TIME ebola

Soccer on Hold in Liberia as the Fight Against Ebola Continues

Ebola in Liberia
A nurse disinfects the waiting area for visitors at the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, on July 28, 2014 Ahmed Jallanzo—EPA

A major tournament has been postponed as West African countries struggle to contain the deadly disease

Correction appended July 30, 9:26am ET

Liberia halted all soccer activity Tuesday in the effort to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed hundreds in West Africa as the region scrambles to stop the worst outbreak on record.

“We have decided to suspend all football activity while we help the government combat the deadly Ebola disease,” said Liberian Football Association secretary general Alphonso Armeh. “We also want to use this time to create awareness. In its initial stages, we didn’t give this the attention it needed.”

The President’s Cup, scheduled for August, has been postponed and training has been canceled, Bloomberg reports. The soccer ban could be lifted in time for league play in October.

More than 670 people in three West African countries, including more than 129 in Liberia, have been killed in the outbreak. Nigeria recently had to evacuate and quarantine a hospital after a patient died of Ebola in the first reported case to reach the densely populated city of Lagos.

On Sunday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shut overland border crossings into and out of the country.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the capital of Nigeria. It is Abuja.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Spain

Lionel Messi Faces Messy Tax-Fraud Allegations

The soccer star and his father allegedly owe $5.3 million in unpaid taxes to Spain

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Lionel Messi, the highest-paid soccer player in the world, might be in some serious financial trouble.

Messi and his father have been accused of tax fraud in Spain, and if they — in an unlikely case — are convicted, the pair could face up to six years in prison and nearly $32 million in fines.

MONEY Sports

WATCH: Lionel Messi’s Messy Tax Situation

Global soccer star Lionel Messi and his father are facing charges of tax fraud in Spain.

TIME World Cup

FIFA Rejects Calls to Strip Russia of World Cup

(ZURICH) — FIFA rejected calls to move the 2018 World Cup from Russia, saying the tournament “can achieve positive change.”

Russia’s alleged involvement in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week prompted calls from some lawmakers in Germany to review the country’s hosting rights.

On Friday, FIFA issued a statement saying it “deplores any form of violence” and questioning the purpose of relocating the sport’s showcase tournament.

“History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems,” FIFA said, adding that global attention on the World Cup “can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.”

The conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatist rebels escalated days after the World Cup ended in Brazil.

On July 13 in Rio de Janeiro, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a World Cup hosting handover ceremony with Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff. Both then sat next to FIFA President Sepp Blatter to watch the final at the Maracana Stadium, won by Germany.

FIFA, which has Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on its executive committee, said a World Cup in the country “can be a force for good.”

“FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia,” the governing body said.

Blatter already rejected calls to strip Russia of the tournament after it annexed the Crimea this year.

“The World Cup has been given and voted to Russia and we are going forward with our work,” Blatter said in March.

In a separate statement Friday, Mutko said a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics had been a mistake.

“So there’s no sense in reacting to politicians trying to make names for themselves,” Mutko was quoted saying by Russian news agency R-Sport. “We’re preparing in a calm way, building facilities, getting ready for the World Cup.”

Russia has announced a $20 billion budget for building and renovating 12 stadiums, and other construction projects, for the first World Cup in Eastern Europe.

“FIFA has stated many times that sport should be outside politics,” Mutko said. “Hosting an event like this, we’re doing it for athletes from all over the world, for footballers, for the fans.”

TIME Soccer

Why European Soccer Teams See Gold in America

Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy
Robbie Keane #7 of the Los Angeles Galaxy greets Wayne Rooney #10 of Manchester United drurning prematch ceremonies at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014 in Pasadena, California. Stephen Dunn—Getty Images

There's money to be made in the New World

The summer of soccer isn’t over yet. Following in the footsteps of nearly rabid fan interest in the United States Men’s National Team during the World Cup, and record numbers of American viewers for the tournament, some of Europe’s best teams have landed here in search of pre-season competition — and pre-season earnings on ticket and merchandise sales.

