Fifa to expand World Cup to 40 teams from 2026

Fifa is reportedly planning to expand the World Cup to 40 participating teams, with the potential expansion to be discussed today.

The proposal is designed to increase parity between European countries and the rest of world in World Cup participation and as such will appeal to the majority of the 209 FIFA member countries.

The game’s governing body will discuss the proposal at an executive committee meeting today, with the change hoping to appeal to the majority of the 209 members.

There is a collective feeling that European football and Uefa have too many qualification berths for the World Cup, with the scope for increasing the number of participating teams allowing more nations from across the world to take part and potentially succeed.

The decision to increase the number of qualifying places is being seen as a sweetener to get the majority of the Fifa countries on board with other reforms and governance issues that are also going to be voted on.

With five candidates vying for the FIFA presidency in 2016, increasing World Cup participation is a campaign objective for all of them considering they need global support in order to win votes in next year’s elections.

Currently there are 14 places at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for Uefa-qualified nations, including the hosts.

Currently, Africa will have five spots at the competition, with four-and-a-half for Asia and South America (the fifth-ranked side in qualifying from each continent are entered in a playoff).

North and Central America (CONCACAF) have three and half places, with the fourth ranked side entered in a playoff fixture with the top ranked side from Oceania.

If the motion to increase the amount of teams is passed it will be the second increase in participating nations, after the number was boosted from 24 to 32 in 1994. The expected increases will most likely result in guaranteed participation for Oceania and increased participation for the rest of the continents. It remains to be seen whether Europe will get an increase in their allocation, but even then their overall % in terms of representation at the World Cup will fall to 40% if not less.

The reforms in the structure of the game continue to be discussed despite the fact that Fifa has been hit with a corruption scandal that has plagued the sport right to its core.

The latest black mark on football saw two more Fifa officials arrested in Zurich today, with scope for further allegations against senior members of the organisation.

Beitar Jerusalem and racism in Israeli football

A section of the Beitar Jerusalem support are known said to be racist during and outside of matches, and the club itself is accused of adopting a racist transfer policy, with both FIFA and the Israeli government failing to effectively intervene.

In March 2013, Zaur Sadayev became the first Muslim player to score for Israeli side Beitar Jerusalem. What followed in the stadium laid bare the racism festering deep within a core segment of the fan base at the club, with a mass-walkout instigated by the infamous ‘La Familia’.

Sadayev’s strike put Beitar one goal to the good against Netanya, with members of Beitar’s extremist supporters group leaving en mass, booing and chanting racist songs.

Some of these songs translate as: “Here we are, the most racist football team in the country”, and “Death to Arabs” – both of which heard at most Beitar matches, and is still sung to the rafters by the group today.

Then-vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon condemned the show of racism after the game.

“I was shocked by the racism displayed in the Beitar Jerusalem stands yesterday against having Muslim or Arab players on the team.”

The actions of La Familia have led to numerous bans, sanctions and points deductions for their club – but the group still exist. According to newspaper Haaretz, it is the lack of effective anti-racism measures from the government that remains the issue, with their apparent outrage concerning incidents not backed up by national policies.

“(Prime Minister) Netanyahu and (culture and sports minister) Regev are preaching to others what they themselves do not practice,” an editorial from Haaretz in 2014 says.

“With their racist remarks (‘The Arabs are flocking to the polling stations’), their conduct (threatening the funding of Arab cultural institutions) and their antidemocratic legislation – which is so typical of the government they head – they legitimize the phenomenon called Beitar Jerusalem.”

Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestine Football Association, highlighted football’s world governing body FIFA’s failure to properly address the situation.

“While Israel continues to participate in Fifa matches internationally with impunity, Palestinian football players have been shot and arrested, our football association raided by Israeli army forces, our clubs more often than not forbidden from bringing players, coaches or even materials from abroad, just as the restriction of movement imposed on our players and technical staff, within, from and to Palestine have turned the game into a real act of resistance.”

