International News - Issue 285

Sepp Blatter And Michel Platini Facing Long Bans

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and the head of UEFA Michel Platini could face long bans from football by the end of the year, according sources close to FIFA prosecutors. The pair are being investigated following an undeclared "disloyal" payment of £1.35m in 2011 for consultancy work carried out by Platini on Blatter's behalf nine years earlier. Both men deny any wrongdoing. FIFA's Ethics Committee is handling the case and is keen to have proceedings wrapped by Christmas, with sources saying the pair face "multi-year" suspensions, likely to be at least five years, if found guilty. Blatter and Platini are currently appealing the 90-day provisional bans they have been given, with a decision from FIFA's Appeals Committee expected by the end of the week. Following the decision the case will then be handed over to Hans-Joachim Eckert, the German judge heading up the Ethics Committee inquiry. One caveat to proceedings is the health of 79-year-old Blatter, who has recently had a spell in a Swiss hospital after showing signs of stress. Blatter is expected to state his defence in person in front of an Ethics Committee hearing.It is understood that hearing will have a similar format to a trial, with the charges against the pair set out before the prosecution and defence make their cases. The panel will then reach a decision. Blatter's evidence and testimony will be a key part of proceedings and his absence may have a detrimental effect on the case. Blatter and Platini could take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne if found guilty, with sources hoping any appeal will be completed before the FIFA presidential election on February 26. 

Raul finished his final match as a professional footballer in familiar fashion – with yet another title in the bag. The Spanish striker played the entire match as New York Cosmos beat Ottawa Fury 3-2 in the North American Soccer League Final, setting up the late winning goal as well. It was Raul’s 23rd title, having won the UEFA Champions League three times and six La Liga titles during his 16-year spell at Real Madrid. Gaston Cellerino was the hero for Cosmos with a hat-trick.

Lionel Messi could be a surprise inclusion in the Barcelona squad for El Clasico against Real Madrid this weekend. The Argentine superstar is been out with a knee injury since late September, and was given little chance of facing Los Blancos at the Bernabeu on Saturday. However, he completed a training session with Barcelona B yesterday and could be set for a place on the bench. “Leo completed training,” coach Gerard Lopez told Sport. “I saw him well and I am glad that the recovery is positive. I saw him happy and lively.” Despite Messi’s absence, Barcelona are still top of the standings thanks largely to Neymar’s amazing goalscoring form.

UEFA says there are no plans to alter any of the dates or venues for next year's European Championships in France. The statement by European's football governing body confirmed the tournament would proceed as normal and that stringent security measures had already been put in place. There had been concerns over security in France following Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, in which 129 people were killed and two suicide bombers attempted to enter the national stadium to detonate bombs during the friendly match between France and Germany. France's 1958 World Cup star Just Fontaine was one prominent figure to call on the country to give up hosting rights, claiming: "It is simply too dangerous." But UEFA has reiterated that adequate security measures would be established for the event next summer. In a statement, it said: "Following the dramatic events that occurred last Friday in Paris, UEFA and EURO 2016 SAS wish to reaffirm their commitment in placing safety and security at the centre of their organisational plans."While there is no reason to believe that the EURO might become the target of any attack, the potential terrorist threat has always been taken into account, since the beginning of the project. "All stakeholders involved in the organisation of the tournament will continue their joint work and will regularly monitor the level of risk for the tournament and their respective organisational plans."For over three years now, EURO 2016 SAS has been working closely with the relevant authorities to develop the most appropriate mechanisms in order to guarantee there is a safe and secure tournament and we are confident that the necessary measures will be taken to ensure that is the case for all involved." The draw for the European Championships will go ahead on December 12 at the Palais des Congres in Paris, with next year's tournament to be played in France from June 10 to July 10. 

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France international midfielder Lassana Diarra confirmed that his cousin Asta Diakite was killed in Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris. France were playing Germany in a friendly at Stade de France when two bombs went off outside the stadium, and then a third at a nearby McDonald’s. One of those blasts outside the stadium was a suicide bomber who had planned to detonate his device inside the stadium, but had to change his plan when stadium security discovered the bomb as he tried to enter at the gate. Paris is still in shock following a series of ISIS-orchestrated terrorist attacks that has resulted in 129 confirmed deaths and 352 reported injuries across the French capital. Former Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Diarra confirmed on Twitter that his cousin was one of the victims of one of the shootings. Diarra's France teammate Antoine Griezmann revealed on Saturday night that his sister had escaped from the Bataclan Theatre, where more than 80 people were killed in the worst attack on Friday. The France national team stayed overnight at the Stade de France on Friday night in a show of solidarity with the German team, who opted to remain inside the arena following news of the attacks.   