Manchester United is one of eight teams that will contest the Guinness International Champions Cup against the likes of Inter Milan, A.C. Milan, AS Roma, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Olympiacos. The tournament features a tasty matchup between Man U and Real Madrid on August 2 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan — a.k.a. “The Big House” – that will break the U.S. attendance record for a soccer match in the U.S., given that all 109,901 seats have already been sold. Matches will also take place in Denver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, among other cities. The championship games will be played in Miami on August 4.

United warmed up for the tournament by tearing apart Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, 7-0, in a friendly at the Rose Bowl Stadium before a crowd of 86,432. This was not a trip that Man U’s new coach Louis van Gaal, even wanted to make. “But the tour was already arranged, so I have to adapt, I shall adapt,” he said. Better get used to it, Louie. Man U’s American owners, the Glazer family, like to bring their assets home for the locals to see.

Big teams have been making periodic visits to the States for decades, although the scale and scope of this year’s visitors is nearly unprecedented. In the past, it’s been more about reconnecting with immigrant fan bases. Napoli and Santos, with Pele, played to nearly 50,000 in Yankee Stadium in 1968, with the European team tapping into a huge base of southern Italians in the metro New York area.

But as the global game, and its glam teams, have become more visible in the U.S. via weekly television exposure, America has become a destination of choice for brand building and income generation. Why train at home or in Switzerland and play friendlies against local clubs when you can get North American fans to pay your team a premium for getting in shape? Top tickets for these games are as much as $250.

In the case of one of MLS’s newest franchises, New York City F.C., ownership, rivalry and brand building interests come home to Yankee Stadium, where Liverpool meets Manchester City on July 30. NYCFC is jointly owned by the Yankees and Man City, while Liverpool is owned by Fenway Sports Group, the same outfit, controlled by John Henry, that owns the Boston Red Sox. Can’t you just smell the hatred brewing?

Liverpool started its tour with a 1-0 loss in sold-out Fenway Park to another American-owned club, A.S. Roma, which is spending its third consecutive summer in the States with a two-week, four-match schedule. Arsenal, which plays a friendly against the MLS’ New York Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J. on August 2, is partly owned by American Stan Kroenke. And Arsenal knows that, as a global brand, it needs to build its fan base in the U.S. Indeed, Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis is no stranger to these shores, having served as deputy commissioner of the MLS before heading to London.

“I can tell you something I’m completely convinced of ,” noted Gunners boss Arsene Wenger on the team’s web site, “before people didn’t know who you were, but now every American guy I met knows Arsenal, knows England and knows the Premier League.” No reason then not to sell a piece of it to them.

TIME Sports

Watch the 3 Best World Cup Goals in Flip Book Form

A delightfully whimsical blend of sports and art

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Feeling World Cup withdrawal? Relive the excitement with this gorgeous illustrated flip book depicting three of the tournament’s best goals. Though you might have your own opinions on which goals were truly the best, this artist settled on goals scored by Australia’s Tim Cahill, Colombia’s James Rodriguez and the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie.

TIME Soccer

Here’s the Winner of the World Cup’s Golden Dive Award

In case you were having World Cup withdrawal

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Only one team can win the World Cup. Only one player can win the Golden Boot or Golden Glove award. And only one lunger extraordinaire can win a completely separate, unofficial award: The Golden Dive.

If you’re reminiscent for World Cup action, the above YouTube video shows all of the flips and flops that were worthy of a “nomination.” The winner was none other than The Netherlands’ Arjen “The Flying Dutchman” Robben.

TIME Soccer

World Cup 2014 by the Numbers

400 million tweets, 3.4 million fans, and 171 goals add up to one great tournament

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Footie fans may be leaving Brazil now that the World Cup’s over, but the numbers on one of the biggest events in the world are just coming in.

The World Cup easily became the most tweeted event in history, but the amount of posts, tweets, and selfies (even by the players) is just overwhelming.

Add those numbers with a tie for most goals during a World Cup, a monstrous budget, and some odd team regulations and you have yourself one very exciting sporting tournament.

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