Sepp Blatter transcript in full; admits “shame and humiliation” of FIFA scandal

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On the eve of FIFA’s presidential election in Zurich, Sepp Blatter addressed an auditorium full of FIFA officials, just 24 hours after the shocking corruption scandal which has rocked the world of soccer.

[ FULL COVERAGE: FIFA scandal ]

Blatter, 79, is widely expected to be re-elected for his fifth-term as FIFA’s president on Friday when member associations vote in Zurich. Earlier on Thursday Blatter was asked to step down by UEFA’s president Michel Platini but refused as the long-time leader of world soccer’s governing body — who many blame for FIFA’s scandals over the years — is sticking around.

Despite being the leader of FIFA since 1998, Blatter was not arrested along with nine FIFA officials and 14 individuals in total on Wednesday as the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice worked with the Swiss authorities to conduct early-morning raids in Zurich. A fresh Swiss investigation into the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will also take place as dark days lie ahead for FIFA.

Speaking publicly about the damning allegations of corruption, here is Blatter’s address to the congress in Zurich ahead of the huge vote tomorrow.

“Ladies and gentleman, dear friends. You will agree with me that these are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this week’s congress. Actions of individuals, if proven, bring shame and humiliation and demand action and change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer.

“It has to stop here and now. I know many people hold me ultimately responsible for the actions and reputation for the global football community. Whether it is a decision for the hosting of a World Cup or a corruption scandal. I cannot monitor everyone all of the time. If people want to do wrong they will also try to hide it. But it must fall to me to be responsible for the reputation and well-being of our organization and to find a way forward to fix things. I will not allow the actions of a few to destroy the hard work and integrity of the vast majority of those who work so hard for football.

“I must stress that those who are corrupting football are in the thin minority. Like in society. But like in society they must be caught and held responsible for their actions. Football cannot be the exception of the rule. That is our responsibility at FIFA. We will cooperate with all authorities that anyone involved in wrongdoing from top to bottom is discovered and punished. There can be no place for corruption of any kind. The next few months will not be easy for FIFA. I am sure more bad news will follow but it is necessary to begin to restore trust in our organization. Let this be the turning point. More needs to be done to make sure everyone in football behaves responsibly and ethically.

“And everywhere, outside of the field of play, where there are no referees, no boundaries and no time limits. Football, the fans, the places, the clubs the world deserves so much more. We must respond tomorrow. Tomorrow the congress, we have the opportunity to begin on what will be a long and difficult road to rebuilding trust. We have lost their trust… and we must now earn it back. We must earn it back through the decisions we make and expectations we place on each other and through the way we behave individually.”

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard price ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.

MLS roundup: Timbers end road trip with emphatic win in Philly

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in MLS…

[ MORE: USA topped by Ukraine in U-20 World Cup opener ]

Philadelphia Union 1-3 Portland Timbers [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Just when everyone had begun to take the Union seriously — to give them the respect befitting a first-place team — Jim Curtin’s side fell flat on its face and fell out of the Eastern Conference’s top spot. Saturday’s defeat to the suddenly streaking — and homeward bound — Timbers snapped Philadelphia’s six-game unbeaten run (four wins).

24-year-old attacker Brian Fernandez, signed as a Designated Player earlier this month, made his first MLS start and marked the occasion with two first-half goals (31st and 36th minutes). Diego Valeri added the third (87th) after Kacper Przybylko pulled the Union back to 2-1 in the 47th.

Now, with 14 points from their 12-game road trip to start the season, Portland heads home for 17 of their final 22 games to be played inside a newly renovated — and expanded — Providence Park. The gap between themselves and a Western Conference playoff place is just four points.

New England Revolution 1-1 D.C. United [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

With the Union slipping up and dropping all three points, D.C. United made the most of their opportunity to return to the top of the East on the back of Wayne Rooney‘s 90th-minute penalty kick to snatch a 1-1 draw with (what will soon be) Bruce Arena’s Revolution.

Juan Agudelo put the home side ahead with a header in the 61st minute, and the lead held firm for nearly the final half-hour. Alas, video review reviewed a handball late in the game, which presented Rooney the chance to play the part of hero. He duly obliged and hammered his spot kick past backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who replaced Matt Turner following his 56th minute red card for cleaning out Rooney.

Arena is expected to take charge of Revs training this week and make his debut as head coach next Sunday, when his new side visits… his old side, the LA Galaxy.

Colorado Rapids 3-2 Columbus Crew SC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Don’t look now, but the Rapids have won two straight games under interim head coach Conor Casey and appear set on clawing their way out of the league’s basement.

Sure, they blew a pair of leads at home, but they also hit back with another goal of their own every time Crew SC drew level, culminating in a stunning winner from Nicolas Mezquida.

The gap between Colorado and 23th place is now just three points, as expansion side FC Cincinnati come closer and closer on the horizon.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 1-1 New York City FC [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 FC Dallas [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
FC Cincinnati 0-2 New York Red Bulls [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Minnesota United 1-0 Houston Dynamo [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Sporting Kansas City v. Seattle Sounders — 6 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. San Jose Earthquakes — 7:30 p.m. ET

Will winning the double be enough to keep Kovac at Bayern?

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BERLIN (AP) Niko Kovac is the first to win a domestic double in Germany as a player and coach, yet it may not be enough to keep his job as Bayern Munich coach.

[ MORE: Valencia end Barcelona’s four-year hold on Copa del Rey ]

Kovac, whose side defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the German Cup final on Saturday, a week after clinching the Bundesliga title, is yet to be given assurances in public from the club that he will remain in charge, despite bringing a successful end to what had been a testing season.

The pressure and uncertainty appeared to cast a shadow on what was Kovac’s second successive German Cup win — he was Eintracht Frankfurt coach when the side defeated Bayern in the final last year.

“Last year I was leaving the team. This year everything is a little less emotional, no tears, but still, I’m happy,” Kovac said.

“Sometimes I would really wish that things went a little differently. It’s difficult to turn the wheel back. We should all work on it, we’re all human. We should make sure that we get along with each other.”

[ U-20 WORLD CUP: Ezequiel Barco’s golazo paces Argentina to big win ]

Kovac, who won the double as a player in 2003, acknowledged the cup win on Saturday was “very important” as “it shows that we have worked well.”

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was again coy when pressed on the coach’s future.

“At the end of the day, we have to get titles. Of course the coach plays a central role,” Rummenigge said. “It was never an issue for us with the term that he has until 2021, that he would simply not be there anymore as coach beforehand.”