Former Fox executives in Brooklyn court as FIFA corruption case kicks off

Former Fox executives in Brooklyn court as FIFA corruption case kicks off
Assistant US Attorney Victor Zapana gives his opening statement while pointing to Hernan Lopez far left in red tie, in Brooklyn federal court, in New York. (AP)
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Updated 18 January 2023

Former Fox executives in Brooklyn court as FIFA corruption case kicks off

Former Fox executives in Brooklyn court as FIFA corruption case kicks off
  • The charges are part of a long-running corruption probe surrounding FIFA, the world governing body for soccer

NEW YORK: A criminal case against two former 21st Century Fox executives and a sports marketing company accused of bribing South American soccer officials to obtain lucrative broadcasting rights will reveal “a culture of corruption,” a prosecutor told a jury in a Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday.

The former Fox executives, Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez, and Buenos Aires-based Full Play Group SA have pleaded not guilty to crimes including wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

The charges are part of a long-running corruption probe surrounding FIFA, the world governing body for soccer.

“This case is about the corruption of international soccer,” prosecutor Victor Zapana told jurors in opening statements, saying the alleged scheme funneled money that could have gone toward building stadiums and developing youth and women’s leagues into the pockets of corrupt officials.

Zapana said the next several weeks of trial would show how the defendants joined a “culture of corruption” and aimed to cover their tracks using secret ledgers and coded messages.

An attorney for Full Play Group said the allegedly illicit payments were “expected, asked for and even demanded” by South American soccer officials. The “institutionalized” nature of the payments meant Full Play never intended to defraud anyone, lawyer Mayling Blanco said.

An attorney for Lopez told jurors his client was not aware of the bribes and immediately reported them to Fox upon learning of them.

“The evidence will show he had no reason to get involved in this crime,” lawyer John Gleeson said.

Martinez’s lawyer told jurors that the government’s case rests largely on testimony from cooperating witnesses who lack credibility.

“There are no emails corroborating any of this,” lawyer Steven McCool said.

Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco is set to testify as the government’s star witness, reprising a role he played in 2017, when he took the stand against three former soccer officials in a related case. Burzaco pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2015 and admitted to paying more than $160 million in bribes. He has yet to be sentenced.

Prosecutors accuse Lopez and Martinez of scheming to bribe officials at South America’s soccer federation CONMEBOL to win broadcasting rights for that continent’s top club tournament, the Copa Libertadores.

They are also accused of using bribes to help Fox obtain inside information about bidding for US broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Fox paid $400 million for the English-language rights to both tournaments in 2011.

Walt Disney Co. bought most of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Disney is not a defendant.

The charges are part of a sprawling FIFA corruption probe unveiled in May 2015. More than 40 defendants have been criminally charged in the probe, and at least 30 have pleaded guilty.

Ibrahimovic gives Qatar 10/10 for World Cup organization

Ibrahimovic gives Qatar 10/10 for World Cup organization
Sweden's forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic attends press conference in Solna on March 21. AFP
Updated 14 sec ago

Ibrahimovic gives Qatar 10/10 for World Cup organization

Ibrahimovic gives Qatar 10/10 for World Cup organization
  • The 41-year-old player was responding to a journalist’s question during a press conference ahead of Sweden’s European Championship qualifier against Belgium

Riyadh: Swedish football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has given Qatar 10 out of 10 for its organization of the 2022 World Cup.

The 41-year-old player was responding to a journalist’s question during a press conference on Tuesday ahead of Sweden’s European Championship qualifier against Belgium on Friday.

Ibrahimovic, currently preparing for the game at his country’s national team camp, appeared surprised when asked about the Qatari competition as Sweden had not taken part in the tournament.

He said: “It was fantastic. As awesome as it gets. I was there for two days with the family.”

The Milan striker rated different aspects of Qatar.

“The organization: 10 points. The experience: 10 points. The match: 10 points. Crowd: 10 points. The food: 10 points. The journey: 10 points. Everything was 10 points,” he added.

