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Saudi Spanish Super Cup: Amnesty Calls for Release of Rights Activists

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Saudi Spanish Super Cup: Amnesty Calls for Release of Rights Activists

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has hailed the Saudi Super Cup as the revamped version of football tournament that has boosted the Spanish Super Cup. Besides, being billed as the tournament that brings in a lot money by Barcelona’s Manager Ernesto Valverde, the Spanish Cup in Saudi Arabia has made ground breaking headlines since its inception on Wednesday.

The completion that is now into its final stage will see Real Madrid face on Atletico Madrid in Sunday’s final, after Barcelona and Valencia came short in their respective semi-finals. However, on the sidelines of the tournament, Amnesty International activists protested outside the Saudi Embassy in Madrid, Wednesday.

The group of people lined up like a football team while holding scarves of each of the four clubs. They wore yellow t-shirts that called for the release of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been detained for more than 600 days now. The protestants also urged people to “join our (their) team.”

On the route to become self-reliant, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated ideas to host major sporting events as part of Saudi Vision 2030, but they have often been labeled as attempts of ‘sportswashing’ – an activity that uses sports to refurbish a nation’s image.

As it turns out, some have stepped back from their decision to contest in the kingdom, while others have turned a blind eye to the issue.

“For decades in Saudi Arabia, women have been subjected to repressive laws that have imposed restrictions on their rights to travel independently, work or study, which limits various aspects of their lives,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“Faced with this situation, many activists have raised their voices. One of them is Loujain al-Hathloul … one of 11 activists who are currently at risk of being sentenced to up to 20 all of them to be released immediately and their charges removed.”

The Spanish Super Cup’s move to Saudi Arabia also infuriated people in Spain, both because of the human rights abuse in the nation, and for overlooking the convenience of local fans to attend the matches.

The deal struck last year by Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales, reportedly gives them €120 million ($133M), to host the tournament for three years. While Barcelona and Real Madrid earn $7.8m each.

“We are not the ones organizing the competition, it’s organized by the Spanish Football Federation,” a Barcelona official told CNN when questioned on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. “We are the Copa del Rey finalist and winner of the Spanish League, so we have to participate along with the other three. We are aware there have been previous (human rights) incidents,” the official added.

Consequently, even if the presumed intentions of Saudi Arabia behind hosting global events is to become self-reliant, why does it still keep ignoring and abusing human rights?

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Future of Manchester City: Soaking Oil Gains on Greasy Grounds

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Manchester City

What happens when you have the best of everything in the world of football? You probably become invincible. For Manchester City, the reigning champions of England, the word invincible defined itself with four Premier League titles in the past decade, as well as two FA Cups and four League Cups.

The gains that made them regular attendees of the UEFA Champions League, landed big footballing names at their doorstep, and earned their fans the opportunity to say that Manchester was finally blue and not red – denoting arch rivals Manchester United.

The shimmery castle of City homed a long list of achievements in just a decade. Founded in 1880 as St. Mark’s before being re-branded as Manchester City in 1894, the club blinked only for a whisker in its 125-year-long history and became a force to reckon with.

Bankrolled by the bottomless pockets of Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, City have done what it takes to be named amongst the most powerful clubs. Yet the accolades galvanized by oil gains have significantly slipped after UEFA banned Manchester City for two-years from Champions League. The sports body cited, City deliberately inflated sponsorship deals between 2012 and 2016 to ensure they complied with FFP rules.

The incident that has invited huge managerial dilemma and split open the debate on who will stay with a team devoid of playing the Europe’s biggest league.

Future at Manchester City

As it looks, Manchester City’s locker room could be hemorrhaging its best players at the end of the season. With a long ban of UEFA, the club will remain in the waiting line to pocket millions from the European competition. Its advertising contracts could also be lowered.

Additionally, the UEFA has also imposed 30 million euros fine, which could lead to bigger troubles. The team might have to lower the weekly wages of players, and even if it is able to retain players, who have signed the contract until late with the club, no new faces are expected to show up.

