Perfect timing as FIFA finally lands Qatar Airways as World Cup sponsor by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

 

ZURICH, May 7, 2017 - After months, if not years, of speculation FIFA has finally signed up Qatar Airways as one of its main World Cup sponsors.

 

Confirmation of the completion of negotiations appeared perfectly timed ahead of a busy week for the world football federation which stages its annual congress in Manama, Bahrain, on Thursday.

 

The deal also provides president Gianni Infantino with an opportunity to defray concerns about last year’s losses by pointing out that, after a virtual freeze on sponsorship deals after the scandal-packed last two years, FIFA is back in commercial business.

 

Qatar Airways has become, fromally, ‘official partner and official airline of FIFA’ in a sponsorship package lasting until 2022 when the Gulf state hosts the World Cup finals. The airline slot has been open – obviously beckoning Qatar – ever since the expiry of FIFA’s deal with Emirates after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

 

Other events being sponsored by Qatar Airways will include the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July, next year’s World Cup there and in Qatar, the Club World Cup and the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

 

A FIFA statement said the “partnership represents one of the biggest sporting sponsorships in the world and the largest in the history of Qatar Airways.”

 

Other Qatar Airways’ sponsorships include Barcelona and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli FC, as well as with Formula E races in Paris and New York, and the UCI Road World Championships, most recently held in Doha.

 

FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura said: “Qatar Airways is an ideal partner for FIFA as we prepare for the first-ever World Cup in the Gulf region.”

FIFA Executive Member Moya Dodd attends a FIFA Executive Committee Meeting Press Conference at the FIFA headquarters on December 3, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images) by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

 

MANAMA, May 7, 2017 - This is the annual FIFA Jamboree week. Stage is Manama, Bahrain. It’s the one week of the year when football’s politicians all come together to strut their stuff under a media microscope of mistrust.

 

Climax comes later in the week with the world football federation’s annual congress. Rotation means this is the turn of the Asian confederation to play host – and it is the embattled AFC which kicks off the round of confederation talk-ins leading up to the Thursday’s stage-managed special.

 

Inbetween African confederation CAF, Oceania, Europe’s UEFA, South America’s CONMEBOL and central/north America’s CONCACAF stage a mixture of executive meetings and conferences to decide how to vote. FIFA’s unwieldy council meets on Tuesday, still short of its full complement a year after being expanded.

 

Without a doubt the most important meeting is the first, on Monday, with the Asian confederation elections for four places on FIFA Council.

 

The elections take place enshrouded by allegations in a United States court from Richard Lai, suspended president of the Guam FA, which have pushed the AFC down into the relegation zone of football credibility.

 

Lai, an AFC plant on the supposedly whiter-than-white FIFA audit and compliance panel, is seeking a plea-bargain deal in the FIFAGate saga; he has admitted taking bribes from senior AFC figures clearly identified as Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam.

 

Both men have always denied wrongdoing. Even so, a FIFA ethics life ban ‘took out’ Bin Hammam five years ago while Sheikh Ahmad hastily quit formal football involvement 10 days ago.

 

That left his close associate, FIFA’s Bahraini host AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, looking fragile, to say the least.

 

Sheikh Ahmad’s vanishing act has also meant that only one ballot matters in Monday’s AFC election congress, the one for the Asian confederation’s female seat on FIFADod Council.

 

China’s Zhang Jian, South Korea’s Chung Mong-Gyu and Philippines’ Mariano Araneta can fill the available three ‘open’ slots nem con.

 

But four candidates contest the one women’s slot: Australia’s Moya Dodd (a former co-opted member of the FIFA exco), Bangladeshi Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, North Korea’s Han Un Gyong and Palestine’s Susan Shalabi Molano.

 

Dodd should be the favourite. Her energetic promotion of the cause of women in football (not merely women’s football) has been one of the few positive contributions anyone in Asian football has brought to the worldwide game.

 

Whether the AFC sees its priority as looking in, or out, is another matter.

Tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 go on sale on 16 May

Carles Puyol will attend the sale launch and a 'Mission XI Million' Festival

Puyol lifted the FIFA World Cup™ with Spain but never played at a youth-level World Cup tournament

On 16 May, tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 will go on sale. In the build-up to this special event, a very special guest - namely Carles Puyol - will travel to New Delhi and Mumbai to mark the occasion.

 

Expectations are high in the host nation, where the tournament, which runs from 6 to 28 October, will be spread across six cities. And if any supporters still had any doubts about purchasing tickets, the former Spain defender and FIFA World Cup™ winner was keen to allay them when he spoke to FIFA.com.

