Verdict due in corruption trial of former world football officials Blatter and Platini

Verdict due in corruption trial of former world football officials Blatter and Platini
Michel Platini, left, and Sepp Blatter. (AFP file photos)
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Updated 08 July 2022

Verdict due in corruption trial of former world football officials Blatter and Platini

Verdict due in corruption trial of former world football officials Blatter and Platini
  • The case meant Blatter ended his reign as FIFA president in disgrace and it wrecked Platini’s hopes of succeeding him after he was banned from football when the affair came to light

BELLINZONA, Switzerland: Swiss judges are set to rule on Friday in the corruption trial of ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and France’s former football hero Michel Platini, once among soccer’s most powerful figures.

Prosecutors accuse Blatter, a Swiss who led global soccer body FIFA for 17 years, and Platini, a former France national team captain and manager, of unlawfully arranging for FIFA to pay the Frenchman 2 million Swiss francs ($2.06 million) in 2011.

Both deny the allegations.

Prosecutors have asked the court to impose suspended 20-month prison sentences on both men, and to compel them to repay Zurich-based FIFA 2.23 million Swiss francs.

The verdict is due around 0800 GMT.

The case meant Blatter ended his reign as FIFA president in disgrace and it wrecked Platini’s hopes of succeeding him after he was banned from football when the affair came to light.

Blatter, 86, had said the 2-million franc payment followed a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the pair when he asked Platini to be his technical adviser in 1998.

Platini, 67, worked as a consultant between 1998 and 2002 with an annual salary of 300,000 Swiss francs — the most FIFA could afford because of money troubles the organization had at the time, Blatter has told the court.

The rest of Platini’s 1 million per year salary was to be settled at a later date, Blatter said.

Motives for the payment are unclear, although the two men met in 2010 and discussed the upcoming elections for the FIFA presidency in 2011.

When Blatter approved the payment, he was campaigning for re-election against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar. Platini, then president of European soccer association UEFA, was seen as having sway with European members who could influence the vote.

Prosecutors have said that the oral agreement between the two men for Platini to be paid 2 million francs later for his consultancy work never existed, and described it as an “invention.”

The payment emerged following a huge investigation launched by the US Department of Justice into bribery, fraud and money-laundering at FIFA in 2015, which triggered Blatter’s resignation.

Both officials were banned in 2015 from soccer for eight years over the payment, although their bans were later reduced. 

Platini, who also lost his job as UEFA president following the ban, said the affair was a deliberate attempt to thwart his attempt to become FIFA president in 2015.

Platini’s former general secretary at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, entered the FIFA race and won the election in 2016. 


Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote

Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote
Updated 30 September 2022

Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote

Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote
  • Neymar, 30, had previously stayed out of the fray for Sunday’s polarizing election, in which Lula leads in opinion polls

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro got a celebrity endorsement Thursday for his re-election bid from football superstar Neymar, who posted a video on TikTok of himself dancing to a pro-Bolsonaro campaign song.

Grinning, the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil striker, arguably Brazil’s most famous celebrity, flashed the No. 22 — Bolsonaro’s candidate number — with his fingers as he rocked out to the electronic dance jingle, three days from the far-right incumbent’s election showdown against leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“Vote, vote, and press ‘confirm’ for 22, that’s Bolsonaro,” goes the song, a reference to Brazil’s electronic voting machines — which the president alleges, without evidence, are plagued by fraud.

Bolsonaro wasted no time retweeting the Neymar seal of approval.

Neymar, 30, had previously stayed out of the fray for Sunday’s polarizing election, in which Lula leads in opinion polls.

But he sent a video message to Bolsonaro Wednesday after the president visited the footballer’s charitable children’s foundation.

“Hello, President Bolsonaro... I wanted to thank you for your illustrious visit,” he said on Instagram after Bolsonaro visited the Neymar Jr. Institute, a non-profit organization the football star founded in 2014.

It runs educational, cultural and sports programs for 3,000 underprivileged children.

Bolsonaro backers have adopted the yellow-and-green jersey of Brazil’s national team as a symbol of support for the president, along with the Brazilian flag.

