FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made his opening speech at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland. He started by welcoming the Swiss minister of sport and defence, as well as others.”You will agree with me that these are unprecedented and difficult times for FIFA. The events of yesterday have cast a long shadow over football and over this congress. “Actions of individuals have proven to bring shame and humiliation on football and demand action and change from us all. We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer. It has to stop here. “I know many people hold me responsible. I cannot monitor everyone all the time. If people want to do wrong, they will also try to hide it.” “The next few months will not be easy. I am sure more bad news will follow. “Those who are corrupt in football are in a minority, like in society and must be held responsible for their actions. Football cannot be the exception to the rule. There can be no place for corruption of any kind. “We must respond tomorrow, we have the opportunity to begin the long and difficult road to rebuilding trust. We have lost the trust and we must now earn it back. Solidarity and unity is asked for the game, for the world, for peace. Thank you.”
West Ham striker Carlton Cole on Twitter: Looking forward to my next adventure. I have spoken to West Ham United and it has been decided not to extend my contract. I wish West Ham United all the best and I will look out for their progress in the future. Thanks for a great 9 years. It’s been emotional.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has chaired a meeting of representatives of the confederations this morning to discuss the current situation at world football’s governing body. UEFA president Michel Platini was among those present. Meanwhile, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has said he believes there is “no risk” of Russia losing the right to host the 2018 World Cup, despite Swiss investigators opening a criminal investigation into the bidding process.
Rafael Benitez has just told a news conference that he is “ending my experience” at Napoli, amid reports that he is to take over at Real Madrid. “It is always sad to leave a place where people treat you well right from the beginning,” he said. “Waiting for us on Sunday is a very important game and I want to finish my two years with a victory.” “Thank you Rafa for this time together,” said chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis. “We will be the only Italian team – for the sixth year in a row – that will participate in UEFA competitions.”
A ‘psychic’ penguin from the National Sea Life centre in Birmingham has predicted that Aston Villa will beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Ever since Paul the Octopus gripped the world’s attention by correctly predicting 11 out of 13 results at Euro 2008, there have been a number of mimics. The gentoo penguins at the National Sea Life centre in Birmingham are among the more reliable, having correctly predicted that England would have a poor World Cup campaign last summer. Ginny has made her pick and (we wonder if there is some bias here) selected local side Aston Villa to prevail in the FA Cup final over defending champions Arsenal. “Our penguins love getting the chance to put their psychic abilities to the test, especially Ginny,” said Naomi Bird, Aquarist at the underwater themed attraction. “Anyone that follows her on Twitter will know that she’s got such a big personality and likes to make herself heard so she was determined to be at the forefront of the predictions this time around! “We put out two identical buckets for the penguins to choose from and there was no hesitation in Ginny’s decision, she’s certain that the Birmingham-based team will be the one to win.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin has laced up his size nines and careered into the Fifa farrago. Safe to say he’s not exactly enamoured by the actions of the USA. “It looks very strange, the arrests are carried out on the request of the USA side – it’s got nothing to do with the USA,” he told Russian state television. “It’s another clear attempt by the USA to spread its jurisdiction to other states. And I have no doubt – it’s a clear attempt not to allow Mr Blatter to be re-elected as president of FIFA.” There is speculation that USA wants to hijack the 2018 world cup that had been awarded to Russia.
Sepp Blatter did not attend Thursday morning’s FIFA medical conference in Zurich as pressure grows on him to stand down. Blatter was due to address the conference 24 hours before he stands for a fifth term in a presidential election still due to go head despite Wednesday’s day of high drama on the eve of FIFA’s annual congress. The 79-year-old insists he welcomes the criminal investigations and remains fully committed to “rooting out any wrongdoing in football”. FIFA’s chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak said Blatter had sent his apologies, adding: “The president has to fulfil his duty in the management of the situation. That is probably more important than to come to us, even if medicine is very close to his heart.” UEFA wants the election postponed in the wake of revelations that two separate FIFA-related criminal investigations have been opened.
Dick Advocaat is leaving his role as Sunderland head coach after successfully guiding the club to Premier League safety this season. The 67-year-old Dutchman said he no longer wished to continue a career in club management. He joined the Black Cats until the end of the season in March, replacing the sacked Gus Poyet, with the side one point above the relegation zone. “Sunderland has been one of the highlights of my career,” he said. “At certain moments in your life you have to make a decision and I am almost 68 years old now. “A number of clubs contacted me but the decision was always Sunderland or nobody.” Sunderland chairman Ellis Short said: “Although I am extremely disappointed, I understand and absolutely respect his decision. “In his brief time here he made a real impact and lifted the club with his experience and enthusiasm. We will always be grateful to him for what he achieved.”
Super Falcons coach, Edwin Okon has released a list of the final 23 players that would represent Nigeria at the FIFA Women’s World Cup starting in Canada next month. The tournament will run from 6th June to 5th July 2015. Of course, the BBC Woman Footballer of the Year, Asisat Oshoala made the list that also includes veteran Perpetua Nkwocha and senior debutant Courtney Dike.
Sevilla won a record fourth Europa League trophy after beating Dnipro 3 – 2 in a thrilling final in Warsaw on Wednesday. The Spanish side had to come back from a goal down as Nikola Kalinic headed Ukrainians Dnipro into an early lead. Sevilla responded with two quick goals as Grzegorz Krychowiak drove in before Carlos Bacca rounded the goalkeeper. Ruslan Rotan’s clever free-kick made it 2-2, but Bacca broke through to seal victory for Sevilla and with it a place in next season’s Champions League. Unai Emery’s side are the first to retain the Europa League trophy since it was rebranded in 2009, and they have now triumphed in the competition more times than any other team, having won the UEFA Cup in 2007 and 2008.