Ibrahimovic, Sweden’s team captain, gave the journalist a teasing smirk before asking him if he had been looking for another answer, to which the reporter referenced alleged human rights abuses. Ibrahimovic stuck to his rating and gave it yet another “10 points.”

In a previous interview, with broadcaster SVT, about Qatar, he said: “Qatar as a country, I think it is a system that works. Are there drugs? No. Is there crime? No. Is there crime in Sweden? Yes, very much. Drugs? Yes.

“Qatar’s system works. The Swedish system? It works, but if it works 100 percent, I don’t know,” he added.

Qatar’s organization of the World Cup as the first Arab country won the praise of FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, who described the 2022 edition as the “best” in the tournament’s history.

Date confirmed for Abu Dhabi Marathon 2023

Date confirmed for Abu Dhabi Marathon 2023
Updated 18 min 7 sec ago

Date confirmed for Abu Dhabi Marathon 2023

Date confirmed for Abu Dhabi Marathon 2023
  • Next edition of the ADNOC-sponsored race will take place on Dec. 16, with community series running year-round

ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Sports Council has confirmed that the next edition of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon will take place on Dec. 16, 2023.

Following the announcement by UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan that 2023 will be the “Year of Sustainability,” the fifth ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon will place emphasis on sustainability, with several initiatives focused on minimizing the environmental impact of the event and reducing waste.

“We are thrilled to announce the new ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon date,” said Suhail Abdulla AlAreefi, executive director of the events sector at the ADSC. “The 2022 edition, held on a stunning new city course that covered the UAE capital’s most prominent landmarks, was a huge success,  attracting more than 20,000 participants from across the UAE and beyond.”

“The ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon has cemented its place on the running calendar as a platform to engage in physical activity and pursue a healthy, active lifestyle. We look forward to welcoming even more participants and spectators to the fifth ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon.”

Dr. Saif Al-Nasseri, ADNOC’s group human capital director, said: “The ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon is now established as a major sporting event and we are delighted to kick-start the countdown to this fifth edition. Together with ADSC, we are placing sustainability at the heart of the event and taking measures to ensure an eco-friendlier race.

“ADNOC continues to prioritize sporting initiatives that positively contribute to the well-being of our community, and we are confident that the fifth ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon will build on the success of the past four races, inspiring our community to embrace a healthier and more active lifestyle.”

As well as the flagship race on Dec. 16, organizers announced that the Marathon Race Series will once again provide year-round engagement and training opportunities, designed to help runners prepare for the main event.  The first community race will take place in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 2 and will be a shorter-distance indoor run. The second event is scheduled for Oct. 7 in Al-Ain. The series will conclude on Nov. 4 at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, with a half marathon event.

In preparation for the marathon, a free eight-month training program will be launched after Ramadan. Led by experienced coaches, sessions will be provided across the UAE and are designed to help runners of all levels prepare for their chosen distance.

Novak Djokovic hails Dubai’s ‘champion mentality’

Novak Djokovic hails Dubai’s ‘champion mentality’
Updated 23 March 2023

Novak Djokovic hails Dubai’s ‘champion mentality’

Novak Djokovic hails Dubai’s ‘champion mentality’
  • World No. 1 says the city is his ‘second home’ and top global choice for innovation

DUBAI: World No. 1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic described Dubai as his “second home” and hailed its winning mentality at Dubai Future District Fund’s annual general meeting yesterday.

The Serbian tennis player praised the emirate’s “incredible and rapid growth” in a conversation with Becky Anderson, managing editor at CNN Abu Dhabi & Anchor, at the Museum of the Future. The 22-time Grand Slam winner lauded Dubai and the UAE’s “culture of innovation” which has had a major positive impact around the world.

“I want to have Dubai as a base for my business and innovation,” the 35-year-old said in a fireside chat titled “Belief to Champion.”

“I love the champion mentality here in Dubai. I love that people here want to be the best in the world. And I’m sure that with this kind of mentality and approach, they will become the leaders.”

In a wide-ranging discussion, Djokovic spoke on the “trials and tribulations” he faced as a young child growing up in conflict-hit Serbia and how those experiences helped him become one of the greatest-ever men’s tennis players.

