Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Into 4th week of FIFA trial, prosecutors near end of case

Leave a comment

As the trial detailing widespread corruption in world soccer enters a fourth week, prosecutors are close to concluding their case in a Brooklyn federal courthouse.

One sleepy juror was dismissed last week, one defendant was admonished by the judge, and the FIFA president thanked American authorities.

“They do whatever they can to help us fight corruption and bribery,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Friday at the Kremlin ahead of the 2018 World Cup draw in Moscow.

The three men on trial, when indicted and arrested in 2015, held the positions of a FIFA vice president, the head of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee, and a member of the FIFA committee allocating tens of millions of dollars in project grants.

Still, in what is often called “the FIFA trial,” it can seem that 2022 World Cup host Qatar and Nike are under equal scrutiny.

[ MORE: Premier League power rankings ]


Here is a look at the current talking points in the trial:

ON TRIAL

Juan Angel Napout, the former president of Paraguay’s soccer federation and a FIFA vice president at the time of his arrest in December 2015.

Jose Maria Marin, the 2014 World Cup organizing head who was president of Brazil’s soccer body when arrested in Zurich in May 2015.

Manuel Burga, who was head of Peru’s soccer federation when arrested in Lima in December 2015.

All are on trial for racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies and face up to 20 years in prison. The charges are linked to bribery in the award of broadcasting contracts for South American soccer competitions.

More than 40 defendants are charged in the wider case. Many have pleaded guilty to get reduced sentences.

PROSECUTION WITNESSES

Luis Bedoya was the first former elected soccer official to testify, spending Monday and Tuesday on the stand.

He was Colombia’s soccer leader and a FIFA executive committee member when pleading guilty in 2015 to racketeering and wire fraud charges. He said he accepted more than $3 million in bribes since 2007.

Bedoya said the U.S. federal government pays the apartment rent for himself and his wife, who fear returning to Colombia. His cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors lets him apply for entry into the witness protection program.

Eladio Rodriguez formerly worked for Alejandro Burzaco, the main witness in the first week, keeping track of finances and bribe payments at the Argentinian sports marketing company Torneos y Competencias.

Bribes to Marin and Marco Polo del Nero, the current president of the Brazilian Football Confederation who has been indicted, were coded “brasileiro,” according to Rodriguez. The witness forfeited more than $600,000 in his deal with prosecutors.

QATAR ALLEGATIONS

None of the defendants voted in the FIFA executive committee’s December 2010 decision to pick Russia as 2018 World Cup host and Qatar for 2022. The tiny gas-rich emirate has spent much of the past seven years denying it bought votes or acted improperly.

Still, testimony in Brooklyn court has suggested a broader Qatari plan to build influence among colleagues of FIFA voters. The three South American voters were Julio Grondona of Argentina, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, and Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil. Leoz and Teixeira have been indicted in the U.S., but not extradited. Grondona died in 2014.

Prosecution witness Bedoya, who replaced Grondona on FIFA’s ruling committee, testified he met a Qatari television representative in Madrid ahead of the 2010 Champions League final.

Bedoya said he was introduced by Mariano Jinkis, an executive of Argentinian marketing agency Full Play Group who has also been indicted but evaded extradition.

According to Bedoya, Jinkis said up to $15 million was available from Qatari interests to bribe South American officials who worked with the three voters. Bedoya said his Colombian soccer body supported the U.S. bid which lost to Qatar.

NIKE AGAIN

The sportswear company has twice been named in court over alleged willingness to engage in bribery when negotiating contracts to equip national teams. Bedoya said a Nike representative asked for a bribe during talks, but Colombia’s soccer federation later signed with Adidas.

Earlier in the trial, a former employee of Full Play said talks in 2015 to kit Chile’s national team included payments to soccer officials.

SECOND CAUTION

Burga was again in trouble for alleged behavior inside the courtroom.

In the first week, his apparent throat-slitting gesture at Burzaco led to restrictions on his access to a cellphone. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen admonished Burga 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.

SLEEPY JUROR

On Thursday, Judge Chen dismissed one of the jurors for allegedly sleeping during testimony.

UP NEXT?

The court has yet to hear a witness from the third big South American marketing agency implicated in the case: Brazil-based Traffic.

One star cooperating witness could yet take the stand: Traffic boss Jose `Jota’ Hawilla. He pleaded guilty in December 2014 to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Hawilla agreed to forfeit $151 million and wore a wire to gather evidence against former colleagues.

