Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein

AP

Former FIFA official Prince Ali takes soccer charity global

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GENEVA (AP) Former FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali is taking his charity project worldwide to build on its work of bringing soccer to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

The prince detailed plans Tuesday for the Association Football Development Program Global to fund projects, donate equipment and provide expert management at a launch at Arsenal’s home stadium in London.

The NGO’s partners include War Child UK, which helps former child soldiers in Africa, the UEFA Foundation For Children, streetfootballworld and the Spanish league.

The prince’s original focus was in Asia, with funding from FIFA payments as a member of its executive committee from 2011-15. He decided to go global after meeting soccer officials on his FIFA election campaigns in 2015 and ’16.

“I realized you could really broaden the work to the entire world where there are so many similar challenges,” Prince Ali told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of the launch event.

Central Africa is a target with the War Child Football Club project aiming to kick off in seven countries with help from AFDP Global.

Prince Ali said he is open to working with professional clubs who can apply to partner on projects.

“We are not going to limit ourselves to anything,” he said. “There is absolutely no politics involved. And it’s not limited to any place – it could be a project with inner-city kids in the U.K.”

The Zaatari refugee camp of 80,000 people displaced from Syria has been the program’s core work with 5,000 children now playing soccer, including on a field for girls opened in recent weeks.

“It’s an unfortunate situation but I’m very proud of what it has become,” said Prince Ali, who has no immediate plans to work with FIFA.

“We want to work independently but if we are asked to, then sure,” he said. “Any work we do has to be really physically tangible on the ground.”

UEFA has supported the Zaatari camp, and its president, Aleksander Ceferin, praised AFDP for “giving these children opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.”

After losing FIFA elections first against Sepp Blatter and then in a five-candidate contest won by Gianni Infantino, Prince Ali does not expect to try a third time.

“My focus is on this project,” said the Jordanian soccer federation president, who also heads the West Asian group of FIFA member federations.

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

FIFA ending racism task force denounced as shameful betrayal

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA’s abolition of its anti-racism task force was denounced as a shameful betrayal on Monday as the governing body went on the defensive to reaffirm its commitment to fighting discrimination.

The Associated Press revealed Sunday that the anti-racism group was being dismantled after FIFA decided that its mission had been completed after three years.

Kick It Out , English soccer’s anti-discrimination organization, said it was “perplexed” by FIFA’s decision, given the World Cup is being staged in 2018 in Russia “which is notorious for racism and abusive activities towards minorities.”

Jordanian federation president Prince Ali said he found it “incredibly worrying” that the task force was being scrapped given the “very real and apparent” discrimination problem that remains in soccer.

“The fight against racism is far from over and the notion that the current FIFA leadership believes that the `task force’s recommendations have been implemented’ is shameful,” said Prince Ali, a former FIFA presidential candidate and FIFA vice president. “Now the idea that FIFA believes that it’s the right time to disband its anti-racism task force is ridiculous.”

Prince Ali believes the task force should have been empowered to work further with soccer authorities and governments to use the sport to tackle discrimination in wider society.

“There is still so much work to do, and FIFA must show leadership, take responsibility for reform and be accountable if change isn’t put into practice,” Prince Ali said.

“Transparency, trust, credibility and integrity are the values that should run through everything FIFA does. Not tackling the plague of racism and discrimination properly is an absolute betrayal of those values.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced in September 2015 as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari.

“The reality, as with many programs within FIFA, is that the task force was never given real support since its conception and its role was more about FIFA’s image than actually tackling the issues,” Prince Ali said.

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura fended off the criticism, insisting her organization remains committed to combatting discrimination in the world’s most popular sport.

“The task force had a very specific mandate that to our knowledge it has fully fulfilled,” Samoura said at the SoccerEx convention. “Its recommendations have now been turned into a program and a strong one.”

Samoura was appointed in May as the organization’s first female and first African top administrator of world soccer’s governing body as part of the overhaul under Gianni Infantino. The Senegalese former United Nations official said her “presence here is a strong testimony that for FIFA, it is a zero tolerance policy” on discrimination and it is an inclusive organization.

Responding to criticism of the task force being shut down, Samoura said, “We can live with perceptions, but we are taking very seriously our role as the world governing body of football to fight discrimination.”

Kick It Out urged FIFA to publish a “clear and concise strategy” on its fight against discrimination and promotion of equality. It was one of three organizations in the running to win FIFA’s new diversity award from Samoura at a ceremony at SoccerEx later Monday.

Although racism is no longer rampant in English soccer, 402 incidents of discrimination were recorded by Kick It Out last season – up more than 40 percent from two years earlier, although reporting mechanisms have been enhanced.

“There is clear evidence that discrimination, prejudice and hate are on the rise in developed societies, particularly in Europe but also in different forms across the world,” Kick It Out said in a statement. “Football should seek to lead the way in combating such intrusions.

