Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 16th 2015 Contents ZURICH---Sepp Blatter says he
has no fear of setting foot in the
United States --- no matter what
the FBI might be doing.
The FIFA president insisted yes-
terday he is not avoiding the US
despite a reported probe implicating
two of his former Fifa colleagues
in financial corruption.
In fact, Blatter plans an American
visit in June 2016 for the Copa
"I will be there if elected," said
Blatter, who is widely expected to
win another term in the FIFA pres-
idential vote on May 29. "Even if
not elected, they will invite me I
Just two weeks before the elec-
tion that would extend his 17-year
reign in world football's top job,
Blatter is pursuing a low-key cam-
Blatter talked about his latest
football peacemaking mission to
Israel and the Palestinian territories;
hinted at changing how nations
qualify to play in and bid to host
the World Cup; and sent a letter
to 209 voting federations explaining
The single page document---
including the slogan "Develop the
game, touch the world and build a
better future"---is as near as Blatter
has come to a campaign manifesto
for a fifth presidential term. Fighting
discrimination and match-fixing
and helping professional clubs
would be key.
Still, three days after ESPN aired
a documentary profile of him, Blat-
ter was pressed on a central claim.
He denied avoiding the United
States amid reports that the FBI is
investigating former leaders of Con-
cacaf, the US-based regional soccer
body which gets millions of dollars
each year from Fifa.
Blatter said he was aware that
Jack Warner of T&T and Chuck
Blazer of the United States, both
one-time Fifa executive committee
members, were under scrutiny.
"I know, and this everybody
knows, that in the US there is an
investigation against former people
(that) have been in my government,"
Blatter said. "But it is nothing
Blatter visited the US in May
2011 for a Concacaf meeting in
Miami and returned weeks later
for a Gold Cup semifinal match in
Houston. ESPN claimed he has
purposely stayed away since.
Blatter said he "can go there"
and noted there are international
channels for authorities "if they
want to speak with me."
If re-elected, Blatter is likely to
travel to North America for the
Women's World Cup kicking off in
Canada in June, and the Fifa con-
gress scheduled in Mexico City next
But his next visit to the US could
be for the centenary Copa America,
the South American championship
being hosted next year as a one-
off by the US Soccer Federation.
The US also hopes to stage the
2026 World Cup and got a boost
Blatter said Fifa's executive com-
mittee could pass new rules this
month that would block a continent
that hosts the World Cup from bid-
ding for the next two editions. With
Russia staging the 2018 tournament,
Europe would then be ineligible to
host the World Cup again until
"It should be this way," Blatter
said yesterday, adding that the pro-
posal is "more than an option."
The Americans could compete
against Concacaf neighbours Cana-
da and Mexico. African countries
could also join, and Morocco has
Fifa will choose the 2026 host
in a May 2017 vote. It will be the
first since December 2010 when a
controversial 2018-2022 joint
process chose Russia and Qatar,
which edged the US in a final round
The executive committee meets
on May 24-25 and again May 30
to confirm the allocation of 2018
World Cup qualifying slots open
to each continent.
Blatter has long encouraged
smaller regions to seek more places,
potentially taking spots from
Europe's 13 qualifying slots in the
Blatter hinted at expanding the
intercontinental playoffs, which
currently do not involve European
or African teams.
"That is a good idea and you are
not so far away," Blatter said. "This
gives a little bit more incentive."
His latest presidential term,
which began in turmoil amid a
bribery scandal that removed his
intended Qatari opponent, is near-
ing an end with Blatter seeking to
calm tensions between the Israeli
and Palestinian soccer federations.
Israeli security restrictions lim-
iting movement of Palestinian play-
ers, visiting teams and soccer equip-
ment has led to a proposal to
suspend Israel from Fifa at the May
Blatter said he will meet Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tues-
"(Netanyahu) would not receive
the Fifa delegation if he would not
be ready to make concessions. I am
sure of it," said Blatter, who will
meet Palestinian President Mah-
moud Abbas in Ramallah on
Blatter opposes the suspension
vote, saying Israel did not break
Fifa statutes in a political issue out-
side soccer's control.
Aged 79, he did not commit to
leaving Fifa in 2019.
"I feel good now, but you never
know. But first, let me be elected,"
said Blatter, who was then asked
if a decisive 140-plus first-round
vote tally was possible.
