FIFA donates 48 scandalous watches to non-profit organization

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA’s unethical weakness for luxury watches earned a windfall for a soccer charity working in Brazil.

A total of 48 Swiss watches given to soccer officials at the 2014 World Cup have been recovered and donated to a non-profit organization, the FIFA ethics committee said on Thursday.

The Parmigiani watches – valued at more than $26,000 each – were handed out in Sao Paulo to members of FIFA’s often-discredited executive committee, presidents of national federations whose teams played at the 32-team tournament and officials from South American federations.

Michel D’Hooghe, the longest-serving FIFA executive committee member, told The Associated Press on Thursday the watch he got had been a “poisonous gift.”

The gifts were from the Confederation of Brazilian Football, whose then-president Jose Maria Marin has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in a widening bribery case which has rocked FIFA and helped force President Sepp Blatter from office.

Marin, who was extradited to the U.S. from Switzerland this month and is under electronic surveillance at his Manhattan apartment, oversaw the gifts in clear breach of FIFA’s Code of Ethics. It allows only for gifts of “symbolic or trivial value.”

Still, gifting luxury watches has long been a tradition for FIFA officials and all who took the presents – or did not report them – risked sanctions under the code which was made stricter in 2012.

After ruling they were unauthorized gifts, FIFA ethics prosecutors decided against opening cases against officials who received a watch on the condition that they returned it.

“After contacting all potential recipients, 48 watches were returned to the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee,” the FIFA ethics committee said in a statement.

A total of nine watches could not be returned, with six officials or federations saying they never had it in their possession, committee spokesman Andreas Bantel told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

One watch is still with an official who was arrested in Zurich on May 27 by Swiss federal police acting on a request by American prosecutors.

“He wanted to give it back but before he was able to, he was arrested,” Bantel said, declining to identify the man.

The CBF initially said 65 watches were distributed but the ethics investigation traced 57.

“We were very thorough in following up on this matter,” Bantel said.

FIFA earlier said the CBF obtained watches from its sponsor Parmigiani for $8,750 each. But an appraisal found they had a market value of 25,000 Swiss francs ($26,600).

A spokesman for the CBF, Fernando Torres, declined to comment on its role on Thursday stating that “this specific decision regards only FIFA.”

The watches will be given to an organization named streetfootballworld, “who will directly invest all resources generated through the sale of the watches into initiatives across Brazil that use football to drive social change.”

“The investigatory chamber of the ethics committee considers the matter to be closed,” it said.

D’Hooghe said he had no idea about the value of the “poisonous gift” which was within a bag featuring promotional material about Brazil.

“I had absolutely no interest in that watch,” D’Hooghe told The AP. “I found it in my bag and I did not know it was expensive. I gave it to a friend who visited the World Cup. I had to ask for it back.”

D’Hooghe, who was cleared by the ethics committee this year over a painting he received from a Russian friend during the 2018 World Cup bidding contest, said he now refuses any gifts.

“I don’t need any presents,” said the Belgian doctor, who was first elected to FIFA’s ruling panel 27 years ago. “I am an honorable man.”

AP Sports Writers Rob Harris in London and Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report

Ever Wonder why Manchester United is nicknamed The Red Devils?

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Our ‘Ever Wonder’ series will run throughout the 2022-23 Premier League season and focuses on key stories behind the history, tradition and culture of all 20 Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Check out our ‘Ever Wonder’ series in full ]

Have you ever sat there and wondered why certain chants became iconic at a club? Why a team has a certain nickname? Why they play in those colors? How they were founded? Yep, us too.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

This season we will be digging deep to tell the stories of the rich history, tradition and culture from around the Premier League and give you the answers to things you want to know more about.


How did Manchester United become known around the world as the Red Devils?

It is one of the most famous nicknames in the sporting world: but how did Manchester United become known as The Red Devils?

Previously they were known as ‘The Busby Babes’ as legendary manager Sir Matt Busby created one of the greatest teams the football world has ever seen.

