Category Archives: Football

(GUA) How the Football Leaks case became a big political scandal in Portugal

(GUA)

Journalist who has worked with Football Leaks to expose wrongdoing doubts justice awaits for the website’s founder

“He’s more afraid about what will happen on the political stage because football is completely involved in the mechanisms of the Portuguese state,” says Rafael Buschmann. “When he first told me that I wasn’t sure but when I saw the link with Antonio Cluny, I was like: ‘Holy shit, this guy is right.’”

It has now been more than three weeks since Rui Pinto was extradited from Hungary to his native Portugal accused of attempted extortion and cyber criminality – charges that could result in a 10-year prison sentence if proven. The former student behind the Football Leaks website, which has already exposed numerous examples of corruption at the highest level of the sport, has since been remanded in custody as he awaits trial, despite protestations from his lawyers that Pinto should be allowed out on bail.

Last week, they and the Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes appeared at a press conference alongside LuxLeaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour in Lisbon to reiterate Pinto’s determination to share his information with prosecutors from France, Belgium and Switzerland via Eurojust, the European Union’s judicial cooperation unit, with Gomes stating the 31-year-old could “provide valuable help in recovering money stolen through tax evasion”.

Yet while the man described as football’s Edward Snowden awaits his fate with trepidation having claimed on numerous occasions that he fears for his life now he is at the mercy of the Portuguese authorities, Buschmann – a reporter for the German magazine Der Spiegel who first met Pinto nearly four years ago – admits he remains doubtful that justice will be done. “Rui is very optimistic because he is confident he has not done anything wrong,” he says. “But you can see in Portugal it’s a very big political scandal and that makes it very hard to say which way this will go.”

Since December 2016 and on behalf of Der Speigel and other partners in the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network, Buschmann and his team have used documents obtained via Football Leaks to expose wrongdoing in the sport, including tax avoidance by Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho – both managed by the super-agent Jorge Mendes – and Manchester City’s alleged violation of Uefa’s financial fair play regulations, as well as publishing Kathryn Mayorga’s renewed accusations of rape against the Juventus forward last September. Ronaldo has denied the allegations.

A two-year injunction against Der Spiegel’s reporting of the tax evasion case was lifted last week after lawyers working on behalf of the Spanish firm Senn Ferrero – whose previous clients have included Ronaldo and Arsenal’s Mesut Özil – withdrew the application.

A few days before Pinto’s extradition was approved, Buschmann was invited to the Hague at the end of February to attend a press conference in which Eurojust confirmed its interest in accessing some of the information provided by the whistleblower but was surprised to learn that the organisation’s Portuguese representative was a certain Antonio Cluny.

“When I saw him on the list I said to my colleague: I know this name,” he recalls. “When I checked it on the Football Leaks database later there were so many connections between his son and the players of Mendes that I couldn’t imagine how someone could have more conflict of interest for this case.

“This was such an important press conference where they were explaining to the world for the first time that the authorities were interested in this case and were thinking about bringing Rui Pinto into a witness protection programme. When I called Rui and asked if he knew about this, he said: ‘Of course. This is Portugal.’”

It transpired that Cluny’s son João Lima is a lawyer working for Morais Leitão, the firm that has represented Ronaldo, Mourinho and several other clients of Mendes and his Gestifute agency for well over a decade. “In his private messages, Ronaldo affectionately calls one of the firm’s partners, Carlos Osório de Castro, ‘father’,” wrote Buschmann in Der Spiegel in February. “Osório de Castro has served as Ronaldo’s legal adviser since the beginning of the football player’s career and the Porto-based lawyer has also coordinated Ronaldo’s defence strategy for the rape allegations that have been levelled against him.”

Yet despite concerns over a potential conflict of interest in Cluny’s involvement being raised by his fellow members of Eurojust and Der Spiegel,the accusation was rejected a week later after the intervention of Portugal’s prosecutor general, who ruled: “There is no conflict of interest in line with article 54 of the Portuguese Criminal Code.”

Buschmann says: “It’s business as usual for them. Cluny said to us that he was never directly involved in this investigation but a few days after our story about Cristiano Ronaldo was published, this three‑year-old arrest warrant for Rui Pinto was speeded up. Maybe it’s just a coincidence but we were obviously a little bit like: ‘Hmm.’”

In the meantime, French prosecutors are negotiating with their Portuguese counterparts over whether Pinto can be afforded immunity from prosecution over the alleged extortion of the agents Doyen Sports in 2015 in order to help them with continuing investigations into football corruption. It is now estimated that the Parquet National Financier (PNF) – which investigated allegations of corruption over the votes for 2018 and 2022 World Cups and is responsible for law enforcement against serious financial crime in France – has acquired 26 terabytes of data from Pinto. That is a significant increase on the 70m documents that came from 3.4 terabytes of information previously supplied to the EIC group, which included personal emails from some of football’s most influential figures.

On 12 March – exactly a week after Pinto’s extradition was confirmed in Budapest – the European parliament announced a preliminary agreement to introduce groundbreaking legislation that will help protect whistleblowers under EU law. But while that has yet to be ratified, Buschmann is hoping it will be in time to help Pinto and others who wish to lift the lid on alleged corruption.

“Up until now, a lot of European Union laws over whistleblowing have only protected people who are on the inside of a company or organisation, but I think in the future there may be a lot who are acting like Rui or like John Doe from the Panama Papers, who are both outsiders who brought this data to the public,” he says. “When the law can’t give them any kind of protection they will have a hard life and it is necessary to help them if we can.”

Buschmann adds: “Rui was inspired by the idea of trying to clean up a business. I’ve talked to him many times about this situation and everything he is sacrificing. For him it is a very serious matter – the football business is not just a game these days. It has grown into a big money-laundering machine for the super-rich. The result of these revelations is that some fans are thinking a little differently about some of these issues and the clubs they support.”

(EP) La fortuna blindada de Cristiano Ronaldo

(EP)El delantero ha creado un imperio empresarial al frente del cual ha colocado a su familia y a un círculo muy íntimo de amigos

Cristiano Ronaldo, durante la inauguración de la clínica de implantes capilares que inauguró en Madrid el pasado lunes.
Cristiano Ronaldo, durante la inauguración de la clínica de implantes capilares que inauguró en Madrid el pasado lunes. GETTY IMAGES

Tras invertir en trasplantes capilares, lo fácil sería concluir que Cristiano Ronaldo no tiene un pelo de tonto. Pero su último negocio es de hace una semana y su olfato para hacer crecer el dinero viene de lejos, de más de una década. Un olfato para buscar minas de oro y para reclutar personas de lealtad inquebrantable, primero la familia —sobretodo su madre—, después su agente, Jorge Mendes, y el hotelero Dionísio Pestana. A ellos les unen características comunes. Todos hicieron fortuna desde la nada y todos son portugueses, muy portugueses: trabajadores y forretas (tacaños). Les ha costado mucho ganar el dinero y no lo van a perder de vista.

Si Mayweather no boxea y Messi no vuelve a renovar contrato, en junio la revista Forbes proclamará a Ronaldo (Madeira, 1985) el deportista mejor pagado del mundo. Ya lo fue en 2016 y 2017. En el último año, según la misma fuente, el exfutbolista del Real Madrid ganó 92,3 millones de euros, de ellos 52,1 en salarios y premios y 40 en contratos publicitarios (Messi, 99,1, por salarios 75 y por publicidad 25). El contrato con la Juventus, que mejora el salario anterior en nueve millones anuales netos, le debe entronizar otra vez como el deportista más rico. Aparte de sus ingresos por la imagen publicitaria, Ronaldo ha construido una marca, CR7, imitando a pioneros como Beckham o Michael Jordan. La firma hace dinero incluso cuando el futbolista duerme. La veinteañera Marisa, primogénita del todopoderoso agente Mendes —dueño de Gestifute y Solaris Sports—, se encarga de activarlo en las redes sociales. La audiencia de CR7 supera los 350 millones de personas, según Hookit, que mide el impacto de las marcas en el mundo digital. Cada post que publica Marisa Mendes en las cuentas de CR7 provoca 2,3 millones de interacciones, que generan 1,5 millones de euros a cada marca respaldada por el futbolista.

En Instagram, Ronaldo ganó el pasado año 351.000 euros por firma publicitada, según la empresa de métrica de audiencias Izea. Ronaldo licencia su logo CR7para colonias, ropa interior, ropa de cama, nutrición (Herbalife), refrescos, mantas de lujo (EliteTeam), relojes, videojuegos, zapatos, acero egipcio, operadores telefónicos (Meo y Turk) pero ningún contrato es comparable al firmado con Nike de por vida, algo que solo Jordan y Lebron James tienen. Son mil millones de dólares (885 millones de euros), un chollo, según los analistas del marketing deportivo, para Nike. Solo el post de Ronaldo tras la victoria de Portugal en la Eurocopa 2016 le reportó a la multinacional cinco millones de euros; en todo el año, 400 millones de euros.

