FIFA chief asked to intervene to solve Iran and Saudi Arabia fixture dispute

FIFA president Gianni Infantino (Reuters)
Updated 08 February 2018
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FIFA chief asked to intervene to solve Iran and Saudi Arabia fixture dispute

BERLIN: The president of the Iranian FA has reportedly flown to meet with FIFA president Gianni Infantino to urge him to intervene in a politically-charged Asian Champions League game.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have affected the forthcoming match between Tehran-based Esteghlal and Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
The teams are due to meet in the group stages, which start next week, but Iran and Saudi Arabia have had no diplomatic relations since an attack on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Tehran in 2016.
Saudi Arabia has not wanted its teams to play in Iran. Tehran, on the other hand, has opposed playing games in neutral venues.
In the face of political pressure from both sides, the Asian Football Confederation have seemingly wavered, their position complicated by more recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE on one side and Qatar.
Esteghlal, led by German coach Winfried Schaefer, opted to host their game in Qatar on Feb. 20 with Al-Hilal choosing Kuwait as hosts on April 16.
However, the Iranian team’s choice has been vetoed by Asian football’s governing body AFC, who insist the match be moved from Qatar to Oman with no opportunity to find an alternative venue.
AFP’s German subsidiary SID report that Iranian FA boss Mehdi Taj intends to put the matter to Infantino personally in the hope FIFA will intervene.
The Iranian FA could not be reached for comment.
Esteghlal, who also face Al Rayyan of Qatar and Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates in Group D, boosted their squad with the signing of Senegal striker Mame Baba Thiam, it was announced on Thursday.
— AFP


FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Solid Manchester City, Brittle Bayern Munich and Missing Lionel Messi

Updated 22 October 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Solid Manchester City, Brittle Bayern Munich and Missing Lionel Messi

  • City frighten rivals with dogged defence added to their attacking flair.
  • Lopetegui decision to leave Spanish national side seen in even darker light after awful start to the season.

LONDON: It was another eventful weekend across all the big European leagues, here is what we learned from all the results.

SOLID CITY

When you think of Manchester City, images of free-flowing, incisive, entertaining football — the very thing that we love the beautiful game for — doubtless pop into your head. That is what defined their record-breaking march to the Premier League title last season and has once again been in evidence this campaign. There is, however, another element that has been added to that seductive style: Dogged defense. Yes, Pep Guardiola’s side has now gone five league matches without conceding a goal. Admittedly Saturday’s clean sheet was secured against Burnley, but the one before was against title-chasing Liverpool. This is something that pleased the City boss, who said: “We are not giving away any goals, we are not even giving away chances … we have been solid.” The sight of City adding defensive solidity to their attacking flair will scare all of their rivals.



LOPETEGUI’S DODGY DECISION

We all make bad decisions, ones that almost as soon as they are made we regret. But some decisions prove to be worse than others, ones so bad that you wonder how they were made in the first place. We are obviously talking about Julen Lopetegui’s decision to quit as Spanish national boss to sit in the Real Madrid hot seat. The Madrid giants lost their fourth in five at the weekend and if he is still in the job by the time you are reading this then it will be a shock. It was not his call to leave the Spain side the day before the World Cup, but from the moment Lopetegui was given his marching orders in Russia things have gone from bad to worse for the 52-year-old. His exit paved the way for a disastrous tournament for the national team when they had the players to go far, if not possibly win the whole thing. Since that moment his reputation has not recovered — from hero to zero in four short months.



MESSI MISSING

One of the perennial questions of the past 10 years has been “how would Barcelona fare without Lionel Messi?” Well, for a short time at least, we can now find out after the Catalan club’s talisman suffered a fractured bone in his right arm during the side’s 4-2 win over title rivals Sevilla. Three weeks on the sidelines will see Messi miss six matches. The first a Champions League tie against Inter Milan, the second the all-important El Clasico against arch-rivals Real Madrid. The time for Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Co. to step up is now.



BRITTLE BAYERN MUNICH

The Bavarian giants may have won Saturday’s clash against Wolfsburg, but there remain clouds hanging over FC Hollywood. The side lived up to its moniker last week thanks to some bizarre comments from two men not known for being shy about letting people know exactly what they think. After a four-game winless streak, club president, Uli Hoeness, and CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, both former players, accused the media of “outrageous, disrespectful and polemical” reporting and warned them of possible legal action. Nothing like a bit of measured talk after a few bad results …