Both men are vocal about their Christianity.


Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight

Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight
Updated 30 September 2022

Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight

Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight
  • Two of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters will square-off for the undisputed super-lightweight world title

ABU DHABI: The first female boxing world title fight to be held in Abu Dhabi will see American Jessica McCaskill taking on Britain’s Chantelle Cameron at Etihad Arena on Yas Island for the undisputed super-lightweight world title on Nov. 5.

McCaskill, the reigning undisputed welterweight champion, will square off against WBC/IBF light-welterweight title holder Cameron after the former dropped down in weight to enhance her pound-for-pound credentials.

Organized by Matchroom Boxing and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, the mega-bout is part of the Champions Series inaugural fight card, which is headlined by Russian star Dmitry Bivol’s WBA light-heavyweight title defense against Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.

Undefeated Cameron (15-0, 8 KOs), often known as Il Capo, has held the WBC Women’s Light-Welterweight Championship since 2020, and previously won world championships in two weight classes.

She successfully defended her title in May against Victoria Noelia Bustos, a previous world champion, in London.

McCaskill (12-2, 5 KOs), nicknamed CasKILLA, recently defeated Mexico’s Alma Ibarra to complete her third successful defense of the welterweight title.

The Missouri veteran made the decision to once more shift down a division to 140 lbs to secure the fight with Cameron that she has long been gunning for.

“This is a historic encounter not just for the careers of the two fighters, but also for the sport of boxing in the Middle East,” said Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport.

“To have two of the game’s best female fighters facing off in Abu Dhabi for the undisputed super-lightweight world title is the perfect way to show the world that Matchroom and DCT Abu Dhabi mean business with this partnership.

“We are making history on Nov. 5 and looking forward to doing so in front of a sold-out Etihad Arena.”

 


Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv
Updated 29 September 2022

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv
  • Djokovic eased to a 6-0, 6-3 win over his 115th-ranked opponent in 86 minutes, firing 30 winners and breaking Andujar four times
  • It was the fewest games Djokovic has lost in any match this season

TEL AVIV: Novak Djokovic, playing a singles tournament for the first time since winning Wimbledon in July, reached the Tel Aviv quarter-finals on Thursday with a straight-sets victory over Spain’s Pablo Andujar.
Djokovic eased to a 6-0, 6-3 win over his 115th-ranked opponent in 86 minutes, firing 30 winners and breaking Andujar four times.
It was the fewest games Djokovic has lost in any match this season.
He was always in control against his Spanish rival who he has now defeated three times, taking control of the match by winning the first seven games.
“The first match started off in a perfect way for me,” said Djokovic, who last played in Israel as a teenager 16 years ago in a Davis Cup tie.
“I won seven games in a row and we were fighting in that eighth game (which took over 20 minutes to complete).
“It was one of the longest games I’ve ever played in my life and I’ve played many, many games in my life. But credit to Pablo for fighting and playing a great match as well.”
Former world number one Djokovic hasn’t played a singles event since capturing a seventh Wimbledon title 10 weeks ago after his refusal to get vaccinated ruled him out of the US Open and the entire American hardcourt swing.
His only other appearance had been in the Laver Cup team tournament in London last week.
It was there that he saw long-time rival Roger Federer retire from the sport.
However, the 35-year-old Djokovic, now ranked at seven in the world, insisted on the eve of the Tel Aviv event that retirement was not on his agenda.
“I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis,” said Djokovic, whose 21 Grand Slam titles is just one short of Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 22.
“I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level.”
Djokovic, showing no sign of the right wrist trouble which bothered him in London, will face Canada’s 149th-ranked Vasek Pospisil in Friday’s quarter-finals.
The Serb boasts a 5-0 career record over the 32-year-old Canadian.
Pospisil reached the last-eight by eliminating Israeli qualifier Edan Leshem 6-3, 6-2.
France’s Arthur Rinderknech saved a match point to clinch a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (9/7) win against third seed Diego Schwartzman.
The world number 58 will next play Roman Safiullin.
British qualifier Liam Broady stunned fifth seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a meeting with second seed Marin Cilic.


