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FIFA has ordered flags to fly at half-staff at all 209 member association as a show of respect for former South African President NELSON MANDELA, who died at his Johannesburg home on Thursday at 95. FIFA President SEPP BLATTER called Mandela "an extraordinary person," and "probably one of the greatest humanists of our time and a dear friend of mine." Blatter: "He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peach and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values as a school of life. ... Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever. The memories of his remarkable fight against oppression, his incredible cfharisma and his positive values will live on in us and with us" (FIFA). ... REUTERS' Cropley & Fletcher wrote Mandela's "last major appearance on the global stage" was in '10 at the championship match of the World Cup, where "he received a thunderous ovation" from the 90,000 at the stadium in Soweto, "the neighborhood in which he cut his teeth as a resistance leader" (REUTERS, 12/5). The BBC wrote that South African cricket player AB DE VILLIERS tweeted, "Let us now, more than ever, stick together as a nation! We owe him that much. #Mabida you will be missed! (BBC, 12/5).
USED SPORTS TO FURTHER CAUSE: CNN's Faith Karimi wrote that Mandela used sports to help in "South Africa's fight for reconcilliation" in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg against heavily favored New Zealand, which was captured in CLINT EASTWOOD's film "Invictus." Rugby was the sport of the white Afrikaners and was "reviled by blacks" in the country. Before the game, Mandela walked onto the pitch, wearing a green-and-gold South African jersey bearing white team captain FRANCOIS PIENAAR's number on the back. Mandela body guard RORY STEYN said, "I will never forget the goosebumps that stood on my arms when he walked out onto the pitch before the game started. That crowd, which was almost exclusively white ... started to chant his name. That one act of putting on a No. 6 jersey did more than any other statement in bringing white South Africans and Afrikaners on side with new South Africa" (CNN, 12/5).
SPORTS WORLD REACTS:
NBA Commissioner DAVID STERN: "Nelson Mandela was one of the most powerful and inspirational leaders in the world and a great friend of the NBA. He led his nation to democracy at incredible personal sacrifice, and in rebuilding it he know how to harness the power of sport to inspire and unite people of all backgrounds."
Former NBA player DIKEMBE MUTOMBO: "I thank God for giving me a chance to meet a great Leader and man of Faith. Miss you Madiba."
Golfer GARY PLAYER: "Condolences to all on the passing of our beloved Father of the South African Nation, Nelson Mandela. Madiba we loved you. Rest in Peace."
PELE: "He was my hero, my friend, and also a companion to me in our fight for the people and for world peace."
CRISTIANO RONALDO: "Thankful Madiba for your legacy and your example. You'll always stay with us."
Broadcaster GARY LINEKER: "The greatest man on the planet has died. RIP Nelson Mandela."
Spain's Supreme Court has reduced from seven-and-a-half to seven years the prison sentence for lawyer and La Liga Sevilla President JOSÉ MARÍA DEL NIDO for his role in the "Minutas" case, according to Esperanza Codina of EL PAIS. Del Nido was originally sentenced in Dec. '11 for his part in the case, which involved the embezzlement of public funds in Marbella, Spain. The alleged offenses "took place between '99 and '03, when Del Nido was working as a lawyer." Former Marbella Mayor JULIÁN MUÑOZ was "also sentenced to seven years." The Supreme Court convicted Del Nido of "embezzlement and corruption, but dropped fraud charges and reduced the sentence by six months." Del Nido "had remained the Sevilla president until now, but will have to delegate his role to someone else because he is headed to prison barring something exceptional in his appeal causing a suspended sentence" (EL PAIS, 12/5).
SEVILLA'S REACTION: In Madrid, Alberto Fernández reported the Supreme Court's decision to sentence Del Nido to seven years in prison "will open new paths at the club to succeed Del Nido, who had been the club's visible face" since '02. Sevilla VP PEPE CASTRO will fill Del Nido's role as president, "as expected, while the surprise is the return of JOSÉ MARÍA CRUZ." Cruz, the former Sevilla VP, "will return as a strongman within the club's new leadership" (AS, 12/5).