Former Manchester United defender Garry Neville says the club should forget about Cristiano Ronaldo and try to sign Gareth Bale instead. Rumours over United luring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford have again resurfaces, however, Neville insists the club should go for a different Real Madrid star. The former Red Devils captain believes Ronaldo's return would not bring as much joy to the player and the supporters as many suspect, and says Bale would be a better option. “I am not sure it is such a good thing for Cristiano to come back” says Neville. "I’d prefer us to get Gareth Bale and that’s no disrespect to Cristiano, who I think is possibly the biggest talent I have ever played with - not the best player I ever played with but the biggest talent." “He is an amazing player and what he did for two years at United was out of this world and it was a privilege to be part of it. “But the idea of coming back as his swansong..... it won’t be the same for him as it was before. “It would be about emotion. And I am not sure emotion and sport go together really in that way.”

The draw for the 2016 African Nations Championships in Rwanda was made on last Sunday. South Africa failed to get past Angola in the qualifiers, and their victors were drawn in a group with DR Congo, Cameroon and Ethopia. Defending champions Libya failed to qualify for the 2016 edition of CHAN, which will take place between January 16 and February 7 next year.

Group A
Ivory Coast

Group B

Group C

Group D

FIFA have banned All-Nepal FA president and former Asian Football Confederation vice-president Ganesh Thapa from all football activities for 10 years for bribery. FIFA’s ethics committee has also banned Lao Football Federation president Viphet Sihachakr for two years. Thapa was one of the most influential figures in Asian football for over two decades and is also under investigation by Napalese authorities for the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars of development money. According to a FIFA statement, Thapa “committed various acts of misconduct over several years, including the solicitation and acceptance of cash payments from another football official, for both personal and family gain”. He was also fined 20 000 Swiss francs. Sihachakr, “in the context of the 2011 elections for the FIFA Executive Committee at the AFC congress, solicited and accepted a payment from another football official”. He was also fined 40 000 Swiss francs.

Old Trafford dazzled with past heroes of the game on Saturday afternoon as David Beckham’s Great Britain and Ireland XI beat the Rest of the World XI 3-1 in a UNICEF charity game. Some of the world’s best past greats, including Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Luis Figo, Clarence Seedorf and Ronaldinho turned back the years in the ‘Match for Children’ charity affair. The star-studded line-ups for the charity spectacular were as follows:

Great Britain and Ireland XI: James, Carragher, Terry, Campbell, P Neville, Beckham (c), Butt, Fletcher, Giggs, Scholes, Crouch

Subs: Seaman, Cole, Sinclair, McAllister, Smith, Owen

Rest of World XI: Van Der Sar, Cafu, Couto, Silvestre, Figo (c), Seedorf, Pires, Park, Ronaldinho, Kluivert, Solskjaer 

Subs: Van der Gouw, Hierro, Donovan, Yorke

Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heads the list for the BBC African Footballer of the Year award. The five nominees were announced at Naturena in Johannesburg today, decided by journalists from every country in Africa. The winner will be voted for by the public and will be announced on 11 December. Gabonese international Aubameyang is favourite for the award given his free-scoring ways in the Bundesliga. He will be up against Swansea City’s Andrew Ayew (Ghana), FC Porto forward and reigning Player of the Year Yacine Brahimi (Algeria), Southampton star Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Manchester City talisman Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast).

