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Monday Kickoff: Blatter criticizes UEFA; Riquelme announces retirement; and more

Sepp Blatter 3 (Getty Images)


Sepp Blatter looks well on his way to winning a fifth consecutive FIFA presidential election, and while he’s ahead, he’s fired a warning shot toward his biggest opposition: UEFA.

Blatter said that the European soccer governing body, whose members haven’t been shy in opposing Blatter’s policies and fumbling of public relations, lacks the courage to oppose him in the upcoming elections. Currently only former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne, former player David Ginola, and AFC and FIFA Vice President Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein have pledged their candidacy for the presidency.

“I have been asked by the national associations to be our candidate again because nobody that is strong was in,” Blatter told CNN. “So I go there… All those who want to get rid of me should come. All this opposition is coming now, it’s unfortunate to say – but it’s true – it’s coming from Nyon, from UEFA. They don’t have the courage to come in. So let me go [on] – be respectful.

“Football is a team sport. Let’s go together with the team. I invite the confederation of UEFA and especially the leaders of UEFA that are so bitterly attacking me: Join! Join! Football is a unity.”

Blatter insisted later in the interview that he is still in the middle of his efforts to reform FIFA and that his “mission” is not yet finished.

Here are some more news and notes to kick off your Monday morning:


One of the most elegant, exciting, and exquisite soccer players of the last 20 years has decided to hang up his boots.

Argentine legend Juan Roman Riquelme announced on Sunday evening that he’s decided to end his career after 18 years as a professional. Perhaps fittingly, Riquelme ended his career with Argentinos Juniors, the club he began with back in his youth days in the early 1990s.

“Today is a special day for me. I have decided to no longer play soccer,” Riquelme told ESPN Argentina in an interview. “I always enjoyed playing soccer but decided now to see it from off the field. I am determined to suffer (for my clubs) from the outside.”

“I tried to give everything to the clubs where I stayed and the Argentine national team, and I am very happy looking back on (my career). Now that football is over, I’ll have to learn to do new things.”

Riquelme joined Boca Juniors as a 17-year-old and made his debut for the club in 1996. He went on to make more than 300 appearances for the club in two separate stints, first from 1996-2002 and then from 2008-2014, where he is regarded as a club legend. Between those stints, Riquelme featured for Barcelona, Villarreal, and starred for the Albiceleste. He was known for his dribbling, long-range strikes, and tremendous free-kick accuracy.

Fans will get at least one more time to witness Riquelme on the pitch: He’ll be playing a testimonial match to honor his career in the future.


South Korea is just one game away from claiming its first Asia Cup in 55 years.

With a 2-0 victory over Iraq on Monday, South Korea booked its spot in Saturday’s Asia Cup finale. The victory will see South Korea match up with either hosts Australia or the United Arab Emirates, who face off Tuesday in the other semifinal.

South Korea, which has not won the tournament since 1960 despite eight successive World Cup qualifications, was led by goals from Lee Jeong-hyeop and Kim Young-gwon.

Iraq, which features the Columbus Crew’s Justin Meram, will play in the third-place match Friday.


Having qualified for the 2015 African Cup of Nations by way of being an emergency host to the tournament, Equatorial Guinea has proven its worth by qualifying to the next round of the tournament.

Equatorial Guinea defeated Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang and Gabon, 2-0, in the third game of the group stages to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament. Midfielder Javier Balboa scored the opening goal in the 55th minute from the penalty spot before Ibán Salvador scuffed home a rebound past the helpless Gabon goalkeeper, Didier Ovono.

It’s only the second time that Equatorial Guinea has reached the AFCON quarterfinals, following up on their 2012 achievement. At the same time, it’s the end of the road in the tournament for Gabon.

In the other Sunday match, the Congo defeated Burkina Faso to advance, sending Burkina Faso home in the process.


FIFA is reportedly investigating whether Real Madrid violated rules when signing minors in recent seasons. (REPORT)

Gennaro Gattuso is reportedly interested in becoming manager of Rangers. (REPORT)

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge could make his return as soon as Tuesday’s cup matchup with Chelsea. (REPORT)

Nani, who is currently on loan at Sporting Club de Portugal, says that Manchester United is still interested in holding onto him. (REPORT)


Whom do you expect to challenge Blatter? What are your favorite memories of Riquelme? Who is the favorite to win the Asia Cup? Do you see Equatorial Guinea continuing its success?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. “all those who want to get rid of me should come…”

    “especially those from UEFA who are so bitterly attacking me… ”

    that’s some cuddly rhetoric. Sounds like a wrestling match interlude.

  2. For the first time ever Blatter says something that makes sense. He is right. Everybody criticizes him (rightfully so) but nobody runs against him. Orrrrrrr…Blatter has hit squads around Europe ready to take anybody out that opposes him. Hmmm…why is it that nobody will run against him.

  3. “They don’t have the courage to come in. So let me go [on] – be respectful.” What a gnikcuf elohssa. Please, someone run against this guy.

  4. Final round of the South American U-20 Championship starts today. It will determine the region’s four participants for New Zealand.

  5. Gattuso as manager at Rangers has the potential to make the matches with Celtic that much more interesting – Well, if you like MMA or Muay Thai…

  6. The AFCON remains the most bizarre, utterly unpredictable senior tournament in world soccer. By a mile.

    By contrast, the most utterly predictablee senior tournament in world soccer remains…. FIFA elections.

    • That is very much true. Its pretty much a rule that after a certain point if your players are too good, you will lose. The Ivory Coast Is the best at it but Ghana and others do it as well.

      Its just upset city.


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