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PARIS: Michel Platini, the former head of European football association UEFA, was detained for questioning by French police on Tuesday over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup football tournament to Qatar, a judicial source told Reuters.
Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, was not immediately available to comment. The detention of the former football star was first reported by French investigative website Mediapart.
France’s national financial prosecutor’s office, which specializes in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016.
It is looking into possible offenses including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.
UEFA declined to comment, while officials with Qatar’s organizing committee could not immediately be reached.
The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country’s national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.
Le Monde newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France’s then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the vote that awarded the cup to Qatar. Platini and Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, who was Qatar’s prime minister and is now the country’s emir, were guests at the lunch.
Platini has since acknowledged that he supported Qatar over a rival bid from the United States in the vote, but said Sarkozy “never asked him to,” the newspaper said.
Two of Sarkozy’s aides at that time, then Elysee secretary general Claude Gueant and Sarkozy’s adviser for sports Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police on Tuesday, judicial sources confirmed to Reuters. Dion remains detained with Platini. Gueant is a “free suspect,” the source said.
The lawyer for Gueant, who later became interior minister, was not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for Sarkozy declined to comment. A lawyer for Dion could not immediately be reached for comment.
Under French law, suspects can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours.
Platini was forced to leave his job as UEFA chief after he was investigated in another case over 1.8 million Swiss francs ($1.8 million) that he received from FIFA, the world governing body of football, in 2011. He was cleared in that case.
As a player in the 1970s and 1980s, Platini was a prolific striker, mainly for Saint-Etienne in France and Juventus in Italy. He played in three world cups, captaining the national squad to the semifinals in both 1982 and 1986.
CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.
Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully.
Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.
In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game.
Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.
Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.
Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).
While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.
“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.
“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.
Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.
“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.
“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.
Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.
An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”
Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.
“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”
PEBBLE BEACH: Gary Woodland won the 119th US Open on Sunday, capturing his first major title with a 13-under par total to deny two-time defending champion Brook Koepka’s bid for history at Pebble Beach.
Woodland punctuated the victory with a birdie bomb at 18, a final flourish in a display of back-nine fortitude that saw him convert a 54-hole lead for the first time in eight career attempts.
“Once that went in, it all kind of came out of me, it was special to finish it off here at Pebble Beach,” said Woodland, who threw his arms in the air then pumped his fist.
He knew his 13-under total was one better than the 12-under posted by Tiger Woods in his US Open victory at Pebble in 2000.
But 19 years ago, Woods was the only player under par, marching to victory by a massive 15 strokes while Woodland topped a leaderboard that featured 31 players under par.
Most dangerous was Koepka, trying to become just the second player — and the first in more than a century — to win the US Open three straight times.
He started the day four strokes off Woodland’s lead and immediately applied pressure with four birdies in his first five holes.
But his 3-under 68 left him three strokes shy on 10-under 274.
England’s Justin Rose, who started the day one shot behind Woodland, struggled to a 3-over 74 to finish tied for third on 7-under with Americans Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie and Spain’s Jon Rahm. Woodland, 35, took a two-shot lead with a bold birdie at the par-5 14th, where he powered his second shot to the short rough behind the green and chipped to three feet.
“The idea was to play to win,” Woodland said. “That birdie kind of separated me a little bit.”
He was in trouble at the par-3 17th, where his tee shot found the front right of the putting surface — on the wrong side of a ridge in the hourglass green.
Woodland opted to pitch up and the shot tracked straight toward the hole, settling two feet away.
“I was just trying to get it over that hump,” Woodland said. “Fortunately I had the same shot earlier in the week, so I already executed it once. It came off beautifully, and I thought it had a chance to go in there — it gave me a little cushion on the last.”
Woodland, who admitted he once had trouble handling the rush of adrenaline in pressure situations, displayed impressive poise on a day when plenty of players were pressing on a receptive Pebble Course.
Koepka’s charge slowed with a bogey at the eighth, and after two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, Woodland turned with a two-shot lead over Koepka and Rose.
Koepka pulled within one with a birdie at the 11th, giving the shot back at 12 when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.
Woodland also bogeyed the par-3 12th, but he salvaged a par after a poor tee shot at 13 to stay in front.
Trailing by two on the tee of the par-5 18th, Koepka found the fairway and ripped his second shot to the short rough behind the green, but his chip left him nine feet for birdie and he settled for a closing par.
“I played great,” said Koepka, who had taken his tally of major titles to four with his two US Open wins and back-to-back PGA Championship victories. “Nothing I could do.
“Gary played a great four days. Cool way to go out on 18, to make that bomb,” Koepka added. “He deserves it, he’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.”
TAUNTON: Bangladesh powered to the second highest run chase in World Cup history as Shakib Al Hasan’s brilliant century clinched a memorable seven-wicket win over the West Indies on Monday.
Shakib blasted 124 from 99 balls and Linton Das hit a superb 94 from 69 deliveries to lead Bangladesh to 322-3 with 8.3 overs to spare at Taunton.
Bangladesh’s joint highest one-day international run chase put them behind only Ireland’s 329-7 against England in 2011 in the history of successful World Cup chases.