Beitar are a symbol of right-wing Israel, having been established in 1936 as part of a nationalist Israeli movement – with the club’s signing of non-Jews, even on loan, prompting a vicious backlash and revolt from the hard-core support.

While Zaur Sadayev is just one of the five Muslim players ever to play for the club – the goalscorer lasting just a year amid torrential abuse – Beitar remain the only club to refuse to hire a Palestinian, despite repeat sanctions and fines from the IFA (Israeli Football Association).

Haaretz see Beitar as a vehicle for the manifestation of discrimination, rightly concluding that, “There is no value to a sport that is supposed to give people equal opportunities and treatment without reference to religion, race or gender, when it becomes a focus for discrimination and racism.”

Rostov cancel Turkish training camp as international relations worsen

Russian Premier League club Rostov have cancelled a January training camp in Turkey as international relations worsen, with Ankar Perm seemingly set to follow suit.

Russian Premier League club Rostov have announced that they have cancelled plans to have a training camp in Turkey this January, as international relations between the countries worsen amid security fears.

Ankara shot down a Russian fighter jet in Syrian airspace earlier this week without warning, in the latest combustive action in tense affairs in eastern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East.

As such Russian president Vladimir Putin recommended that his countrymen and women should not visit Turkey due to security issues.

Turkey has been a popular destination for Russian sides to train during their mid-season hiatus, but the habit looks set to be changed.

Rostov deputy president Alexander Shikunov confirmed that the club would seek an alternative venue for training in the team’s winter break due to the current climate.

“We were planning to set up our January training camp in Turkey but decided to change this idea in connection with the latest events,” the Rostov official said.

“Many of the Russian clubs are currently seeking new bases for their training camps. We also decided that it’s better to be overcautious in such a situation.”

Following Rostov’s lead, Ankar Perm are also reassessing their scheduled training camp in the European country.

“We wanted to hold three practice sessions in Turkey in the winter but after the international climate has changed we are considering whether to choose Spain or Israel for our training camp,” Ankar’s club executive manager Denis Maslov stated.

Islamic State terror attacks ravage Paris as France win 2-0 over Germany

Explosions could be heard during the first half, a friendly match between France and world champions Germany that took place at Stade de France. At full time, the fans filled the pitch as they sheltered from horrific acts of terror around the city.

The attacks were being carried out by members of Islamic State around the city of Paris, which has only recently recovered from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

In the game itself, France defeated Germany 2-0, with goals from Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gigna. By the time Gigna scored, 86 minutes in, fans had already started leaving as news of the attacks filtered through the stadium. At the end of the match, fans were allowed to stay in the Stade de France, using the pitch as refuge.

French fan Frederic Lavergne told reporters, “We heard them, but we thought they were home-made devices or fireworks.” In a possibly controversial decision, French association football officials elected during half-time not to tell fans in the stadium what was happening outside in the city. Fédération Française de Football president Noel le Graet said at the Stade de France, “We didn’t want to spread panic in the crowd,” adding “The French Football Federation shares the pain of the bereaving families and their loved ones.”

The terror attacks that have ravaged Paris saw six attacks across the city, with an estimated total of 120 people killed. Many were killed at the 1,500 capacity concert hall Bataclan, where US-based band Eagles of Death Metal were playing. The event had been sold out in advance. Security police were on the scene within an hour and killed the four attackers; one eyewitness had earlier heard one of the gunmen saying, “”It’s the fault of Hollande, it’s the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria”.”

The other sites that were attacked saw more killed, with restaurants such as La Belle Equipe on rue de Charonne, Le Carillion Bar and Le Petit Cambodge on rue Alibert among the locations that saw terror inflicted on the usually peaceful streets.

Back at the Stade de France, French President Francois Hollande was evacuated before the game with over, later giving a short speech at the Bataclan concert venue, where at least 80 died. He appeared visibly shaken by the attacks on his country, saying that the attacks were an “abomination” and the terrorists will be “confronted by a France that is determined, unified, and pulled together.” Earlier, he also declared a state of national emergency, as well as tightening border controls on a night of the worst violence France has seen since World War II.