La máquina no para y necesita buscar inversiones para su río de millones. Ronaldo nunca ha sido amigo del riesgo ni de aventuras financieras. Si su éxito deportivo se ha labrado a base de trabajo desde los orígenes más adversos, el mismo criterio sigue con sus inversiones. Cree en lo que ve. Primero lo obvio, el ladrillo. Deja casas por donde pasa, en Londres (cuatro millones de euros), Madrid (siete millones), Lisboa (dos millones) y en la torre Trump de Nueva York (16 millones). Las inversiones se deciden por lo que prueba y lo que ve. Si necesita un jet privado, se lo compra, pero crea una empresa, Dutton Invest, para alquilarlo cuando no lo usa. Pendiente su vida del gimnasio, se asocia a CrunchFitness, una franquicia con más de 250 locales en América, y ahora en Madrid. Ronaldo pasa más días en hoteles que en su casa, de ahí que coloque 40 millones en una línea de hoteles que satisfagan sus gustos, buenas instalaciones de relax activo, buenas conexiones wifi y comidas sanas a cualquier hora. En 2015 se asoció al 50% con otro madeirense, Dionísio Pestana, para crear los hoteles CR7. El primero se inauguró en Funchal, luego en Marraquetch, Madrid, Ámsterdam y Nueva York.

Cristiano Ronaldo, con su novia, Georgina Rodríguez; su madre Dolores Aveiro (a la derecha), su hijo mayor y dos de sus hermanas, en Zúrich en 2017.
Cristiano Ronaldo, con su novia, Georgina Rodríguez; su madre Dolores Aveiro (a la derecha), su hijo mayor y dos de sus hermanas, en Zúrich en 2017. GETTY IMAGES

Si su madre, Dolores, se quedó encantada con un implante de cejas, su hijo vio allí una oportunidad. Ya es dueño del 50% de la expansión internacional de la clínica Insparya, portuguesa por supuesto. Empieza por un país de calvos, España, porque además conoce el mercado y coloca de administradora-vigilante a su pareja Georgina Rodríguez. El impacto económico de Cristiano se extiende no solo a su agente Mendes. Su hermano mayor, Hugo, que regenta el museo del astro en Funchal. Su hermana Katia se ocupa de los restaurantes. Su madre de los vinos y la publicidad. Y hasta su primogénito, Cristianinho ha realizado sus pinitos anunciando vaqueros.

(BBC) Cristiano Ronaldo: Juventus forward produces another iconic Champions League display

(BBC)

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates
This was the first time in 13 years that Juventus progressed in a Champions League knockout match after losing the first leg

Cristiano Ronaldo was signed to win Juventus the Champions League – and he might yet do just that.

The Portuguese produced his latest masterclass in Europe’s elite competition to bring the Italian side back from the brink of a last-16 exit against Atletico Madrid and book their place in the quarter-finals.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Spain, Ronaldo was facing up to the prospect of failing to reach at least the semi-finals for the first time since 2010 – and only the second time in 12 seasons.

But then this happened…

His latest extraordinary performance means that:

  • Ronaldo has now scored 124 goals in Europe’s elite club competition – that’s 18 clear of second-placed Lionel Messi on the list of leading scorers. It’s also more than three-time finalists Atletico Madrid’s entire total.
  • Ronaldo has scored eight Champions League hat-tricks, the joint-most in the competition alongside Messi.
  • Ronaldo remains in contention to add to his five Champions League titles – only Real Madrid legend Francisco Gento, with six, has won more European Cups.
  • It is almost four years since a team featuring Ronaldo was knocked out of the Champions League and he could still win the competition for a fourth consecutive season.

‘This is why they brought me here’

Ronaldo joined Juventus from Real Madrid last summer in a £99.2m deal, becoming one of the most expensive players of all time in the process.

His remit was, in large part, to help the Turin club win the Champions League.

“This was why Juventus brought me here, to help do things that they have never done before,” said Ronaldo, who has now scored 18 goals in his past 14 Champions League knockout appearances and has been directly involved in 76 goals in 77 knockout matches (62 goals, 14 assists).

“It was always going to be a special night and it was – not only for the goals but for the team.

“This is the mentality you need to win in the Champions League. We enjoyed a magical night. Atletico were a difficult team but we were strong too. We will see what will happen.”

Rio Ferdinand, a team-mate of Ronaldo’s during their time together at Manchester United, told BT Sport: “Cristiano is a living football god and it is ridiculous what he is doing.

“In the Champions League he has got every record you can imagine. And it was also against an Atletico team that is renowned for having a great defence.”

Have Juve finally worked out how to use Ronaldo?

The 2015 and 2017 finalists signed the Real Madrid legend in a bid to help them go one step further in Europe and win a trophy they last lifted in 1996.

He had scored 10 goals in his seven Champions League games against Juve while at Real, but had struggled this season in Europe after moving to Turin, scoring just once.

There had been no doubts about his league form – he is the second-highest scorer in Serie A with 19 goals – but his return in Europe had been below expectations for a man who has been the top scorer in the Champions League for the past six seasons.

Now 34, he had become used to being used sparingly by Real in order to ensure he was in peak competition for the latter stages of the season – in 2016-17 he scored 10 times in Champions League knockout games alone.

But Juve had not followed that model.

For the past two seasons, Real had given him a break in some domestic games. In that time he was rested for 10 La Liga matches, missing another 10 through injury or suspension. He did not play any of their six Copa del Rey games last season, and only two the previous campaign.

Last season he was left out of a La Liga trip to Las Palmas three days before he scored twice, including a famous bicycle kick, in Real’s 3-0 win at Juventus. In 2016-17 he was rested for a game at Sporting Gijon and three days later scored a hat-trick against Bayern Munich to send them into the semi-finals.

But perhaps Juve, who have won every Italian league title since moving stadiums in 2011 and are 18 points clear at the top this time out, have finally realised how best to manage their star forward.

He has only been rested once all season – for Friday’s 4-1 win over Udinese, their most recent match.

Before that, he had played every domestic game – 26 Serie A matches and two in the Coppa Italia. Of the 26 league matches – including one substitute appearance – he has played 90 minutes in 23.

He has almost played as many league minutes this season (2,239) – with 11 games remaining – as he did in 2017-18 for Real (2.297).

But after being rested in preparation for what was undoubtedly the most crucial game of Juve’s season, he delivered spectacularly.

If he sits out a few more league games between now and the end of the season, the Italians may be the team to beat in Europe.

Five other iconic Ronaldo Champions League moments

Ronaldo has done this before of course – here is a reminder of some of his famous Champions League nights:

Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg (3-2 agg) – 2015-16 quarter-final second leg

Real came into the second leg of their quarter-final with Wolfsburg 2-0 down but 18 minutes into the Bernabeu game, Ronaldo had scored twice to level the tie and his 77th-minute free-kick sent them into the semi-finals.

Real Madrid 4-2 Bayern Munich after extra time (6-3 agg) – 2016-17 quarter-final second leg

Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, including two goals in extra time, as Real Madrid knocked Bayern Munich out in the quarter-finals. His third, a tap-in from Marcelo’s cross, made him the first player to score 100 Champions League goals.

Real Madrid 3-0 Atletico Madrid – 2016-17 semi-final first leg

Ronaldo’s next Champions League game produced another hat-trick, his seventh in the tournament. He scored with all three of his touches in the penalty area as Real defeated their local rivals in the first leg of the semi-final.

Juventus 1-4 Real Madrid – 2016-17 final

Ronaldo scored twice in the Cardiff final against his future employers, the third Champions League final he had scored in – all victories. He managed 10 goals in the last five games of that season’s tournament, including the two hat-tricks mentioned above.

Juventus 0-3 Real Madrid – 2017-18 quarter-final first leg

Arguably Ronaldo’s greatest goal as he flew high into the Turin air to send a scarcely believable bicycle kick past Gianluigi Buffon in last season’s quarter-final. The goal earned him a standing ovation from Juve’s fans – a moment that surely had an influence in his decision to join them a few months later. He netted twice in the game, becoming the first man to score in 10 consecutive Champions League matches.

(Yabiladi) 2030 World Cup : The Morocco-Spain-Portugal bid to be examined by FIFA in Marrakech

(Yabiladi)

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Fouzi Lekjaa head of the Moroccan football federation./Ph. DR

Marrakech will host from the 15th to the 19th of January a meeting set to examine the number of teams that would participate to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, reports the Spanish sports online newspaper AS.

During the same meeting, FIFA will examine the feasibility of a joint bid, bringing Morocco, Spain and Portugal together for the 2030 World Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is expected to convince the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) President Aleksander Ceferin into changing his mind about the Morocco joint bid.

