TIME Soccer

FIFA’s Ethics Investigator Quits Over the Handling of His World Cup Probe

FIFA's Michael Garcia photographed during a press conference at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland, on Friday, 27. July 2012 Walter Bieri—Keystone/AP

"My role in this process is at an end," says Michael Garcia

FIFA’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia has resigned in protest over the handling of his report on the controversial bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

Garcia said FIFA’s 42-page summary of his 430-page report was “erroneous.” He quit after the world soccer governing body rejected his complaint, the BBC reports.

“It is the lack of leadership on these issues within FIFA that leads me to conclude that my role in this process is at an end,” he said.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: “I am surprised by Mr Garcia’s decision. The work of the ethics committee will nonetheless continue.”

Garcia’s report probed alleged corruption in the designation of Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts in 2018 and 2022. His resignation adds to the turmoil surrounding the organization.

“We wanted all transparency but this is a new failure for FIFA,” said Michel Platini, president of the governing body of European soccer, UEFA.

FIFA said in a statement that the acting chairman of the ethics committee would take Garcia’s place, pending the election of a successor.

[BBC]

TIME Soccer

Pelé Discharged From Hospital Following Kidney Surgery

The 74-year-old soccer star says he's ready for the Olympics

Soccer legend Pelé quipped that he may still be ready to take to the field, after he was released from the hospital following a procedure to remove kidney stones.

The 74-year-old Brazilian star had contracted an infection during the operation and was placed in semi-intensive care, but he received his own room on Saturday and left the hospital in São Paulo Tuesday, the Guardian reports.

“It is gratifying and good to know that I had the support of so many people around the world who were hoping the situation improved,” he said at a press conference, according to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo. “Now I am preparing for the Olympics!”

The soccer star underwent haemodialysis after suffering a urinary tract infection.Pelé had one of his kidneys removed when he was still a professional athlete.

[The Guardian]

TIME Soccer

Landon Donovan Retires a Champion as Galaxy Win MLS Cup

Los Angeles Galaxy's Landon Donovan hoists the trophy as he and teammates celebrate after winning the MLS Cup championship soccer match against the New England Revolution on Dec. 7, 2014, in Carson, Calif.
Los Angeles Galaxy's Landon Donovan hoists the trophy as he and teammates celebrate after winning the MLS Cup championship soccer match against the New England Revolution on Dec. 7, 2014, in Carson, Calif. Jae C. Hong—AP

LA Galaxy win MLS Cup

CARSON, Calif. — Landon Donovan won his record sixth MLS Cup title in the final game of his storied career as the LA Galaxy used MVP Robbie Keane’s late goal in extra time to beat the New England Revolution 2-1 in the 2014 MLS Cup final on Sunday.

In a final that was often marked by poor touches and disjointed play, Keane made no mistake on his 111th-minute goal, running onto a ball from Marcelo Sarvas and beating Bobby Shuttleworth for the game-winner. The goal re-ignited an L.A. crowd that had grown quiet after Chris Tierney’s 79th-minute goal had tied the game at 1-1.

The title is a record fifth for LA, while New England is now 0-5 in the title game.

Here are my three thoughts on the game:

• Donovan goes out a champion

For months, Donovan had known there was a possibility he could win the MLS Cup in his final game on his home field. But it’s one thing to think about something and quite another to actually make it happen. Donovan didn’t score in his final game, but he provided some dangerous moments and showed his versatility, playing in three different positions.

For today, at least, he should thank Keane, the league MVP, who had struggled at times in this game, his frustration often boiling over, before he calmly slotted the title-winning goal in for the home team. For Donovan, winning the title is a fitting valedictory: His postseason will be remembered not just for Sunday’s game, but also for his epic hat trick in the series-deciding game against Real Salt Lake.

WATCH: Keane’s winner delivers MLS Cup to LA

• Smart coaching moves made a difference

Arena and New England coach Jay Heaps both made good switches that affected the game. It was Arena’s second-half move of Donovan to forward and Zardes to left midfield that changed things up and made the Galaxy more dangerous. Donovan was in the middle of things more often as a center forward, while Zardes was able to get free for his goal.

