet on the ground. If some guys want to be kids until the last day of their careers or if they want to act to the cameras then they can. But if we score an important goal then I can do anything.”

On one hand, I get it. On the other hand (and a third if I can find one), be okay with having a bit of fun, Jose.

United is back to within 11 points of leaders Man City, and it’s a massive mountain to climb for the Red Devils. Yet Ander Herrera, who was terrific again on Sunday, said the directive is simple: control what you can.

“We won three titles last season, which was very good. It is true that the top of the table is difficult to reach right now but this is Premier League, you never know. Our aim is just to keep winning games.”

The side’s 41 points through 18 matches would’ve been enough to lead the Premier League in two of the previous four seasons. No one’s going to tell United to be content with where they stand, but it’s been a fine season for Mourinho’s men so far.

WATCH: Liverpool battering Bournemouth with highlight reel half

Leave a comment

Philippe Coutinho is capable of elite magic, and he conjured up some fantasy on Sunday at the Vitality Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com ]

Liverpool and Bournemouth were scoreless when the Brazilian dribbled past Simon Francis and Lewis Cook on a mazy run, taking Andrew Robertson‘s square pass and dancing through daylight.

If only there were a body cam on Adam Smith, who was chasing Coutinho the whole time!

Dejan Lovren — does this require we say “of all people?” — then scored a diving header after Roberto Firmino saved a wayward corner kick.

And Mohamed Salah, what else can you say about the 20-goal scorer (in all competitions)?

Salah would get his goal in stunning fashion, bodying off a defender before dribbling past two more to finish with an off-balance belt past Begovic.

Kaka calls it a career; Won World Cup, Ballon d’Or

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson
Leave a comment

He’s the last Ballon d’Or winner neither named Messi nor Ronaldo, and he’s calling it a career.

Kaka announced his retirement on Sunday after a gleaming career on three continents.

Born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, Kaka won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and also boasts two Confederations Cup wins amongst his 92 caps and 29 international goals.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Kaka debuted for Sao Paolo in 2001, and left for AC Milan three seasons later. Thrice names in the UEFA Team of the Year and twice the Serie A Footballer of the Year, Kaka won Serie A with Milan and La Liga with Real Madrid.

He spent the final three seasons of his career in Major League Soccer with Orlando City SC, and was magnificent. The 35-year-old scored 25 goals with 19 assists for the Lions.

West Brom 1-2 Manchester United: Red Devils hang on

Leave a comment
  • United back into second
  • Lukaku scores 10th PL goal of season
  • Baggies winless in 16

Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard scored first half goals and Manchester United held on to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns on Sunday.

Gareth Barry scored the Baggies’ lone goal, as Alan Pardew‘s men sit 19th and without a win since August.

United pulls three points ahead of Chelsea, and is 11 points back of Man City.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Brom wasn’t intimidated by the task at hand, and James McClean was particularly lively as the Baggies tried to find an opener.

But United quickly settled into control through possession, albeit without any effective incisiveness.

That changed when Lukaku rose to deposit a trademark header beyond the reach of Ben Foster, converting Marcus Rashford‘s cross with power.

After a moment of danger provided by Allan Nyom and Salomon Rondon, United made it 2-0 when Lingard took a lay-off from Juan Mata and hit a shot that Ahmed Hegazi deflected past Foster.

Jake Livermore forced David De Gea into a low save in the 44th minute.

 

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The Baggies pulled one back as both Evans and Barry could’ve tapped in a loose ball off a corner kick.

Barry did, and United was on its heels. Credit Alan Pardew for his substitutes of Barry, Chris Brunt, and Jay Rodriguez (though they were, after all, on the bench).

Rodriguez powered a header off Brunt’s cross wide of the near post with about five minutes to play.

And a scramble in front nearly put the Baggies level, but De Gea was there. The keeper was kicked by Ahmed Hegazi and came up smarting.