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Football Briefs: Spain players don't rule out strike over plans for US games

August 23, 2018 15:51 IST

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Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos

IMAGE: Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The union of Spanish footballers (AFE) is unanimously opposed to La Liga's plans to play regular season games in the United States and will not rule out going on strike to protest against the proposals, it said on Wednesday.

La Liga’s organising body announced last week in partnership with multinational media, sports and entertainment group Relevent that it plans to hold Spanish top-flight games in the US in the future.

La Liga has not given details on when the first match across the Atlantic will take place, how many games per season would be involved, how they would be selected or whether it would compensate the loss of home advantage for teams involved.


Captains and vice-captains representing the 20 clubs in the league including Barcelona's Sergio Busquets and Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos attended a meeting in Madrid called by AFE President David Aganzo in response to last week's announcement.

"The captains are surprised and angry that such an important decision was taken without being consulted. The players are unanimously against this, no-one is in favour of it," Aganzo told a news conference.

"There are some clubs that are in favour and others that are against it, but I'm speaking on behalf of the footballers."

Aganzo, who became head of the union this year when Luis Rubiales left the role to become president of the Spanish Football Federation, did not rule out organising a players' strike if their concerns are not heard.

"I will state very clearly that we will do everything possible to avoid this," he added.

A La Liga spokesperson said the organising body "will meet with AFE in the appropriate forum to discuss the plans".

The spokesperson also pointed to comments made by La Liga president Javier Tebas from last week's announcement.

Tebas said: “If we play one game in another country, we’ll go hand in hand with the clubs and institutions. La Liga excites millions of fans around the world. Let’s build bridges and grow while transmitting the values of football and of our country.”

Ajax, AEK on course for Champions League group stage

Former European Cup winners Ajax Amsterdam stayed firmly on course to reach the Champions League group stage after a dazzling first half helped them to a 3-1 home win over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their playoff round tie on Wednesday.

Greek champions AEK Athens also put themselves in the driving seat with a 2-1 win at Hungary's Vidi FC while Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb ground out a 1-1 draw at Swiss champions Young Boys Bern.

Roared on by a fervent crowd in the Johan Cruyff Arena, Ajax raced into a second-minute lead after Dusan Tadic teed up Donny van de Beek to side-foot home a low shot which squeezed under keeper Denys Bojko’s body.

Dynamo levelled in the 16th minute when right back Tomasz Kediora tapped in a rebound after Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana parried Tamas Kadar’s thumping header from a corner.

Kadar was at fault for Ajax’s second goal as a seemingly innocuous shot by Morocco midfielder Hakim Ziyech brushed his head and left Boyko stranded in the 35th minute.

Serbia winger Tadic made it 3-1 with a goal of the highest quality in the 43rd minute, superbly steering home an inviting cross by left back Nicolas Tagliafico.

Ajax could have won by a bigger margin as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ziyech hit the woodwork with Dynamo subdued and barely able to get out of their own half.

Vidi and AEK each had a player sent off and the Greek side benefited soon after the home team’s striker Szabolcs Huszti was shown a straight red card for a reckless foul midway through the first half.

Viktor Klonaridis fired AEK ahead when he tucked the ball away from point-blank range in the 34th minute and Tasos Bakasetas doubled the lead early in the second half with a deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Bakasetas was also given his marching orders after being shown a second yellow card and Danko Lazovic pulled one back for Vidi with a neat finish.

Young Boys looked set to run riot after a Kevin Mbabu goal in the second minute gave them the lead against Dinamo but paid the price for missing a flurry of chances.

Dinamo keeper Daniel Zagorac made several fine saves before Mislav Orsic equalised in the 40th minute, racing clear of his markers after he was put through by Izet Hajrovic.

Dinamo missed two chances inside a minute as Hajrovic rattled the post before Orsic's vicious shot from 18 metres was superbly saved by David von Ballmoos.

Uruguay players support FIFA intervention, says Godin

Uruguay captain Diego Godin said on Wednesday the national team backed FIFA's intervention in the domestic game and that a review of contracts signed by the association was "necessary and indispensable."

Football's governing body FIFA said on Tuesday it would take over the day-to-day running of the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) and ensure free and fair elections were held for a new president by next February.

Central defender Godin, who captained Uruguay at the World Cup in Russia, said national team players "expressly supported" a decision that was necessary to "bring principles of transparency, democracy and plurality to the AUF."

"It is time for football in Uruguay to be conducted by the will of all those involved and not by external pressures bowing to the interests of third parties," the Atletico Madrid defender said on Twitter.

AUF President Wilmar Valdez unexpectedly resigned in July and the ballot to succeed him was postponed pending questions over the eligibility of the remaining candidates.

The lack of leadership means long-time coach Oscar Tabarez has not signed a new contract and his place has been filled temporarily by Under-20 coach Fabian Coito.

Coito will lead the side for next month's friendly match against Mexico in the United States.

Ex-Brazilian soccer boss gets four years in US prison in FIFA probe

A former president of Brazil's soccer federation was sentenced on Wednesday by a US judge to four years in prison after being convicted on corruption charges related to the bribery scandal at FIFA, the sport's governing body.

Jose Maria Marin, 86, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, New York. He was also fined $1.2 million and ordered to forfeit $3.34 million.

Marin, the former head of Confederação Brasileira de Futebol (CBF), was convicted on Dec. 22 by a federal jury on six conspiracy counts, including to commit racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

He was among the first to stand trial over what U.S. prosecutors called a sprawling scheme involving payments of more than $200 million of bribes and kickbacks in exchange for marketing and broadcast rights for soccer matches. Prosecutors said Marin received several million dollars in bribes.

"We are disappointed in the length of the sentence but appreciate the judge's efforts to strike a fair balance," Marin's lawyer Charles Stillman, said in an email. "Mr. Marin will pursue an appeal."

Prosecutors had sought a minimum 10-year prison term, less 13 months that Marin has already spent in custody.

Defence lawyers said Marin's age and health meant he should be sentenced to time served, court papers showed.

CBF declined to comment.

At least 42 individuals and entities have been charged in the FIFA probe, and many have pleaded guilty.

Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay, a former head of South America's soccer governing body CONMEBOL, was a co-defendant at Marin's trial and was also convicted. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 29, court records showed.

The third defendant at the trial, former Peruvian soccer official Manuel Burga, was acquitted.

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