And in the same light football writer Graham Ruthven asked: “What does Pep Guardiola’s future hold in light of @ManCity’s two-season Champions League ban?”

Back Accounts Hold What Lies Ahead

As reported, Manchester City might have to restructure their finances. The task that could lead to potential sale of players such as Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, if the ban is upheld by the UEFA.

This also means that Steven Gerrard, the then Captain of Liverpool, who infamously slipped at Anfield as Demba Ba raced clear to score for Chelsea and hand Manchester City the title, could be reversed. A separate investigation by Premier League for City’s title won in 2014 – if reports of financial breach are proved true—could handover the title to Liverpool.

Furthermore, Manchester City could also face investigation by UEFA’ financial fair play committee into the number of Abu Dhabi sponsorships they declared for the years since 2016. This could possibly happen because of financial misconduct during the past four years from 2012 to 2016.

The investigatory chamber could possibly look for overstated sponsorships, following the claim that Etihad was not paying in full for the club’s stated £67.5million partnership.

The possibility has also emerged that sponsorships were subsidized and the submissions cannot be taken at their face value. Meanwhile, the emails earlier showed that “contribution to 13/14 sponsorship fee” was made via Mansour’s own company vehicle, the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG).

One Last Appeal or Maybe Not

However, all is not done. After the team was banned by UEFA, the club said that it will move ahead and appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). But the recently published account by CAS of City’s appeal showed that the club claimed damages and said leaks to media were “unlawful”. Senior UEFA official Yves Leterme has since dismissed the claims and called them “groundless” and “unacceptable in tone”.

However, City have shown interest in taking the appeal even beyond CAS. Sports journalist Duncan Castles Tweeted: “Manchester City signal intent to take legal challenge to two-season UEFA competition ban beyond sports courts at a time when European governing body is battling to retain control of the Champions League. With full weight of Abu Dhabi resources behind them.”

Rescue Mission

Manchester City lawyers are looking to turn fortunes of the club by laying emphasis on the fact that alleged confidential leaks were “worrisome”. As per the Telegraph, Manager Pep Guardiola and players have been assured by the club that they would highly likely be successful by the end of May.

City are reportedly on course to target the investigative process behind the sanctions and launch a fresh appeal at the Swiss Court within days. Sheikh Mansour’s club has been involved in collecting alleged “leaks of confidential information” by UEFA since the investigation began.

Sam Lee, Manchester City correspondent said: “But City have always said they have done nothing wrong and will be able to prove it. I’m not sure that even proving that UEFA’s process was flawed would satisfy that stance. So yeah, I hope there’s an open case at CAS so we can all see why City feel they will win.”

Win or lose their appeal, it is evident that City has a giant task ahead. The ramifications of losing the spot are making the club’s owners sweat harder than footballers do on field. Yes, they still possess oil money to play with any power in the world, but are also on a nervy edge of being labelled as cheaters in Europe. The transformation that began with UAE’s Sheikh Mansour could also spill beans for the Gulf nation. It could clearly expose the truth behind purchasing football teams in different continents and using the pious game as a mere reputation management tool.

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Racism in Football: Moussa Marega Walks Off the Pitch Without Support

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Racism in Football, Moussa Marega

Racism in football is an epidemic, for which a proper vaccine has still not been found for complete eradication. Fans have been carrying the infection to stadiums, along with the sport spirit and support for their teams. At the Estádio D Afonso Henriques stadium on Sunday, a similar virus made its space, leaving the FC Porto striker Moussa Marega furious.

Subjected to racial abuse from opposition fans in home ground, Marega walked off the pitch midway a match of Primeira Liga against Vitoria de Guimaraes. The forward hit the net at the 60th minute, which turned out to be the match-winning goal. He was seen celebrating by pointing his skin color in front of a section of the stadium, following which the home supporters immediately started throwing objects from the stands, including chairs.

