Maradona is among a host of former World Cup winners lined up for the World Cup draw in Moscow next week. Maradona, who captained Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986, joins fellow World Cup winners Laurent Blanc of France, Gordon Banks of England, Cafu of Brazil, Fabio Cannavaro of Italy and Carles Puyol of Spain as draw assistants, football world governing body FIFA said yesterday.
Uruguay’s Diego Forlan, who played in the 2014 edition, joins the assistants along with 91-year-old Russian football great Nikita Simonyan, who played at the 1958 World Cup. Miroslav Klose, a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014 and all-time leading World Cup scorer, had already been announced as trophy bearer, ensuring all eight World Cup-winning nations are represented at the show.
The assistants will join England striker Gary Lineker and Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya, who will host the December 1 draw at the State Kremlin Palace. FIFA president Gianni Infantino said it was “a great line-up” featuring “legends from all of the former World Cup winning countries.” The 32-team World Cup opens June 14 and concludes July 15.
Zlatan dethroned after a
decade as Sweden’s best player
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s unbroken ten-year run as Sweden’s best player came to an end on Monday when FC Krasnodar defender Andreas Granqvist won the country’s Golden Ball for 2017. Ibrahimovic, who retired from international football after a disappointing Swedish showing at Euro 2016, dominated the award from 2007 to 2016 and took it 11 times overall.
No other player has won it more than twice. Granqvist, Ibrahimovic’s successor as captain, last week led Sweden to a 1-0 aggregate playoff victory over Italy to reach next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Sweden’s 36-year-old record goal-scorer, who returned from serious knee injury for Manchester United against Newcastle United on Saturday, wasn’t left completely empty-handed at the Fotbollsgalan awards, however. His club performances won him the best attacker prize.
FIFA bans three disgraced
officials for life
FIFA’s ethics committee yesterday slapped lifetime bans on three former world football executives who have all pleaded guilty to corruption charges in US courts. Rafael Esquivel, a former head of the Venezuelan Football Association, Nicaragua’s Julio Rocha, a former FIFA development officer, and Richard Lai of Guam, who served on FIFA’s auditing body, have all been barred from any further involvement in the sport.
The three are among the 42 officials and marketing executives who have been indicted by the United States justice department as part of its sprawling probe into football corruption. Esquivel, who also served as the vice president of South American governing body CONMEBOL, pleaded guilty to racketeering and wire fraud in November of last year.
He admitted to taking bribes in exchange for the awarding of football media and marketing rights. Rocha, who once headed Nicaragua’s football association, pleaded guilty to similar offences in December 2016.
Lai, in addition to his FIFA role, also led the football association in his native Guam. He pleaded guilty in April to a variety of corruption-related offences including selling his vote ahead FIFA elections.
The US investigation, which came to light in May 2015, uncorked the largest scandal in the history of world football. The first trial in the case began last week in New York, where three South American former officials are accused of graft worth million of dollars.
Udinese sack Del Neri
and hire Oddo
Former Italian international Massimo Oddo was yesterday appointed coach of struggling Serie A club Udinese hours after Luigi Del Neri was fired. The 41-year-old Oddo — a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006 — previously coached his hometown club Pescara to Serie A before being sacked last season.
Former Juventus and Roma coach Del Neri paid the price after Udinese dropped to 14th in Serie A, just three points above the drop zone.
Del Neri, 67, joined Udinese in October 2016 and led them to 13th place, but with four wins and eight defeats so far he was fired with another relegation battle looming. Oddo — who played for Napoli, Lazio, AC Milan and Bayern Munich — is set for a baptism of fire as Udinese entertain league leaders Napoli on Sunday.
Former Italian football
president accused of harassment
Carlo Tavecchio, who quit as head of Italian football on Monday, was accused of sexual harassment by a former executive of the federation in an interview published yesterday. The woman, given the pseudonym “Mary” by Milan daily Corriere della Sera described an encounter with Tavecchio in his office at the federation’s headquarters in Rome.
The woman told Corriere that she was harassed over a period of time and quit the Italian football federation. She said she had decided to come forward when she realised that Tavecchio’s resignation did not signal that he intended to quit the sport.
On Monday, Tavecchio, who is 74, finally heeded calls to go following Italy’s elimination in a World Cup playoff against Sweden a week earlier. At a press conference to announce his decision, he said he regretted that he was the only person at the federation to have resigned.
Match fixing probe
rocks Thai league
Top flight players, referees and a club director are among a dozen people under investigation for match fixing, Thai officials said yesterday, in a scandal that threatens to engulf the domestic football league.
The men were arrested and released on bail after a year-long probe found the half-time or full-time scores of at least four top tier Thai Premier League this season were fixed.
The 12 are accused of “receiving money or benefits in order to throw a game” or influencing others to throw a game or manipulate the score, the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) said in a statement.
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