 

FIFA.com: Carles, will this be the first time you’ve visited India?

Carles Puyol: Yes, and I’m very excited and curious to discover the country and its people. I’m really drawn to the culture of India, its traditional medicine, its food and, of course, the way football is developing there, which is one of the main reasons behind my visit.

 

What would you say to convince hesitant fans to buy a ticket?

I would tell them that the experience of seeing a match live is completely different from watching it on television. You can feel the intensity and energy when you’re there in person. And at this tournament, you can see the stars of the future. I’m sure that those who attend will remember it and get hooked by the sport.

 

During your visit, you will have the chance to attend one of the Football Festivals run by the 'Mission XI Million', an ambitious project that aims to introduce millions of Indian children to football. How do you rate this initiative?

The values that are passed on through sport accompany you throughout the rest of your life. It’s a wonderful opportunity for children to learn values such as empathy, and how to work really hard as a team towards a common goal. The children will have to deal with things like losing matches and motivating their team-mates, as well as trying to be magnanimous when they win. These are the life lessons that sport gives you.

 

Curiously, despite your lengthy career, you did not play at any youth World Cups. Did you ever feel envious of team-mates who took part in such competitions at any point?

I took up football pretty late and didn’t even consider the possibility of playing at the U-17 World Cup. In fact, the first international tournament I ever played at was with our U-21 side. I’ve never been envious of others; on the contrary, it motivated me to work harder to be able to enjoy those kinds of experiences as well.

 

How important is it for a player to compete at these events?

Very important. Besides offering a great opportunity to compete at the highest levels in these age categories, it prepares you for the professional stage of your career. But for those who aren’t fortunate enough to take part, it’s not the be all and end all. I never played at U-17 level or below, but I went on to have a long professional career that I’m very proud of.

Monaco 0-2 Juventus. The stage was set at the Stade Louis II for an intriguing semi-final, first leg, in the UEFA Champions League. Monaco were the last French club to make the final of the competition back in the 2003/04 season. They are looking to join Reims and Marseille, as French clubs to play in two Champions League finals. Juventus, meanwhile, are looking to reach the final for the ninth time in their history.

 

Football fans arrive at Stade Louis II for Monaco versus Juventus in the UEFA Champions LeagueMonaco's French forward Kylian Mbappe (L) controls the ball against Juventus' defender from Italy Giorgio ChielliniJuventus' forward from Argentina Gonzalo Higuain reacts after scoring a goal against MonacoJuventus forward Gonzalo Higuain scores his team's second goal at MonacoMonaco's Colombian forward Radamel Falcao controls the ball Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon acknowledges the fans after his team's win at Monaco

 

Two goals from Gonzalo Higuain gave Juventus a valuable 2-0 away victory over Monaco in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final clash at Stade Louis II.

 

The Argentinian marksman’s brace was pivotal in earning the Italian champions a two-goal aggregate advantage ahead of next Tuesday’s decisive second leg in Turin, with Monaco facing a huge task to overcome when they visit the Juventus Stadium next week.

 

FIFA.com looks back at Wednesday's semi-final, first leg in photos. Watch how the action at Stade Louis II unfolded by clicking through the photo gallery above.

 

The winner of the UEFA Champions League will represent Europe at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 in December.

Vieira scored the winner against Japan in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2001

Latching on to a long ball, the midfielder nodded into an empty net

France became only the second nation to win the FIFA World Cup™ and the Confederations Cup back to back

The stakes

There was no stopping France at the start of the new millennium. Victorious on home soil at the FIFA World Cup™ in 1998, Les Bleus then won UEFA EURO 2000 and were brimming with confidence ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup Korea/Japan 2001.

 

The group phase of the competition proved to be tougher than expected, however, with the French losing 1-0 to Australia and only qualifying for the semi-finals on goal difference, thanks to respective 5-0 and 4-0 defeats of Korea Republic and Mexico. In a repeat of the 1998 World Cup Final, Roger Lemerre’s men then defeated Brazil 2-1 to set up a final with Japan.

 

Coached by the Frenchman Philippe Troussier, the Japanese made sure of top spot in their group with a goalless draw against A Seleçao, having earlier beaten Canada 3-0 and Cameroon 2-0. Held to another 0-0 draw by the Canucks, the Brazilians had to settle for second place. Hidetoshi Nakata then scored the only goal, as Japan beat Australia to advance to the final, all without having conceded in their four games.