For the record, speaking after a meeting of the UEFA executive committee held Monday, the European soccer’s leadership president Ceferin said that he would not accept a world cup bid that involves two different continents. «I’m not in favor of cross-confederation bids», he firmly announced.

(BBC) Paulo Lopes: The most successful third-choice goalkeeper of all time?

(BBC

Paulo Lopes
Paulo Lopes started and finished his career at Benfica, rejoining the club in 2012 after a decade away

Twelve trophies in only 11 games in more than a decade at Benfica – Paulo Lopes might be the most successful third-choice goalkeeper of all time.

The quirky statistic came to light when the Portuguese retired in July after a 21-year playing career.

“Yes, they are correct,” the 40-year-old tells BBC Sport, adding jokingly: “I was born to win.”

Robert Green at Chelsea, Richard Wright at Manchester City, Lee Grant at Manchester United and the evergreen Stuart Taylor – all famous third-choice keepers, but none has a trophy haul to rival Lopes.

“I feel happy getting these numbers along my career,” says Lopes. “They are part of my achievements and show important and special moments of my career.

“I feel great pride and great satisfaction, because when I look at them [the trophies and medals], I feel it was a work, mostly a team work, but also they demonstrate my achievements as a goalkeeper.”

Lopes played for Benfica’s youth team, but never made a first-team appearance before he was released in 2002.

He spent the next decade alternating between the top two divisions in Portugal, making more than 200 appearances and helping Trofense and Feirense achieve promotion to Primeira Liga.

Then, aged 34, came the call to rejoin Benfica in 2012.

“I thought it was a joke,” says Lopes, recalling a phone call with director of football and Portugal legend Rui Costa.

Paulo Lopes
Lopes playing a rare first-team game at Benfica

Lopes finally made his senior debut for Benfica on 8 October 2012, the start of his most prolific season with the club when he played five games. That figure dropped over the following seasons, although he did play in the Champions League against Zenit St Petersburg in 2014.

“It was an enormous pleasure to get back to Benfica,” says Lopes. “It was the recognition of my work as a goalkeeper throughout my career and of my value as a football professional. There are few players chosen to represent Benfica.

“When I accepted the invitation, of course my will was to play more and it was with that goal that I got back. The best ones play for Benfica and only the best get the longevity to work for a space on the team.

“I’ve managed to do that for a long time. I felt happy. Those were years of success, being in the first string or not.”

Lopes says the decision not to play was out of his hands, but he “always respected the coach’s decision”.

In a decade at Benfica, he was behind goalkeepers such as Ederson, now at Manchester City, former Brazil and Inter Milan keeper Julio Cesar, and current Atletico Madrid number one Jan Oblak.

Julio Cesar, Bruno Varela and Paulo Lopes
Lopes with Julio Cesar (left) and Bruno Varela (centre)

He was part of the squad that won the Primeira Liga four seasons in a row from 2014 to 2017, plus two Portuguese Cups (Taca de Portugal), three League Cups (Taca da Liga) and three Supertaca Candido de Oliveira (Community Shield).

“In my modest opinion, I’ve done a good job and have always performed my work in the best way,” says Lopes.

“It’s obvious that I wanted to play more, but it’s important to consider that I was in one of the best teams in Europe, with the best players, so the inside competition is very strong.”

After retiring, Lopes became goalkeeping coach for Benfica’s under-23 side. Manager Jose Henrique, a legendary Benfica keeper, said Lopes is an “idol”.

“My connection with Benfica is strong,” adds Lopes. “There are few players that spend so much time on the same team and that return after many years.

“It’s been essentially arriving as a kid and leaving as an adult. Benfica is where I spent a big part of my life, where I learnt what it meant to be a football player and where I’ve developed a lot as a person.”

Asked to reflect on his career, he says: “With much pride in what I did, what I gave to football and the joy of having fulfilled the dreams I had when I was a kid, when I thought that one day I’d be a football player.”

Paulo Lopes
Lopes is now goalkeeping coach for Benfica Under-23s

(NYT) Google Turns Over Identities of Bloggers on Benfica

(NYT

Benfica’s enormous popularity in Portugal has taken a hit the past year as blogs released damaging confidential information about the club.CreditCreditManuel De Almeida/EPA, via Shutterstock

Google Inc. and other internet service providers have turned over confidential user information to a Portuguese soccer team that may help it identify anonymous bloggers who have written about allegations of wrongdoing against the team.

The information was turned over as part of a lawsuit filed by the team, the Lisbon-based Benfica, earlier this year in United States District Court in California as part of an effort to stop the bloggers.

Benfica, the serial national champion, has been battling a tide of leaked information for much of the past year that has cast a negative shadow over it . The leaks have been drip-fed onto a specially created website since December, producing sensational headlines and leading to a crisis within a club that counts some of the country’s most important politicians and business figures as members.

However, Benfica was unable to stop the leaks through Portugal’s legal system. So the club, a two-time European champion, turned in April to California’s courts. It issued subpoenas to Google and a handful of other companies that own the platforms used by the bloggers.

The efforts have paid off. “We only confirm that we made agreements with those digital platforms,” said a spokesman for Benfica. He declined to provide further details of the information the team received.

In a statement, Google said it complied with the legal process. “Google gave notice to impacted users who then had an opportunity to challenge the legal process in a U.S. court,” said a spokeswoman for the company.

The owner of the popular Artista do Dia blog is among those whose user identity has very likely been passed on to Benfica by Google. He received an email from Google in September telling him he could try to quash Benfica’s demand through a legal challenge.

Faced with thousands of dollars of legal fees, the author, whose identity The New York Times has been confirmed, was only able to reply with an impassioned email, in which he outlined that he had not been responsible for the leak, and like many others, had written about a subject of enormous public interest.

“I thought Google and billions of users of Google services were protected by a company with principles and, above all, respect for users who trust their platforms,” said the writer, a professional services worker with two children. “I think it opens a very serious precedent that will only allow those with financial possibilities to remain anonymous.”

Benfica’s status within Portugal is immense. The team counts at least half of the country’s 10 million citizens as fans, the weight of which gives it a greater cultural and social significance than most ordinary sports teams. Even in good times, details of exploits inside its Estadio da Luz home dominate local media.

Image
Porto’s Portuguese coach Sergio Conceicao, who leads one of Benfica’s top rivals.CreditFrancisco Leong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The leaks, which began last year, have purported to show influence peddling schemes that targeted top soccer officials and, perhaps most worryingly for the club, efforts to influence the refereeing system. Benfica denies wrongdoing. It has separately been charged with illegally obtaining confidential information from a mole working inside the justice ministry.

The bloggers’ cases are not without precedent. They are similar to a yearslong legal battle between Chevron and internet providers Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in which the company sought identity information belonging to activists, attorneys, journalists and others who have spoken out against the company.

Albert Gidari, consulting director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said under current regulations Google had little option but to comply with Benfica’s subpoena. Internet companies get hundreds of thousands of similar requests, said Gidari, who spent 20 years representing some of the world’s biggest technology companies including Google. “It isn’t scalable to know what’s behind each case,” he said.

Google already goes “one step beyond” what it is required to do by giving notice of the subpoena to users, he added.

Benfica’s search for the bloggers and web users has dominated the headlines since The New York Times first reported on the issue earlier this month. Benfica fans have also tried to unmask the identity of those behind the blogs. In at least one case, the name and photograph of a man suspected of being one of the bloggers was widely circulated on the internet but turned out to be wrong.

Fans of Benfica’s rivals, Sporting Clube de Portugal and F.C. Porto, are behind most of the blogs the team is targeting for legal action. Benfica alleges the two other teams are part of a conspiracy to discredit it, a claim that is typical in soccer in Portugal, where club executives frequently launch allegations against one another. The leaks first appeared on a weekly television show on Porto’s channel, before a website called O Mercado de Benfica appeared in December 2017.

Porto’s communications director Francisco Marques said he received the data anonymously from an individual purporting to be a fan of the club. Marques said he passed all the files he received to the police. He suspects the website publishing the leaked information is run by the same person.

In its lawsuit in California, Benfica claimed the details published online were “trade secrets” that buttressed its success in winning championships and cultivated an academy system that generated “more than any other club in the world” in player sales this decade. The claim did not mention police raids on Benfica’s offices or ongoing investigations into alleged results manipulation and corruption it faces.

“Despite commencing numerous actions, both civil and criminal, in Portugal, Benfica has thus far been unable to stem the tide of stolen information or identify the thieves. It is clear to Benfica that only with the cooperation of the hosting organizations will Benfica be able to stop the campaign to discredit it,” its U.S. lawyers wrote.

Gidari, the former privacy lawyer, said the suit seemed similar to others brought by other large organizations confronting the public disclosure of damaging information.

He added that though in some cases there may be valid reasons behind subpoenas, they are often “strategic lawsuits brought to silence critics.”