FIFA have continued their clampdown on corruption, with two more officials being handed bans. Jean Guy Blaise Mayolas, the vice-president of the Congolese Football Association, has been banned for six months, as has Badji Mombo Wantete, the general-secretary. They were found guilty of contravening Article 13 (General rules of conduct) and Article 20 (Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits) of the FIFA Code of Ethics (FCE). Angel Maria Villar Llona, a FIFA vice-president and president of the Spanish FA, has also been warned and fined around 25 000 Euros. A statement read: “Mr Villar Llona failed to behave in accordance with the general rules of conduct applicable to football officials in the context of the investigations conducted by the then chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee regarding the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bids, thereby violating article 13 of the FCE. “As he subsequently expressed his commitment to collaborate and demonstrated a willingness to cooperate, he has been sanctioned with a warning and a fine of CHF 25,000.”

Former Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop has died of cancer at the age of 32. The Hungarian, who earned 24 international caps and played for nine English clubs after moving from MTK Hungaria to Tottenham in 2004, had a tumour removed from his arm in June 2013. Fulop also had spells with Manchester City, Coventry, Leicester, Ipswich and West Brom, while he last played professional football for Greek side Asteras Tripoli in 2012/13.

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery says his eight-month absence through injury has been the most difficult time of his career. The 32-year-old, who recently started light training again, has not played since March due to an ankle problem. "It's been the most difficult time of my career," says Ribery.  "It's tough when you don't know when and how things are going to move on, but no worries - I'll be my old self again soon.”I'm feeling good. I do still feel my ankle a little, but when I am warm, I don't feel anything anymore." The Frenchman added of his progress: "My body's first got to get used to the exertions. Since I was wearing a plaster cast, I lost a lot of muscle and it was a long break. "You've got to take things slowly. It would be nice to be back (in full training) in two or three weeks, to get that feeling of being part of a group back, to laugh with the lads and have fun - I've missed all that."

Sampdoria have appointed Vincenzo Montella as their new first-team coach on a contract until June 2018. The former Italy international replaces former boss Walter Zenga, who was sacked on Tuesday, at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Montella, who previously managed Fiorentina, takes over with the club in 10th place in the Serie A table. The 41-year-old has been without a job since leaving La Viola in June, having led them to a fourth-placed finish last term. Montella had two spells at Samp as a player, scoring 54 goals in 83 appearances during a three-year association with the club between 1996-1999."President Massimo Ferrero and all at Sampdoria are pleased to announce that Vincenzo Montella is officially the new coach of Sampdoria," read a club statement."Montella has signed a contract that will tie him to the club until June 30, 2018 and will be helped by assistant coach Daniele Russo, technical assistants Nicola Caccia and Riccardo Manno, trainer Emanuele Marra, training analyst Cristian Savoia and match analyst Simone Montanaro."

David Moyes has revealed he turned down a number of job opportunities in recent months before being sacked by Real Sociedad. The former Everton and Manchester United manager said in a statement released by the League Managers Association (LMA) that he was "disappointed" not to be able to honour his contract, and felt the side would finish in a strong position in La Liga. Sociedad are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference and a 2-0 defeat by Las Palmas earlier this month was their fourth in five league games and resulted in his sacking almost a year to the day that he was appointed. Moyes said: "I am disappointed to have left Real Sociedad. When I accepted the job as manager of La Real last November, my remit was to avoid relegation and retain the club's La Liga status. "We succeeded in attaining that target and finished 12th in the table. I feel that we made significant progress last season; beating Barcelona in front of our home fans was a memorable highlight. "Despite some positive performances from our team, results have not gone our way in recent weeks. However, I was confident we would finish in a strong position by the end of the season. "I made a firm promise to Real Sociedad to honour my contract and it is disappointing not to be able to fulfil this commitment especially when I have turned down a number of job opportunities in recent months." It is not clear if any of those job offers were from Premier League clubs, but Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa, West Ham and Leicester have all had managerial searches since the end of last season. Despite the abrupt ending to his time at Sociedad, Moyes insists it was a pleasure to work in Spain, and says he has learnt from the experience of managing abroad. "After spending 12 years in the Premier League as manager of Everton and Manchester United, I was keen to take the opportunity to work abroad and have learnt a great deal from the experience. "I would like to thank the club and the President for giving me the opportunity to manage in Spain, at a club with such a rich history of employing British Managers.  "I would also like to thank the players, staff and my assistant, Billy McKinlay, for their support and the wonderful people of San Sebastian.  "It has been a pleasure to work in their beautiful city and immerse myself in their culture. Their warmth and generosity has made me feel very at home over the last year."