Henchmen arrested, but the Joker is still at large: 10 FIFA officials arrested in Switzerland for extradition to the U.S. for a whole host of corruption charges. Sepp Blatter is up for re-election on Friday, but with only one challenger and such rampant corruption, it's a wonder whether or not this will affect his chances.
Messi goal puts Barcelona past the post: Winning 1-0 over Atletico Madrid, last season's champions, at the Vincente Calderon, clinches the season title despite Real Madrid's 4-1 win today. This is their seventh title in ten years, with the Copa Del Rey and Champions League finals still to play.
Relegation-Bound Blackpool's Fans Storm Field, Cancel Match: The fans in Blackpool invaded the field during the English Championship team's final game before relegation Saturday, calling for chairman Karl Oyston's ouster. The game had to be cancelled. Fans announced earlier they would begin their anti-Oyston protest at the statue of legendary Blackpool player Stan Mortensen outside their stadium. The team had the statue cut down on Tuesday, so all that remains is the base. Daniel Taylor of The Guardian writes of Oyston, "I couldn't say with absolute certainty that he is deliberately setting out to be regarded as the most unpleasant man in the business, but he is certainly making a good fist of it."
Arsene Wenger, The Martyr: The sacrifices involved in playing the beautiful game.
U.S. Men Win 2-0 Over Mexico in San Antonio: Playing on a dismal surface, the U.S. men's national team handed Mexico another 2-0 loss in a friendly Wednesday night in San Antonio. Jordan Morris, the first current college player to play for the U.S. since 1999, scored a scrappy goal off a defender's carom and Juan Agudelo took a long pass out of the air, opened up a little space outside the box and beat the goalie to hang the famous "dos a cero" on the Americans' southern rival.
Former Bradford chairman linked to at least eight fires before Valley Parade disaster: '[T]here had been at least eight other fires at business premises either owned by, or connected to, Stafford Heginbotham, Bradford’s then-chairman, in the previous 18 years, resulting in huge insurance claims . . . "Could any man really be as unlucky as Heginbotham had been?"
Cyclones and Grass Roots Football: The Nerimbera Magpies. The soul of a town.
62,000 Welcome Orlando City to MLS in Franchise Opener: Kaka scored an equalizer on a free kick in extra time as Orlando City SC played to a 1-1 draw against New York City FC in the Major League Soccer franchise opener for both teams. Mix Diskerud had scored in the 76th minute on a pass from David Villa to put the visitors ahead. A crowd of 62,000 fans packed the Citrus Bowl, the second largest ever for a team's first game in MLS.
Revealed: the ghost game bet on around the world ... that never actually took place.:
All this would have been reflected in the odds offered before and during the game by bookmakers such as bet365 and SBOBET, odds that should have been increasingly in Shakhter’s favour. Except most people backing them were doomed to lose from the outset, because FC Slutsk 2 Shakhter Soligorsk 1 was always going to be the final score of a match Inside Sport can reveal never took place.
Belgian Soccer Fans Lose Their Heads: Fans of the Belgian soccer team Standard Liege greeted the return of their former captain Steven Defour on the opposing team with an enormous banner that depicted his decapitated head. Belgian foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders called it "stupid, nasty and irresponsible."
Coming of Age: The long, hard luck story of Australian football may be coming to an end.
Former Portuguese footballer Luis Figo joins crowded field looking to unseat Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA.: The 78-year-old Blatter is seeking his fifth consecutive term as FIFA President in an election to be held May 29th. Figo joins Frenchman Jérôme Champagne, Jordanian Prince Ali (who has won the backing of England's FA), Dutch FA President Michael van Pragg, and a bookmaker-backed publicity candidate. ESPN FC's Gabriele Marcotti offers a brief primer (autoplay audio/video warning).
The Miracle of Sociedad Deportiva Eibar: The town of Eibar, Spain, population 27,000, has a club playing in La Liga's top division for the first time in its history. Sociedad Deportiva Eibar has a $22 million budget compared to $934 million at Real Madrid, but after 16 games it has five wins and five draws and is in ninth place, seven points above the relegation zone. The club, the smallest ever in Primera Division, is debt-free and self-sustaining. "We could be a little bit uncomfortable for a lot of clubs, because they have done things in the opposite way," said club president Alex Arranzabal.
