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Chile says it will consider joint bid for 2026 World Cup

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KAZAN, Russia (AP) Chile says it will consider bidding to host the 2026 World Cup with some of its South American neighbors.

Speaking in Russia ahead of Chile’s Confederations Cup game against Germany on Thursday, the president of the Chilean football federation said that he wants to begin discussions to analyze the possibility of making the bid.

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“We will consider the possibility of doing it together with other countries, it can be with two countries or three countries,” federation president Arturo Salah said Tuesday in Moscow. “We’ll have to see. The bidding period is open. We have to see if there is any possibility of partnering with some of our neighbors and see if we can make a bid.”

Salah did not elaborate on his plans or if he had already contacted any other country in South America about the subject.

The announcement came as a surprise as North America is widely expected to be awarded the 2026 event with a joint bid by Mexico, Canada and the United States.

The 2018 tournament is being staged in Russia, and Qatar will host it in 2022.

The president of the South American football confederation, Alejandro Dominguez, has said that the continent wants to host the 2030 World Cup, which will mark the tournament’s centennial celebrations.

Uruguay hosted the first edition of the World Cup in 1930.

The deadline for countries to show their intention to bid for the 2026 tournament is Aug. 11.

Chile was the World Cup host in 1962.

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets FIFA’s Gianni Infantino

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BEIJING (AP) Chinese President Xi Jinping met with FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday amid speculation that China could be planning to bid for a future World Cup.

Xi thanked Infantino for his support for the sports’ development in China during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s legislature in the heart of Beijing.

“We are aware of the fact that FIFA is paying more attention to the development of football in China these days, and I do believe China-FIFA cooperation has a good future. Thank you,” Xi said.

Infantino told Xi, an avowed soccer fan, that FIFA aimed to help fire up a “new era of football, not only in China, President Xi, but in the whole world because we are really passionate about football.”

The meeting comes as indications are growing that China could bid to host the World Cup either in 2030 or 2034 under a plan launched by Xi’s administration to obtain international soccer success.

Along with a massive expansion in the numbers of academies, fields and coaches, Xi’s drive aims to turn China’s perpetually underperforming team into a World Cup winner by 2050.

China has appeared in one World Cup, in 2002, and drew 2-2 with Syria on Tuesday in a qualifying match, leaving it last in its group.

Report: Workers on World Cup construction sites face abuse

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MOSCOW (AP) Workers building stadiums for next year’s World Cup in Russia have faced repeated abuses and routinely gone unpaid for several months, according to a report by Human Rights Watch released on Wednesday.

At a stadium in Yekaterinburg, some workers were required to work in temperatures of minus-25 degrees Celsius (minus-13 Fahrenheit) “without sufficient breaks for them to warm themselves,” the report states.

“FIFA is essentially expecting us to take their word for it that their work has improved workers’ lives,” Jane Buchanan, the report’s author, told The Associated Press. “This is supposed to be the reformed FIFA, moving away from secrecy and a lot of deals behind closed doors.”

At least 17 workers have died on World Cup construction sites, according to Building and Wood Workers’ International, a trade union.

Known deaths include workers killed in falls and the case of a worker from North Korea who died of a reported heart attack at the stadium in St. Petersburg, which will host the final of the Confederations Cup on July 2, as well as World Cup matches in 2018.

The Confederations Cup is an eight-team event that begins on June 17 and is seen as a key test of Russia’s readiness for the World Cup.

In a letter to four Scandinavian soccer associations last month, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the governing body had “strong evidence” of North Koreans working at the St. Petersburg site.

“FIFA is aware of and firmly condemns the often appalling labor conditions under which North Korean workers are employed in various countries around the world,” Infantino said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The Human Rights Watch report, based on interviews with 42 workers at six sites, says Russian authorities are not doing enough to crack down on employers who cheat workers out of wages, including many migrants with little legal protection.

“They pay whenever they want, however they want,” one worker from Kyrgyzstan, identified only as Alibek, said in the report.

