Zaslal/a wh3171 10.2.2020 9:45
GENEVA -- After declaring FIFAs image crisis over four months ago, questions are being raised about Gianni Infantino as he heads to world soccers next big election.The FIFA president will be a guest in Athens on Wednesday as his former UEFA colleagues vote to replace Michel Platini, who was ousted after the FIFA ethics committee banned him for taking a $2 million payment from Sepp Blatter.The favorite to become the next UEFA president is Aleksander Ceferin of Slovenia, who was so little known before the campaign that many wonder if Infantino and his staff have intervened to support him. Ceferin will be up against UEFA vice president Michael van Praag of the Netherlands, an outspoken critic of Blatter in recent years.I am neutral. The FIFA president is neutral in any election at confederation level, Infantino said. This is very clear.Infantino said his staff also has not acted, dismissing reports in Dutch and Scandinavian media that one of his FIFA advisers, who is from Norway, has lobbied for Ceferin. Van Praag reportedly sought a meeting in May in Milan to ask Infantino if he had chosen sides.Ceferins campaign for UEFA president emerged in May, soon after Infantino joined his former UEFA colleagues on a trip to Slovenia to open a national soccer center. Weeks later, FIFA appointed Tomaz Vesel as an independent auditor overseeing its billion-dollar annual income -- and Infantinos salary and bonuses. Vesel is also from Slovenia and plays on a veterans soccer team with Ceferin.Mark Pieth, a former FIFA reform adviser, said he was skeptical of claims that Infantino has changed the FIFA culture after years of scandal and murky decision-making.There is no `new FIFA, Pieth told The Associated Press. Its a bit of a variation on what we have been used to. Here, its blatant cronyism.UEFA is the richest and most influential of soccers six continental bodies. It organizes the Champions League, which showcases most of the worlds best players. The European Championship draws a global TV audience for the final that is more than double that of the Super Bowl.The next UEFA president will serve the final 2+ years of Platinis term. The winner also becomes a FIFA vice president, helps shape strategy in the FIFA Council, and supports Infantino in urgent rulings made by the confederation heads.Infantino came to power after a cycle of turmoil that started in May 2015 when American and Swiss federal authorities revealed an investigation into bribery and corruption. A generation of FIFA leaders were removed from office, including Blatter and one-time protege Platini.Van Praag, a former club president of four-time European champion Ajax, is an election veteran compared to Ceferin. He opposed Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 2015, defying a UEFA strategy to unseat the incumbent but struggled to get support from his colleagues. He withdrew days before the vote, leaving Prince Ali of Jordan as the sole challenger.Ceferin, a criminal lawyer, joined the board of Olimpija Ljubljana before being elected Slovenian soccer federation president in 2011. He later joined the FIFA disciplinary committee.The 48-year-old Ceferin is untainted by FIFAs past excesses, but his clear link to Vesel, the governing bodys new audit and compliance committee chairman, has caused concern.FIFA rules state the job of overseeing how it earns and spends its World Cup revenue can only go to a person with no material financial relationship to a member federation. It was done until May by Domenico Scala, a pharmaceutical industry executive who resigned amid disputes with Infantino, including a no-bonus rule for the president.Vesel, however, could within days be responsible for setting the FIFA salary of his teammate on the soccer team in the Slovene capital.Pieth, a compliance expert, said the Slovenia link was less camouflaged than in the Blatter era.There is a personal friendship, Pieth told the AP. Theres not a general rule against that kind of thing but its simple patronage. Its clear.Infantino dismissed such doubts when asked if the institutional independence of Vesel, Slovenias state auditor, could be compromised by his connection to Ceferin.Everyone plays football, everybody loves football, Infantino said last week. Its good that people (who) love football work in football as well.I just hope that the one who will be elected will work in a positive way with me as well, Infantino added. A strong FIFA needs a strong UEFA. 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The Croatian served 21 aces and hit 42 winners against Sijsling, who double-faulted to give Cilic a 4-3 lead in the deciding set. "All the players, they know me and they were really happy to see me and they were really happy that this is over for me," Cilic said. Dean Lowry Super Bowl Jersey . It was just business as usual for the Thunder at home. Durant scored 32 points and the Thunder beat the Bulls 107-95 on Thursday night for their eighth straight win. SANDY, Utah -- Javier Morales scored a goal and assisted another to fuel a first-half outburst that lifted Real Salt Lake to a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night. Robbie Findley and Ned Grabavoy each chipped in first-half goals for RSL (7-5-3), which beat the Earthquakes (3-6-6) for the second straight time this season and extended their winless streak to four games. Morales has 12 goals and assists during his MLS career against the Earthquakes. He assumed his familiar role as San Joses tormentor right away. "We should improve every game," Morales said. "Right now were playing our good soccer, so well have to keep going forward." Morales nearly scored in the 13th minute when he blasted a free kick toward the left post. Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch narrowly prevented the goal by tipping the ball over the crossbar. Morales took a corner kick moments later, but San Jose defended it successfully. Morales broke through in the 16th minute. Robbie Findley set things in motion when he attempted to curl a shot past Busch from the left flank. Busch blocked the shot and the ball bounced out to Morales in the centre of the box. He latched on the ball quickly and fired it down the middle to give Salt Lake a 1-0 lead. RSL coach Jason Kreis praised the energy of Morales and other veterans, who went 120 minutes only a few nights earlier. "Those players just bring a sense of calm and make the players around them feel better and more secure," Kreis said. "Its an organizational thing. Its a leadership thing. Its a communication thing. Those guys are integral to the successes that weve had." Grabavoy made it a two-goal lead in the 33rd minute after smashing home a cross from Morales. Joao Plata faked out San Jose defenders by advancing toward the cross and then letting it go past, allowing Grabavoy to get off a clean shot down the centre of the box.dddddddddddd The entire midfield caught San Jose off guard with their energy and effort. For Kreis, their solid play over the past six games has aligned with his vision of what he wanted to see from those players. "Our midfielders have shown a real commitment to be involved in attacking plays, to get themselves into dangerous spots and to even end up in the box," Kreis said. Findley joined in the action, scoring in the 38th minute. He collected a loose ball on the left side of the box and blasted it inside the right post. "It always feels good to score a goal," Findley said "The defender had a poor clearance. He came straight to me. I had my mind set when it was on its way to me. I took a touch and hit it." San Jose offered little resistance in keeping RSL from running away with the game. The Earthquakes created zero shots before halftime. Salt Lake had six shots on goal alone and totalled 12 shots going into the locker room. "It was terrible," Busch said. "Horrible. They beat us in every facet of the game from the beginning of the game." The Earthquakes did not create their first shot on goal until the 58th minute, when Martin Chavez sent a left footer toward the right post that was saved by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. San Jose attacked often in the latter part of the second half. But the Earthquakes could not get any shots past Rimandos outstretched hands. "We got what we deserved from the match," Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said. "Really poor defensive effort in the first half. One goal down is bad enough, but to go down three in the first half is not good." ' ' '
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