As for Heaps, he didn’t hesitate to pull the ineffective Charlie Davies and insert Patrick Mullins, who had played all of 16 minutes in the postseason. All Mullins did was create the goal that tied the game at 1-1. U.S. coaches often get criticized for their tactics, but both Arena and Heaps made the right moves on Sunday. By winning, Arena won his record fifth title as a coach.

WAHL: A candid Q&A with Galaxy coach Bruce Arena

• The Galaxy will be viewed as one of the best teams in MLS history

LA didn’t win the Supporters’ Shield, losing out to Seattle in the end (Seattle had 64 points; LA 61), but this Galaxy team had the second-best goal-differential in MLS history (plus-32) and played some of the finest soccer this league has ever seen. At its best, the Galaxy’s ceiling was simply higher than the rest of the league, producing goals that will live long in the memory (many of them by Donovan and Keane).

While the LA attack didn’t have any jaw-dropping moments on Sunday, more of the Galaxy players appeared comfortable in a final that they’d been in before. They didn’t shrink from the moment, and they emerge deserving champions.

This article originally appeared on SportsIllustrated.com

TIME Soccer

Soccer’s Brightest American Star Chases a Title

Los Angeles Galaxy v Seattle Sounders - Western Conference Final - Leg 2
Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on during the match against the Seattle Sounders FC during the Western Conference Final at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 30, 2014 in Seattle. Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images

Closing time for Landon Donovan

Major League Soccer will get half of its dream matchup in the final of the MLS Cup on Sunday in Los Angeles. In a fitting sendoff, the most important American soccer player in history, Landon Donovan, will play his last game as a professional when his Los Angeles Galaxy team takes on the New England Revolution.

It’s not a stretch to say MLS wouldn’t be the success it is today without Donovan. Now 32, he became the first American soccer star, and the fact that he actually played most of his career in the U.S. was critical. MLS Commissioner Don Garber credits him with making the league a respectable option for pros. “He was the first guy who said: This is a league I want to get behind,” Garber says.

It would have been fitting if the best European player to ever play in MLS, Thierry Henry, was also in the final, but Henry’s New York Red Bulls got eliminated by the dogged Revs in the semi-final by a 4-3 aggregate score. You don’t get to the final because the script says it would a be nice script. Henry has won everywhere everything else—World Cup, European Cup, Champions League, English, French and Spanish championships—but he leaves U.S. empty handed. C’est la vie, Henry.

But there’s still a good European-American story, here. That would be Jermaine Jones, the driving force behind the resurgent Revs, who at one point posted an eight-game losing streak. Until Jones arrived. This son of an American father and a German mother was born and raised in Germany. After the bulk of his career in Germany’s Bundesliga, Jones, 33, was parceled out to New England this summer. “He is so smart tactically,” Revs coach Jay Heaps says. “He can see the game. There are times when we want him to be a little more aggressive attack wise, or times we need him to close a gap defensively. He understands that better than most.”

Jones’ brand of Teutonic tackling and never-say-die American attitude was one of the great stories of the U.S. National team’s World Cup run. This guy could play middle linebacker for Patriots and there are times on the pitch when he seems to confuse the two. But he is relentless, and a guy who will be critical if New England pulls this one off.

So will Lee Nguyen, the Revs attacking midfielder. A Texan who has played in Holland, Denmark, and Viet Nam, he’s become a fixture in New England. If Nguyen scores or gets an assist, the Revs have a good shot at winning.

That’s going to be difficult because L.A. is just reeking with class. Donovan is a proven pressure player, his last gasp goal against Algeria in the 2006 World Cup being one of the great ones in U.S. history. “We’ve done this before,” Donovan said of the MLS Cup. “We have experienced players and great leadership on the team. We know what it’s all about.”

