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FIFA supports plan to increase number of teams for 2022 World Cup

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FIFA supports plan to increase number

MOSCOW: FIFA moved a step closer on Friday to expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams and hopes to confirm the plans in June if a suitable co-host can be found.

An internal feasibility study supporting the expansion, which is being strongly pushed by president Gianni Infantino, was given full backing by the FIFA council in Miami.

A final decision will now be taken in Paris on June 6 after FIFA and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body’s Congress.

Infantino, who also confirmed a new Club World Cup with 24 teams will begin in 2021 to replace the Confederations Cup, told a press conference: “You have in front of you a happy FIFA president. I am always happy but especially today because we have taken some important decisions. We came to conclusion, yes it’s feasible to move from 32 to 48 teams at the World Cup provided certain conditions are met. We have the duty to look into it, 90 percent are in favour of an increase but it’s not as easy as that. We have to analyse matters carefully and we are working closely with Qatar.”

The move away from the traditional 32 teams which will see 80 matches instead of 64 — the notion was originally slated to come into effect for the 2026 tournament in North America — means one or more other countries will be asked to help Qatar stage the shortened 28-day event which is scheduled to kick off in November 2022.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and United Arab Emirates are all potential options yet rancorous diplomatic disputes has led to the tiny Gulf state being politically isolated from many of its former allies.

Europe boycott

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will need to end their diplomatic blockade of Qatar launched in 2017 if they want to be involved, FIFA’s feasibility study said.

“We know the situation in the Gulf region,” added Infantino. “We are in the lucky position of being in football, and that means you can only care about football. I was pleased with the reaction of the Qataris. We don’t want to regret not analysing the decision.”

Analysts expressed scepticism, however, that regional acrimony can be overcome to enable Infantino’s hoped-for expansion.

“The Gulf Crisis is not going to solved by playing football,” said James Dorsey, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“FIFA recognises that it is out of the question to share (matches) with (the) Qataris’ detractors, the Emiratis and Saudi Arabia. If you pull in Kuwait and Oman, it could aggravate the situation.”

The Qatari organising committee for the 2022 World Cup meanwhile gave a lukewarm response to Friday’s decision, saying organisers would continue planning for a 32-team event.

“We will work with FIFA to determine whether or not a viable operating model does exist and importantly, whether it is in the best interests for football and for the tournament, and for Qatar as the host nation,” a spokesman for Qatar 2022 said.

“Until we reach that conclusion, we will continue to work toward hosting a 32-team World Cup…”

FIFA, meanwhile, have been told that the leading European clubs will boycott a Club World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 2021 which was also given the go-ahead at the meeting in Florida.

A 17-page report distributed to the 37 members of FIFA’s ruling body calls for the new tournament to take place between June 17 and July 4 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup international tournament.

Infantino called the decision to move ahead with the plans an “important milestone for world football” and expects no problems moving forward.

“We should enjoy what is coming,” he said.

But the European Club Association (ECA) said leading European clubs would boycott the event.

An ECA spokesman said: “ECA clubs will not participate in the Club World Cup in 2021 and will assess participation in the Club World Cup in 2024.”

UEFA also confirmed Europe had voted against the new tournament at Friday’s meeting.

There was also confirmation from FIFA that the video assistant referee system (VAR) will be used at the women’s World Cup this summer.

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UEFA probe Ronaldo for ‘improper conduct’ over ‘cojones’ goal celebration

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UEFA probe Ronaldo for 'improper conduct' over 'cojones' goal celebration

MILAN: UEFA on Monday opened an investigation into Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration after scoring a hat-trick in Juventus’ Champions League comeback win against Atletico Madrid last week.

European football’s governing body said Ronaldo was facing charges of “improper conduct” after he mimicked Diego Simeone’s crotch-grabbing ‘cojones’ gesture in last Tuesday’s 3-0 win that sent Juventus through 3-2 on aggregate.

After scoring the decisive penalty four minutes from time, Ronaldo turned towards the Atletico fans and replicated Simeone’s gesture after the Spaniards’ 2-0 first leg win by grasping his genitals and thrusting out his groin.

A decision will be taken by UEFA on March 21.

Juventus take on Dutch club Ajax in the Champions League quarter-finals over two legs, on April 10 in Amsterdam and April 16 in Turin.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri has said he is confident Ronaldo will not be fined or suspended.

“I think everyone celebrated their own way on the field and in the stands. I saw nothing strange, just a celebration. There won’t be a ban,” said Allegri.

Simeone was fined 20,000 euros ($22,000) by UEFA for his gesture.

“He will have seen how I did it at the Wanda Metropolitano and, like me, was trying to show his character,” said the Argentinian coach.

Five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo is the record goal scorer in the European competition with 124 goals in 160 matches.

 

 

 

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Three ex Greek football chiefs sentenced

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ATHENS: Three former Greek football federation presidents received five year suspended prison sentences on Thursday for their part in a 13 million euros ($14.65 million) health fund scandal.
Two other men who had served on the federation’s board when the funds destined for free amateur player health checks were misused were also found guilty.
Former federation presidents Vasilis Gagatsis, Sophocles Pilavios, and Giorgos Girtzikis, as well as former board members Giorgos Sindoris and Giannis Oikonomidis, said they would appeal the verdict.
The scandal involved a health fund which was set up in 2005 but was never implemented despite the convicted men running the scheme until 2013 with a loss of around 13 million euros for the federation.

 

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Ada Hegerberg, football’s golden girl from Norway

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OSLO: She first took to the pitch as a pesky little girl who followed her big sister everywhere. Today she is the top female footballer in the world, crowned with the first women’s Ballon d’Or.

Ada Hegerberg has captivated the football world, a “serial scorer” averaging almost 1.3 goals per match with her French team Olympique Lyonnais.

Hegerberg comes from a footballing family and used to watch her older sister and brother.

“Ada was the type to sabotage Andrine and their brother Silas’s trainings until she was maybe seven or eight years old,” recalls their mother, Gerd Stolsmo, in the family flat in the east of Oslo.

“Then she went to a tournament. And there … she was passed the ball, turned around, made a beeline for the goal, and scored. Again and again and again. Match after match. That was when it became so obvious,” Gerd says.

At the time the football obsessed Hegerbergs were living in Sunndalsora, a sparsely populated town at the end of a fjord on the west coast of Norway.

– Focus on football –

The Hegerberg sisters were such talented players that they allowed to join the local boys’ teams.

In addition to team practices, the family would happily hold extra training sessions together. Nothing was ever left to chance.

On top of that, without her parents’ knowledge, the two girls would rise early in the mornings to run in the wooded hills before school.

Ada’s father Stein Erik Hegerberg is obsessed with details believing even a hair out of place can cost a player precious hundredths of a second on the field

“Once you start, you have to be sure that everything is all set,” he said. “The balls are properly inflated, shoes are polished with the laces well knotted and the hair tied back.”

To allow the children to focus on football, the Hegerbergs moved closer to Oslo.

Like Andrine, Ada joined Kolbotn, one of the top women’s clubs. She stood out.

“She was furious as a 15-year-old when she didn’t play a full match,” recalls her coach at the time, Dan Eggen. “Based on the mentality and the skills at that time you were certain that this was a very good talent”.

 

 

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