O.P. (DN) Portugal campeão europeu sub-19

O.P.

Portugal no seu melhor!

Faltam me as palavras.

Viva Portugal!

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(DN) Portugal sagrou-se campeão europeu ao bater a Itália, após prolongamento, por 4-3. Jota bisou e foi o homem do jogo (e melhor marcador da prova com Trincão, que também faturou neste jogo). É o quarto título continental nesta categoria, o primeiro sub-19

Num jogo que levou as emoções ao extremo, Portugal só garantiu o título europeu de sub-19 com um golo de Pedro Correia aos 108′, depois de a Itália ter respondido às anteriores vantagens lusas (de 0-2 para o 2-2 que levou o jogo para prolongamento; de 2-3 para 3-3 já nos 30 minutos suplementares). Jota foi o homem do jogo e um dos mais valiosos do torneio, tornando-se o melhor marcador com Francisco Trincão, ambos com cinco golos.

Portugal marcou 17 golos em cinco jogos e um terço (o prolongamento da final), com Jota e Trincão responsáveis por mais de metade (dez). Os dois jogadores igualam o número de finalizações que deram o prémio de goleador a José Gomes no Euro sub-17, em 2016. Ou seja, a caminhada vitoriosa desta equipa já tinha começado. E nunca uma mesma geração tinha conseguido ganhar os dois torneios de enfiada. Histórico.

O jogo até começou com contrariedades: Diogo Costa tinha-se lesionado frente à Ucrânia, na meia-final (5-0) e logo aí João Virgínia assumiu a baliza (tendo sido chamado à Finlândia Ricardo Benjamim, para o banco). No aquecimento, Miguel Luís lesionou-se e Nuno Henrique, ou Nunes, saltou para o onze. A equipa não pareceu afetada, o que prova a qualidade geral deste grupo de 21 (com a chegada de Benjamim).

Pelo contrário, foi Portugal que jogou mais e melhor num encontro sem especulações ou predomínio do futebol físico. Foram jogadores finos como Trincão e Jota que deram o tom a esta final, disputada no Estádio Seinajoki. O tom e o ritmo do marcador: Jota (45’+1′) e Trincão deram uma vantagem que parecia encaminhar o título nos 90 minutos. Mas o recém-entrado Moise Kean virou do avesso a final, bisando em dois minutos (75′ e 76′).

Portugal acusou o golpe, mas continuou a ter as melhores oportunidades, embora os italianos nunca tivessem desistido de tentar ser felizes no ataque. Mas o 2-2 não se alterou e seguiu-se para prolongamento.

A equipa de Hélio Sousa provou que não ficara encolhida por deixar fugir dois golos de avanço. E no prolongamento, embora se notasse menos energia dos dois lados, a seleção portuguesa voltou para a frente do marcador. Jota bisou (104′). No intervalo dos 30 minutos suplementares, Portugal estava na frente.

Mas pouco depois (107′), Scamacca voltava a mostrar a face lutadora dos italianos. O 3-3 não tolheu os portugueses, que tiraram do coração para dar às pernas, sem perder grande discernimento na cabeça. Aos 115′, Pedro Correia, que tinha saltado do banco para substituir Trincão aos 101′, foi precioso na execução e fez o 4-3.

Nos últimos seis minutos, a Itália quase não conseguiu incomodar o novo campeão europeu (exceto um remate perigoso de Frattesi após mais uma jogada desconcertante de Moise Kean, aos 118′). E aos 121′, o árbitro deu por finalizada a final do Euro 2018 de sub-19. E Portugal sagrava-se campeã europeia.

Foi a primeira vez neste formato (sub-19, desde 2002), mas a quarta desde que o torneio arrancou em 1948. Então, como Torneio Jovem FIFA, mudando em 1955 para Torneio Jovem UEFA e em 1981 para Euro sub-18. Finalmente, em 2002, assentou em Euro sub-19. Portugal soma quatro títulos (1961, 1994, 1999 e 2018) e oito finais perdidas (1971, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2003, 2014 e 2017). A do último ano, frente à Inglaterra (1-2), teve agora a desforra (bem como a de 2003, em que Portugal foi batida pela Itália).

No ranking do torneio, Portugal salta do grupo com três títulos e, com quatro, persegue Rússia/União Soviética (6), Alemanha (6), França (8), Espanha (10) e Inglaterra (10). No total, as seleções de Portugal somam 13 títulos mundiais e europeus, sendo atualmente detentoras do emblema de campeão europeu em sub-19 e na categoria principal (título conquistado em 2016, na França).

Além do título, Portugal apurou-se diretamente para o Mundial sub-20 2019, que se vai realizar na Polónia (qualificação reservada aos cinco primeiros deste Euro). E será este grupo a defender um pecúlio que coloca Portugal no pódio (dois títulos, em 1998 e 1991), só atrás de Brasil (5) e Argentina (6).

(Independent) Cristiano Ronaldo to pay €19 million fine for tax fraud in deal with Spanish authorities

(Independent)

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has reached a deal with Spanish tax authorities (Nick Potts/PA)1
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has reached a deal with Spanish tax authorities (Nick Potts/PA)

Spanish tax authorities have accepted a deal with footballer Cristiano Ronaldo to plead guilty to tax fraud and pay a fine of close to 19 million euros (£17m).

The agreement means the footballer will get a reduced prison sentence that is likely to be suspended.

A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the agreement will be finalised in the coming days.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

Ronaldo had already reached a tentative deal with the state prosecutor’s office but Spain’s tax authorities had yet to sign off the agreement.

Last year, a Spanish state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euro.

The prosecutor accused the Portugal forward of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights. The accusation does not involve his salary from his former Real Madrid club.

Ronaldo denied any wrongdoing when questioned by a judge last July. He left Madrid this month to sign for Italian champion Juventus.

In 2016, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi received a suspended 21-month jail sentence after being found guilty of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros.

(GUA) Mesut Özil reminds us why minorities have more than one identity

(GUA)The Germany footballer has been criticised for showing pride in his Turkish roots. But why should people of colour have to ditch their national heritage?

It’s often said that black people do so well in sport in countries where they are in a minority because it offers the only opportunity they have to compete on a genuinely level playing field. That’s a simplification, of course: the playing field is not completely level there, either; the ongoing and countless stories of overt racism, from football to athletics and tennis, are testament to that. And if there’s one thing recent events have revealed, it’s that while sport may be more meritocratic than other workplaces, for people of colour the rewards are still conditional.

The footballer Mesut Özil feels he is being penalised for his pride in Turkey, the nation of his heritage, by Germany, the nation of his citizenship. This episode has opened an emotive window into just how precarious national status can be. “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Özil said, announcing his retirement from the national team after criticism of his recent performances.

Özil, a key member of the German team that won the World Cup in 2014, had faced a backlash before this year’s tournament after posing for a photo with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – a hardliner widely condemned for human rights abuses. But the problem Germans have with Özil seems to be more about his statement of cultural allegiance with the Turkish nation.

You don’t actually need to pose with a problematic president to experience this disowning. I will never forget the way in which Mo Farah – the British long-distance runner who was propelled to national treasure status after his two 2012 Olympic gold medals – immediately became “Somali-born Farah” when the integrity of his coach’s techniques came into question.

Ben Johnson races to the 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics
Pinterest
 Ben Johnson races to the 100m gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. ‘He was Canadian until he was banned for doping, at which point he became widely referred to as Jamaican-born.’ Photograph: Joe Patronite/Allsport

There are many other examples. Ben Johnson, the 100m world record holder, was Canadian – until he was banned for doping, at which point he became widely referred to as “Jamaican-born”. Yannick Noah, the French Open tennis champion who at one point seemed set for world domination, became camerounais when the dream expired.

The French experience is rather specific, as the row over the South African comedian Trevor Noah’s description of France’s World Cup triumph as a victory for the African continent – since that’s where so many players are descended from – reminds us. France has mastered the art of hypocrisy with its official “we don’t see race” stance. Instead, people of minority heritage are stigmatised as les issus de l’immigration – simply another way of othering them.

This prejudice is hard-baked into terminology across Europe. Visible minorities in Britain are labelled “immigrants” or, if they’re born here, “second generation immigrants”. Yet “indigenous” is a nonsensical term for a nation formed by millennia of immigration. Meanwhile, Brits abroad are seen as “expatriates”.

In the Netherlands, visible minority Dutch people were, until recently, allochtoon, a word many of them hate because – while it may initially have been well intentioned – it was always perceived as a way of distinguishing between white “indigenous” Dutch and non-white descendants of immigrants.

In Germany there were Gastarbeiter – who were invited from Turkey to compensate for German labour shortages, but whose long-term presence in the country was not fully accepted. Not surprisingly, some of their children feel an emotional attachment to Turkey (“I have two hearts”, Özil has said), yet Germany has decided that dual allegiances are no longer convenient.