United had so many incredibly talented and extremely young players and the Busby Babes were a revelation.

Why a new nickname was needed

However, tragedy struck in 1958 as the Munich Air Disaster occurred.

A plane carrying Manchester United’s players and staff back from a European Cup game in Belgrade crashed in heavy snow after a refueling stop in Munich. 23 were killed, including eight players, and the Busby Babes nickname became a painful reminder of the awful tragedy which rocked the club and the entire world.

In the aftermath of the disaster, Sir Matt Busby rebuilt the club and decided to look for a new nickname as Manchester United wanted to become more intimidating to opponents and they now had a squad of more experienced players and the Busby Babes nickname needed to be replaced.

The answer for that new nickname?

Well, it came from a local rugby club from Greater Manchester, who had played in France. Because of course that is the answer.

Rugby? South of France? Les Diables Rouges?

Salford, who are based just 4 miles away from Old Trafford, were known as the Devils and they played in red. The rugby club went to play in the South of France for two months in 1934 to help grow the popularity of the game.

Salford made such an impression that locals referred to them as ‘Les Diables Rouges.’ In English that is: ‘The Red Devils.’

It is said that Busby liked the nickname of Salford rugby club and the aura it created and as he planned for United to now be a more physical, defensive and tough-tackling side, he decided United’s new nickname would be The Red Devils too.

In 1973 the Red Devil appeared on United’s official club badge for the first time and it has been there ever since.

Enzo Fernandez impresses as Chelsea secure point vs Fulham

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$360 million later, and mid-table Chelsea were able to secure a point in a 0-0 draw with European hopefuls Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday.

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Chelsea’s spending spree saw them sign eight new players to swell Graham Potter’s first-team squad to 30 players, including Enzo Fernandez, who arrived in west London as the most expensive signing in British football history ($129 million) on Tuesday. The Argentine midfield wasted no time and looked a cut above everyone else on the field as he made his Premier League debut with precious little time to train with his new club.

The result sends Fulham (32 points) up to 6th in the PL table, now one point ahead of Brighton, though the Seagulls have played three fewer games now. Chelsea (30 points), meanwhile, climb past fellow strugglers Liverpool, into 9th.

Chelsea went inches from opening the scoring in the 45th minute, when Kai Havertz lifted the ball over the out-rushing Bernd Leno. As a pair of Fulham defenders made late recovery runs into the box, the ball struck the front of the near post and and bounced back into play to be cleared away.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was next to nearly break the deadlock in the 71st minute, when he went for goal just one or two steps inside the halfway line. Perhaps the ball was headed for the crossbar or just over, but it was close enough that Kepa Arrizabalaga had to quickly backpedal and palm the ball away from his goal line.

Not even a minute later, Fernandez nearly marked his Chelsea debut with a sensational goal from nearly 30 yards out. The ball fell to Fernandez and the 22-year-old World Cup winner uncorked a shot that narrowly tailed away away from the far post.

The oh-so-nearly-goals theme continued as the second half wore on, and it was Tim Ream who saved the day for the Cottagers in the 79th minute. Noni Madueke also made his Chelsea debut as he replaced another January signing, Mykhailo Mudryk, at halftime. Madueke’s first real involvement came as he rounded Leno outside the penalty area and scooted past with an eye toward goal, only for Ream be in the right place at the right time to boot the ball clear as the last line of defense.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY


How to watch Chelsea vs Fulham live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 3pm ET, Friday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Watch out for Chelsea, because the crew is getting healthier. To be fair, it’s difficult to have more injuries than Chelsea has had this year, but we digress. Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Raheem Sterling, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all ready to go, though Graham Potter said none of them are ready for 90 minutes. Wesley Fofana is close to a return, but should miss out, while Joao Felix could make his return. So, yeah, we could see Felix, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Raheem Sterling on the pitch at the same time. Zoom, zoom, Fulham.