Chris Wondolowski Relives That Shot: "Wondolowski went back to the locker room and showered and dressed. Moments later, he did something that no athlete in the aftermath of failure should ever, under any circumstances, do: He checked Twitter." Jordan Ritter Conn of Grantland catches up with Chris Wondolowski, six months after the World Cup round of 16 game-winning goal that wasn't.
Plans for 39th Premier League Game Abroad Fizzle: Six years after Premier League chief Richard Scudamore floated the idea of playing a 39th game in other countries, he is conceding defeat. "The idea of an extra game is gone," he said. "I bear the scars from thinking it’s a good idea." Another proposal has been more successful: The next broadcast deal will feature Friday evening games beginning in 2016.
New India Super League Has Fourth-Highest Attendance in Soccer: The India Super League began a month ago, hoping to bring soccer to prominence in a country where it was once the most popular sport. The league has brought on some older foreign stars -- Alessandro Del Piero, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and David Trezeguet -- and drew 56 million viewers to its opening matches. The league has eight teams, plays three months and does not relegate, although it plans a merger with the smaller, established I-League within five years. Organizers tout that it has the fourth-highest attendance of any league, ahead of Serie A and behind the Bundesliga, Premier League and La Liga. In a country of 1.2 billion, there are a lot of potential eyeballs. "Even a niche does very well for numbers," said Siddhanth Aney, editor of Sports Illustrated India. "You only need 1 percent of the TV audience to be successful."
Wigan owner makes controversial comment about Jews: Will the English get their own Donald Sterling moment? Kick It Out think so, and Wigan's shirt sponsor has already cancelled their deal over Mackay's hiring.
FIFA Goal of the Year nominees:
(Where "year" is October 2013 to September 2014.)
World Cup inquiry clears Qatar but criticises English FA: Or does it? Fifa report 'erroneous', says lawyer who investigated corruption claims and Fifa World Cup report pointless and a joke - FA boss Greg Dyke. So, Fifa corruption report: Who is to blame and what happens now?
What's in a shirt?: "With financial fair play forcing clubs worldwide to maximize their revenue streams, the once-humble kit deal is now more important than ever before. What used to be a local, pragmatic endeavor - you sponsor it, we wear it - has become a global statement of commercial intent."
Drone with Flag Sparks Brawl at Euro 2016 Match: The Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying a banner with an Albanian nationalist message flew over the pitch at Partizan Stadium in Belgrade, Serbia, and sparked a brawl between the teams after a Serbian player pulled it down and Albanian players tried to take it from him. Albanian supporters had already been banned from attending over security concerns, given turbulent relations between the countries. Deadspin has the video.
Gus Johnson Booted as Fox Soccer Announcer: Gus Johnson has stepped down as Fox's No. 1 soccer broadcaster. When Fox Sports president Eric Shanks was asked whether Johnson being widely reviled calling the sport was a reason for the move, he said no but added, "I am not going to lie and say we were unaware of it."
Diego Simeone gets eight match ban: Although Athletico Madrid started off the season with a trophy, winning the Spanish Super Cup will cost their manager a spell off the sidelines as he behaved very poorly when the assistant ref was slow in allowing his fullback back on the pitch after treatment for a bloody nose. Simeone was suspended for four games for tapping the back of the assistant referee's head, two games for protesting, one game for applauding his sending off, and one game for remaining in the stands instead of going to the changing room after his expulsion. Atletico assistant coach German Burgos will take charge in his absence.
Soccer Player Killed by Thrown Object from Stands: Albert Ebosse, a 24-year-old striker from Cameroon playing in the top-flight Algerian league for JS Kabylie, died after he was hit in the head by a thrown object from the stands at the end of a game Saturday. Ebosse scored the team's only goal in a 2-1 home loss to USM Alger.
Men in Blazers Move to NBC Sports: Sunday's Premiership opener between Manchester City and Newcastle was followed on NBC Sports by the Men in Blazers, television producer Michael Davies and writer Roger Bennett, broadcasting from their new Panic Room. "Not since Lewis and Clark have two men been so excited to be here," Bennett told the Wall Street Journal. "We're incredibly surprised that they wanted us," Davies said.
The Premier League Season Kicks Off Tomorrow: After a short post-WC break, the season in England's top flight begins tomorrow. The first manager to quit or get fired has already left the building, in the form of a man who seems almost unrecognizable minus the hat. Don't forget to join the SpoFi Fantasy Premier League mini-league (anyone know the SpoFi league code?). Post your season predictions inside.
