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FIFA puts Club World Cup, Nations League plans on hold

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino has delayed any decision over his plans for a lucrative new Club World Cup and global Nations League amid widespread opposition, instead setting up a taskforce to further look into the proposals.



Speaking at a press conference in the Rwandan capital Kigali, where the FIFA Council has been meeting, Infantino said the taskforce will present its “concrete proposals” at a meeting in Miami next March.

The plans have been harshly criticised by opponents who say the international calendar is already overcrowded and have accused the FIFA president of using the projects to help win votes for re-election in June next year.

The delay will be seen as a way of appeasing the likes of the World Leagues Forum, a grouping of professional leagues, which sent a letter to Infantino demanding that no final decision be taken in Kigali and lamenting the lack of any consultation.

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UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has also been critical of the plans, and reports this week suggested delegates from European football’s governing body could walk out if their views were not heeded in Kigali.

“I am happy to have contributed to peace in the world today if some were seeing it so dramatic,” Infantino remarked.

“Everyone agrees the Club World Cup needs to be revamped, everyone in the world.

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“There are some who have different interests. We were not going to decide today how to revamp them, there are different options on the table.

“FIFA’s duty is to organise competitions, so I don’t understand why we cannot talk about them.”

Infantino is pushing to revamp the Club World Cup by boosting it from seven clubs to 24 in a four-year format, 12 of them European. Currently the competition, which elicits little interest outside of Latin America, is played every year in December.

The 48-year-old indicated that it would be better for FIFA to organise a tournament that redistributes money around the game than for top European clubs to regularly travel abroad to take part in money-spinning friendly matches.

“Everyone is happy to go around the world and try to cash in as much as possible. The only organisation in the world of football which is doing solidarity and development all over the world is FIFA,” he said.

“There is certainly space for these games, interesting club games, without adding to the international match calendar.”

His other project is to launch a biennial league tournament for nations, the global Nations League, a sort of mini-World Cup with eight national teams competing. UEFA recently launched its own European Nations League.



Infantino says he has an offer of $25 billion over 12 years for the two competitions from a group of investors, which the Financial Times has identified as SoftBank from Japan, backed by Saudi Arabia among others.

That money, he promises, will be redistributed to clubs and continental federations.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Ukraine: Popular Ukraine comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy emerges victorious in the presidential poll.

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Source: Reuters

Ukraine entered uncharted political waters on Monday after near final results showed a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies had dramatically up-ended the status quo and won the country’s presidential election by a landslide.

The emphatic victory of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, is a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko who tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag by casting himself as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

With over 90 percent of the vote counted, Zelenskiy had won 73 percent of the vote with Poroshenko winning just under 25 percent.

Zelenskiy, who plays a fictitious president in a popular TV series, is now poised to take over the leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

“I’m not yet officially the president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union look at us. Anything is possible!”

Zelenskiy, whose victory fits a pattern of anti-establishment figures unseating incumbents in Europe and further afield, has promised to end the war in the eastern Donbass region and to root out corruption amid widespread dismay over rising prices and sliding living standards.

But he has been coy about exactly how he plans to achieve all that and investors want reassurances that he will accelerate reforms needed to attract foreign investment and keep the country in an International Monetary Fund program.

“Since there is complete uncertainty about the economic policy of the person who will become president, we simply don’t know what is going to happen and that worries the financial community,” said Serhiy Fursa, an investment banker at Dragon Capital in Kiev.

“We need to see what the first decisions are, the first appointments. We probably won’t understand how big these risks are earlier than June. Perhaps nothing will change.”

The United States, the European Union and Russia will be closely watching Zelenskiy’s foreign policy pronouncements to see if and how he might try to end the war against pro-Russian separatists that has killed some 13,000 people.

U.S. President Donald Trump phoned Zelenskiy and pledged to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, while European Council President Donald Tusk congratulated the Ukrainian people on what he called a show of democratic maturity.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russia on a so far largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russia, which is holding 24 Ukrainian sailors among others.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the Kremlin’s closest ally in Ukraine, last week outlined ways in which Ukraine and Russia could mend ties, though Zelenskiy has given no indication of being open to the prospect.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine now had a chance to “reset” and unite its people.

Zelenskiy has pledged to keep Ukraine on a pro-Western course, but has sounded less emphatic than Poroshenko about possible plans for the country of 42 million people to one day join the European Union and NATO.

Poroshenko, who conceded defeat but said he planned to stay in politics, said on social media he thought Zelenskiy’s win would spark celebrations in the Kremlin.

“They believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian President, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,” he wrote.

Critics accuse Zelenskiy of having an unhealthily close working relationship with a powerful oligarch called Ihor Kolomoisky, whose TV channel broadcasts his comedy shows.

Zelenskiy has rejected those accusations.

One of the most important and early tests of that promise will be the fate of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender, which was nationalized in 2016.

The government wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky as part of a banking system clean-up backed by the IMF, which supports Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar loan program.

But its fate hangs in the balance after a Kiev court ruled days before the election that the change of PrivatBank’s ownership was illegal, delighting Kolomoisky but rocking the central bank which said it would appeal.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly denied he would seek to hand PrivatBank back to Kolomoisky if elected or help the businessman win compensation for the ownership change.

The IMF will be watching closely too to see if Zelenskiy will allow gas prices to rise to market levels, an IMF demand but a politically sensitive issue and one Zelenskiy has been vague about.

Zelenskiy gave few new policy details on Sunday, but said he wanted a new general prosecutor to replace incumbent Yuriy Lutsenko, and spoke of wanting new generals to work in the army.

His unorthodox campaign traded on the character he plays in the TV show, a scrupulously honest schoolteacher who becomes president by accident after an expletive-ridden rant about corruption goes viral.

 Zelenskiy has promised to fight corruption, a message that has resonated with Ukrainians fed up with the status quo in a country that is one of Europe’s poorest nearly three decades after breaking away from the Soviet Union

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24 Hours Across Africa

Colombo: Easter Sunday blast leaves over 190 people dead and at least 449 injured in a church.

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EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Sri Lankan security personnel walk past dead bodies covered with blankets amid blast debris at St. Anthony's Shrine following an explosion in the church in Kochchikade in Colombo on April 21, 2019. - A string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on April 21, killing at least 156 people, including 35 foreigners. (Photo by ISHARA S.  KODIKARA / AFP)

Source: Reuters

Over 190 people were killed and at least 449 injured in bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the first major attack on the Indian Ocean island since the end of a civil war 10 years ago.

Seven people were arrested and three police officers were killed during a security forces raid on a house in the Sri Lankan capital several hours after the rash of attacks, some of which officials said were suicide bombs.

The government declared a curfew in Colombo and blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp. It was unclear when the curfew would be lifted.

“Altogether, we have information of 207 dead from all hospitals. According to the information as of now we have 449 injured people admitted to hospitals,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, a time when bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Local Christian groups have said they faced increasing intimidation from some extremist Buddhist monks in recent years. Last year, there were clashes between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam.

Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at St. Sebastian’s Gothic-style Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Gunasekera said the police suspected a suicide attack there. Pictures from the site showed bodies on the ground, blood on the church pews and a destroyed roof.

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