Reports also revealed that there were constant monkey chants, which began during the warm up and were clearly audible throughout the game. Visibly frustrated by the crowd’s behaviour, Moussa Marega called for substitution in the 69th minute. The play halted for three minutes, as the teammates tried to restrain the Mali international from walking off the field and attempted to calm him down.

Later on his Instagram account, Marega called the people coming to the stadium to make racist chants, “idiots”. Besides, he also thanked “the referees for not defending me and for giving me a yellow card for defending the colour of my skin”.

The Porto players were also widely criticized for failing to show solidarity with their teammate, who became a victim to racial abuse. Many stated that instead of convincing the player to stay and endure the pain of racism in football, the team players should rather walk off along with him.

A correspondent at Associated Press, Rob Harris wrote on Twitter that it was “shocking” to witness how the Marega’s fellow mates prevented him from walking off the pitch.

Besides, a columnist at Daily Mirror, Darren Lewis shared a video by CNN on his Twitter account, showing the Liverpool player Georginio Wijnaldum’s explanation on how “we wrongly prioritise the game over players’ dignity” and why “team-mates should not stop them walking off”.

Players of the FC Porto couldn’t stop the Mali international, who gestured with his thumbs down and put his middle fingers up at the crowd amid a chorus of boos, as he left the field. The issue escalated to a national uproar, where the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also put their thoughts forward.

PM Costa called the incident “unacceptable” and said that “no human being should be subjected to this humiliation”. He wrote on Twitter, “Any and all acts of racism are criminal and intolerable.”

President Sousa also said that he “vehemently condemns any display of racism”. He also specified, “Portugal’s Constitution very clearly condemns racism, as well as any other forms of xenophobia and discrimination.”

Portuguese police informed that the investigation against the racism in football match on Sunday were in place, and that it “is taking the necessary steps to identify the suspects who committed the criminal offenses and administrative offenses”.

At the post-match press conference, the Porto manager Sérgio Conceição chose to address the racism directed toward his player, instead of his team’s 2-1 win. “We are a family, regardless of nationality, regardless of skin color, height, hair color. We are a family, we are human and we deserve respect. For me, what happened here is shameful. Just shameful,” he said.

Racism in football has become a normal practice, where fans in stadiums, people on the social media, as well as fellow players have been indecent towards the minority of soccer players of colour. Although various measures have been taken in the past, the practice still maintains its place in corners of the football world.

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Gulf Money Fails to Protect Man City from Facing Champions League Ban

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Manchester City, Man City, City, Sportswashing, Newcastle United, Manchester United, Mohammed bin Salman, Premier League, Champions League, CAS, Mansour bin Zayed, Amnesty International, Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz, Sheffield United, PSG, UEFA, Yemen war, Libya war,

Manchester City, the reigning champions of Premier League have been banned from the Champions League for the next two seasons. On Friday, the UEFA in its decision announced that the club committed “serious breaches” of European soccer’s financial regulation. Ironically, for Manchester City fans, it was not quite the Valentine’s gift they had wished for.

The decision by the governing body in Europe informed that Man City have been found guilty on multiple counts of club licensing and financial fair play rules. The team has also been fined 30 million Euros.

The punishment is the harshest directive that UEFA has taken since it enforced financial fair play regulations. And it could further lead to City losing as much as $100 million a year, the amount pocketed for participation in the Champions League.

Manchester City, who see their final hope in appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport, said that they are “disappointed but not surprised” by the “prejudicial” decision and will appeal. However, CAS in its papers published recently had already claimed that City demeaned the ban by stating that leaks to media were “unlawful” and instead sought damages. The assertions have since been rejected by the senior UEFA official Yves Leterme, who stated them as “groundless” and “unacceptable in tone”.

The Gulf Money

Overhaul of Manchester City began with takeover by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi in 2008. The club has since made record signings and won 4 Premier League titles. However, the attempt has been billed as sports-washing – an idealist attempt undertaken to deviate the attention towards sports so other major issues do not ignite negative perspective about the nation.

