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Longtime FIFA official Leoz, indicted in US, dies at 90

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Nicolas Leoz, a long-time South American soccer executive and FIFA official who had been under house arrest in Paraguay fighting extradition to the United States, has died. He was 90.

Leoz’s lawyer, Ricardo Preda, told The Associated Press his client died Wednesday after a cardiac arrest linked to age-related ailments.

Leoz, under house arrest for the last four years, was indicted in 2015 in the U.S. Justice Department’s sweeping investigation of bribery and financial corruption linked to broadcasting and sponsorship rights for soccer competitions, including the Copa Libertadores.

South American soccer body CONMEBOL announced Leoz’s death on Twitter. Leoz had served as president of the Paraguay-based organization from 1986-2013.

One of Leoz’s achievements as CONMEBOL president was to gain diplomatic immunity for its headquarters in Asuncion as protection from prosecution.

Leoz resigned from CONMEBOL and his FIFA executive committee seat in 2013 before the FIFA ethics committee could punish him following long-standing allegations he took kickbacks from World Cup revenues.

Leoz received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Swiss-based marketing agency ISL, which was selling World Cup television rights. ISL’s collapse into bankruptcy in 2001 provoked a financial crisis for FIFA and led to a criminal trial in Switzerland.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Brazil’s Jesus suspended two months for bad behavior

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sixthSAO PAULO — Striker Gabriel Jesus has been suspended from international matches with Brazil for two months because of bad behavior in the latest Copa America final.

The governing body of South American soccer, CONMEBOL, also announced Wednesday that it fined the 22-year-old Jesus $30,000 for actions it considers insulting and defamatory during Brazil’s 3-1 win over Peru in the July 7 decider.

[ MORE: PST’s PL preview roundtable ]

Jesus was sent off after a second yellow card at the 70-minute mark in the South American cup final.

He protested the decision with hand gestures suggesting the referee had been paid off and then pushed the video assistant referee feed on the sidelines.

Brazil and Jesus can still appeal the decision.

If the punishment stands, Jesus will miss Brazil’s friendlies against Colombia and Peru in September. He could also be sidelined for another two matches in October.

Messi suspended three matches for criticizing CONMEBOL

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CONMEBOL has bravely suspended the world’s best player for three matches, all friendlies he may have opted to skip anyway.

Lionel Messi called the confederation corrupt during the Copa America, saying that CONMEBOL wanted host nation Brazil to advance to the final.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Green scores ]

Messi was also fined $50,000 for the words, according to Goal.com, which came after a match in which he was given a comical red card which somehow withstood video review.

He was initially fined just $1,500, which was laughed off around the world. Messi earns about $2 million a week through salary, endorsements, and bonuses.

The friendlies against Chile, Mexico, and Germany are all hosted outside of Argentina. The first two are in the United States and the third is in Dortmund, and Messi’s absence is sure to thrill organizers and attendees alike.

Oh, and he’ll be back to face Brazil in Saudi Arabia. Funny thing, that.

Barcelona supporters, meanwhile, are probably thrilled.

Messi handles fine, ban for Copa America outburst

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You could probably call this a slap on the wrist for Lionel Messi, but it’s probably more like a tickle of his ear.

CONMEBOL have decided to fine the Barcelona and Argentina star just $1,500 for his explosive outburst after being sent off in the 2019 Copa America tournament earlier this summer.

That hefty fine will teach him…

Messi, 32, has also had his one-match ban (for being sent off) upheld and he will now miss Argentina’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Following his red card for a clash with Chile’s Gary Medel during the third-place playoff match, both players were sent off and it’s safe to say Messi was far from happy with how everything went down as he criticized the refereeing and quality of the pitches in Brazil.

“We don’t have to be part of this corruption,” Messi said. “They have showed us a lack of respect throughout this tournament. Sadly, the corruption, the referees, they don’t allow people to enjoy football, they ruined it a bit. I think the cup is fixed for Brazil. I hope that the VAR and the referees have nothing to do in this final and that Peru can compete because they have the team to do so although I think it’s difficult.”

Messi has since apologized for his comments and this punishment is the end of the matter. At least for him…

CONMEBOL have taken Argentina FA leader Claudio Tapia off their seat in the decision-making FIFA council. Tapia followed Messi as he hit out at CONMEBOL in an open letter following their semifinal defeat to hosts Brazil.

Copa America organizers worried about empty seats in Brazil

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The head of South America’s soccer governing body is worried about empty seats at the Copa America tournament in Brazil.

[ WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: USA, Sweden advance ahead of Group F finale ]

But CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said Sunday he believes the attendances will improve as the tournament advances.

More than 46,000 fans paid an average of $125 per ticket at Brazil’s opener against Bolivia, but at least 22,000 seats were empty at the Morumbi Stadium for a match that organizers initially said was a sellout.

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Sunday’s 2-2 draw between Qatar and Paraguay saw 20,000 fans at the 87,000-seater Maracana.

“It worries us, of course it worries us,” Dominguez said after a CONMEBOL event in Rio de Janeiro, adding “I think it will improve.”