Injury-hit Barcelona visits Mallorca with hole in defense

Injury-hit Barcelona visits Mallorca with hole in defense
Updated 29 September 2022

Injury-hit Barcelona visits Mallorca with hole in defense

Injury-hit Barcelona visits Mallorca with hole in defense
  • After a spate of injuries that has decimated Barcelona over the international break, Xavi may have a huge hole in his defense ahead of Sunday’s game at Mallorca
  • Barcelona will also be without midfielder Frenkie de Jong and forward Memphis Depay

BARCELONA, Spain: When Xavi Hernández oversaw the remodeling of Barcelona’s squad this summer, the coach made sure he was so well covered at right-back that his club could afford to loan out US defender Sergiño Dest to AC Milan.
But after a spate of injuries that has decimated Barcelona over the international break, Xavi may have a huge hole in his defense ahead of Sunday’s game at Mallorca.
Jules Koundé, Ronald Araújo and Héctor Bellerín, who have played at right back this season, are all out for an undetermined period of time. Koundé and Araújo, who can play at center back as well, were hurt while playing for France and Uruguay, respectively, in games to prepare for the World Cup in November. Bellerín hurt his left leg while training for Barcelona.
That leaves Barcelona waiting to see if veteran Sergi Roberto can recover from a muscle problem that has sidelined him for three weeks in time for the trip to the Balearic Islands.
If not, Xavi may be forced to shoehorn a player with little or no experience at right back into the position, draft a player from Barcelona’s youth team, or opt to play with three centerbacks and two wing backs.
Barcelona will also be without midfielder Frenkie de Jong and forward Memphis Depay after they were both hurt while playing for the Netherlands. Neither has been a first-choice player for Xavi this season.
Of the injuries, Araújo’s appears to be the most serious. The 23-year-old defender underwent surgery this week in Finland to repair an abductor muscle in his right thigh that he damaged in Uruguay’s 1-0 loss to Iran on Friday.
Over the next three weeks, Barcelona face two Champions League group games against Inter Milan and a clásico against Real Madrid on Oct. 16.
The only good news for Xavi is that Robert Lewandowski returned in perfect shape from his stint with Poland. The striker leads the Spanish league with eight goals in six games.
Mallorca, coached by Mexican Javier Aguirre, has lost 12 of the last 13 visits by Barcelona to their stadium. Their only win during that stretch came in 2009 with Barcelona already crowned the league champion.
BENZEMA BACK
Karim Benzema is back for Real Madrid after recovering from a tendon injury and a strained muscle in his right thigh that had kept him off the field for over three weeks.
Benzema led Madrid to the Champions League and Spanish league double last season after scoring 44 goals in all competitions.
But his team have not missed him much and have kept up their perfect record this season of nine wins in as many games in all competitions.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side leads the league by two points ahead of Barcelona before they host fifth-placed Osasuna on Sunday.
“I’m feeling very good, comfortable. I’m looking forward to the game on Sunday,” Benzema said. “We’ve got a great team, although it could be said that we’ve got two teams. There’s no difference between those who start the game and those who come on.”
Meanwhile a struggling Sevilla faces a tough test when they visit Atlético Madrid on Saturday. Pressure is growing on coach Julen Lopetegui and the club’s leadership, which sold off talented players this summer, after the team have won just once in eight games overall.
Third-place Real Betis play at Celta Vigo on Sunday, while fourth-place Athletic Bilbao host Almería on Friday.


A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect

A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect
Updated 29 September 2022

A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect

A tale of two creases as latest revisions to Laws of Cricket come into effect
  • Although it ceased being the game’s governing body in 1993, the Marylebone Cricket Club continues to be responsible for debating and drafting Laws

On Oct. 1, 2022, nine revisions to the Laws of Cricket will become effective. These constitute the third edition of the 2017 re-coding, the seventh set since the Laws were first drafted in 1744.

Although it ceased being the game’s governing body in 1993, the Laws’ copyright remains with the Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lord’s in London.