The perpetrators of the attacks, Islamic State, have claimed responsibility and said that the attacks were a response to direct insults toward the prophet Muhammad and air-strikes by France on Islamic State territory, also saying that the attacks are the “start of a storm”.

The international response was just as horrified. US president Barack Obama said that it was an “an outrageous attempt to terrorise innocent civilians”, while David Cameron tweeted that he was “shocked by events in France” and that the UK will “do whatever we can to help”.

On Saturday morning a banner was put up by French citizens on the Marianne symbol in the Place de la République. It reads “I am human.”

Puskas Award: Lionel Messi vs David Ball for ‘most beautiful goal award’

As the international break descends upon us, the 2015 shortlist for the prestigious FIFA Puskas award has been released, with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Fleetwood Town’s David Ball among the 10 candidates up for goal of the year.

While the Argentinian captain is no stranger to the limelight, a nomination for one of football’s most illustrious awards will be quite a shock for Fleetwood Town striker David Ball. Plying his trade in the third tier of English football, Ball was a youth player at Manchester City once upon a time – with his extraordinary chip against Preston North End in March besting anything even the Premier League had to offer this year.

“I couldn’t really grasp it at first,” he told Press Association Sport. “It’s just a crazy, crazy thing. You don’t expect, at my level, to be considered for such a prestigious award.”
His entry is certainly gathering momentum, with Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy one to show his support on Twitter.

Ball finds himself pitted against the likes of Carlos Tevez, Philippe Mexes and one Leo Messi, whose stunning solo goal against Athletic Bilbao adds his name to the annual shortlist for the fourth time since the award’s inception in 2009.

The other former City player on the list, the more recognised Tevez, scored a similarly slaloming solo goal, taking on the entire Parma defence before slotting home. Now at Boca Juniors, the 31-year-old is one of four South American players on the shortlist.

Esteban Ramírez of Costa Rica is the Central American representative, with his juggle and volley sure to run the other candidates close for top spot.

AC Milan defender Mexes, known for his acrobatics in front of goal, makes the cut with an outrageous volley straight from a corner against fierce rivals Inter. His strange celebration won’t see him win too many accolades though!

The USA are represented by Carli Lloyd of the women’s national team, with her long range effort in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final against Japan completing a stunning 16-minute hat-trick and helping her side become world champions for a third time.

Serie A: Rome beat Lazio as fans boycott derby

Thousands of fans boycotted the latest instalment of the Rome derby between fierce rivals Lazio and Roma over the increased security measures introduced at the clubs’ shared ground, the Stadio Olimpico.

Having left thousands of seats at home games empty over recent weeks, fans of both Lazio and Roma united to ensure one of Europe’s most hotly contested derby days was played out in front of a sparse crowd on the weekend, with the Stadio Olimpico barely half full for Sunday’s clash.

Roma ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Edin Dzeko and Gervinho, but with just 35,000 fans present in a 72,000 capacity stadium, the biggest talking point comes from the stands.

“I hope this situation is resolved soon and I hope the derby can become a celebration again,” Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi said after the match.

Both sets of fans’ rare show of unity concerns the new security measures that were put in place by the Italian civil defence service this season, with plexi-glass now partitioning the Curve Nord and Sud areas in the stadium. This was due an ongoing fear of overcapacity during home matches, with stairs becoming seats, threatening the safety and security of fans present.

With the Stadio Olimpico the only ground subjected to these measures, fans are feeling frustrated, with the Roma’s infamous ‘Ultras’ particularly furious at the lack of response from their club. The feeling that civil defence director Franco Gabrielli is trying to make an example of Rome with these measures also has real traction.

Those boycotting the match on Sunday attended the final training sessions in their numbers, then after following the players from the respective team hotels to the stadium, watched the game unfold in elsewhere in the city.

“I hope they (the fans boycotting matches) think again, in my heart I hope that these guys and girls show that they’re better than that,” said Giovanni Malago, president of the Italian National Olympic Committee and lifelong Roma fan.

