Blatter says he is going to World Cup at Putin’s invitation

This file photo shows outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter shake hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers at the Konstantin Palace in Saint Petersburg on July 25, 2015. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 20 October 2017
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Blatter says he is going to World Cup at Putin’s invitation

ZURICH: FIFA’s disgraced ex-president Sepp Blatter has told AFP he will go to next year’s World Cup in Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, despite being banned from football.
“I will go to the World Cup in Russia. I received an invitation from President Putin,” the 81-year-old said in an interview.
A Kremlin spokesman said Russia will “be happy to see (Blatter) in Moscow.”
“You know that Putin and Blatter have for a long time been, you could say, friends,” Dmitri Peskov told reporters.
“The World Cup is a great celebration of football and everyone who is invited will be welcome, and old friends will also be welcome,” the Kremlin spokesman further said.
Blatter told AFP that Michel Platini, the ex-UEFA president who is banned from football over corruption, had also been invited to the tournament by Putin.
But according to one of his close allies Platini “hasn’t received an invitation from Putin to go to the World Cup and doesn’t know what he will be doing next summer.”
Blatter, who led world football’s governing body for 17 years, was thrown out of the sport in 2015 at the height of a massive corruption scandal.
FIFA’s ethics committee has suspended him from all football-related activities for six years after finding him guilty of accepting an improper 2 million Swiss franc ($2.1 million, 1.8 million euros) payment from then-UEFA chief Platini.
But the ever-defiant Blatter said he had no plans to miss the World Cup, an event he has habitually attended since going to work at FIFA in the 1970s.
“I don’t know how long I will go for, whether I will be there for the opening match or the final,” he said during the interview in Zurich.
“Because I can’t work in football and I don’t have an assignment to do, maybe I will only make a short visit.”
Blatter is also the target of an investigation by Swiss prosecutors over alleged criminal mismanagement at FIFA and the infamous Platini payment.
Switzerland has ongoing probes into the 2018 World Cup, including possible bribery and corruption that may have led to Russia winning hosting rights.
“I’m sure that World Cup 2018 will be a great World Cup. Russia has to show that it can welcome the whole world. It’s a big challenge,” Blatter said.
It was not immediately clear how the FIFA ban would impact Blatter’s attendance at matches or events.
Platini, banned from football for four years, was allowed to attend Euro 2016 matches in his native France, provided he played no official role.


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.