Germany doesn’t get to decide what the children of those it has treated as second-class citizens for so long get to do with the rights they have now acquired. Nor do France and Britain. Nor do the leaders of European countries that invented racial categories – necessary for the purposes of their own plans for enslavement and colonisation – get to unilaterally decide that these are no longer relevant, now that it’s become inconvenient for them to face up to the legacy of their own creation.

We get to define our identities, our allegiances and our relationship to our heritage. Özil’s identity as both Turkish and German – quite apart from being perfectly logical – is his by right to express. French people of African heritage have earned the right to their unconditional Frenchness, whether or not they play football, and no French person can stop them celebrating being part of the African diaspora.

This matters. In Britain, for example, many black people benefit from the struggle our parents and grandparents faced to secure citizenship and economic security – although the recent Windrush scandal reminds us that battle is still not over – and now have the luxury of choosing how we want to self-identify. And many of us are actually growing closer to our countries of heritage, despite having never lived there.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this. Similar connections can be found in the Irish and Italian diasporas in America, and in Jewish people everywhere. But for some reason it’s deemed more problematic when people of colour wish to organise around shared cultural or national heritage. It’s part of a belief that somehow Britain did us a favour by letting us come to this country, with our brown faces and strange faiths and all, for which we should be uniquely grateful.

The problem is, European countries didn’t “let” their migrants in; they needed people to rebuild their countries, offering in return low wages and poor living conditions. The descendants of those workers are still processing the racism, prejudice and disadvantage that resulted. But the one thing no one can take away is what we decide about who we are.

(JN) Na bola com mulheres bonitas – Nuno Melo

(JN) “Falamos de forma individual com todas as operadoras para que deixem de focar nas raparigas que podem ser consideradas atraentes. É trazer uma carga sexista desnecessária ao futebol”. O pedido mais idiota do fenómeno desportivo universal foi feito assim, pelo dirigente da FIFA Federico Addiechi. Se há certeza dos nossos tempos é que a imaginação delirante do “politicamente correto” consegue ser estupidamente infinita, mesmo na crença estranha de um mundo virtualmente assético e assexuado.

E se o jogo for de futebol feminino? E se se der o caso de as jogadoras, a começar, serem realmente bonitas? Não sendo olhar pecado – por este caminho, já não é certeza -, será que o italiano responsável pelo programa de diversidade da FIFA reparou alguma vez na sueca Josefine Oqvist, na brasileira Laisa Andrioli, na australiana Ellyse Perry, na americana Hope Solo ou na francesa Corine Franco, só para ter em conta alguns, poucos, exemplos ? Fazer o quê? Filmar poucochinho em campo, para que não se notem? E depois o quê? Não focar entre os adeptos os feios, os negros, os brancos, os amarelos, os coxos? É que onde acaba o sexismo também pode haver quem ache que começa a discriminação.

Dito isto, lá em Zurique, na sede da FIFA, não terão mesmo nada melhor com que se entreter? É que assim de repente, antes do pecado da beleza, expurgada das bancadas para uma espécie de “buraco negro” das teleobjetivas, há certamente outros assuntos que beneficiariam muito do zelo crítico e censório da FIFA. A tendência para uma certa prodigalidade nos gastos, os representantes corrompidos por causa das escolhas para a realização de campeonatos, os processos judiciais e detenções por fraude, extorsão e lavagem de dinheiro, o pagamento de 71 milhões de euros durante cinco anos a Joseph Blatter, Jerôme Valcke e Markus Kattner, até as campanhas descaradas de Michel Platini – inabilitado depois de receber de Blatter dois milhões de francos suíços – contra Cristiano Ronaldo, escolhido várias vezes com toda a justiça melhor jogador do Mundo, a contragosto do francês. Grande Cristiano…

Já agora, conviria que a FIFA se recordasse que durante muito tempo a atenção prestada às mulheres ajudou precisamente a mostrar que o futebol não é um desporto de homens apenas. Num estádio de futebol cabem todos. E na verdade, nas alegrias do fenómeno desportivo, todas as pessoas são bonitas. Deixem-nas lá em paz.

EURODEPUTADO

(Economist) France’s victorious footballers do Emmanuel Macron a favour

(Economist) “Democratic heroes”, he believes, bring out the best in the French

WHEN Emmanuel Macron was a child, growing up in the northern French town of Amiens, he was a fervent supporter of a southern club, Olympique de Marseille. In 1993, the year they won the European Champions League, the club’s captain was a certain Didier Deschamps. On July 15th, under torrential rain after France’s victory at the World Cup final, it was as president that Mr Macron clasped in a tight embrace the same Mr Deschamps, captain of the French team that won the World Cup back in 1998, and now manager of the French champions.

Today France welcomes home Les Bleus, their national team, after a 4-2 defeat of Croatia in Moscow. A million people descended last night on Paris as the sun began to set, chanting, rocking Metro carriages, clambering onto bus shelters and up lamp posts, and setting off flares and firecrackers. The capital’s arteries emptied of cars and turned into a flag-waving, chanting human flow.

The team will this afternoon parade down the Champs-Elysées (past a station that the Paris Metro briefly renamed “Deschamps-Elysées”) in an open-top bus, to a reception hosted by Mr Macron at the presidential palace. They have warmed hearts and made history. Mr Deschamps has become only the third person to win the World Cup as both player and manager. Kylian Mbappé, a striker who grew up in the Paris banlieue of Bondy, is only the second teenager, after Pelé, to score a goal in the World Cup final.

Football for Mr Macron, who did not conceal his joy in the presidential box during the match, is more than just a sport. A left-back when he played as a student, he enjoys the game, and took his presidential campaign to Sarcelles, a Paris banlieue, where he kicked a ball about with youngsters. Yet football matters to him for other reasons too, and not least because, although he will doubtless be accused of exploiting victory for political ends, he may well get a poll bounce as the country’s mood lifts. In 1998 the sitting president, Jacques Chirac, saw his popularity leap from 45% in June to 59% in August after France’s victory. It remained above 50%, amid a broad economic recovery, for the next 18 months.

One reason this victory suits Mr Macron is that, at a time when the president is accused by his detractors of contempt for those less fortunate than him, and of a drift to the political right, football in France represents the sort of social mobility that he approves of. Sport, he said on a trip to Marseille during the election campaign last year, “kills house arrest” for those living in the country’s banlieues. Greater Paris, ringed by brutalist housing estates where many families of immigrant origin live, has a thriving network of after-school amateur football clubs that has become a giant talent pool for the national team. Training and talent are central to Mr Macron’s vision of how to combat poverty, and football offers a potent symbol of this.

A second reason is that the team itself has become a classy advertisement for France. In 1998 the country was still so unsure about its multicultural identity that the team was tagged “black, blanc, beur” in reference to its multiracial make-up. At the tournament in South Africa eight years ago, the French side, made up of supersized egos, went on strike during a training session, and later departed in disgrace after crashing out of the tournament. This year Mr Deschamps has forged a side of likeable team players, who were as boisterous in the dressing-room after the match as they were disciplined, focused and ruthless during the tournament. Mr Mbappé has spoken of wanting “to give everything to France”. Antoine Griezmann, another goalscorer, tweeted simply, “CHAMPIONS DU MONDE. Vive la France!”.

Mr Macron, who will have enjoyed the symbolism of victory in Russia, which he suspected of trying to hack his election campaign, has a final reason for embracing this team. This is to do with what he calls “democratic heroes”. From the president’s speech at Johnny Hallyday’s funeral, to that during the entry of Simone Veil to the Panthéon, Mr Macron regards the celebration of the lives of popular, or historic, figures as a chance to try to bring out the best in the French. Liberal democracies, he has argued, faced with the dark menace of nationalism, need heroes if they are to rouse a positive national spirit and defeat the “sad passions” fanned by populists. In the 23 players and their manager who brought home the World Cup, the luckiest man in French politics has found his heroes.

(BBG) Cristiano Ronaldo’s Move to Italy Is a Big Score for Jeep

(BBG) Italy’s Juventus Football Club SpA is paying a total of more than $130 million to nab star player Cristiano Ronaldo from Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid Football Club. The Italian team won’t be the only one trying to cash in on the Portuguese footballer’s fame.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, whose Jeep logo is plastered across the chests of Juventus’ black-and-white-striped jerseys, could get a huge advertising boost in the deal. If Ronaldo can lead Juventus to the UEFA Champions League finals, the media exposure for that one year will be worth about $58.3 million, according to Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group Inc. That would be quite a return on the $20 million Fiat Chrysler pays each year for its Juventus sponsorship, according to SportsPro.

