Lionel Messi looking forward eagerly to ‘weird’ La Liga restart after COVID-19 pause

In this Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020 file photo, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Eibar at the Camp Nou. (AP)
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Updated 27 May 2020

Lionel Messi looking forward eagerly to ‘weird’ La Liga restart after COVID-19 pause

  • Messi, who after a few weeks confined like the rest of Spain by the coronavirus pandemic, is training with Barca again
  • Planned resumption of La Liga behind closed doors on the weekend on June 12 looking likely

MADRID: Barcelona and Argentina captain Lionel Messi said he was eager to start playing again but thought La Liga games behind closed doors would feel “weird.”
Messi, who after a few weeks confined like the rest of Spain by the coronavirus pandemic, is training with Barca again ahead of a planned resumption of La Liga behind closed doors on the weekend on June 12.
“We cannot think about what we are leaving behind this year. It is better to think about the future,” said Messi on the website of sports brand Adidas.
“Like going back to day-to-day training, seeing your teammates, playing your first few games. No doubt it will be strange at first, but I am looking forward to competing again!
He said playing without fans “implies a series of challenges. The preparation at squad level is the same as for any other match, but it is true that individually you have to train and get mentally prepared to play without people because it is very weird.”
“It will be like starting over,” he said. “Technically it will be the same season, but I think all teams and players will experience it differently.”
Messi was due to lead Argentina this summer in the Copa America, where his country are joint hosts with Colombia, but in March, the competition was postponed to June and July next year.
“Postponing the Copa America was a huge disappointment, but of course it was reasonable and most logical,” Messi said.
“The Copa was going to be a big event for me this year and I was really looking forward to playing in it again,” he said.
“It was hard when I heard about the postponement, but I understood it perfectly,” he said.


Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

Updated 43 min 35 sec ago

Valcke and Al-Khelaifi brace for ‘Fifagate’ corruption trial verdict

  • Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media
  • Valcke was the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter,

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Former FIFA No. 2  Jerome Valcke and Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaifi will discover Friday if their roles in the “Fifagate” scandal, regarding alleged corruption in the allocation of World Cup TV rights, are damning enough to land them a stretch behind bars.

That is when the Swiss Federal Criminal Court of Bellinzona, which conducted 10 days of hearings in September, will announce the verdict on the two men, along with Greek businessman Dinos Deris.

Prosecutors have called for a jail term of three years for Valcke, a 28-month sentence for Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of beIN Media, and 30 months for Deris — with partial suspension in all three cases.

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA. Two former Latin American football leaders have been jailed in the US.

Valcke, the former right-hand man of disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter, was on trial on two charges related to his quest for money to maintain what Federal Prosecutor Joel Pahud called a “spendthrift” lifestyle.

Al-Khelaifi is included in the first charge.

BACKGROUND

It will be the first judgement handed down in Switzerland, the seat of most international sports organizations, in the 20 or so proceedings opened in the last five years involving FIFA.

The public prosecutor’s office said Valcke sought the Qatari’s help in the summer of 2003 to buy a luxury villa in Sardinia, at a time when beIN, a Qatari-owned broadcaster, was negotiating the extension of its media rights in North Africa and the Middle East for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups.

The prosecutor said Al-Khelaifi acquired the house for five million euros ($5.85 million), via a company that was transferred almost immediately to the brother of one of his close collaborators, before it was made available to Valcke.

The two men denied a “corrupt agreement” and said the deal was a “private” arrangement, unrelated to the contract concluded by beIN with FIFA in April 2014.

The prosecution said Valcke committed to “do what was in his power” to ensure beIN would win the contract and should have declared the Villa Bianca deal to his employers. They said he had been pressured by Al-Khaleifa to damage FIFA’s interests illegally.

The defense argued that the trial was “muddied” by the revelation of informal meetings between former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber and current FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Lauber resigned from his post in July and both men are under investigation for suspected collusion.

Al-Khelaifi’s lawyers have told AFP that the charges against their client are “clearly artificial.” 

The Swiss prosecutors had to drop a charge of corruption because of an out-of-court settlement in January between Al-Khelaifi and FIFA, which then withdrew its complaint against him.