One of Donovan’s strike partners is the2014 MLS MVP Robbie Keane. The Irishman has a wealth of big club experience (Liverpool, Leeds, Celtic, Tottenham), and is exactly the kind of striker made for games like this: Give him an inch and he’ll kill you. He’s scored more than 250 goals in a career that began in 1997. Unlike Donovan, the 34-year old Keane has no plans to hang up his boots, but he’ll probably miss Donovan. “It’s been one of the best partnerships I’ve had,” said Keane. “If anyone deserves to go out on a high note, it’s him.”

The big winner of the day will be MLS itself. This year, its 19th, the league made certain it would have a 20th and beyond with a $720 million television deal with Fox Sports, ESPN and Univision. Its television ratings took a big jump this season, no doubt helped by the exposure given the game by the World Cup. Franchise values have skyrocketed and two new teams, in New York City and Orlando, will join the league next year. Attendance is up to 19,000 a game on average and sellouts are not uncommon.

That’s a far cry from when Donovan started in MLS. “I could have never in a million years imagined playing against Thierry Henry in brand new stadiums,” he said. Or playing with stars like Keane, or David Beckham. “If you had said those things in 2001, I would have said ‘you’re absolutely crazy.’”

You’ve got to applaud Donovan for playing his part in that. The next task is to make the quality of the play world class, beyond a couple of marquee players. There’s still a lot of work to do on that count. But given the class of the players who will be on the field Sunday, expect a match that lives up to a title game.

TIME Soccer

Player Killed in Argentina’s 15th Soccer-Related Death This Year

A fan of Argentine soccer team Boca Juniors confronts police during riots after celebrations of Boca Juniors Fan Day in Buenos Aires
A fan of Argentine soccer team Boca Juniors confronts police during riots after celebrations of Boca Juniors Fan Day in downtown Buenos Aires December 12, 2013. Marcos Brindicci—Reuters

Soccer-related violence is rife in the South American country

An Argentine soccer player died on Wednesday after being attacked by a group of hooligans, an incident that highlights the South American country’s ever-present problem with violence around the sport.

Franco Nieto was attacked Saturday as he was getting into to his car with his wife and one-month-old daughter, the Associated Press reported. Nieto, the captain of Rosario-based team Tiro Federal, had just finished playing a match against Buenos Aires club Chacarita Juniors in which eight players were ejected by the referee for fighting.

The attackers punched and kicked the 33-year-old player before one of them hit him on the head with a stone, according to police in Aimogasta, some 750 miles northwest of the capital. He was taken to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries on Wednesday.

Nieto’s demise raises the death toll from soccer-related incidents in Argentina to 15 this year, according to an NGO called Salvemos al Football (Let’s Save Football). In a country where the sport is seen as a way out of poverty, and rags-to-riches stars like Diego Maradona and Carlos Tevez are revered, being a part of the Barras Bravas — the gangs that control the streets around stadiums — is considered almost as prestigious.

The gangs, aside from carrying feuding with rival clubs, are also involved in the trade of illegal drugs and weapons as well as money laundering, according to the BBC. This often leads not just to incidents like Nietos death, but often to drive-by-shootings and gunfights in the streets.

The Argentina Football Association has taken steps to curb soccer-related violence, including preventing those with criminal records from entering stadiums and even banning away fans across the country. But many say the widespread corruption among local police and politicians, which has allowed the Barras Bravas to thrive, makes this a somewhat futile endeavor.

TIME Soccer

David Beckham Is Confident He Can Establish a Miami Soccer Team

David Beckham poses on the red carpet as he attends the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2014 in London on Nov. 30, 2014.
David Beckham poses on the red carpet as he attends the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2014 in London on Nov. 30, 2014. Justin Tallis—AFP/Getty Images

But local politicians have already rejected two proposed stadium venues

David Beckham remains confident that he can bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise to Miami, in spite of the rejection of two proposed waterfront stadium venues by local government leaders.

MLS commissioner Don Garber suggested that the former England and L.A. Galaxy star choose a new city for his team but Beckham’s representatives have ruled that out, according to Sky Sports.