Jeep, which makes the iconic Jeep Wrangler, is the crown jewel in Fiat Chrysler’s stable of auto brands. The company forecasts global sales of 1.9 million this year, more than double the 730,000 sold five years ago. Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne wants to bump that to 3.3 millionby 2022, a goal Ronaldo could aid, especially with Hispanic soccer fans, said Chris Chaney, senior vice president at San Diego-based brand consultancy Strategic Vision.

“I can see the fit and where it will help strengthen things,” Chaney said. “The freedom and the adventure, the openness that Jeep represents, it’s appealing to everybody, but it’s particularly appealing to Hispanic new-car buyers.”

Both Turin-based Juventus and Fiat Chrysler are controlled by Italy’s Agnelli family. A spokesman for Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on the value of the soccer deals.

The Agnelli family, which has owned Juventus for more than 90 years, controls Ferrari NV and Fiat Chrysler through its holding company, Exor NV, which owns 64 percent of Juventus. Andrea Agnelli, the cousin of Exor CEO John Elkann, has been chairman of Juventus since 2010. Beyond Jeep, Juventus sponsors such as Adidas, Allianz and Samsung are poised to benefit from Ronaldo’s move.

Juventus in January 2017 presented a new branding strategy to expand revenue from sales of merchandising internationally. Its efforts come as some of its rivals have been sold to Chinese investors, highlighting the value of Italian soccer teams. Juventus, winner of a record seven consecutive Serie A championships, has seen its share pricerise about 35 percent since talk of a deal for the star player surfaced last week.

Ronaldo scored 451 goals in 438 games since he joined Real Madrid in 2009, helping the club to win four Champions League titles, and La Liga, Spain’s top soccer division, twice. Also the UEFA Champions League’s all-time top scorer, Ronaldo earned $61 million dollars in salary and bonuses last year, plus an extra $47 million via endorsements, according to Forbes, making him the third-highest paid athlete in the world behind FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi and American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

His value to marketers is compounded by his huge presence on social media. He has 74.5 million followers on Twitter, compared with 6 million for Juventus and less than 1 million for Jeep. On Instagram, he has 134 million followers, compared with about 10 million for Juventus.

(BBG) Ronaldo Bid Reports Send Juventus Shares to Four-Month High

(BBG) Shares of Juventus Football Club SpA surged following reports the Italian soccer club is poised to sign five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Current club Real Madrid would consider a fee of about 100 million euros ($117 million) for its record goal-scorer, a fraction of his 1 billion-euro release clause, Spanish sports website Marca reported. The 33-year-old agreed to accept a 30 million-euro salary from Juventus, Spanish newspaper As reported, saying the clubs still need to reach a transfer agreement.

Juventus shares rose as much as 9.7 percent in Milan, the biggest intraday rally since a crucial Champions League winin March for the team that would later crash out in a quarter-final defeat at the hands of its Spanish rival, sealed by a penalty goal from Ronaldo. The stock has climbed 23 percent in the last five days as speculation of a possible transfer gathered pace.

While a fee of the reported amount may seem high for a player in the twilight of his career, it would be a coup for the Turin-based side known as “la Vecchia Signora,” or The Old Lady, given Ronaldo’s global brand appeal as well as his on-field talent.

Ronaldo is a “marketer’s dream” who would entice fresh revenue to Juventus through sponsorships, full stadiums and potential broadcasting rights, Robert Wilson, a lecturer in sports business management at Sheffield Hallam University in the north of England, said by email.

The fee would top the 80 million pounds ($105.8 million) Real Madrid paid Manchester United for the Portuguese star in 2009.

Also the UEFA Champions League’s all-time top scorer, Ronaldo earned $61 million dollars in salary and bonuses last year, plus an extra $47 million via endorsements, according to Forbes, making him the third-highest paid athlete in the world behind FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi and American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

His most recent exploits came at the World Cup in Russia, where he scored a breathtaking hat-trick against Spain in the group stage before Portugal was eliminated by Uruguay in the first knock-out round.

A spokesman for Juventus declined to comment and Real Madrid didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

(S-E) Fiat factory workers are angry at Juventus signing Cristiano Ronaldo

(S-EThey are angry that the company, which owns shares in Juventus, have the money to sign Cristiano but not to increase their worker’s wages

After Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo were knocked out of the World Cup by Uruguay, the striker has been the main focus in the media after being linked with a Real Madrid exit. In the last few days the idea he could end up at Juventus is gathering pace and they’ve moved ahead of other teams such as Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, there’s a problem emerging for the Italian side. The car manufacturing giant FIAT owns 29.18% of the Agnelli family’s businesses via Exor N.V., who own the majority of the shares – 63.77% – in Juventus. In fact, Juventus’ current president, Andrea Agnelli, was one of the founding members in the mentioned company, which also includes Ferrari and The Economist Group.

Juventus are willing to pay €100m in transfer fees plus another €120m in wages across his four seasons at the club. This investment of €220m is in order to finally win the Champions League again. However this huge quantity of money has generated a problem for the workers at the FIAT car manufacturing plant. “After Higuain, now Cristiano Ronaldo is coming? It’s embarrassing. The workers at FIAT haven’t had a wage increase in ten years. With Cristiano’s wages, you could give every worker a €200 pay rise. In these ten years we’ve lost 10.7% due to inflation that we’ve never gotten back. And now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, FCA, is spending €126m annualy in sponsorship, of which €26.5 is for Juventus,” criticised Gerardo Giannone of the DER agency.

(Economist) Why so many World Cup sponsors are from China

(Economist) Many Western companies have withdrawn their support

CHINA’S footballers have only qualified once for the finals of the men’s World Cup and that appearance—in South Korea and Japan in 2002—was forgettable. The Chinese team failed to score a goal and conceded nine, crashing out of the tournament at the group stage. But even though China is sitting out the current tournament in Russia, it is still having a considerable impact. Seven of the 19 corporate sponsors are Chinese. Why so many?

The World Cup is the marquee tournament for FIFA, the Zurich-based multi-billion-dollar enterprise that governs world football. It is hard to overstate how closely FIFA’s business model is tied to the quadrennial event, which is its primary source of revenue. FIFA booked $5.4bn in revenue for the four-year business cycle ending with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, thanks largely to the television rights and corporate sponsorships that are the cornerstones of its balance sheet. The former brought in $2.4bn in revenue and the latter $1.6bn during that cycle, helping to offset the $2bn operational costs related to the staging of the tournament. The World Cup is one of the world’s most-watched television events, so big companies have traditionally relished the platform it offers their brands, and competed fiercely for the sponsorship slots on offer.

That has changed. In 2015 American prosecutors indicted some 40 individuals and entities associated with FIFA on a broad range of corruption charges, including racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracy. The charges stoked long-bubbling concerns among the organisation’s corporate partners about whether their associations with FIFA exposed them to reputational and financial jeopardy. Companies such as Emirates, Continental, Johnson & Johnson and Sony refused to renew their sponsorship contracts when they expired. Few lined up to take their places. Of the 34 sponsorship slots on offer for the tournament in Russia, only 19 have been filled, a stark change from 2014 when sponsorship packages were sold out long before kick-off. (It should be acknowledged, though, that the corporate world might have reacted differently if the 2018 World Cup had been scheduled for, say, Portugal and Spain, rather than a Russia increasingly mistrusted by the West.) FIFA’s only new deals since the scandal broke have been with companies from Russia, Qatar (which hosts the tournament in 2022) and China, whose businesses seem to be less concerned about being associated with FIFA. Among those Chinese companies are Vivo, a mobile-phone company; Hisense, an electronics manufacturer; Yadea, an electric-scooter company; Mengniu, China’s second-largest dairy company; and Dalian Wanda, a conglomerate with interests in property and cinemas.

Around one in five Chinese people watched the 2014 tournament on television, but football’s popularity in the Middle Kingdom has not previously translated into large numbers of Chinese sponsors of the World Cup. Only one Chinese company sponsored the 2014 tournament, so the change with this year is notable. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, an avid football fan, has made no secret of his wish for his country to qualify for another World Cup, host the tournament and eventually even win it. According to Nielsen, a research firm, the presence of Chinese sponsors at this tournament “can be seen as the country’s corporations rowing behind the national effort to develop the game and attract the World Cup”. They are speaking to FIFA in a language it understands: money.

(GUA) US, Canada and Mexico beat Morocco in vote to host 2026 World Cup

(GUA)

Delegates of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrate after winning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
 Delegates of Canada, Mexico and the United States celebrate after winning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico after they beat Morocco by a margin of 69 votes to host the tournament which will be expanded to 48 teams for the first time.

The Moroccan bid used its final address to Fifa congress to point out the country has a ban on weapons and would not hike up ticket prices to increase profit, a thinly veiled swipe at its rivals. But it was not enough to sway the room as it lost the vote, with the United 2026 bid receiving 134 votes to its 65.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

The U.S., together with Mexico and Canada, just got the World Cup. Congratulations – a great deal of hard work!