When workers demand full payment, they can be punished or kicked off the job by employers, the report says.

Similar complaints of wage theft were made by workers at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the venue for the 2018 World Cup final, in interviews last year with the AP. Allegations of worker abuses were also common leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“The lessons of Sochi haven’t been learned,” Buchanan said. “A lot of the same abuses persist.”

Human Rights Watch called on the Russian government to enact tougher and more frequent investigations of suspect employers and bring prosecutions against violators. The group also accuses FIFA of not doing enough to speak out on workers’ issues and of operating a flawed inspection program of its own, with only partial results made public.

FIFA defended its inspection program, saying it had seen a sharp fall in “the number of issues” at Russian construction sites, but didn’t specify a timeframe or the total number of incidents.

“FIFA is going beyond what any sports federation has done to date to identify and address issues related to human and labor rights,” the global soccer body said in a statement. “While incompliances with relevant labor standards continue to be found – something to be expected in a project of this scale – the overall message of exploitation on the construction sites portrayed by HRW does not correspond with FIFA’s assessment.”

Separately, FIFA is also under pressure to safeguard workers’ rights in the 2022 World Cup host nation of Qatar, where construction work is largely carried out by migrant workers who often have few legal rights.

“It does not bode well for Qatar,” Buchanan said. “Now’s the time for FIFA to pull this all together – it’s not too late for Russia and they’re certainly well in advance of the games in Qatar – to make really clear that their expectations are non-negotiable.”

Associated Press writers Levi Bridges and Jan Olsen also contributed to this report.

UEFA World Cup qualifying schedule and preview

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Hampden Park will play host to a crunch World Cup qualifying match as England heads north to face neighbors Scotland.

The two home nations, both in Group F of UEFA World Cup qualifying, are on two different trajectories. England is currently top of the group with 13 points and no defeats in five games while Scotland sit in fourth place on seven points, behind Slovakia and Slovenia.

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A loss for Scotland likely eliminates Gordon Strachan’s side from the 2018 World Cup, meaning even more than national pride is on the line Saturday for the noon eastern time kickoff.

Young Celtic starlet Kieran Tierney will have another chance to impress the scouts for Scotland while the Tottenham trio of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier will look to continue their strong form for the Three Lions.

Elsewhere in World Cup qualifying, the Netherlands, with Dick Advocaat back in charge, can boost itself into second place in Group A with a win over Luxembourg along with France winning on the road at Sweden. On Sunday in Group D action, Serbia and the Republic of Ireland look to put some distance from the rest of the pack at the top as Serbia takes on Wales and the Republic of Ireland faces Austria.

A couple of other matchups to watch are Iceland hosting Croatia, with Croatia having beaten Iceland last November and Poland, which are top of Group E, facing Romania.

Here’s a look at Friday through Sunday’s UEFA World Cup qualifying preview. Only the first-placed teams in the eight groups receive an automatic bid, so every game remains important from the team on top to the cellar dwellers.

(more…)

Location of remains of Brazil great Garrincha unclear

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SAO PAULO (AP) Questions are emerging about the location of the remains of two-time World Cup champion Mane Garrincha.

The city of Mage, outside of Rio de Janeiro, said late Wednesday that there are two graves in a local cemetery marked with the name of the Brazil soccer great, but no records of his remains being moved.

Garrincha died in 1983 at the age of 49. He was a key player in Brazil’s first two World Cup titles in 1958 and 1962 and is considered one of the best dribblers in the history of the sport.

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The mayor of Mage is requesting the exhumation of the bodies and collection of genetic material in the two graves at the Raiz da Serra cemetery to determine identities.

“It was noticed that there are two graves: one belonging to the family in which the burial took place in 1983 and another where allegedly another burial took place in 1985,” the statement said. “The city hall clarifies that it never said or believed that the remains have disappeared.”

In interviews with TV Globo, family members were split about the whereabouts of Garrincha’s remains. Some said they were not moved and others believe they were transferred to the other grave in 1985.