“It is clear that organizations that are actively campaigning against racism and discrimination will be deeply disheartened to hear news of the disbandment, as they look to FIFA for leadership in a game which is so popular across the world.”

The pressing problems for FIFA are in Russia with less than nine months until the country stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

Earlier this month, European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, ordered Russian club Rostov to close a section of a stadium for a Champions League game as punishment for the racist behavior of fans.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, compared to a total of 83 for the previous two seasons combined.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Harry Redknapp uncertain about future as Jordan coach

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SYDNEY (AP) Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp remains uncertain about his future with Jordan beyond the team’s World Cup qualifying match against Australia on Tuesday.

Redknapp, who arrived Saturday for Jordan’s must-win match against the Socceroos, said earlier this week that he’d be open to extending his two-match coaching deal with Jordan should the team progress to the next round of Asian qualifying.

Jordan, which beat Bangladesh 8-0 in Redknapp’s first match in charge on Thursday, trails first-place Australia by two points in Group B, but could qualify for the third round as one of the four best runner-up teams in the eight groups.

[ USMNT: Match recap | Player ratings | Three things ]

Redknapp says he hasn’t discussed his contract with Jordan Football Association president Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, adding “I’ve enjoyed it obviously, but I don’t know about the future.”

“I only came for two games, that was what I did with Prince Ali,” Redknapp added. “I’m (adviser) at (second-tier) Derby at the moment so as soon as I get back from here I go straight to Derby. We play Cardiff away on Saturday, it’s a big game for us. I just want to get a great result from Jordan and go from there.”

Redknapp, who led Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time in 2010 and went on to manage Queens Park Rangers from 2012 to 2015, expects a tough match from Australia on Tuesday. The Socceroos went on a scoring spree of their own on Thursday, beating Tajikistan 7-0.

“It’s got the makings of a real good game,” he said. “We need to win, so we’ve got to be going for it. We’ll have to start well because they’ll be a big crowd, great atmosphere.”

Redknapp punctuates 8-0 thumping of Bangladesh with weird postmatch interview (video)

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Perhaps Harry Redknapp didn’t think “media” was included in his new contract as manager of Jordan, or that he drastically underestimated the capabilities of Jordanian media.

That’s the only way to explain the former QPR manager’s post-match interview after Jordan thumped Bangladesh 8-0 on Thursday in his first match as boss.

[ MORE: CONCACAF qualifying preview | CONMEBOL roundup ]

Redknapp, 69, took over the side as a favor for his friend Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, the Jordanian prince who famously ran for president against Sepp Blatter in the summer and again this Spring.

The match was a World Cup qualifier, and Jordan was already en route to qualification before the win. Then came the post-match. I’d have to say my favorite parts are when Redknapp tries to leave after one question, and when he finally realizes he’s on camera.

As for the match… let’s just say Bangladesh was outclassed. Hamza Al-Dardour scored three goals in the first 40 minutes to key the rout.

Harry Redknapp hired as Jordan manager and Derby County executive

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Harry Redknapp has been out of football for 13 months, and suddenly he has two jobs – one in England and one outside.

The 69-year-old former Tottenham, QPR, and West Ham manager has been hired by Championship side Derby County to advise head coach Darren Wassall until the end of the season.

Redknapp’s goal with the Rams will be promotion. Derby has just missed promotion two seasons in a row, losing in the playoff final 1-0 to QPR in 2014 before missing out on the playoffs by a single point the following year.

“The call from Derby came completely out of the blue but this is an exciting challenge and hopefully we can finish the season in the play-off final at Wembley,” Redknapp said. “I know the Championship, I know how difficult it can be and my experience will hopefully prove invaluable.

According to Redknapp, his role will be unlike a director of football role, instead solely serving in an advisory position. “I never thought I’d become a director of football but my role at Derby is completely different and it is only going to run until the end of the season, when I hope we will all be celebrating promotion back to the Premier League.”

Wassall was hired in February to replace the fired Paul Clement. Because Redknapp’s position is only until the end of the season, he will not be involved in player recruitment, he confirmed.

In addition to his advisory role, Redknapp was hired to manage the Jordanian national team as they push for a spot in the 2018 World Cup. According to Redknapp, the role is likely temporary and was taken as a favor to former FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali bin al-Hussein.

“I’m friends with Prince Ali and wanted him to take over from Sepp Blatter,” Redknapp said. “He asked me if I’d manage the team for a couple of matches, and I agreed.”

He will first stay in England and help Wassall with their match against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. He will then head out to Jordan to prepare for a pair of massive games against Bangaladesh and Australia. Six points from those two matches could assure them of advancement into the third and final round of Asian qualification. Anything less would leave their fate in the balance, although four or even three points would go a long way.

“I’ll go to the Forest game and then go straight to London and fly to Jordan,” Redknapp said. “It’s a busy time but I’ve missed the buzz of being involved in football.”

It’s unclear if Redknapp will continue to manage Jordan following those two matches.