“MOSCOW — Half a million fans — by current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next year for what Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, has already decreed will be the ‘best’ World Cup in history. Every single fan, he has decided, will have “an amazing experience.” Billions of dollars have been spent on new, or renovated, stadiums to host the finest players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday promised a ‘major sporting festival of friendship and fair play.’ …” NY Times, The Ringer: The Four Must-Watch Games of the 2018 World Cup Group Stages (Video), NY Times – World Cup Draw: Group-by-Group Analysis
“EINDHOVEN, the Netherlands — An anti-discrimination organization that has partnered with FIFA to control fan behavior at the World Cup has issued warnings to gay and transgender fans and people of certain races and ethnicities for next summer’s tournament, highlighting ongoing concerns about threats they may face in Russia. …” NY Times
“Welcome back to the imitable work of illustrator David Squires.Most football fans can only dream of pulling on the shirt of their favourite team and running out in front of thousands of adoring fans. Pitch invaders aside, few of us get to experience that adrenalin rush. Of those who do make it as a professional footballer, even fewer realise the giddy heights of success. In the Illustrated History of Football- Hall of Fame, cartoonist David Squires returns to celebrate those who straddle the game like giants; those talented, determined souls who were juggling tennis balls in the back streets before they could talk. There’s more than one way to attain football immortality though, and Squires also turns his comic eye to the mavericks, the pioneers, the forgotten legends and the anti-heroes. From Pele to Meazza, Maradona to Socrates, you will be taken on an unforgettable journey through the good, the bad and the Hagi.” boomerangbooks, amazon
“LONDON — Investigations over the last few years by United States and Swiss law enforcement officials into corruption in global soccer have exposed dozens of people and companies that, according to prosecutors, conspired to illegally reap profits from broadcasting and sponsorship deals tied to the sport’s biggest events. One company never named in any of the charging documents, but referred to obliquely, is a little-known entity based in the canton of Zug in Switzerland: Mountrigi Management Group, a three-person operation that illustrates how some of the biggest deals at the top of the world’s most-popular sport were put together. …” NY Times
“In November’s Fifa rankings, Macedonia FYR fell to 155th place, the worst position in the country’s history. Their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup have all but disappeared, the national team reflecting the desperate state of Macedonian football. Milko Djurovski is a former Yugoslavia international and the brother of the former Macedonia FYR head coach Boško. …” The Blizzard
Uganda, celebrating a goal against Botswana, is one of the teams that are likely to benefit the most from the coming World Cup expansion.
“While the soccer world was chewing over FIFA’s controversial decision on Tuesday to increase the size of the World Cup finals to 48 teams from 32, Milutin Sredojevic was trying to block out the noise. Sredojevic, a Serbian coach, is in Dubai preparing Uganda’s national team for the Africa Cup of Nations, the continental championship that begins Saturday in Gabon. Uganda, which is in the tournament for the first time since 1978, is a heavy underdog. Yet despite Sredojevic’s best efforts to focus on the task ahead, news of the expansion, which could benefit smaller federations like Uganda’s, filtered through anyway.” NY Times