The MCC’s Laws sub-committee is responsible for debating and drafting, in close consultation with the Cricket Committee of the International Cricket Council, the game’s governing body. It may appear curious that the game’s governing body is neither the owner nor the drafter of its rules, but recognisable benefits of the MCC’s continuing responsibility is its neutrality. The Laws of Cricket apply to all levels of the game, from Test matches down to village greens and city parks. 

As such, they should be applied evenly. In my experience, at club level, the changes that have been made since 2000 have not been. 

This may reflect an ignorance of the changes by those who stand as umpires; at the top levels of club cricket, umpires are qualified and au fait with the most recent Laws. At lower levels, though, players take turns to umpire, making judgements about the fate of their own teammates. This is a situation which can, and does, cause friction and bias, especially if the individual concerned is not aware of the latest amendments.

Seven of nine of the 2022 revisions are straightforward, but two contain potential pitfalls. Law 41.16, classed under Unfair Play, has always carried the potential to be controversial. It addresses the issue of the non-striker leaving his or her ground early, determined as the time between when the bowler starts to run up and the instant when the ball would normally be expected to be delivered — a grey definition. If the bowler sees that the non-striker is out of ground, then he or she has the option to break the wicket and for the non-striker to be given out on appeal. There have been only 53 recorded instances in first class and professional cricket.

It has been customary for the bowler to warn the non-striker rather than break the wicket, but there has been a small rise in cases of bowlers not observing this tradition. In an attempt to normalize this means of dismissal, clause 41.16 has been moved to Law 38: Run Out. It is unlikely to dampen the controversy which it generates. On Sept. 24, only days before the re-classification became effective, a women’s One Day International between England and India was finely poised, England needing 17 runs to win with one wicket remaining. The match ended when an Indian bowler, in her delivery stride, turned to break the wicket, with the non-striker out of her crease. It is ironic that the match was played at Lords, where the change was incubated, opening the issue up again.

The second amendment, which may be the cause of future controversy, relates to the definition of a wide delivery. Law 22.1.2 states that “the ball will be considered as passing wide of the striker unless it is sufficiently within reach for him/her to be able to hit it with the bat by means of a normal cricket stroke.” At club level, there can be a tendency for subjectivity to be applied to the assessment of what constitutes a wide. In some competitions and in all professional one-day and T20 cricket, any ball bowled down the leg-side is deemed a wide. However, particularly in T20, there has been increasing tendency for batters to move laterally across the crease before the bowler delivers the ball. The MCC felt it unfair that a delivery might be called wide if it passes where the batter had stood as the bowler entered his/her delivery stride.

In order to address this possibility, Law 22.1.1. now states that “If the bowler bowls a ball … the umpire shall adjudge it a Wide if, according to the definition in 22.1.2, the ball passes wide of where the striker is standing or has stood at any point after the ball came into play for that delivery, and which also would have passed wide of the striker standing in a normal batting position.” 

This is rather a lot to take in for any umpire, and certainly for ad-hoc ones in club cricket, even if they read and understand it. There is scope for misunderstanding.

It is also a taxing matter for the bowler. One example is when the striker steps away outside of the leg stump and then steps back in when the ball is bowled. Observing this activity, the bowler may have adjusted the line of delivery towards where the striker had temporarily moved, only to see the ball pass down the leg side, from where the striker had moved at the last second. If the umpire deems that delivery a wide, the bowler will have every right to feel aggrieved. It is difficult enough for many club cricketers to deliver the ball accurately and consistently to where they intend, let alone adjust that line in an instant.

Lateral movement across the crease has not yet infiltrated too much at lower levels. It is not known if cricket’s lawmakers have considered an alternative solution, that of disallowing excessive lateral movement across the crease and insisting that the striker stands still awaiting delivery of the ball. This may need consideration if the amendment causes too much controversy. It is too early to know how these two revisions will affect the playing and umpiring of the game or their potential to generate ill-feeling. 

It ought not to be difficult for a non-striker to stay within ground, in the knowledge that failure to do so can lead to being legitimately run out. Equally, it should not be difficult to legislate that a striker stands still until the ball is being delivered.