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 bemoans ‘very bad’ preseason for Man United

Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images
1 Comment

MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has described the team’s preseason as “very bad” because of the disruption caused by the World Cup and the absence of Alexis Sanchez for the tour of the United States.

Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones will not return to training with United until close to the start of the new season because their countries got to the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia.

Sanchez wasn’t among the United squad heading across the Atlantic because there was an issue with his visa after the Chile forward accepted a 16-month suspended sentence in Spain over a tax issue.

Mourinho said “preseason is very bad, I have to say that,” adding that “I am worried because I am not training with all my players.”

On Sanchez, Mourinho said “he’s very sad, it’s not good for him or me, not good for anyone. There is no one to blame — the club is making an effort. I have to respect the U.S. authorities in their process of selection of visas. I hope he will come to join us.”

Mourinho said he is set to start the season with Sanchez, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial as his strike force.

United flew to Los Angeles on Sunday and will play five games, including three International Champions Cup matches against Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool, during its stay.

United plays its first English Premier League game of the season on Aug. 10 against Leicester at Old Trafford.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals Wed. night

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open is back, with all four quarterfinal matchups set for Wednesday night.

[ MORE: USWNT names veteran team for Tournament of Nations ]

It’s a mixed bag of haves and have-nots from the 2018 MLS regular season still alive in the competition. Current holders Sporting Kansas City are still alive and have been drawn away to the Houston Dynamo (8:30 p.m. ET), in something of a grudge match for Houston after coughing up a 2-0 lead and losing to Sporting KC 3-2 last month.

Los Angeles FC host Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET) in a rematch of Sunday’s league clash at Banc of California Stadium (a 0-0 draw). Philadelphia Union and Orlando City SC open the night’s action at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m. ET), followed by Chicago Fire taking on the only remaining lower-division team still in the competition, Louisville City (7:30 p.m. ET).

All games will be streamed live on ussoccer.com, direct links below.

STREAMS

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC — WATCH
Chicago Fire vs. Louisville City — WATCH
Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City — WATCH
Los Angeles FC vs. Portland Timbers — WATCH

Miami City Commission sends Beckham stadium to Nov. ballot

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
1 Comment

David Beckham and his business partners, the Mas brothers, are one top closer to securing the stadium deal required to bring an MLS expansion franchise to the city of Miami — maybe, but also maybe not.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

The Miami City Commission voted on Wednesday to place a referendum on the November ballot, paving the way for Beckham and Co.’s privately-funded complex on city land currently occupied by a golf course. The final vote tally was 3-2 in favor of sending the issue to ballot. A previous Commission session was conducted, and ended, last week without a final vote taking place as the fifth and final member had yet to make up his mind.

Beckham and partners used the last week, between Commission meetings, to put a full-court press on Miami’s general public, local media and the last remaining member of the Commission.

[ MORE: PHOTOS: 2018-19 Premier League jerseys ]

The key, and most contentious, part of the proposal is (at least) $35 million worth of toxic waste which must be removed from the site. That number could very easily double or triple once clean-up begins, and Beckham’s group would be on the hook for the total cost.

The proposed stadium would seat roughly 25,000 fans and would be just one part of the 58-acre park which will also include retail, restaurants and hotels.

Sarri hopes to convince Hazard, Courtois in face-to-face meeting

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The coming days and weeks will be immensely tense times for players, coaches, directors and fans of Chelsea alike — but, for no one more so than new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri, who faces the very real prospect of losing arguably his two best players before managing his first game at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: Pogba wants Juve move, Grealish to Spurs? ]

Forward Eden Hazard has made it pretty clear he’d prefer a move to his yet-unnamed “preferred destination,” and goalkeeper Thibut Courtois has said he’d like to continue playing with Hazard, either in west London or elsewhere. Sarri hopes he’ll have a chance to persuade the Belgian duo to stay another year, or longer, but he doesn’t plan on doing so until they return from their offseason breaks, at which point he can meet with them face to face — quotes from the Guardian:

“Clearly the players you are referring to are very high-level players and I would like to keep them. But a telephone call without looking them in the eye will not give me any certainty.

“I would like to meet these players face to face and talk to them and understand what the best thing is for everyone to do. Before that I would also like a player to come on the pitch for four or five days with me to have a clear idea of what the plan is.”

Given that the Premier League’s transfer window will close before the upcoming season’s opening weekend (Aug. 9), the period of time during which Hazard and Courtois will be available to meet with Sarri, and the amount of time to reinvest and replenish the squad should they leave, will be an extremely narrow window. After finishing third-place at the 2018 World Cup, they could very easily be away until the final 48 or 72 hours of the window.