Mashrafe Mortaza’s side remain in with a chance of reaching the semifinals after their second win in five matches.
SALVADOR, Brazil: James Rodriguez got the best of Lionel Messi in the Copa America, leading Colombia to a 2-0 win over Argentina in their opening game in the South American tournament on Saturday.
Rodriguez set up Roger Martinez’s opening goal in the second half with a high, diagonal pass across the field, and substitute Duván Zapata scored late to seal the victory that allowed Colombia to end a 12-year winless streak against the Argentines.
Messi had missed a chance to put Argentina in front, sending a close-range header off target as his team opened the tournament with a loss for the first time since 1979.
“Our best player was the entire team,” Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz said. “The next match will certainly be more difficult, this is only the beginning.”
Both Argentina and Colombia are trying to end title droughts, with the Argentines winless since the 1993 Copa America and the Colombians without a trophy since the 2001 edition.
Argentina lost the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, where it lost both of the latter in penalty shootouts against Chile.
Colombia’s last win over Argentina was in South American qualifying for the World Cup in 2007.
“It had been a long time (without beating Argentina),” Zapata said. “Everyone in Colombia is very happy, but there is still a long way to go in the Copa, we still have important matches ahead.”
Messi and Rodriguez had a mostly quiet match in Salvador, although Rodriguez provided the assist for Martinez’s 71st-minute opener.
The playmaker gained possession inside Colombia’s own half before picking out Martinez with a long pass. The forward brought the ball down on the left flank before cutting into the penalty area and shooting into the far corner of the net.
“We are disappointed because they scored a great goal when we were playing better,” Messi said. “It will take some time to accept this defeat, but we have to take the positives from today and move on to try to win the next match. We still have plenty of chances.”
Argentina’s first loss in a Copa America game in regulation time since 2007 was confirmed in the 86th minute.
Five minutes after entering the match, Zapata converted from Jefferson Lerma’s cross.
Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Colombia veteran Radamel Falcao also could not do much to help their teams break through their opponents’ defense in a tense opening match in Group B.
“We improved in the second half and created chances,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, who complained of the bad field conditions at the Arena Fonte Nova.
“We still have two matches left and if we win them we will certainly advance.”
Earlier Saturday, Peru were held by 10-man Venezuela to a 0-0 draw in Group A, a result that left both teams two points behind host Brazil, which opened with a 3-0 win over Bolivia on Friday in Sao Paulo. Argentina will next play against Paraguay in Belo Horizonte, while Colombia will face Qatar in Sao Paulo.
Paraguay and Qatar meet in the other Group B match on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.
PEBBLE BEACH, California: Gary Woodland delivered a gritty back nine display Saturday, coming up with key par saves in a 2-under 69 to stay one stroke in front of Justin Rose heading into the fourth round of the US Open at Pebble Beach.
Woodland, a three-time US PGA Tour winner in search of his first major title, finished 54 holes with on 11-under 202 to stay in front of former US Open champion Rose, who capped his 3-under 68 with a birdie at 18 for a 10-under total of 203.
It was another three strokes back to a group headed by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, who stayed within striking distance of a fifth major title with a 68 for 7-under 206.
Woodland, who stretched his two-shot overnight lead to as many as four on the front nine, led Rose by three after a birdie at 11.
He was facing a dropped shot at 12 after finding the rough on the lip of a bunker, but chipped in to save par, preserving a two-shot lead as Rose drained a nine-foot birdie putt.
After rolling in a four-foot par-saving putt at 13, Woodland produced another unlikely save, draining a 42-foot putt at the par-5 14th — where Rose also birdied.
“I felt really comfortable today, comfortable with my game,” the 35-year-old said. “I’m excited to be where I am right now.”
Woodland’s nine-foot birdie putt burned the edge at 18, where Rose closed the gap with his fifth birdie of the day.
“I’m certainly reading the greens well,” said Rose, whose putting has kept him going all despite a wealth of missed fairways and greens.
Rose and Woodland both set themselves up for the weekend with rounds of 65 — Rose on Thursday and Woodland on Friday — matching the lowest US Open round ever posted at Pebble Beach and first achieved by Tiger Woods in 2000. On another cool, overcast day Pebble Beach continued to offer birdie chances, but there was plenty of danger lurking among the spectacular ocean views.
“If you don’t drive it good around here or struggle with your iron play, you’re going to struggle,” said former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who carded a one-under 70 to get to 7-under along with Koepka and Chez Reavie, who signed for a 68.
“It’s so, so tough, the rough,” said Oosthuizen, who thought the US Golf Association found an ideal balance, even if scores were startlingly low for a US Open.
“You still need to hit fairways, still need to hit greens, and it’s nice to see red numbers in a US Open. I think it’s a little bit more exciting.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy found the going tough enough.
McIlroy rebounded from a bogey at the par-3 17th with his third birdie of the day at 18 for a 1-under 70 that left him alone in sixth on6-under 207.
“I felt for the most part today I did the right things,” McIlroy said.
“And I need to do 18 more holes of that, but just get a little bit more out of the round tomorrow than I did today,” added the four-time major winner who was a stroke in front of Americans Matt Kuchar and Chesson Hadley, who both shot 70.