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FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

Investigation: Migrant workers still being exploited on Qatar World Cup jobs

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An investigation conducted by Amnesty International, a British organization focused on human rights, revealed that thousands of migrant workers are still being exploited for unpaid labor and poor living conditions related to construction projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Amnesty’s investigation into three Qatari companies — Hamton International, Hamad bin Khaled bin Hamad and United Cleaning — revealed that at least 1,620 workers had filed complaints over months of unpaid wages. Some were eventually paid a portion of what they were owed in exchange for dropping their cases, while some left the country and returned home with nothing.

Qatari officials had repeatedly promised, after nominal pressure had been applied by FIFA, to enforce stricter standards on company’s regarding their treatment of workers.

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“Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers,” Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues, said. “Either the reforms are being done very slowly, or they are not being implemented properly or they are not being done at all. As a result of that there are still thousands of workers who are not being paid properly, they are not getting justice, or are living in poor conditions.”

FIFA bans jailed soccer official Napout for life for bribery

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned former soccer official Juan Angel Napout for life, almost 21 months after he was convicted on racketeering and corruption charges in a Brooklyn court.

FIFA says its ethics committee judges found Napout guilty of bribery between 2012 and 2015, and fined him 1 million Swiss francs ($1.01 million). It is unclear how FIFA can enforce payment.

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Napout was a FIFA vice president, and leader of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, when he was arrested in Zurich in December 2015.

The U.S. Justice Department had requested a second wave of arrests at a luxury hotel in FIFA’s home city in a sweeping investigation of soccer corruption.

Napout, from Paraguay, was found guilty of taking bribes worth millions of dollars linked to commercial contracts for South American soccer competitions.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison in August 2018, nine months after a trial that lasted several weeks.

Iranian woman charged for attending games sets herself on fire, dies

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An Iranian woman who was set to be sent to prison for sneaking into a soccer game in Tehran has died after setting herself on fire.

Since 1981 women have not been able to attend stadiums to watch male sporting events in Iran. Recently many women have successfully disguised themselves as men to attend matches.

Last week the female fan, Sahar Khodayari, set herself on fire after her trial for trying to enter a stadium disguised as a man was postponed. She was initially charged in March and released from jail after three days and she had waited six months for her trial.

Reports suggest that after her trial was postponed she returned to the court house and overhead somebody saying she would got to jail for six months to two years.

Khodayari then set herself on fire and a week later she died in hospital from her injuries.

She is known around the world as “blue girl” in reference to Esteqlal, the team in Tehran she supports.

FIFA gave Iran a deadline of Aug. 31 to allow women into stadiums, as president Gianni Infantino previously visited Tehran.

World soccer’s governing body released this statement following Sahar’s death.

“We are aware of that tragedy and deeply regret it. FIFA convey our condolences to the family and friends of Sahar and reiterate our calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of any women engaged in this legitimate fight to end the stadium ban for women in Iran.”

FIFA unveils logo for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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Qatar finally has a logo for the 2022 World Cup, and it reflects both the tournament’s compact infrastructure and winter schedule.

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Using the colors of the Qatari flag, the white emblem is set against a maroon background.

It is inspired by the contours of the World Cup trophy with the unbroken loop depicting a figure of eight — the number of stadiums built for the Middle East’s first World Cup in the tiny Persian Gulf nation.

FIFA says the design also draws “inspiration from a traditional woolen shawl,” a winter garment reflecting the World Cup being played in November and December 2022 to avoid the fierce summer heat in June and July when the tournament is usually played.

The reveal came at 2022 local time (8:22 p.m.) in Doha and the image was projected onto buildings in the Qatari capital, including the Al Zubarah Fort, and appeared at sites in Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

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Other countries in the region played no role in the launch.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been boycotting Qatar economically and diplomatically since 2017, and its severing of travel links could prove problematic for fan travel in 2022.

Among the international sites where the logo was displayed on Tuesday was the Arch of Peace in Milan and a train station in Paris.

Qatar won a FIFA vote in 2010 that has been dogged by controversy. A FIFA investigation found that some of Qatar’s conduct “may not have met the standards” required while concluding there was no “evidence of any improper activity by the bid team.”

Working conditions and rights for migrant laborers building the stadiums in Qatar were also criticized, forcing standards to be raised.