“I was a young boy who dared to dream big and believe that those dreams would come true,” he added. “Obviously coming from a war-torn country in the 1990s, it was not easy and there was a lot of adversity in society and challenges that my family had to face to support and fund the career of a tennis player.

“It has had a great influence on my character. Waiting in line for several hours from 6 a.m. to have a piece of bread that we would all share. It was hard but at the same time I look back and reflect on that as a very important stage in my life.”

Jessica Smith, an Australian Paralympic swimmer who has one of the world’s most advanced bionic arms, also spoke at DFDF’s meeting.

Fitted with a prosthetic limb at 18 months old and then suffering third-degree burns to 15 percent of her body as a toddler, Smith said she understood adversity when medical professionals saw her as “broken and incomplete.”

But this did not deter her. “I was going to prove to the world that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do without any help,” she said. “We are no longer looking at disability through a medical lens, but a social one. We realize people are more disabled by their social environment than their own disabilities.”

With the global disability community boasting $13 trillion in spending power per year, Smith also called on companies to accelerate disability-focused innovation and praised the UAE’s work in this field. “I am so grateful to the UAE leaders who are working hard to create more inclusive pathways for people of determination.”

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories
Updated 23 March 2023

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories
  • A win in Kathmandu over the GCC country sees Nepal advance in World Cup qualifiers

Evidence of cricket’s deepening and widening appeal is apparent in its growth in an increasing number of countries. The game’s ability to generate occasions of high drama and tension is being witnessed in diverse locations.

Last week, this was nowhere more apparent than in Nepal, a country not normally considered a cricket playing nation in many people’s minds.

Until the 1980s, the game was a niche activity, limited to Kathmandu. A major development program, introduced in the early 1990s, boosted playing participation and facilities. This led to the first appearance of a Nepal men’s team in an international tournament, the Asia Cricket Cup, in 1996. In the same year, Nepal became an Associate member of the International Cricket Council. Steady growth in performance was rewarded with ICC T20I status in 2014 and ODI status in 2018.

This was achieved in dramatic fashion, something that has become a hallmark of Nepal’s cricketing personality.

Nepal needed to win its final match in a World Cup qualifying tournament and then hope that the Netherlands beat Hong Kong, which they did. All of this was against a backdrop of Nepal’s cricket board having been suspended by the ICC in 2016 for a breach of ICC regulation Article 2.9, which prohibits government interference and requires free and fair elections. Conditional readmittance was granted by the ICC in October 2019.

After ODI status had been secured, Nepal’s captain at the time, Paras Khadka, referred to “years and years of toil, persistence, sacrifices, commitment and hard work.” He also referred to the need to stabilize domestic structures, if ambitions to reach an ODI World Cup and even Test playing status, were to be realized. In 10 years since 2008, Nepal has risen from being in Division 5 to being within touching distance of the big players.

One factor that is not missing domestically is the level of fan support. Nepal is recognized as being the most fervently supported ICC Associate member. This fervor has spilled over on occasions. In February 2010, when Nepal looked to be losing a Division 5 match against the US, the crowd threw objects onto the field, causing an hour’s delay. This led to a revised target, which helped Nepal, who edged into Division 4 on net run rate at the expense of Singapore, who appealed. A conditional ban was imposed, with the height of stadium walls ordered to be increased. In December 2011, a similar crowd disturbance occurred in a match with the UAE, leading to a ban on hosting ICC events in 2012.

There was no ban in 2013, when Nepal hosted the Asia Cricket Cup, reaching the final, only to be beaten by Afghanistan. Crowds of between 15,000 and 20,000 were reported to have attended group stage matches, rising to 25,000 for the semifinal and final, which was free of crowd disruption.

Hundreds of thousands watched the match live on television. The explanation for such support may lie in the composition of the team, which comprises indigenous players, who have progressed through the age group ranks. It may also lie in the absence of ticketing arrangements in the past.

Although this was not the case for Nepal’s match against the UAE on March 16, 2023, it may as well have been, according to reports. The occasion was infused with expectation. It was the final match of 134 played in League 2 of the ICC 2023 ODI World Cup qualifying phase.