Hawilla’s indictment was signed by Loretta Lynch, when she was U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Lynch unsealed the FIFA case in May 2015 as Attorney General during the final 21 months of the Obama administration.

More AP FIFA coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/FIFA

Report: Luiz Suarez to Atletico Madrid

Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid seems just about the perfect fit between a club, player and manager.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Diego Simeone roaring from the sidelines as Luis Suarez scores a last minute winner for Atletico Madrid at Real Madrid. You can see it now too, right?

A report from our partners at Sky Sport in Italy states that Suarez has already agreed a contract at Atletico and will leave Barcelona as a free agent as RAC 1 claim he will tear up his contract which still has one year left on it.

New Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has told Suarez he was not part of his plans and was free to move on. That decision was said to be one of the big reasons why Lionel Messi wanted to leave Barcelona, as he is close friends with Suarez.

Suarez, 33, suffered with injuries last season but since he left Liverpool in the summer of 2014 he’s been a star at the Nou Camp, scoring 198 goals in 283 games in all competitions for Barcelona.

Per the report, Suarez’s arrival means that Alvaro Morata will be free to depart Atletico Madrid as his former club Juventus want to sign the Spanish international. Suarez had been linked with a move to Juventus but that is now not happening as Suarez would have had a delay in obtaining an Italian passport to make the move easier.

Will Suarez be a hit at Atletico? Well, they have a habit of squeezing extra juice out of star veteran strikers. See: Forlan, Diego. Villa, David. Costa, Diego.

Suarez working for Simeone is perfect. He may not start every game, but he will probably share the workload with Diego Costa and could partner him too. Imagine those two up top together? Separate reports state that Costa may have to leave to let Suarez arrive.

With Inter Miami CF going for Gonzalo Higuain as their final DP and Edinson Cavani still a free agent, there are plenty of ageing superstar strikers out there but Suarez is the best one available. If he can regain full fitness then you can expect him to score 20-25 goals in La Liga this season.

El Cholo and El Pistolero firing Atletico Madrid past Real Madrid and Barcelona is a very real possibility, and I’m here for it. Grab your popcorn, folks.

Leyton Orient announce COVID-19 positives, stadium closure before Tottenham game

Leyton Orient
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leyton Orient have issued a statement after multiple first team players tested positive for COVID-19 and they’ve been forced to shut their training ground and stadium just one day before they were due to host Premier League giants Tottenham.

The fourth-tier club were due to play Tottenham in the League Cup third round on Tuesday but that game is now in severe doubt and the east London club (located 11 miles from Tottenham’s home stadium) said they will be announcing more details in due course about what will happen.

Here is the Leyton Orient statement in full about their current situation:

“Following our game on Saturday 19th September, COVID-19 testing was conducted on all of our first team playing squad. Today (Monday 21st) we received formal confirmation which shows that a number of our first-team squad have tested positive for COVID-19. We have informed the EFL and Tottenham Hotspur and will make a further announcement regarding Tuesday’s match shortly.

“We have also informed Mansfield Town, Plymouth Argyle and Oldham Athletic, our three most recent opponents, prior to the public release of this information. Leyton Orient’s priority is the health and well-being of its players and staff. Those who have tested positive will now strictly follow government self-isolation guidelines. The Breyer Group Stadium and training ground facilities will be closed until further notice. At this time, the club will make no further comment.”

The problem here is that Tottenham don’t have any other available dates to play this game.

With their Premier League and UEFA Europa League qualifying commitments, Tottenham are already stretched to the limits and this game at Leyton Orient is one of four games in seven days for Jose Mourinho’s side.

The rules also state that if a team cannot fulfil the fixture due to COVID-19 positive tests, they will have to forfeit and Tottenham will move on. Leyton Orient are a small team who Harry Kane, a former loanee, has helped raised money for and there’s a very good relationship between the two clubs. This game was also due to be broadcast on TV in the UK and would have helped Leyton Orient out financially at a time when fans still aren’t allowed into stadiums in large numbers. These positive tests have now put all of that in doubt.

Lower league teams will run into similar issues like this when it comes to the FA Cup too, as testing is less prevalent and regulated lower down the professional pyramid in England. EFL clubs are only mandated to test their players during every international break and have stopped testing players twice a week. That has led to Premier League clubs paying for their lower-league League Cup opponents to be tested before games. In this case, multiple Leyton Orient players have tested positive.

