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Economy

Soccer's "Qatargate"? Accusations Of Payoffs To Secure World Cup 2022 Bid

FRANCE FOOTBALL, AFP(France) LE SOIR (Belgium)

Worldcrunch

PARIS – When Qatar was chosen as the site for soccer's World Cup in 2022, the sports world let out a collective: What?...Where?? But for the more cynical, the real question has always been: How?

According to Paris-based sports weekly France Football, the answer to that last question is: corruption. The French magazine published a 20-page investigation this week delving into the decision two years ago "outside any logic" by FIFA, soccer's international governing board, to award the World Cup to the wealthy Gulf emirate.

"Should we re-vote for the 2022 World Cup?" titles France Football. That Qatar is such a weak soccer country (ranked 106th in the world) was the first reason many observers believed something was not right in its being chosen the 21st host of the World Cup.

But now, the respected French soccer weekly, which many in the sport know for its annual awarding of the Ballon d’or (Golden Ball) for the world's top footballer, is detailing specific allegations for how Qatar essentially paid its way to hosting the event.

Top soccer personalities were allegedly paid large sums to praise the country’s qualities at FIFA conventions -- the magazine says 11 million euros was the price for French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane, and a reportedly hefty check also to FC Barcelona’s coach at the time, Pep Guardiola.

Guido Tognoni, a former FIFA member, qualified the soccer federation “a little mafia.”

“It’s hard to talk about buying votes (per se), but rather the arrangement of votes thanks to agreements and the exchanging of favors,” Tognoni told France Football, according to a rundown of the accusations in the Belgium daily Le Soir.

France Football cites a meal in November 2010 at the French Presidential palace hosted by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with Qatari Prince Al Thani and French football legend Michel Platini, who is a key FIFA board member and head of European soccer's governing board. France Football says the Qataris wanted to negotiate for Platini’s vote for the World Cup selection bid in exchange for the creation of a sports satellite TV channel and the purchase of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer club.

PSG is now owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, which also runs Bein sports TV network in France. Platini lashed out at the accusations, telling AFP: "I made my choice with complete independence following a simple logic... opening up countries who have never organised major sporting events....With the same concern for transparency, it was me who revealed to the media that a few weeks before the vote I was invited to dinner by Nicolas Sarkozy."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner's MIA Convicts: Where Do Deserting Russian Mercenaries Go?

Tens of thousands of Russian prisoners who've been recruited by the Wagner Group mercenary outfit have escaped from the frontlines after volunteering in exchange for freedom. Some appear to be seeking political asylum in Europe thanks to a "cleared" criminal record.

Picture of a soldier wearing the Wagner Group Logo on their uniform.

Soldier wearing the paramilitary Wagner Group Logo on their uniform.

Source: Sky over Ukraine via Facebook
Anna Akage

Of the about 50,000 Russian convicts who signed up to fight in Ukraine with the Wagner Group, just 10,000 are reportedly still at the front. An unknown number have been killed in action — but among those would-be casualties are also a certain number of coffins that are actually empty.

To hide the number of soldiers who have deserted or defected to Ukraine, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is reportedly adding them to the lists of the dead and missing.

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Some Wagner fighters have surrendered through the Ukrainian government's "I Want To Live" hotline, says Olga Romanova, director and founder of the Russia Behind Bars foundation.

"Relatives of the convicts enlisted in the Wagner Group are not allowed to open the coffins," explains Romanova.

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