The outcome would finalize the third team which would progress to the next stage, one step away from playing in the World Cup in India in October and November. Scotland and Oman had finished first and second, with Namibia holding third place, one point ahead of Nepal.

In early February 2023, Nepal seemed to have little chance of making the third place, languishing in the second to bottom spot. The UAE were much better placed, but imploded in their last 10 matches, winning only three.

Surprisingly, their defeats included three by bottom team Papua New Guinea. Nepal, on the other hand, won 10 of its last 11 matches prior to the final match against the UAE, which was out of the running for third place.

Long queues formed several hours before the start of play. Later, people climbed the surrounding walls and trees, before the main gate and its defenders were breached. The Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, is one of only two grounds to host international matches in Nepal. Its capacity is 18,000 but eyewitnesses suggest that more than 25,000 gained access to the ground. They were disappointed by the UAE’s progress, which saw a huge score of 310 being posted, including the fastest century by an ODI Associate cricketer.

In response to this mammoth target, Nepal lost three wickets cheaply, before rebuilding. A rain shower tightened the nerves of spectators, as Nepal was behind in the par score at that point. They became even more tense as they witnessed the UAE’s tactics to slow the game down.

Fears of disturbance rose. Some Nepalese players pleaded with supporters to stay calm. Then, at 5:37 p.m. local time, with 44 overs bowled, the umpires decided that it was too dark for play to continue. Nepal had scored 269 for six. According to the DLS system used to calculate interruptions to play, Nepal’s target at that point was 260. Another victory had been achieved in dramatic circumstances, against old foes, who were mightily displeased.

The UAE will now join a playoff competition in Namibia between March 26 and April 5. This comprises the bottom four teams in League 2, plus Canada and Jersey, who won feeder Challenger leagues.

ODI status is at stake for the UAE, since the two highest placed teams out of the UAE, Namibia, Canada and Jersey will secure ODI status for the 2023-2027 World Cup cycle. The UAE’s leading players participated in the DP World ILT20 League in January and February.

Since then, the team’s performance has stalled badly, whereas Nepal’s star has risen.

5 things to keep an eye on at the 2023 Dubai World Cup

5 things to keep an eye on at the 2023 Dubai World Cup
Updated 23 March 2023

5 things to keep an eye on at the 2023 Dubai World Cup

5 things to keep an eye on at the 2023 Dubai World Cup
  • Some of world’s best trainers, jockeys and horses will light up Meydan Racecourse on Saturday

The 27th Dubai World Cup on Saturday, March 25, is set to attract some of the world’s best trainers, jockeys and horses to Meydan Racecourse, and here are five things to watch out for.

The best horse in the world

He’s called Equinox, trained in Japan and he’s very, very good. He runs in the $6 million Longines Dubai Sheema Classic and is one of a record 27 Japanese runners on the night. Last year they won five races, how many trophies will they take home this time?

Frankie Dettori’s last ride in Dubai

He’s the world’s most famous jockey and he’s retiring at the end of the year. Dettori’s career was arguably made in Dubai thanks to his association with Godolphin. He’s won four editions of the Dubai World Cup and will defend last year’s title on Country Grammer which is likely to be his last ride at Meydan. Will we see that famous flying dismount one last time?

Cheer on your country

There are 130 horses from 13 different countries racing on Saturday, including five from Hong Kong, four from Ireland and one from Australia. Jockeys are from all over the world, including Spain, Panama and Brazil. Chances are there will be someone to cheer on from your country, or you can support the UAE through the formidable Godolphin team who have Rebel’s Romance, Nations Pride and Real World among a plethora of strong chances.

A spectacular … but secret finale

Due to the holy month of Ramadan, there is no post-race concert this year but the closing ceremony promises to be spellbinding. Expect fireworks, drones, lights … the rest is being kept a closely guarded secret.

High Style Stakes

Fancy yourself a fashionista? There’s more than $81,200 (AED300,000) worth of prizes up for grabs in the Style Stakes which now features a new Best Traditional Outfit category. You’ve got to be in it to win it as they say — and that includes you, gentlemen.