 

Not surprisingly, the reigning world and Europeans champions found the Japanese a hard side to break down in the final, played before a crowd of 65,533 at the International Stadium Yokohama. The French did not help themselves either, proving wasteful in front of goal.

 

The decisive goal

Vieira’s winner came as something of a surprise, given that he had arrived at the tournament without having scored in 39 appearances for his country. The Arsenal midfielder set that record straight by finding the back of the net in his side’s big win over the South Koreans in the group phase.

 

Frank Leboeuf provided the assist for his winner in the final, firing a long ball towards the Japanese penalty box. Advancing from his line in a bid to claim it, Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was beaten to the punch by Vieira, who nodded the ball over him and into the unguarded net.  

 

The victorious French became the second side after Brazil to win the Confederations Cup as reigning world champions, a feat that only the Brazilians have achieved since.

 

The goalscorer

The Senegalese-born midfielder was not known for his finishing abilities prior to his trip to Asia. A formidable athlete, Vieira won more than 100 caps for France. A giant of the midfield thanks to his huge work rate, impressive technical skills and superb vision, he was an unsurprising inclusion in the FIFA 100 list in 2004.

 

A cornerstone of Arsenal’s feted 'Invincibles' – the side that went unbeaten in winning the 2003/04 English Premier League title – he won three English league titles in all with the Gunners, a feat he then repeated with Internazionale in Italy's Serie A between 2007 and 2009.

 

He is now the coach of Major League Soccer side New York City FC, having taken on the job in January 2016.

 

They said

“My confidence is really high at the moment. The spirit among the players has been fantastic all through the tournament.” Patrick Vieira

 

“It wasn’t easy at all. We knew the final was going to be tough because Japan are a very good side. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the only reason we won was Patrick Vieira’s header.” France midfielder Robert Pires

 

“We know FIFA made us No.1 in the world, so we have to prove that we are worthy of that title.” France defender Frank Leboeuf

 

“The important thing in a final is to win and we did. We have completed a historic hat-trick. Vieira and Robert Pires were the two outstanding players in this tournament and players like them are the backbone of our team. Who knows, maybe in a year's time in this same superb stadium, there may be another final between France and Japan.” France coach Roger Lemerre

 

In the build-up to the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, FIFA.com will be taking a fortnightly trip down memory lane to remember a decisive strike to have lit up the competition.

No two countries have each played more in the history of the competition than Brazil and Portugal

Two best attacks face off, as Italy meet Senegal

Senegal, Iran and Paraguay all gunning to reach semi-finals for first time

MATCHDAY PREVIEW – The meeting between reigning champions Portugal and four-time winners Brazil is the pick of the quarter-finals at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017.

“It’s a final come early,” said Portugal’s Belchior, who, like team-mate Madjer, will need to find his very best form against an in-form Brazil side.   

While Belchior has just two goals to his name at Bahamas 2017, Madjer, the tournament’s all-time leading scorer, has none. In contrast, Brazil’s Rodrigo and Catarino have 14 between them, two more than the entire Portugal team have managed to date.

Elsewhere, Italy and Tahiti will respectively start as narrow favourites against Senegal and Paraguay, two sides with less experience at this stage of the competition, but with nothing to lose.

Finally, Switzerland and Iran should need little motivating for their encounter, having both had to dig deep in their final group matches to qualify.

The games

Thursday 4 May

Paraguay-Tahiti

Brazil-Portugal

Switzerland-Iran

Italy-Senegal

 

What you need to know

1. Haven’t we met before? Thursday’s match will be the seventh meeting between Brazil and Portugal in the Beach Soccer World Cup, making it the most common pairing in the tournament’s history. With the exception of the inaugural world finals, when they lost on penalties, the Brazilians have always come out on top against the Portuguese. The two sides, who have not met since 2011, have amassed 13 top-three finishes between them at eight world finals (seven and six, respectively).

 

2. Fireworks in the offing: The Italy-Senegal tie promises to be an exciting one, not least because they two teams boasted the most prolific attacks in the group phase, with each scoring 25 goals. Though La Azzurra have won all their matches to date, the key to victory could yet lie in defence, with the Senegalese having conceded just seven goals so far, four fewer than the Italians.

 

3. Breaking new ground: Of the eight sides still in the competition, only Iran, Senegal and Paraguay have never reached the last four before. While the Iranians and Paraguayans both lost their one and only previous matches against their quarter-final opponents, the head-to-head between Senegal and Italy reads one win apiece.

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