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Ex-South American soccer boss watches FIFA trial from afar

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When the FIFA corruption trial kicked off in New York this week, ex-South American soccer boss Nicolas Leoz was a significant absentee, watching from the comfort of his home in Paraguay.

Leoz, one of the main suspects in the huge bribery and money laundering scandal being investigated by the US Justice Department, is where any 89-year old is content to be, albeit under house arrest.

The former president of the Confederation of South American Football (CONMEBOL) is suspected of receiving millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for marketing and TV rights for games. He denies any wrongdoing and his legal team has so far frustrated all attempts to extradite him.

Forty-two officials and marketing executives, and three companies, were indicted in an exhaustive 236-page complaint detailing 92 separate crimes and 15 corruption schemes to the tune of $200 million.

Along with Brazilians Joao Havelange and Ricardo Teixeira and the Argentine Julio Grondona, Paraguay’s Leoz held the reins of South American football from the 1980s until 2013.

« They were the masterminds of corruption in South American football. They are the ones who should be on trial, » says Andrew Jennings, author of the book « The Dirty Game: Uncovering the Scandals at FIFA. »

– Bribes or commissions? –

Leoz has been fighting extradition since shortly after seven FIFA executives were arrested by Swiss police in June.

He was admitted to hospital for a heart condition while his successor as CONMEBOL chief, Eugenio Figueredo, was being arrested in Geneva.

He was later detained by police in Paraguay and placed under house arrest in the capital Asuncion, where CONMEBOL is based.

But he remains a powerful figure in Paraguay.

Along with a string of business interests, he owns the hospital to which he was admitted. He has a suite on the top floor of the ultra-modern Sanatorio Migone and his son-in-law is the director.

The chances of him being extradited to face trial are nil, according to his lawyer.

Leoz « is 89, is in delicate health, which is worsening over time. He has nursing care 24 hours a day. He hasn’t traveled by plane for the last four years, » said lawyer Ricardo Preda.

« We are convinced that the extradition request will not succeed, » he said.

« Without going into the substance of the matter, the facts he is accused of in the United States are not punishable in Paraguay, » said Preda.

The alleged bribes are considered as commissions in South America because the money involved was a transaction between private individuals, he added. It’s only an offense if they are paid to a public body or to a civil servant, the lawyer said.

– Support for Qatar –

CONMEBOL has filed its own suit against Leoz for breach of trust, criminal association and money laundering.

« CONMEBOL carried out an audit, which highlighted transfers of more than 110 million dollars from CONMEBOL to accounts held by Nicolas Leoz, validated by the executive committee, without supporting documents, » the South American soccer body’s lawyer Osvaldo Granada told AFP.

« The sums were received on his personal accounts, then transferred to companies in the United States, » he said.

« Unfortunately, the Paraguayan justice has delayed the investigations. »

The association is also pressing charges against Leoz’s successor, Figueredo.

According to FIFA, Leoz is also one of several officials suspected of receiving bribes to support the Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

In Asuncion, the father of our lives with his second wife, a Colombian half his age, in the exclusive Villa Mora district.

A journalist by training, he ran Paraguay’s Libertad football club in the 1970s. They play their home games at the « Estadio Nicolas Leoz ».

In that era, said CONMEBOL’s new president Alejandro Dominguez, « the objective was money and football was a means to obtain it. »

Source: www.besoccer.com

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Championship Review: Sheffield United go top

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Sheffield United are top of the Championship, while Bolton Wanderers are now unbeaten in six matches.

Billy Sharp scored twice as Sheffield United moved back to the top of the Championship with a 3-1 victory at Burton Albion on Friday.

Sharp netted the opener from the spot in the 10th minute after being brought down by Kyle McFadzean, before Matt Palmer equalised for the hosts with a 25-yard strike.

The Blades captain converted a Mark Duffy delivery to restore the lead three minutes later, and Leon Clarke wrapped up the win with a second-half header, having earlier hit the post.

The result moves Chris Wilder’s men a point clear of Wolves at the summit, with the deposed leaders set to travel to Reading on Saturday, although their joy was tempered by an injury – thought to be a broken leg – that saw Paul Coutts taken to hospital.

The Blades are victorious in Friday night’s encounter at the Pirelli Stadium #twitterblades #sufc #forgedinsteel pic.twitter.com/ZKn252cBae

— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) November 17, 2017

Burton, meanwhile, have now lost five consecutive home matches and sit one point clear of the relegation zone.

Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to climb out of the drop zone after being held to a goalless draw by Preston North End at Deepdale.

Source: www.besoccer.com

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Schurrle: Dortmund couldn’t deal with Stuttgart counter-attacks

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Borussia Dortmund made it three Bundesliga defeats in a row against Stuttgart, something Andre Schurrle blamed on a failure to « dominate ».

Andre Schurrle felt Borussia Dortmund paid the price for a lack of dominance and a susceptibility to counter-attacks in their 2-1 loss to Stuttgart.

Peter Bosz’s side suffered their third Bundesliga defeat in a row at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Friday, with Chadrac Akolo and Josip Brekalo scoring for the hosts either side of a Maximilian Philipp strike following a missed Schurrle penalty.

Schurrle, starting a league game for the first time this season in place of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was dropped for a breach of discipline, felt Dortmund responded well to the blow of Akolo’s fifth-minute opener but should have done more with their first-half chances.

The former Chelsea man also called on his team-mates to improve their defensive organisation in order to stop other teams exploiting them on the break.

« I think we played a good game, especially in the first half after the almost own-goal, » he said immediately after the match. « We came back strong, had good control and played some good football. But we need to score more goals.

« In the second half, we didn’t dominate the game as we wanted. It went from in front of their goal to the other goal and, as Borussia Dortmund, you can’t let the game happen like this. We have to dominate and work the ball. We can’t give them so many good chances. »

1 – Josip #Brekalo is the first Croatian player to score for @VfB_int in the #Bundesliga since Zvonimir Soldo back in 2005. Nostalgia. #VfBBVB pic.twitter.com/H84X39Y1gb

— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) November 17, 2017

Dortmund lost Sokratis Papastathopoulos at half-time but Schurrle refused to blame Stuttgart’s second goal on replacement Dan-Axel Zagadou, who failed to stop the run of Brekalo.

« Dan came in and played a really good game, » he said. « But when you’re as open as we are, and they play so many counter-attacks, it’s difficult to win games. »

Dortmund now face a daunting run of fixtures, with their Champions League fate to be decided against Tottenham and Real Madrid amid league games against fierce rivals Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen.

Schurrle, however, sees it as a chance to show the Dortmund fans the team is prepared to fight to improve.

« It’s a good opportunity. It’s the most important game for our fans and you saw they were behind us but were very frustrated at the end and disappointed with us, » he added.

« We need to go back, work on our shape, build some stamina and then go and play in the Champions League and the derby. »

Source: www.besoccer.com

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Pernickety Pep tells Man City to keep striving

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has called on his players to not let their record-breaking start to the Premier League season stop them from aiming for even higher heights.

City have won 10 and drawn one of their 11 matches to date — matching Chelsea’s 2005-06 record — and scored 38 goals, 15 more than any other team.

But Guardiola has told his side they can perform even better ahead of Saturday’s trip to Leicester City.

« The moment they don’t believe they can be better, that’s the moment we crash, » the 46-year-old told reporters on Friday.

« They will make a big mistake when they think we’ve done enough. When we analyse the results, there is nothing to say.

« But when you see the games — picking out the mistakes — and we have 10 mistakes the same, then there is a reason to work for the future. »

City have won their last 15 games in all competitions since a 1-1 draw with Everton in August, including a penalty shootout success over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup.

Not only is that a club record, but it is also the best run of any English team in football history.

They have also scored 52 goals across all competitions this season, which is the best goal tally for an English side after 17 games in the Premier League era.

Guardiola, whose side are eight points clear of second-place Manchester United, still wants to see an improvement from his players, but says he is not a perfectionist.

« We’ve missed some easy balls. When we defend deep, we are not completely organised, » said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.

« There was a clear counter-attack during our last game (a 3-1 win over Arsenal) that we didn’t finish. When one guy makes a bad pass or bad control, we can improve that.

« It’s impossible to be perfect, but it’s (possible) to be better.

« We cannot deny that we’re happy in terms of results, but it’s the same as when we were winning games at Barcelona and Bayern Munich: you can always do better.

« We can improve individually and collectively. Opponents are going to create more and more problems.

« How are we going to solve that? The perfect game, team, players, managers do not exist. »

Source: www.besoccer.com

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