Presently, with Manchester City, various human rights groups including, Amnesty International have exposed how the Gulf nation is trying to garner attention towards sports, to hide its contributions in Yemen and Libya war. Football has made the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a West of the Middle East, despite multiple reports of human rights abuse.

The ideology of sports-washing has spread like a wildfire. The doctrine has also drawn Crown Prince of Saudi, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been reported on multiple instances for showcasing interest in Premier League’s most successful club, Manchester United.

On the other hand, the reports have also emerged on Saudi PIF looking forward to strike a deal with another Premier League Club, Newcastle United. The talks were reportedly at “advanced” stage last month, and businesswoman and financer Amanda Staveley, was actively involved in the mix.

The Rising Conflicts

Even without government funds, Saudi Arabia’s presence in Premier League is maintained by Sheffield United, which is owned by Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al Saud. However, the club has been mired in controversy over its relatively cheap acquisition. And the former owner Kevin McCabe has lost all his rights to appeal. The Saudi Prince owns club worth approximately 124 million euros for just 12 million euros.

The controversy with miss-management has also reached out to another Gulf-owned club, Paris Saint-Germain. The French club has lately been on a spree of victories, but a recent on-field argument between Kylian Mbappé and club coach Thomas Tuchel, has raised questions over PSG’s appetite to retain the talented winger.

Today, football has become a game played by wealthy giants of the Gulf who have gone an extra-mile, seeking to cap players they desire, and Manchester City for that matter, serves as a prime example of the suit.

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Worries Around PSG Mount Up with Increasing Internal Conflicts

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Worries Around PSG Mount Up with Increasing Internal Conflicts

Last updated on February 9th, 2020

Qatar’s PSG has been able to attract greatest players since 2011, after the Arab nation acquired the club. Although this season the French champions are moving up the ladder of Ligue 1, they are also stepping down on the team’s unity.

The French football club has been winning each season of Ligue 1 since 2012-13, except one in 2016-17. This time too, it is leading the charts, standing 15 points clear of the second placed Olympique de Marseille. The French champions are also 58 points ahead after playing 23 games.

Despite the absence of one of its strongest players, Neymar, PSG was able to beat Nantes 2-1 away on Tuesday. The fears of losing boiled down, when Mauro Icardi hit the first goal right ahead of the half time. It became a victory as Thilo Kehrer found the back of the net in second half.

However, where the wins are perfect, the team spirit is on a vacation of turbulence. The Paris Saint-Germain is intertwined with internal conflicts and resentments, and a shade of it was seen in Saturday’s match against Montpellier HSC.

In the 68th minute of the match, the PSG forward Kylian Mbappé was replaced with Mauro Icardi by their coach Thomas Tuchel. While the French champions won by 5-0, a heated argument between Tuchel and the World Cup winner became the highlight.

Mbappé publicly displayed his disagreements over his playing time, leaving PSG with a looming danger. In a packed stadium on Saturday, the two were seen hand-cupping their mouths during the heated argument.

Despite being world’s second most-expensive footballer under the club, there have been suggestions that Mbappé has started to outgrow PSG. The growing differences between Thomas Tuchel and Kylian Mbappé are expected to push the 21-year-old away from signing a new contract with the Ligue 1 champions.

Mbappé is rather expected to move to Real Madrid, which has long remained interested in him. However, Tuchel said that he does not expect Mbappé to “use this situation as a reason to leave the club”.

Tuesday’s match at La Beaujoire came with additional issues, where Thomas Tuchel was frustrated over Neymar’s decision to hold a birthday party on Sunday, despite the rib injury that prevented him from playing.

Qatar’s takeover, 9 years back, made the French champions one of the wealthiest across the globe. With investments of millions, the club did become one of the best teams in Europe. The Arab Peninsular country, however, envisioned more than that.