He smiled and replied: "God
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Blatter to visit US in 2016
...rejects talk of avoiding FBI
Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
TURIN---What a difference a year
Last season, Juventus crashed
out of the Champions League group
stage following defeat at
Galatasaray, while a month later
AC Milan sacked coach Massim-
iliano Allegri after a 4-3 defeat at
Serie A minnow Sassuolo.
Now Juventus, under Allegri, is
in the Champions League final after
drawing 1-1 at Real Madrid on
A treble is within grasp of the
Serie A champion.
"Maybe at Madrid, in the heat
of the moment, we didn't realise
what we'd done," Allegri said.
"Reaching the final is an extraor-
dinary achievement which rarely
happens in the career of a player
or a coach.
"Nobody expected it at the
beginning of the season, it was
something unthinkable, but we got
there deservedly, with a great game
at Madrid. Ours has been a gradual
and constant growth. We didn't
play well at Monaco but we got the
result. At Madrid, we could have
won or they could have."
The final on June 6 will be Juven-
tus' first since 2003. In that time,
Barcelona, which it will face in
Berlin, has won it three times.
"We have a good chance but it
won't be easy," Allegri said. "This
Juventus team has an important
worth, on a European and world
"We have been good but also a
bit lucky. We can still improve, in
our style of play, and our passing.
The aim at the beginning of the
season was to win the (Serie A) title
again, our fourth in a row, so at
the moment we can be more than
Juventus has exceeded expecta-
tions under Allegri, whose appoint-
ment was met by protests from the
Bianconeri fans. He was seen as
the opposite of Juventus hero Anto-
nio Conte, who surprisingly quit
in the offseason and was later
named Italy coach.
Allegri has urged his team to put
aside the Champions League final,
and focus fully on domestic mat-
There's fierce rival Inter Milan
in the Derby d'Italia today, then
Lazio four days later in the final of
the Italian Cup---a competition it
hasn't won in 20 years.
"The league games will help us
work, and keep in good shape, then
we have the final of the Italian Cup,
which is our second target of the
season," Allegri said.
"The first was the league title,
while the Champions League was
a dream. Now clearly it's become
the priority, but we mustn't take
our eye off everything else."
Allegri also revealed he received
a message of congratulations from
his predecessor, as well as from
Milan vice-president Adriano Gal-
liani---although not from the club's
78-year-old owner, former Italy
premier Silvio Berlusconi.
"I got so many messages, it made
me happy," Allegri said. "I am
pleased for the club and for the
"Conte wrote me a message after
we won the league, Berlusconi is
not used to sending text messages,
but Galliani wrote to me and com-
plimented me---I still have great
relationships after three and a half
years at Milan."
still has unfinished
business at home
Brendan Rodgers opened the door
for Steven Gerrard to return to
the club in a coaching capacity,
saying Friday that his departing
captain "would certainly be some-
one I d love to have work here."
Gerrard is leaving Liverpool at
the end of the season after 17 years
as a professional to join the Los
Angeles Galaxy in the MLS. He is
already taking his UEFA coaching
badges and has suggested he would
like to return to the club after he
Rodgers has spoken to Gerrard
many times about what is in store
when his playing career ends and
said the former England captain's
future lies at Anfield.
"Steven leaving here isn't per-
manent, certainly as long as I'm
here," Rodgers said. "That oppor-
tunity for him to come back will
always be there as long as I'm here.
"If coaching is the route he
wants to go down when he finishes
in America, then that's certainly
something we will discuss in more
Gerrard, who has been Liverpool
captain since 2003 and was voted
the club's greatest player in an
online poll by its website in 2013,
will be given a guard of honor
before kickoff in his last home
game for Liverpool --- against Crys-
tal Palace on Saturday.
His departure will leave a huge
hole in a team that has relied on
Gerrard for years, and Rodgers has
labeled the midfielder as "Mr Liv-
"He grew up round the corner
and went on to play for the club
he supported and what he has
given to this city, politicians haven't
given to this city," Rodgers said.
"What he has (done for) local hos-
pitals and charities, all the work
he does is unheralded.
"If you think he is a good player
he is an even better human being."
Rodgers opens door for Gerrard return to Liverpool
"Nobody expected it at the
beginning of the season, it
was something unthinkable,
but we got there deservedly,
with a great game at Madrid.
Ours has been a gradual and
constant growth. We didn't
play well at Monaco but we
got the result. At Madrid, we
could have won or they could
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