Donovan to Retire at the end of this MLS season: An outstanding player and professional.
Will Financial Fair Play kill youth development at larger clubs?: "They will, at some point, be sold on, a premium fee guaranteed by having attended finishing school at one of the world's elite clubs. Chelsea are essentially running a recruitment and development business completely unrelated to their first team . . . Investment in their youth structures is exempt from FFP. But the money the club raise by selling players is not. They are making their money work for them. As one observer put it to me Wednesday, they are 'gaming' FFP."
Drogba!: "He is coming with the mentality to make more history."
SportsFilter's World Cup Confidence Pool Winner: The World Cup Confidence Pool has been won by Tron7 by 24 points over Goddam and 36 over Rcade (sigh). Two factors in the win were putting Spain out of the top 5 and Netherlands at 5, higher than anyone else in the top 10. My son Ecade takes home the coveted Costanza by being best at scoring the fewest points (you have to be encouraging as a parent). Tron7 wins an Adidas Brazuca Glider Soccer Ball.
How is Qatar building a national team for the 2022 World Cup?: by importing promising children from poor countries. Their families are given stipends and the boys come to live in a beautiful, possibly insane facility ("Across the campus, speakers pipe in the sounds of birds chirping throughout the day.") in hopes of some day making it onto the Qatar-owned team in Belgium. Doubly so since their options, much like those of the people building stadiums for 2022, limited:
Aspire executives were displeased by the departures. "They didn’t want us to talk to other agents, they definitely did not," said Tchoutou, who now plays for A.S. Roma’s top youth team. But after three years, he decided to leave with their approval or not. According to one scholarship agreement, the boys pledge not to sign any contract without the written authorization of Aspire. Of the few boys who have left the program, Bleicher said agents approached them secretly and made promises.
Germany Wins World Cup: Germany won its fourth World Cup after a tense 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday. Mario Gotze's strike, seven minutes from the end of extra time, ensured Germany ended its 24-year wait for glory at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium. Deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, it was left to substitute Gotze to provide the game's defining moment with a touch of magic. The Bayern Munich star took Andre Schurrle's pass on his chest before displaying exquisite technique to volley the ball past Sergio Romero.
Liverpool Sells Luiz Suarez to Barcelona: Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez is being transferred from Liverpool to Barcelona for a reported transfer fee around 80 million Euros. The 27-year-old serial biter is serving a four-month suspension from soccer as punishment for chomping Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup. Barring his appeal, Suarez will miss 18 games for Barcelona, including three in the Champions League, one for Copa del Rey and nine in La Liga.
Argentina Faces The Netherlands for Spot in World Cup Final: Argentina plays its first World Cup semifinal since 1990, facing today a Netherlands team looking to reach its second consecutive final. The countries have met four times in the tournament and four other times. Argentina won only one of the matches, but it was the 1978 World Cup final.
Nate Silver Had Brazil at 65% to Win Today: "We have some reasonably good news for Brazil. Even without Neymar and Silva, the team remains the leading contender to win the World Cup in our estimation. You may or may not agree with the math, but the intuition behind it is this: Soccer is a team sport, and Brazil is a very deep team. ... If we run the new numbers through the SPI match predictor, we come up with a 65 percent chance of Brazil prevailing against Germany." -- Nate Silver's pre-match prediction on 538
Brazil Faces Germany for Spot in World Cup Final: In the worst World Cup loss by Brazil in the country's history, the host nation lost 7-1 to Germany in the semi-final after goals by Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Andre Schuerrle. Oscar scored for Brazil.
The Netherlands Faces Underdog Costa Rica in World Cup: The Netherlands and Costa Rica meet in the World Cup for the first time Saturday to decide the final spot in the quarterfinals. The Netherlands has won 10 of its last 11 World Cup matches, losing only to Spain in the 2010 finals. Costa Rica, the biggest surprise of the tournament, is the first CONCACAF team to reach a quarterfinal in 12 years.
Argentina Faces Belgium in World Cup Quarterfinal: Argentina and Belgium meet Saturday in the day's early World Cup quarterfinal. The teams have met twice in the tournament before, Belgium winning in the group stage in 1982 and Argentina in the semifinals four years later. All eyes are on Argentina great Lionel Messi, who has four goals and one assist out of his country's seven total goals at this World Cup.