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Volume 6 No. 212

International Football

England's national women's football team will hold further meetings with the Professional Footballers' Association as it considers its response to the sacking of former Manager Mark Sampson and the allegations made by Women's Super League 1 side Chelsea striker Eni Aluko, according to Luke Edwards of the London TELEGRAPH. The FA confirmed that it has been "made aware of a series of recent correspondence between members of the team, believed to include Aluko, via text message," but has not received any formal complaint. It is understood that several squad members are "unhappy they have been unable to tell their side of the story and believe certain aspects of the saga have not been portrayed accurately." As a result, they are "considering releasing a collective statement to address several concerns they have." In addition to expressing their grievances to the PFA, the FA confirmed England's players have also been in "regular dialogue" with FA Women's Football Head Sue Campbell "to raise their concerns" (TELEGRAPH, 11/17).

Alejandro Burzaco, the U.S. government's first witness in the FIFA corruption trial, appeared for a third day in federal court in N.Y. on Thursday, following the suicide of a former associate in Argentina whom he implicated in his testimony earlier last week, according to Rebecca Ruiz of the N.Y. TIMES. His third day of testimony "also followed apparent attempts at intimidation by one of the three South American defendants sitting across the courtroom." Burzaco, "fleshing out further details" of how his former company, Torneos y Competencias, had paid six- and seven-figure annual bribes to football officials, including the defendants on trial, in exchange for "lucrative broadcasting contracts," said, "There is a lot of money in football, and a lot of bad men in the business." A lawyer for one of the defendants -- South America's former top football official, Juan Ángel Napout -- challenged Burzaco on Thursday in a "contentious cross-examination," asking if he had personally delivered the cash bribes in question, given no records of wire transfers to his client had been produced. Burzaco said, "I don't know where Napout collected his money. But he did disclose to me that he received it." Burzaco said Thursday that he had been drawn to working in football "more by its glamour than its economics." Burzaco: "People are more interesting in football than telephone companies." The others about whom he testified on Thursday included the network of "once all-powerful" South American football officials "whose influence extended globally through their roles at FIFA." Among them were Julio Grondona, a top FIFA official and president of the Argentine FA until he died in '14; Ricardo Teixeira, the longtime president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) until '12; and Nicolás Leoz, the former president of the Paraguayan FA. On Thursday, a judge in Paraguay approved the U.S. Justice Department's request to extradite Leoz, 89, who has been under house arrest in Asunción. Given Leoz's advanced age and health issues, the judge ordered him to be "assessed by a medical panel first" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/16).

'FAKE NEWS': The AP's Rey & Wade reported the FIFA corruption trial "illustrates the political power" of football in Latin America, "with tentacles reaching beyond the field and possibly into the office of a national president." During testimony, Burzaco alleged a "web of bribes connected to the administration of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and the government's telecasting" of professional football matches. Mark Jones, who teaches Latin American politics at Rice University, said, "The equivalent would be if the United States government were to take over the televising rights for the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NCAA and televise everything for free." On her Facebook page on Thursday, Fernandez called a headline in daily La Nacion, which linked her to bribes in the Fútbol Para Todos program, "fake news." She wrote, "If the cover of La Nacion were from a foreign paper, I would sue for malice and false headlines in that country and I would surely win." Fernandez's state-run coverage of Argentine soccer began in '09. Using a "populist appeal," she said at the time that "all of her compatriots had the right to watch" football on TV -- not just those who could pay for it. Fernandez said that having the games only on pay-TV was "kidnapping goals" from the public (AP, 11/16).

A "loophole that allows national teams to boost their seedings for the World Cup by avoiding friendly matches is likely to disappear" after next year’s tournament in Russia, with changes due to the int'l calendar and a FIFA review of its rankings system. Currently, seedings are based on the FIFA world rankings, "using a points system which calculates average points for each game and is weighted against friendly matches" (REUTERS, 11/16).

A-League side Central Coast Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp "lashed out" at Football Federation Australia, "accusing it of failing to embrace a proper strategy that will help boost attendances" for the league. Mielekamp’s "displeasure" comes after the Mariners attracted just 5,000 fans to Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to Adelaide United in Gosford. The club "was unhappy that it was forced to play on a night and timeslot that was totally unsuitable" for its supporters (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/18).

Denmark's national women's team "received a four-year suspended ban" from UEFA competition matches "for which it would otherwise qualify" after refusing to play a World Cup qualifying game with Sweden. The Euro 2017 finalist went on strike "over pay and conditions," causing the game on Oct. 20 to be called off (BBC, 11/17).

A total of 159,402 tickets for the 2018 World Cup (98% of those currently available) have been allocated to fans around the world through FIFA.com/tickets. Only special-access tickets remained a few hours after the ticket sales period opened. Some 51% of the ticket applications have been placed by Russian fans, with int'l demand accounting for the remaining 49% (FIFA). 

China officially decided to establish two national women's football teams, the Red Team and the Yellow Team. The Chinese FA said in an official statement that this move "aims to enable China to make it to the top" of women's football, as well as prepare for major int'l events. It is expected the Red Team will act as the first team to participate in int'l games, while the Yellow Team will become the reserves (YUTANG, 11/15).