The United States-led bid was judged by a Fifa taskforce to be vastly superior to its north African rivals on technical grounds, with a total of 23 stadiums, already built or under construction, at its disposal. Morocco, while enticing some federations with its commitment to fan engagement in a footballing nation, would have had to build or renovate all of the 14 stadiums in its bid book.

That difference – alongside the promise of £4bn in extra profit for the federations – was enough to convince some undecided voters to side with the United 2026 campaign, which opened its final 15-minute pitch by handing the stage to Alphonso Davies, a 17-year-old Canadian born in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. “In Canada, they’ve welcomed me and I know they’ll welcome you,” he said.

Of 211 federations, 203 submitted a vote. That number accounted for the four bidding nations who were ineligible, plus three American-governed territories who abstained because of a perceived conflict of interest plus Ghana, who did not attend congress after corruption allegations. The way the federations voted was made public for the first time, perhaps the most surprising revelation being Russia voting for the United 2026 bid despite political tensions between the nations.

The Fifa heirarchy, including the president, Gianni Infantino, preferred the North American bid which has promised to generate around an $11bn (£8.24bn) profit for Fifa compared to the projected $5.7bn (£4.48bn) a Morocco World Cup would raise. The Moroccans had been keen to emphasise its more fan-friendly pricing in contrast with the United 2026 bid which stated an average ticket price of $431 (£322), a significant increase on the Brazil and Russia World Cups.

It was the first World Cup vote since 2010, when the FA suffered humiliation after Russia won the right to host the 2018 tournament. Allegations of corruption immediately followed that vote with Qatar securing the 2022 event. The prospect of a more controversy-free World Cup also swayed Fifa in favour of the United 2026 bid.

Infantino took the opportunity to claim the Fifa landscape has drastically changed since he succeeded Sepp Blatter. “It was clinically dead when I took over two years ago,” he said. “Now it is alive. There are no longer additional costs in the balance sheet.”

Proceedings at congress, held at Moscow’s Expocentre on the outskirts of the city centre, came to an unexpected halt halfway through as Infantino announced the arrival of Vladimir Putin. Most of the hall rose to their feet to greet the arrival of the Russian president but the FA delegation, led by the chief executive, Martin Glenn, remained seated. Putin offered little alternative to David Gill, the English Fifa council member, but to shake his hand as he made his way along the line of those on the stage.

Eight years ago when Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup in Zurich, Putin spoke mainly in English as he thanked the audience “from the bottom of my heart”. He struck a different, more serious tone this time round although he was full of praise for Infantino, calling him a “good front man and true fighter”. Infantino responded in kind, thanking Putin “on behalf of the entire world of football … from the bottom of our heart a big thank you for your engagement, for your passion, for really making us feel part of the same team”.

Putin closed his speech by saying in English: “Welcome to Russia.”

+++ P.O. (BBG) FIFA’s New Competition Will Destroy World Soccer: Alex Webb

P.O.

…In my opinion, and i agree with the Author, there is already too much discrimination between the rich and the poor Soccer Clubs.

…With this new proposed competition it will be the end of World Soccer as we know it.

…Between corruption and these idiotic measures one doesn’t know what is Fifa’s rationale anymore…

…Unless it is to perpetuate the “cosy club” in power there.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(BBG) Another big pot for champions will worsen the divide between rich and poor clubs.

FIFA seems to be on the cusp of creating an oligopoly which could destroy club soccer around the world.

Two years after assuming the chairmanship of the sport’s global governing body, Gianni Infantino is seeking to create a new competition which will see the world’s top clubs compete for a $1.9 billion prize pot.

It risks exacerbating the wealth gap between the world’s biggest and smallest clubs to such an extent that the trend of recent years, where just a handful of clubs have any realistic chance of winning a title, is sure to get even more acute.

It’s unclear how entirely the league will be structured, but the Financial Times has reported that it will consist of 24 club teams competing in a tournament once every four years, which will be held in one region or country. It is likely that the top-performing teams from the continental tournaments (the respective Champions Leagues in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa) will then get a chance to compete for the global trophy.

The plan doesn’t have a straight shot to fruition. The Spanish are dead set against it, and controversy has prompted FIFA to delay the approval vote.

But were it to be realized, it would give the richest clubs a chance to become yet richer, giving them more financial clout to secure the world’s best players and qualify for the top prizes, and so on. England’s Premier League is instructive. English clubs competing in the Champions League, Europe’s top club competition, generated sales averaging 398 million pounds in the 2015-2016 season, according to consultancy Deloitte. The average Premier League club that didn’t participate in a European competition posted revenue of just 110 million pounds.

The ramification of that financial dominance is reflected in who has won England’s Premier League title. There are 20 clubs in the league at any one time, but just six teams have won it since its inception in 1992. With the exception of a single win each by Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City, the only winners have been Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Under Infantino’s new plan, the 24 teams from around the world that would compete would all receive some extra revenue, while the teams that get stuck in domestic leagues would receive no money. The 24 would also benefit from greater global exposure, letting them secure additional sponsorship and retail income.

It could be yet worse for non-European leagues. Competitions outside the region, including the continental ones, are significantly less lucrative. The handful of teams who qualify for Infantino’s championship would therefore benefit significantly from the vastly expanded income, which should translate into substantial dominance at home.

The logic from the FIFA side is clear. The organization secures a major payday once every four years from the World Cup, and so the timing of this new tournament could even out those peaks and troughs.

But at what cost? Not only could it create a further imbalance in the club game, the current plan will also see private companies take a 49 percent stake in the new venture, according to the FT. FIFA is, ostensibly at least, a nonprofit which aims to reinvest all surplus revenue back into the game. That’s all well and good if you agree with the premise of the tournament, but given its effect, the added factor of handing over so much power to private investors whose primary motive is profit rather than the good of the game is troubling.

When considered holistically, global soccer is a huge business. But individually, even the biggest clubs are really little more than SMEs: Manchester United’s 2017 revenue was 581 million pounds. FIFA has to ask itself: Is its primary motive to make a handful of clubs richer, or supporting the sport itself? This proposal achieves the former at the expense of the latter.

(ECO) O Sporting é o novo BES? – Editorial

(ECO) O Sporting já bateu no fundo? Não, ainda não, mas corre o risco de se transformar no novo BES. Mas, neste caso, não haverá um ‘Bom Sporting’ ou um ‘Mau Sporting’. Simplesmente, não haverá Sporting.

Uma crise sem precedentes, um nível de violência que chocou o país, suspeitas de jogos comprados, indícios de corrupção. O Sporting bateu no fundo? Não, ainda não. Quando se vê um histórico do clube como José Maria Ricciardi, sem meias-palavras, a pedir a demissão imediata do presidente do clube, Bruno de Carvalho, a alertar para os riscos que o clube está a atravessar do ponto de vista económico e financeiro, rapidamente vem à memória o que aconteceu no BES, os seus avisos, à data isolados dentro da família, e depois a queda de um grupo que parecia indestrutível. O Sporting é o novo BES? Já estivemos mais longe.

O que se passa no Sporting nos últimos meses de forma pública e notória – e podemos imaginar hoje o que já se passava nos gabinetes – permite dizer sem arriscar muito que o que está em causa é mesmo a sobrevivência de um clube histórico. Para lá das dimensões judiciais na sequência do inacreditável ato de violência de que foram alvo os jogadores e o treinador do clube, há uma dimensão empresarial que é absolutamente crítica para o Sporting ultrapassar esta crise. E tendo em conta que Bruno de Carvalho continua agarrado ao poder – tal como estava Ricardo Salgado no BES -, parece que quer ser responsável por uma última decisão: a falência do Sporting. Recorde-se, o Sporting quer adiar um reembolso do empréstimo obrigacionista de 2015, no valor de 30 milhões de euros, previsto para de 25 de maio, para novembro, e tem uma assembleia geral de obrigacionistas no próximo dia 20… Se não for aprovado, o risco de ‘default’ é enorme. Talvez se perceba melhor, agora, porque é que o BCP e o Novo Banco decidiram ‘perdoar’ 94,5 milhões de euros de dívida. Para tentar receber algum a prazo, coisa que, agora, parece mais distante.

Agora, em vez de apresentar já a demissão ou, no mínimo, acelerar a convocatória de eleições, quer reunir a assembleia geral para discutir o estado do clube. Mesmo? Há dúvidas? Há dois riscos evidentes para uma ‘besização’ do Sporting, um primeiro imediato e outro a prazo, e cada dia que passa aproxima o clube do abismo:

  1. Em primeiro lugar, a falência económica e financeira, na sequência de um possível (mais do que provável) pedido de rescisão dos contratos dos melhores jogadores por justa causa. Seria um rombo ingerível, e neste quadro, é no mínimo questionável perceber quem é que estará disponível para investir em obrigações da SAD do clube, desta vez são 15 milhões de euros, que vão ser emitidas nas próximas semanas. A NOS, o principal patrocinador, mantém para já os contratos, mas Miguel Almeida já deixou avisos.
  2. Em segundo lugar, os casos judiciais conhecidos nos últimos dias sobre as suspeitas de compra de resultados nas modalidades ditas amadoras e também no futebol podem ter consequências desportivas gravíssimas, eventualmente até à descida de divisão.