“Obviously I can’t go against the rulings of those who are responsible for public safety. I really, really hope the fans change their minds. It pains me to death to see the stadium with empty or half-empty ‘curve’, without the organized support, the strongest part of the fanbase.”

José Mourinho handed one-match stadium ban after expletive-laden rant

A stadium ban has been handed to Chelsea manager José Mourinho after he ranted at a referee during Chelsea’s 2-1 loss to West Ham on 24th October. He will not be allowed to set foot in the stadium for the game against Stoke on Saturday.

He has grudgingly accepted that the ban, which bans him even from from sitting in the stands. This is a game that Chelsea need to win to regain their composure after only six wins in eleven games.

Mourinho chose not to appeal the decision that the three-man disciplinary hearing made, which said he had shown “persistent and/or aggressive nature of the reported behaviour” towards referee Jonathan Moss at a game away against West Ham United. The incident started when the Chelsea boss refused to leave Moss’s dressing room, after which he reportedly shouted “You fucking referees are weak”. After this, he was escorted out of the dressing room by West Ham security manager Simon Sutton.

This is Mourinho’s fifth charge of misconduct since he returned to Chelsea in mid 2013. He has racked up charges of £141,000 since then, plus an appeal which was rejected. For this incident, he was fined £40,000.
Mourinho was invited into Moss’s dressing room at half-time with Sutton to discuss incidents in the first half of the match. Chelsea were losing 1-0, and had been reduced to 10 men after midfielder Nemanja Matić was sent off a few minutes before the whistle blew. After Mourinho had ranted to Moss about the sending off, a disallowed goal and a goal denied by touchline technology, he told Moss that referees were “[expletive] weak”. After he had been escorted out by Sutton, he was sent off and had to sit in the stands.

He told reporters that the ban will “change everything” about how he interacts with games. ““I’ve been banned from the bench before but this is a stadium ban, stopping me working,” he said in a press conference on Friday. He will still be allowed to communicate with club staff by telephone, but will be resigned to watching the game through other means.

The Stoke-Chelsea game takes place at the Britannia Stadium at 5:30pm on 7th November. Chelsea lie in 15th place in the Premier League, while Stoke are one place above them in 14th.

Premier League: 5 talking points from the weekend’s action

Halloween weekend in the Premier League brought horror and misery for Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea side, for Manchester United’s strikers, and for Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart. But only one survived their ordeal and enjoyed three precious points after the dust settled.

The Champions lose again

Chelsea fans watched in dismay on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dismantled their side at Stamford Bridge. The 3-1 defeat, Chelsea’s sixth already this season, leaves the Blues languishing in 15th place, with Mourinho continuing up a certain creek without a certain proverbial.

There were many who were surprised to see Mourinho still in the job come the morning, with his post-match interviews revealing a man in the throes of a crisis. How much longer can he last?

United’s profligacies continue

Louis Van Gaal finds himself with an altogether different problem. A 0-0 draw away to Crystal Palace made it three successive goalless draws in all competitions for the Red Devils, with their drought in front of goal extending past the five hour mark.

Anthony Martial, who arrived as a firecracker at Old Trafford in the summer, has gone quiet, while Wayne Rooney’s struggles have been well documented. Despite being fourth in the Premier League, there are clearly problems at the still very much sleeping giants.

Joe Hart in the spotlight

United’s fierce rivals, Manchester City, scraped a 2-1 win at home against newly promoted Norwich City. Yaya Toure saved goalkeeper Joe Hart’s blushes with a late penalty after the England man had inexplicably dropped a cross for Cameron Jerome to bring his side level at the Etihad.

Hart’s continued position as England’s number one is now being questioned in light of Stoke City’s Jack Butland’s continued good form.

The 22 year old kept his third clean sheet from the last four games against Newcastle on Saturday, and will be hoping his displays will have caught the eye of England boss Roy Hodgson with Euro 2016 inching ever closer.

Arsenal showing real grit

Arsene Wenger’s side notched up their fifth win on the spin at Swansea on Saturday, keeping the club second in the league on goal difference. With chances galore in the first half, it was Swansea who looked the likeliest winners.