Where the Arab nation has been trying to see PSG at the stature of other continental forces like Real Madrid and Barcelona, the French champions failed in making any significant progress. In the past three seasons of the Champions League, PSG didn’t manage to reach the quarter-finals.

In the last season, the club failed to reach the round of 16 after losing to Manchester United. Following the meagre results, Qatar turned doubtful and began planning to scale back its investments in PSG.

Lately, the French club has been hitting the net for victory, but at the same time is grappling with internal differences. Where the Arab nation has been venturing into upscaling PSG, the conflicts are on their way to put the club’s future in brackets.

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Saudi’s Bid to Trade Newcastle Fortunes Amidst Sportswashing Calls

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Saudi’s Bid to Trade Newcastle Fortunes Amidst Sportswashing Calls

Standing on cross roads, Premier League club Newcastle United awaits the much craved glory days and are reportedly “advanced ” in their bid to initiate a transformational journey. The route is much like that of Manchester City, which rose from the rags to being amongst the riches in their squad strength today.

The Newcastle takeover that comes at a price of £340m has drawn Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), already in talks with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley for the past several months. Besides, as sources state, the chances of an accord are “high” at this time, yet “complicated” and therefore, no assurance can be given. “Ashley does not need to sell, and he is unpredictable,” a source was quoted as saying.

The interest in acquisition comes as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) vision to end Arab nation’s reliance on oil and become self-reliant. The doctrine that has seen MbS spending vividly on the entertainment sector and the Gulf monarchy hosting a number of sporting events. The likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz and many more, have been staged to perform in front of the Saudi audience.

However, more than self-reliance, the Newcastle acquisition has been linked to an effort by Saudi Arabia to match steps in the West with Abu Dhabi’s Manchester City. Match with the team taken over by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2008, which has spent billions to pocket world’s best players, renovate the training facilities, and turn the face of English Premier League.

Businesswoman and financer, Amanda Staveley has once again been involved in dealing of the soccer club, and is understood to have reached MbS about the potential purchase scheme of the club. She is currently eyeing 10 per cent of the club’s ownership, which would be owned in majority by PIF.

Reports last year said, Bin Zayed Group, representing the UAE billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had reached the consensus at Newcastle last year, but the takeover was never officially announced.

Newcastle has historically been one of the best attended clubs in Premier League, with each game drawing in 50,000 plus numbers last season, despite passable run. But little have the fans enjoyed, especially since Ashley took over in 2007.

Meanwhile, for Saudi Arabia, the more than potent presence in Premier League is still maintained by Sheffield United, which is owned by Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who took the club from Kevin McCabe last year. However, government funds were not involved in that transaction.

Other than Premier League, Businessman Turki al-Sheikh, the chairman of Saudi’s General Entertainment Authority, has bought Almeria in Spain’s second division.

Yet for PIF, to own a Premier League club would mark a huge achievement, or maybe even a replacement bid for Manchester United, which has been named several times in link to interest from Saudi Crown Prince. However, any approval to the deal is subject to approval from Premier League, which has already drawn in controversies.

Global Sports associations have been called out for being money-minded, whilst ignoring the country’s attempts to sportswash its human rights record. Amnesty International said, Saudi Arabia has “an appalling record on LGBT rights, women’s rights, extra-judicial killings, beheadings, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and their involvement in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia has been on a spree of gathering worldwide attention, with record breaking announcements such as hosting of the Italian Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup, WWE, Dakar Rally and Formula One, which is set to host races from 2023. And now, with the possible takeover of Newcastle United, MbS’ tactics are washing the ground level reality.

Saudi is embarking on a journey that is sugar coated and has failed to answer why women’s rights activists are still jailed, why is it still involved in the killing of hundreds of Yemeni civilians, and how after marking losses for Premier league via its pirate pay television broadcaster, BeoutQ, it still managed to reach out seeking to buy one of the league’s clubs.

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