Former Thai national football team Manager PETER WITHE has returned to Thailand as coach of Thai Premier League side PTT Rayong. PTT Rayong "will play in the Thai Premier League next season, having been promoted from League One along with champions Air Force and Singhtarua (formerly Thai Port)" (BANGKOK POST, 12/5). ... The National Rugby League has appointed SANDRA OLSEN "to sell rugby league's image into the future." Olsen will replace veteran JOHN BRADY as the new communications boss. Olsen is a former Sydney Daily Telegraph journalist "who more recently worked for Infrastructure NSW" under former premier NICK GREINER. The appointment was announced Thursday by NRL CEO DAVE SMITH. Olsen "takes up her new role with the NRL" on Jan. 13 (Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/5). ... The son of Arsenal majority shareholder STAN KROENKE "has been appointed" a non-Exec Dir at the club. JOSH KROENKE will take on the position in a move the 33-year-old said would "reaffirm our family's long-term commitment to the club." Kroenke, a financial management graduate of the University of Missouri, "is set to combine the role with his duties with the family's sporting empire" in the U.S. (London DAILY MAIL, 12/5). ... Infront Sports & Media announced that Infront Germany Managing Dir of Sales RAIF KOSLOWSKI will leave the company by mutual agreement. REINHARDT WEINBERGER will continue to lead the business as he temporarily takes over the responsibilities of Koslowski (Infront). ... Figer and Kentaro have appointed JOSE DE LORENZO MESSINA as the managing director of its Brazilian joint venture, Kentaro Figer, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Messina, 52, has experience in the media and sports markets in Latin America and Brazil having worked in particular in senior roles for both Telefonica (as sales director) and as exec director for Telecom Italia (TIM). Messina has subsequently run his own agency, Unideias, working on a range of sports and media projects for many of Brazil's major sponsoring companies (Kentaro).
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A Philippine court on Thursday "slapped a gag" order on both boxer MANNY PACQUIAO and the tax bureau as they "battle over his allegedly unpaid taxes which are worth tens of millions of dollars." The tax appeals court "ordered both sides not to make any public comment on the dispute" during a hearing about the Bureau of Internal Revenue's allegations that Pacquiao owes $50M in unpaid taxes in '08 and '09 (AFP, 12/5). ... Former Spain coach LUIS ARAGONES, the founder of the country's "tiki-taka" style of football, "is retiring." The 75-year-old Aragones, who last coached in '09 at Turkish club Fenerbahce, said, "Age has retired me. When I left Turkey I knew it would be difficult to continue and today it is definitive" (AP, 12/5). ... Australian sprinter JOSH ROSS "has reportedly been handed a two-year ban for missing three drug tests this year" (THE AGE, 12/5). ... Horse trainer GERARD BUTLER was "disqualified for five years" by the British Horseracing Authority on Wednesday after nine horses in his care tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol. Irishman Butler, based in Newmarket, England, "admitted injecting horses with a product for injured joints and faced seven charges of breaching the Rules of Racing" (REUTERS, 12/5). ... Sweden coach ERIK HAMREN "will stay on" despite the team's failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Hamren signed a contract extension through the European Championship in '16 (AP, 12/5).
Chelsea leftback ASHLEY COLE: "You changed the world. You may be gone but your words of wisdom will live on forever. #RIPMrNelsonMandela #Hero"
Sprinter USAIN BOLT: "One of the greatest human beings ever..May your soul rest in peace..The worlds greatest fighter…"
FIFA President SEPP BLATTER: "My respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time: Nelson Mandela."
Real Madrid forward CRISTIANO RONALDO: "Thankful Madiba for your legacy and your example. You"ll always stay with us."
London Times' RORY SMITH: "Played football with a Brazuca today. It's pretty round. Can confirm it is still entirely possible to shank shots with it, though. #science"
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