But the Gunners weathered the storm and hit three to bag the points, with the resurgent Mesut Ozil particularly impressive. Could this be Arsenal’s year at long last?

Everton hit Sunderland for six

A rollercoaster encounter rounded off the Sunday fixtures, with Everton emerging 6-2 winners against struggling Sunderland at Goodison Park, with striker Arouna Kone scoring a hat-trick.

The Ivorian, so plagued with injuries during his two year stay at the club, also triggered a contract extension with that showing, as Everton climbed to ninth in the league, one point behind neighbours Liverpool.

Klopp v Mourinho: Why Liverpool can beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea have endured their worst start in recent memory and no club has ever qualified for the Champions League after this bad a start. On the other hand, Liverpool’s new manager, their own bad start aside, has the right tactics to play and beat a team like Chelsea. Here’s why.

Struggling champions Chelsea, fronted by beleaguered manager Jose Mourinho and currently languishing in 15th place in the English Premier League, will take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, fresh from their first win under their new German boss during the week.

They say it’s better to be extraordinary than ordinary in life, but this Saturday afternoon at Stamford Bridge, being a normal one would seem to be preferable to being a special one.

Klopp, the former Borussia Dortmund manager, made a point of underlying his normality in the climate of celebrity managers, and he faces arguably the most show-stopping manager of his generation. But, if you believe the rumours, the Mourinho’s show could soon be drawing to a close, and Klopp could be the one to bring the curtain down. And not for the first time.

Five defeats so far in the English top flight, with their defence of the Carling Cup ending in miserable fashion during the week at the hands of Stoke; Chelsea are reeling and without direction. What was very recently an iron battleship of relentless determination is now a creaking rowboat, and the water is rising.

With striker Diego Costa a doubt for the game with a rib injury, Eden Hazard continuing to jog on the peripheries, and a defence scared of its own shadow; Chelsea are arguably there for the taking.

Klopp, having taken the reins at Anfield following Brendan Rodgers’ departure, is unbeaten in his first three games as Liverpool manager. Beating Bournemouth 1-0 in the Carling Cup midweek was the perfect warmup to Saturday’s showdown, with the Reds showing newfound grit and endeavour.

The industry of their central midfield against the struggling Nemanja Matic and potentially Ramires will be key, while the individual performances of Christian Benteke and Phillippe Coutinho have to be high throughout the 90. Klopp is a confidence builder, and he’ll have his players riding the crest of a wave heading down to West London.

And while Liverpool haven’t beaten Chelsea in their last six encounters, in Klopp, they have a manager who knows how to topple Jose Mourinho.

History is very much on the side of the German rather than the Portuguese. As Dortmund and Real Madrid managers respectively, Klopp has faced Mourinho on four occasions, with two wins, one draw and a loss under his belt. Indeed that solitary loss, a 2-0 Champions League semi-final second leg tie in 2013, still proved to be enough to take his Dortmund side through to the final, having convincingly won the first leg 4-1.

Jose Mourinho didn’t last too much longer in Madrid, having failed to deliver La Decima in his third season in the Spanish capital.

Dortmund tackled the fearsome attacking threat of Madrid by matching the Spaniards’ style. Mourinho prefers a counter attacking game, allowing opposition errors to hand the initiative to his sides. Dortmund had the defensive structure and presence of mind up top, serving up a horror evening for Real at the Westfalenstadion, with four-goal Robert Lewandowski the chief tormenter.

Two years on at Stamford Bridge and things are eerily similar. Klopp is once again the underdog facing a Mourinho under mounting pressure to deliver. There is little to be lost for Liverpool, and everything to gain. Freedom will be the optimum word for Klopp going into the game. Go out and impress.

Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, will struggle to downplay the importance for his side not to lose. But would a draw be enough for a stay of the axe?

The Death of the One-club Footballer

Where have all the one-club footballers gone? Just a few years ago we were celebrating the careers of Giggs, Puyol and Maldini, but many modern one-club footballers have jumped ship for a last payday. Will we see another one-club footballer ever again?

