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

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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.

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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

Man City reveal squad for US tour

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Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City have announced their squad for their U.S. tour this summer.

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Pep Guardiola is without several first team stars as City had more players at the 2018 World Cup (16) this summer than any other team on the planet.

New club-record signing Riyad Mahrez will travel Stateside though, so too will Joe Hart, Claudio Bravo, Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy, with promising youngsters Patrick Roberts, Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz also included.

Former New York City FC star Jack Harrison will also be part of Man City’s traveling squad as he returns to American soil after starring in MLS over the past few years before his move to City and subsequent loan to Middlesbrough in England’s second-tier.

City have a busy schedule of games in the States as they kick things off on Friday against Borussia Dortmund in Chicago. They then travel to New York City and play Liverpool at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on July 25 before heading to Miami to play Bayern Munich on July 28 to round off their International Champions Cup action.

Take a look at the squad in full below.


Manchester City squad for US tour – 2018/19

Claudio Bravo
Joe Hart
Aymeric Laporte
Leroy Sane
Bernardo Silva
Benjamin Mendy
Tosin Adarabioyo
Riyad Mahrez
Patrick Roberts
Jason Denayer
Daniel Grimshaw
Oleksandr Zinchenko
Douglas Luiz
Jack Harrison
Lukas Nmecha
Phil Foden
Aro Muric
Eric Garcia
Nabil Touaizi
Brahim Diaz
Iker Pozo
Tom Dele-Bashiru
Benjamin Garre
Luke Bolton
Cameron Humphreys
Rabbi Matondo
Tyreke Wilson
Nathanael Ogbeta

Report: Liverpool in talks for Alisson

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It appears Alisson to Liverpool could be back on again.

A report from Di Marzio in Italy claims that AS Roma and Liverpool are in discussions over the transfer of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson, with further reports from the UK stating Liverpool have offered $81 million for him.

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Their star goalkeeper, 25, was the subject of interest from Liverpool and Real Madrid before the 2018 World Cup began but Brazil’s starting goalkeeper didn’t have an outstanding tournament and Roma’s previous $100 million asking price may now have dropped.

Real may well turn their attention to Thibaut Courtois considering his recent comments that he could leave Chelsea with just a year left on his contract. As for Liverpool, their need for a new goalkeeper remains urgent following Loris Karius‘ mistakes in the UEFA Champions League final and Simon Mignolet falling out of favor.

With Karius backed by Jurgen Klopp several times over the past few months following his UCL final meltdown, Karius has continued to make mistakes in preseason games which may have accelerated Liverpool’s search for a new goalkeeper.

Although both Jack Butland and Nick Pope may well be cheaper options and have Premier League experience, Alisson is highly-regarded for his displays in Serie A and for Brazil and he is not only good with his feet but also a fine shot stopper. I mean, you have to be some goalkeeper to keep out Manchester City’s Ederson as the starter for the Brazilian national team.

Wayne Rooney loving life at DC United

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Wayne Rooney is loving the quiet life in the United States of America.

The all-time leading goalscorer for England and Manchester United made his MLS debut on Saturday, coming on for the final 33 minutes as D.C. United won 3-1 against the Vancouver Whitecaps in their own debut at their new $500 million Audi Field home.

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Rooney, 31, impressed in his brief spell on the pitch as DCU’s loyal fans celebrated a marque moment for the franchise in their new stadium and with a big-name Designated Player wearing the No. 9 jersey.

The former Manchester United and Everton man assisted Paul Arriola for D.C. United’s third goal and was involved in the build-up for their second as his clever touches and flicks impressed in his brief cameo. With 14 of their final 19 games of the season at their new home due to Audi Field opening on July 14, Rooney will be hoping to drag DCU up the Eastern Conference standings as they currently sit bottom.

Speaking to the Daily Mail around his arrival in MLS, Rooney lauded life off the pitch in the capital city as he hasn’t been recognized strolling through a mall or going to a coffee shop.

“I know I can relax a bit more. At home, you are looking over your shoulder and having to think to yourself, ‘What is going on there?’ You don’t know who is watching you and you have to be careful with what you are doing all the time,” Rooney said. “I think I can have a quiet life now and, when the children come over, I’m sure the time I get to spend with them in public will be a lot better now. It has been very easy to settle. I’ve been made to feel very comfortable. I’ve got freedom to be me, which hasn’t always been the case.”

And here is exactly why a move to MLS appeals to so many superstars who, like Rooney, have been followed everywhere for their entire career. Tales of Steven Gerrard hanging out at the beach with his kids and Thierry Henry jumping on the subway in NYC are plentiful as star players get the chance of that “freedom” Rooney talked about.

Rooney has been in the public eye for 16 years since he burst onto the scene as a teenager in the Premier League and now he’s enjoying the quiet life in the D.C. suburbs. Can you blame him?

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic loving the attention in LA and the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Villa also seen out and about at events in Chicago and New York City respectively, Rooney will no doubt take on a similar role to interact with the sports community in D.C.

That said, it seems like he’s enjoying popping down to the local coffee shop and hanging out at the mall right now.

PHOTOS: Man United release new kit

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Manchester United have released their new home kit for the 2018/19 season.

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Jose Mourinho’s men have already unveiled a black away kit for the new campaign but as they prepare to play the first game of their U.S. tour on Thursday, their new home jersey is now available.

[ MORE: Sanchez to miss US tour?

Take a look at the video and photos below to get a feel for the kit.