“Miami is still David’s number one choice and it will happen,” said a spokesman for investment group Miami Beckham United. “The fans and the people of Miami are behind us and we hope to announce some positive and exciting news soon.”

Beckham’s efforts to set up his club in the city are part of the planned MLS expansion to 20 teams.

[Sky Sports]

TIME ebola

WATCH: Emotional Videos of Idris Elba and Soccer Players On Ebola

Africa United

"Our fans treat us like heroes, but I am no hero"

As part of a new Ebola campaign, the nonprofit arm of the CDC—the Centers for Disease Control Foundation—as well as soccer stars, celebrities and international health organizations created moving PSAs about Ebola to spread through West Africa.

The first video, “We’ve Got Your Back,” made by the newly formed Ebola education group Africa United, features well-known soccer players, many from or playing for African countries. “Our fans treat us like heroes, but I am no hero,” says Yaya Touré who plays for Manchester City. He’s followed by several other soccer players like Patrick Viera and Kei Kamara, all acknowledging they are not heroes. “The health workers fighting Ebola are the real heroes,” the video says, highlighting several West Africans fighting the Ebola virus. The players wear the health care workers’ names on the back of their jerseys, in hopes of spreading awareness that health care workers are heroes and should be treated as such.

Actor Idris Elba, perhaps best known for playing Stringer Bell on The Wire, stars in the second video, where he gives a rallying speech about Ebola to a locker room of soccer players. “For me the battle against Ebola is a personal one. To see those amazing countries in West Africa where my father grew up and my parents married being ravaged by this disease is painful and horrific,” said Elba in a statement.

The campaign is using #wevegotyourback to show support for the people fighting the disease.

TIME Sports

See Athletes Who Have Taken a Stand on Political Issues

Here are 8 examples of professional athletes who demonstrated social consciousness in the realm of sports

The St. Louis Rams caused a stir Sunday when some players emerged onto the football field with their arms raised in the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose that’s been used to protest the killing of Michael Brown. The St. Louis Police department condemned the gesture, calling it “tasteless, offensive, and inflammatory.” Meanwhile, the NFL said it would decline punishment of any kind for the players’ expression of free speech.

But this is not the only time athletes have made political demonstrations during an event. Here are six more examples of players getting political.

TIME World Cup

Report: Russia’s World Cup Kickbacks Included Picasso Painting

FIFA president Joseph Blatter graces  the ground breaking ceremony of the FIFA Goal Project III
FIFA president Joseph Blatter delivers his speech prior to the Ground Breaking Ceremony of the FIFA Goal Project III for the national teams' training center at the San Lazaro Leisure and Business Park in Cavite province, south of Manila, Philippines, Nov. 30, 2014. Dennis M. Sabangan—EPA

Insiders allege a system of kickbacks helped countries secure bids to host the game

World Cup officials accepted valuable works of art from Russia as it was bidding to host the 2018 soccer tournament, according to a new report published Monday.

The dossier of findings, which was submitted by investigative reporters at a British newspaper to a UK Parliamentary committee, includes allegations that Russia’s successful bid to host the tournament in 2018 was bolstered by a handout of a Picasso painting to FIFA executive member Michel Platini. Belgian executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe also allegedly accepted a valuable painting.

Investigative reporters for British newspaper the Sunday Times gathered allegations by unnamed whistleblowers, including a British intelligence agent who reportedly spied on rival countries’ bids to host the World Cup tournament. The dossier also alleges that Russia and Qatar traded votes for their successful bids as part of a gas deal.

Platini dismissed the allegations as “total fabrications,” CNN reports, while D’Hooghe characterized the painting given to him as “absolutely ugly,” and insisted it had no bearing on his vote, which he said did not go in favor of Russia.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee accepted the dossier as part of an ongoing investigation into the World Cup bidding process.

TIME

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 21 – Nov. 28

From violent protests over the Ferguson shooting verdict and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s sudden resignation to the dismantling of India’s first aircraft carrier and Lionel Messi’s new goals record, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

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