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Even Visa Thinks the World Cup Is a Mess

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AFP—AFP/Getty Images FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger talks during a press conference following an executive meeting of the football's world governing body at the Home of FIFA on March 21, 2014 in Zurich. A report on migrant workers' rights in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil was on the agenda. AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BUHOLZER (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BUHOLZER/AFP/Getty Images)

Says it's "troubled" by worker conditions in Qatar for the 2022 tournament

Visa expressed “grave concern” Wednesday about the worker conditions in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup, becoming the first major American sponsor to speak out about reports of worker deaths at construction sites.

“We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions,” Visa said. “We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

The Gulf nation is urgently preparing to host the 2022 World Cup amid searing heat and accusations of bribery. After reports of some worker deaths last summer, the International Trade Union Confederation, a global trade group representing workers’ rights, brought new attention to the crisis this week with a campaign, in partnership with NewFifaNow and the Play Fair Qatar groups.

The campaign calls for pressure on FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter. and predicts that “more than 62 workers will die for each game played during the 2022 tournament.”

Visa’s statement is the latest sign of increasing sensitivity by corporate sponsors of sports leagues to issues that receive negative attention. Last year, Visa was among several corporations, including Pepsico, AB-InBev, and Radisson Hotels, that all put out statements admonishing the NFL for its handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME viral

Watch Soccer Megastar Cristiano Ronaldo Stand Up for the Little Guy

Haters are going to struggle after watching this

It is true, multimillionaire footballer Cristiano Ronaldo just rubs some people the wrong way, but this video of the Real Madrid superstar defending a young Japanese boy attempting to speak Portuguese demonstrates his kinder side.

The video emerged Monday from a promotional event in Japan last year. In it, the boy opens with some basic greetings but begins to stumble over more complicated sentences.

When the audience laughs, Ronaldo, referring to the crowd, asks his translator off camera, “”Why they smile? Why? He speaks good Portuguese. Very good. They should be happy because he tries very hard.”

The audience was shamed into a bashful applause and Ronaldo earned some serious respect.

TIME Cricket

Afghanistan Has Just Won Their First Match at the Cricket World Cup

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Dianne Manson—AP Afghanistan's Hamid Hassan is watched by his teammates as he performs a hand-stand after taking a catch to dismiss Scotland's Josh Davey during their Cricket World Cup Pool A match in Dunedin, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015.

The feat is astonishing for a war-ravaged nation that only took up the sport 15 years ago

The Afghanistan cricket team created history on Thursday, winning its first match in the World Cup after a nail-biting finish.

Chasing 210 for victory against Scotland in a group match, the Afghans were in danger of collapsing when 7 of 10 batsmen got out for just 97 runs, the BBC reported.

But player of the match Samiullah Shenwari pulled the team through with a classy individual effort, adding 96 runs of his own to inspire a monumental victory with just three balls left in the game.

The feat is remarkable considering the Afghan team’s history. Cricket only began in the war-torn nation 15 years ago, and many of the players grew up in the refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan after their families were displaced by the Soviet invasion of the 1970s.

While simply qualifying for their first World Cup was a huge achievement, the maiden victory at the tournament caps a fairytale run from the sport’s lowest tier in 2008 to its biggest stage less than a decade later.

The win will no doubt have sparked wild celebrations in Afghanistan, with the country’s president Ashraf Ghani praising the team in a tweet. It also had the global cricket fraternity showing its admiration.

TIME Soccer

FIFA Steps Closer to Delaying Qatar’s 2022 World Cup Until Winter

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AFP/Getty Images A general view taken on November 13, 2014 shows Khalifa Stadium in Doha which is undergoing complete renovation in preparation to host some of the matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

FIFA task force recommends playing tournament in November and December to avoid overwhelming heat

A FIFA task force has recommended delaying the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar until winter, rather than risk exposing players and fans to a summer climate where temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce hailed the recommendation as a “common sense” solution, which the executive committee will likely adopt when the committee convenes in Zurich on March 19 and 20, BBC News reports.

Boyce also acknowledged concerns from football leagues that a winter game would disrupt other longstanding tournament schedules. The 2023 African Cup, for instance, would most likely be pushed back by a winter World Cup.

“It is eight years away and people should have enough time to make it work,” Boyce said.

Read more at BBC News.

TIME Cricket

West Indian Cricketer Chris Gayle Scores World Cup’s First-Ever 200

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Mark Kolbe—Getty Images Chris Gayle of West Indies celebrates his double century during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between the West Indies and Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval on February 24, 2015 in Canberra, Australia.

He becomes the first player to do so in the sport's biggest tournament.

West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle decimated bowlers (and records) during his team’s encounter against Zimbabwe on Saturday, becoming the first player to score 200 runs in a World Cup innings.

Gayle reached his double-century, a rare feat in cricket, from just 138 balls, the BBC reported. He is only the fourth player ever to achieve the landmark, and the first to do so in the sport’s biggest tournament.

The 35-year-old batsman, who has earned a reputation as one of the sport’s fiercest hitters, smashed 16 sixes (the equivalent of home runs) in his 215-run innings. His 372-run partnership with teammate Marlon Samuels also broke the previous record for any partnership in this format of the game.

Here’s a video of the innings that shows just how devastating Gayle was.

TIME Soccer

A Nepalese World Cup Worker Dies Every Other Day in Qatar

Prakash Mathema—AFP/Getty Nepalese migrant workers queue to receive official documents in order to leave Nepal from the Labour department in Kathmandu on January 27, 2014.

The appalling toll comes despite Qatari claims of reform

The Guardian reports that Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar died at a rate of one in every two days during 2014.

The death toll excludes deaths among Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers. The Guardian believes that if these figures were included, the death toll would “almost certainly” be more than one a day.

Human rights organizations have accused Qatar on falling behind on the investigations and labor reforms they vowed to implement following a report by international law firm DLA Piper published in May.

“It’s Qatar’s responsibility to determine if deaths are related to living and working conditions, but Qatar flatly rejected a DLA Piper recommendation to launch an immediate investigation into these deaths last year,” said Nicholas McGeehan, the Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The Nepalese foreign employment board told the newspaper that 67 of its nationals had died of cardiac arrest and 8 of heart attacks, while 34 death were logged as workplace accidents.

Read more at the Guardian

TIME Soccer

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

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

"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 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
Dennis M. Sabangan—EPA 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.

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.

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