Marco Silva’s Cottagers have cooled off, at least in terms of results, since beating Chelsea at Craven Cottage on Jan. 12, the game in which Felix earned his red card. 1-0 losses to Newcastle and Spurs, forgivable, were followed up with a FA Cup draw with Sunderland. If Fulham can get through this, there’s a more forgiving run of fixtures ahead with a Sunderland replay, Forest, Brighton, Wolves, and Brentford. But is anything forgiving any more in the Premier League? Aleksandar Mitrovic, as usual, looms as a key piece of Fulham’s hopes.


Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: N’Golo Kante (hamstring), Christian Pulisic (knee), Wesley Fofana (knee), Edouard Mendy (shoulder), Armando Broja (knee), Denis Zakaria (thigh)

Fulham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Neeskens Kebano (achilles)

Brighton vs Bournemouth: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Brighton will continue their chase for European qualification, while Bournemouth try to climb out of the relegation zone, when the two sides meet at Amex Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE BRIGHTON vs BOURNEMOUTH

Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi have, between them, guided Brighton (31 points) all the way up to 6th place in the Premier League table. The gap to 5th-place Tottenham is five points; the gap to Manchester United in 4th in eight. Bournemouth, meanwhile, are in the bottom-three for the first time this season after picking up just one point from their last five PL games.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brighton vs Bournemouth

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How to watch Brighton vs Bournemouth live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Brighton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Alexis Mac Allister (suspension), Jakub Moder (knee), Adam Lallana (undisclosed), Levi Colwill (undisclosed) | QUESTIONABLE: Facundo Buonanette (head), Evan Ferguson (ankle)

Bournemouth team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: David Brooks (thigh), Lewis Cook (knee), Neto (thigh), Dominic Solanke (knee), Marcus Tavernier (thigh), Ryan Fredericks (undisclosed), Junior Stanislas (undisclosed) | QUESTIONABLE: Philip Billing (undisclosed)

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Brentford vs Southampton: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Brentford will try to extend their unbeaten run, which began all the way back in October, when they host bottom-of-the-table Southampton at Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE BRENTFORD vs SOUTHAMPTON

The Bees’ (30 points) eight-game unbeaten run (4W-4D-0L) has taken them up to 8th in the Premier League table, now closer to the top-four (nine points) than the relegation zone (13 points) in their second-ever season in the PL. Saints (15 points), meanwhile, are living dangerously at the bottom, though the gap between themselves and safety in 17th place is just two points.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brentford vs Southampton

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Brentford vs Southampton live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Last time out, Brentford settled for a frustrating 0-0 draw with Leeds, but before that they rattled off successive wins over West Ham, Liverpool and Bournemouth with just one goal conceded in three games. Ivan Toney is 3rd in the Premier League with 13 goals, trailing only Harry Kane (16) and Erling Haaland (an absurd 25). After initially struggling to replace the creativity of Christian Eriksen (4 assists in 11 appearances last season), Thomas Frank’s side is firing once again thanks to Mathias Jensen (4 in 20), Toney (3) and Josh Dasilva (2) picking up the slack.

After losing 3-1 to Newcastle over two legs in the League Cup semifinals, Southampton return their attention to the ongoing relegation battle. Having won just one of their last nine Premier League fixtures (1W-1D-7L), Saints made four first-team signings to strengthen the midfield and attack. They brought in some experience (30-year-old midfielder Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb and 28-year-old forward Paul Onuachu from Genk) along with some youth and potential (a pair of 20-year-olds, midfielder Carlos Alcaraz from Racing Club and winger Kamadeen Selumana from Rennes).


Brentford team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pontus Jansson (thigh), Frank Onyeka (hamstring) | QUESTIONABLE: Shandon Baptiste (adductor)

Southampton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Valentino Livramento (knee), Kyle Walker-Peters (hamstring), Juan Larios (adductor) | QUESTIONABLE: Moussa Djenepo (head), Alex McArthy (ankle)

Follow @AndyEdMLS