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Thursday Kickoff: Blatter holds emergency meeting; Benitez to leave Napoli; and more

SeppBlatter3-Belfast2015 (Getty)


Sepp Blatter and FIFA are feeling the heat, a little more than 24 hours after the U.S. Department of Justice and their Switzerland counterparts raided FIFA’s personnel and offices.

Blatter held an emergency meeting with the leaders of all six FIFA confederations, a FIFA spokesperson confirmed, while reports are growing that Blatter has rejected calls for him to stand down or even move Friday’s FIFA presidential election.

“There was a meeting today with the president [Blatter] with the representatives from the confederations to discuss the current situation,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer told reporters.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Swiss police officers arrested seven individuals in cooperation with the U.S. DoJ, and at the same time, police officers raided the offices of FIFA for information surrounding the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.

Since then, UEFA has called for a postponement of the presidential election, but FIFA has reiterated its desire to hold the election as scheduled, as well as to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia and 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Here are some more stories to start your Thursday:


Rafa Benitez’s tenure as Napoli manager is coming to a close.

After two seasons in charge, the Spaniard will coach his final game for Napoli this Sunday at home against Lazio, after he confirmed his own departure from the club at a press conference on Thursday.

“My contract with Napoli was a two-year deal,” Benitez told reporters. “A contract that will end on Sunday after the game against Lazio.”

Benitez and Napoli are fighting this weekend to hold onto fourth place with Fiorentina charging right behind them, only two points back.

The news of Benitez’s departure adds to the speculation that the former Real Madrid youth player and youth coach will be appointed as the successor for Carlo Ancelotti, who was let go on Monday.


It may just be on the club level, but Argentina gave Brazil another gut-punch in the Copa Libertadores.

On the road at the Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto in Belo Horizonte, River Plate stunned defending Brazilian champion Cruzeiro, 3-0, to win the quarterfinal series between the two sides by a 3-1 aggregate score.

A wide-open Carlos Sanchez started the scoring for River with a goal in the 20th minute, and Jonathan Maidana made it 2-0 just seconds before the halftime break. Forward Teo Gutierrez, who set up the first goal, then put the finishing touches on the victory with a beautiful curling finish just inside the far post in the 52nd minute.

Elsewhere in Copa Libertadores action, Brazil’s Internacional advanced at Colombian side Santa Fe’s expense thanks to a late own goal by Santa Fe substitute Baldomero Perlaza in the 87th minute. Internacional substitute Rafael Moura curled in a free kick from the right corner flag and a deflection off the head of Perlaza put the ball into his own goal, sending Internacional into the next round.


Real Madrid made an official statement on Thursday to clarify that they’ve never spoken with Paul Pogba or his agent Mino Raiola over a possible transfer from Juventus to Madrid. (REPORT)

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti has reiterated his desire to stay at PSG and win the club a UEFA Champions League title. (REPORT)

Arsenal are interested in Swansea City midfielder Ki Sung-yueng. (REPORT)

Schalke 04 duo Tranquillo Barnetta and Christian Fuchs will both leave the club this summer on free transfers. (REPORT)


What do you think of these reports? Do you see Blatter backing down to UEFA’s requests? Would Benitez be the right manager to take over at Real Madrid?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. It is only a matter of time now. The only question is if the rats flee the sinking ship or if King Rat Blatter starts drowning them to recast himself as whistle blower.

  2. If I was an NASL fan I would worry more about the NASL than FIFA. Much of what the FBI has is on NASL. Will they be able to survive it?

    • Survive this? Geez … just a very few years ago, it looked like NASL was just going to be a 1-year deal. The Railhawks were in bankruptcy, and other teams were struggling too. In a very worst-case scenario, NASL folds and we end up with an upper and a lower USL (or 3 levels, since I think they already have 2).

      I’ve never understood why England, Germany, Italy, Spain, the US, and the other countries that are the money players in the world of association football, never just formed their own breakaway organization. Too many people in power getting paid, I suppose. Oh, I included the US primarily because of all the big-money sponsors that are in the US

  3. Just saw an updated AP report. In what should be shocking to no one, UEFA has already backed down on it’s stated boycott of the FIFA congress, and CONCACAF has come out and said that their voters “unanimously” – that would include us – said that the election should go on as planned. In addition to that, CAF and the AFC have issued statements backing Blatter. Basically, this thing is going down on Friday.

    CAF, AFC and the Caribbean block (even accounting for some dissent in those groups) account for more than the majority Sepp would need to get reelected. So, short of being led out of FIFA headquarters in handcuffs at some point in the next 24 hours, Sepp Blatter is going to remain the President of FIFA despite all this.

    Grant Wahl said it best – the folks voting to keep Sepp in power are the folks who benefit most from him being in power. They see no need for reform.

    • the only way anything is really ever going to change is for the big nations (England, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, etc…) to break away from Fifa and start their own organization from scratch, and hopefully implement measures that prevent the kind of widespread corruption that currently exists. It’s ridiculous that Sepp the Corrupt can be re-elected b/c so many countries benefit from his dirty wheelings and dealings.

      • It is actually not the countries that are benefitting from Sepp being in power — it is the leaders of the soccer federations in those countries, and the cronies who are tied to those leaders. The countries themselves would benefit more with Sepp out, but it is the leaders of the federations who have the vote. They vote for Sepp because he oversees the system as it it currently set up and guarantees that that system will stay in place. Thus, Sepp is (more than likely) not guilty of taking any bribes or kickbacks, but he is guilty of knowingly presiding over an organization that is inherently corrupt due to the way it is set up.

      • It’s not semantics – it’s the difference between FIFA money being used to build soccer field or being used to line the pocket of federation officials.

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