Mourinho: Bale could return from injury quicker due to desire

Leave a comment

Bale injury update: So, Tottenham fans would be hoping that a Gareth Bale injury update wouldn’t be coming soon but he is nursing a knee injury he picked up on international duty earlier this month.

Judging by their 5-2 win at Southampton on Sunday, Tottenham will be just fine in attack without the Welsh star they’ve signed on loan from Real Madrid for the 2019-20 season. There is no reason for him to rush back, especially considering his recent history with injuries.

That said, Mourinho is hopeful that Bale can return from injury quicker due to that trust remedy: desire.

“I don’t know when Gareth can be back,” Mourinho said on a Bale injury update. “The only thing that I know is that the motivation is high, he is so happy to be with a club of his heart, he is so happy to play for us and when a player has this motivation, many, many times you can shorten the period of recovering and shorten the period of getting fit and ready to play and we want to help him. So when he is available to train with the team, we are more than happy to have him and to be back to a level that [is] maybe one of the best players in the world.”

This is textbook Mourinho.

It has been noted many, many times that he hates players missing games due to injury and is less than sympathetic when someone is in the treatment room.

This seems like a challenge to Bale, 31, to prove just how much he wants to be back at Tottenham after spending the last seven seasons at Real Madrid. ‘Oh, you want to be back here? Prove it. Patch yourself up and be ready for next week.’ That will definitely probably be Mourinho’s chat with Bale next week.

There is no reason to risk Bale right now but when he is fit, having him play alongside Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in attack is a mouthwatering prospect for Mourinho and Tottenham. Their counterattacking prowess was clear for all to see in the second half at Southampton on Sunday and a fired up and fit Bale will add a lot to this attack.

Hurry up and get that dose of desire rubbed onto your knee, Gareth…

Leicester impressive again in 4-2 win over Burnley

Leave a comment

Leicester – Burnley saw Leicester City flex a bit of muscle en route to a mostly comfortable, yet somewhat thrilling, 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet and James Justin scored the goals for Leicester, plus an own goal from Erik Pieters, as Brendan Rodgers’ side made it two wins from two games to start their 2020-21 Premier League campaign.


3 things we learned: Leicester – Burnley

1. Leicester back for another crack at top-four: It’s only two games, admittedly, but Leicester have the look of a side out to prove that their late-season collapse, which saw them fall from third to fifth in the final five games of the 2019-20 season, was very much an aberration. Rodgers’ men hardly ever looked worried as they cruised to a win against last season’s 10th-place finishers.

2. Foxes firepower: Leicester managed to score four goals without a single one of them coming from Jamie Vardy, who bagged 23 last season. James Maddison only made his return from injury on Sunday as well, lending credence to the notion this is far from a one-man team as has, to a degree, been an issue in the past. They might not actually finish inside the top-four this season, but they have the look of a side with plenty of staying power.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements: Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.


Wood got the scoring started in Leicester – Burnley after just 10 minutes, with equal parts brute force and delicate touch. Charlie Taylor floated a cross to the back post, where Wood was waiting and battling for positioning with a defender. He managed to create a half-yard of space to allow for chest control and a quick, but difficult, finish from the corner of the six-yard box.

Jamie Vardy was instrumental in Leicester’s equalizer 10 minutes later, though hardly the typical manner in which he contributes to goals scored. Vardy latched onto a forward ball in an attempt to split the center backs, but was ultimately forced wide and to hold the ball up. He cut it back to Castagne, who played it on to Barnes for the far-post finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Leicester’s second goal was more a product on constant pressure than exquisite, incisive chance creation, but the ball hitting the back of the net counts all the same. Castagne overlapped down the right flank and hit a cross for Vardy as he streaked past the penalty spot. Erik Pieters wasn’t tight enough to Castagne to deny the cross, only to redirect it past the wrong-footed Nick Pope.

The Foxes’ third goal, however, was the result of a free-flowing attack involving a handful of blue shirts along the way. It ended with Ayoze Perez playing the ball across the penalty area and left back James Justin slotting home for his first PL goal in the 61st minute.

It was Justin who was beaten by Jimmy Dunne as he rose highest to bag a goal on his PL debut 12 minutes later, giving Burnley a brief glimmer of hope. 

It didn’t last long, though, as Dennis Praet bagged a stunning fourth goal for Leicester in the 79th minute. Barnes picked up the assist to go with his earlier goal, but it was Praet’s powerful finish that will get all of the headlines, and deservedly so.

Follow @AndyEdMLS