O Sporting parece, por estes dias, bloqueado numa crise institucional, porque está refém de um presidente, mas poderá ultrapassar esta fase se Bruno de Carvalho sair já, antes que o clube caia na crise financeira. Esta é a linha vermelha para evitar uma catástrofe. É ‘só’ isto que está em causa. Mais do que procurar novos candidatos à presidência do clube, o Sporting e os seus órgãos sociais têm de demitir Bruno de Carvalho com caráter de urgência, sob pena de virem a lamentar o que não fizeram. Porque aqui não haverá um ‘Mau Sporting’ e um ‘Bom Sporting’. Nem vão aparecer fundos americanos ou asiáticos para tomarem conta do clube. Simplesmente, não haverá Sporting.

(OBS) O Futebol já não é deste mundo – Rui Ramos

(OBS) O futebol tornou-se um mundo aparte, onde as leis e as regras não se aplicam. É por isso que, por vezes, parece que Alvalade fica na Venezuela e Alcochete na Síria.

Deve ter sido por volta de 1949, numa palestra radiofónica, que o capitão Jorge Botelho Moniz avançou esta tese (cito de memória): se em 1910 já houvesse um campeonato de futebol, como havia nos anos 40, nunca teria acontecido a revolução republicana em Lisboa. O seu raciocínio era este: em 1910, o republicanismo na capital arrastava para comícios, discussões e zaragatas o tipo de pessoas – caixeiros do comércio, trabalhadores das oficinas e serviços urbanos, empregados de escritório, etc. – que, trinta anos depois, iam aos estádios e discutiam e brigavam, não por causa da monarquia e da república, mas por causa do Benfica e do Sporting.

Esta teoria seria perfilhada muito seriamente pela oposição anti-salazarista, que sempre viu no futebol, ao lado do fado e de Fátima (os três F), um dos instrumentos da ditadura para distrair as massas dos seus deveres revolucionários. A multidão lisboeta que a 1 de Maio de 1974 saiu à rua a vitoriar o MFA, ainda umas semanas antes, a 31 de Março, festejara entusiasticamente Marcello Caetano no estádio de Alvalade, durante um Sporting-Benfica. Tinha sido preciso um golpe militar para quebrar o encanto.

Esta semana, não sei o que diria o capitão Botelho Moniz. A sua teoria está confirmada, no sentido em que é à volta dos clubes que as pessoas se permitem hoje em dia experimentar emoções fortes, como o tribalismo e o facciosismo outrora associado à política, à religião ou à aldeia no tempo das lutas de varapau. Mas precisamente por disso, aconteceu algo não previsto na teoria: o futebol tornou-se também uma das vias pela qual, contra a educação e a propaganda dos regimes em que vivemos, esses instintos fatais arranjaram modo de persistir e de regressar. De modo que é agora por causa do futebol que estamos à beira, não digo de uma revolução, mas de alguma comoção de Estado.

Ainda não tivemos uma guerra com pretexto num jogo de futebol, como as Honduras e El Salvador em Julho de 1969, mas já temos “terrorismo”, como se viu no assalto militarizado às instalações do Sporting em Alcochete. É nas claques do futebol que aqueles que gostariam de ser guerreiros de uma tribo do Amazonas hoje encontram a sua floresta. É também no futebol, que políticos de segunda linha, empresários suburbanos, ou advogados anónimos têm a sua oportunidade de fazerem de Césares com os seus circos.

A mania de ver no futebol uma espécie de nova religião não ajuda, porque manifestamente inibe as autoridades. Todos receiam mexer no novo ópio do povo. Assume-se, por isso, que nada pode acontecer a um clube de futebol, aos seus dirigentes e adeptos. É essa impunidade que explica como, de repente, temos demagogos a presidir a clubes, mafias a organizar jogos, e adeptos que são terroristas. Há obviamente, em qualquer sociedade, por mais bem formada, gente cuja vocação é ser demagogo, mafioso, ou terrorista. Se não fosse no futebol, seria em outra coisa qualquer. A questão está na possibilidade que o futebol lhes dá para serem tudo isso impunemente. Por isso, parece por vezes que Alvalade fica na Venezuela e Alcochete na Síria.

O futebol tornou-se um mundo aparte, onde as leis e as regras não se aplicam. Há quem, por essa razão, queira agora mudar Portugal, o mundo e a natureza humana. Não digo que não desse jeito. Mas antes disso, experimentem este remédio mais simples: sujeitem o futebol à lei, com todo o rigor. A primeira vez que um clube fosse dissolvido por dívidas, despromovido por batota, ou banido por causa da violência dos seus adeptos, fosse esse clube grande ou pequeno, voltaríamos talvez a ter apenas um desporto.

(OBS) Agora o futebol quer chamar a polícia? – Miguel Pinheiro

(OBS) É o novo mantra da intelligentsia futebolística: “À Justiça o que é da Justiça, ao desporto o que é do desporto”. É só mais uma forma de cobardia: ninguém tem coragem de enfrentar clubes e adeptos.

Não se deixem enganar: o que aconteceu esta terça-feira em Alcochete não é só um caso de polícia. Foi comovente ver como toda a gente, de políticos a dirigentes desportivos, falou sobre as agressões aos jogadores do Sporting com as mãos a segurar o Código Penal. Parecem tão sérios, não parecem? Mas essa é apenas uma forma cobarde de evitar tomar decisões difíceis; e é uma forma de entregar um tema incómodo às secretarias dos tribunais, onde ficarão durante anos antes que alguém entre na cadeia.

Eis o novo mantra da nossa intelligentsia futebolística: “À Justiça o que é da Justiça, ao desporto o que é do desporto”. Onde é que já ouvimos isto? Claro que a Justiça tem que fazer o que costuma fazer. Mas o desporto, e quem manda no desporto — sendo que quem manda no desporto adora aparecer nas televisões a dizer que manda no desporto –, fica apenas a assistir, de camarote, à longa liturgia de detenções, acusações, julgamentos e recursos de um ou dois (ou vinte) adeptos violentos, como se não precisasse de fazer mais nada?

Depois da invasão do centro de treinos de Alcochete por um bando de encapuzados, formou-se uma interminável fila de nulidades retóricas. O secretário de Estado do Desporto apareceu nas televisões, muito cheio de si e empertigado, a declarar que os agressores “não são adeptos do desporto”, mas “criminosos”. A Liga de futebol profissional repetiu a mesma coisa, quase palavra por palavra, num comunicado onde escrevia que “os executores destes comportamentos não são adeptos de futebol, mas sim criminosos”. A Federação Portuguesa de Futebol, toda ela impotência, limitou-se a pedir que “as autoridades públicas não olhem a recursos para levar perante a justiça os responsáveis por atos criminosos que não podem deixar de ser punidos”. Pedro Proença, presidente da Liga, afirmou, contristado, que “o futebol não é isto”. E o inamovível Bruno de Carvalho disse à Sporting TV, com a tranquilidade de quem fuma um charuto, que “isto é um caso de polícia, não é desportivo”.

“Não são adeptos do desporto”? Claro que são. “Não é um caso desportivo”? Claro que é. “O futebol não é isto”? Claro que é. O ponto, aliás, está precisamente aí: o que está em causa neste momento é aquilo em que se transformou o futebol português — numa república independente onde não há lei nem punição, onde só há deslumbramento e subserviência.

Basta olhar para a nossa classe política: o primeiro-ministro e os ministros aparecem, inchados, nas bancadas presidenciais dos estádios; os deputados, submissos, recebem os presidentes dos clubes no parlamento; os presidentes de câmara, solícitos, entregam as sedes dos municípios às equipas que vencem campeonatos; os políticos no activo, excitados, participam em debates na televisão que competem com circos.

E basta olhar para as autoridades: os adeptos em viagem na autoestrada destroem estações de serviço sem que haja detenções; a Segunda Circular é transformada num enorme parque de estacionamento em dias de jogo sem que haja multas; as claques lançam petardos sem que haja sanção.

Durante anos e décadas, os evidentes crimes que existem no mundo do futebol foram escondidos e protegidos por políticos engravatados, por responsáveis engravatados e por comentadores engravatados. Hoje, quando tudo se tornou insustentável, estão a tremer de medo, como sempre. Incapazes de enfrentar clubes e adeptos, fazem de conta que não é nada com eles e dizem, virginais, que o melhor é chamar a polícia. Agora é que querem chamar a polícia?