Given the widespread following of modern-day football, there is little debating the fact that the sport has become the global game – with the money on offer as a result nothing short of staggering.

While the best players on the planet naturally flock to Europe for fame and fortune, the growth of football across other continents continues to gather pace, collect followers and receive more and more financial backing.

Major League Soccer, the Australian A-League and the Qatar Stars League are just a few examples of footballing divisions that are able to attract an ever-increasing higher calibre of player as the sport grows in their respective nations.

While the increase in popularity in these leagues can only be a good thing for the health of football globally, it also threatens to spell the end of a prestigious club, with inductees having a very special bond.

One-club men, or players that only represent one football team throughout the entirety of their career, have a certain mystique; an unbreakable allegiance to the cause that turns them from fans’ favourites to club icons due to their loyalty.

Over the years there have been plenty, some more distinguished than others, but all held in the absolute highest regard by the fans that have the unique pleasure of being the only supporter group to sign that player’s name.

One-Club Footballers: Giants of Football

Some of the more noteworthy include Paulo Maldini, Ryan Giggs and Carles Puyol, who have all retired from the sport now – but they hung up their boots in the same place that it all started.

Maldini, and Franco Baresi for that matter, only wore the black and red of AC Milan and achieved widespread success and iconic status with the Rossoneri as a result.

Giggs was part of a glorious generation of Manchester United youth graduates, the class of 92, that defined Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford and propelled the club to English and European football’s elite over many years.

While other members of the same fabled school such as David Beckham sought challenges elsewhere, Giggs and fellow one-club men Gary Neville and Paul Scholes are held in much higher regard in the Stretford End due to their unwavering dedication to the Red Devils’ cause.

Barcelona is quickly becoming another hub of potential one-club men, with Blaugrana stalwart, talisman, captain and leader Puyol retiring having only played for the Catalan side.

Of the current Camp Nou contingent, the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and a host of other La Masia graduates could well follow suit – but the chances are being reduced as the wealth behind football in second-tier competitions grows.

Thinking about the afore-mentioned three growing leagues, the allure of a challenge in foreign climes and the inevitable lucrative last pay day that comes with it have robbed football of a host of potentially legendary one-club men.

The lure of MLS

The MLS was Steven Gerrard’s preferred destination after ending a career-long affinity with boyhood club Liverpool, with the former England captain now wearing the white and yellow of LA Galaxy.

For many members of the Kop, not having the blood-and-thunder midfielder in the heart of the team this season has still not truly sunk in.

Although Liverpool fans will always love Gerrard for his decision to shirk interest from other major clubs whilst he was in his prime, there is a feeling that had he ended his career as a Red, like Jamie Carragher did, forsaking all others, it would have been more fitting.

Australia and Qatar – attracting European stars

The A-League’s biggest-ever transfer coup saw Italian wizard Alessandro Del Piero step out for Sydney FC after 17 years as a Juventus hero came to an end.

The sublimely gifted attacker captured the imagination of Australian audiences with his ability and helped to build the increasing popularity of the sport Down Under – he also became the country’s highest-ever paid sportsman in the process.

Finally, Xavi opted not to follow Puyol’s lead and end on a high, instead being lured to Qatar for a final pay day before retirement.

A crowd of less than 2,500 was in attendance to witness his Al-Sadd debut earlier this year and although the Spaniard’s bank balance will be thriving, his sense of self-worth given the stellar achievements from days past will not exactly be soaring.

Others such as ageing Roma pair Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti will have the choice to make in upcoming years – but it is hard to criticise the players in truth.

With only a season or two left in the tank before the inevitability of retirement, why not bolster the coffers before a new life away from the pitch begins?

The reduction in importance at their beloved clubs as the frailties of age set in must surely be another heart-wrenching factor, with the chance to be a superstar all over again, albeit at a significantly lower standard of play, having its appeal.

Although the players that opt for the riches of a final payday in the sun should not be given too much of a hard time, the romanticism of the one-club men is slowly being weaned away as a result, with this prestigious and venerable group potentially struggling for new noteworthy members.