Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho have been accused of tax avoidance, according to claims based on a huge document leak.
They allegedly avoided paying tax on millions of dollars of earnings by moving large sums to the British Virgin Islands.
The allegations are said to be based on two terrabytes of leaked information which include original contracts.
Both of them deny the claims.
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Soccer agency Gestifute, which represents Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho, said in a statement: “Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho are fully compliant with their tax obligations with the Spanish and British tax authorities.
“Any insinuation or accusation made to Cristiano Ronaldo or Jose Mourinho over the commission of a tax offence will be reported to the legal authorities and prosecuted.”
The claims were published by an international consortium of journalists which obtained a trove of about 18 millions documents. Other top players were named in the documents.
The European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium includes German newspaper Der Spiegel, Spain’s El Mundo and the UK’s Sunday Times. It says it intends to publish a series of articles under the banner “Football Leaks” over the next few weeks.
The leak comes eight months after the so-called Panama Papers lifted the lid on how the world’s rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.
One of the newspapers in the consortium, the Dutch NRC, alleges that Cristiano Ronaldo moved €63.5 million ($67.7 million) to the British Virgin Islands at the end of 2014.
The paper says Cristiano Ronaldo received sponsorship fees which were moved via two Irish companies to the tax haven, 11 days before Spain changed an advantageous tax law.
The NRC says the striker has so far not responded to questions asked by the consortium.
According to El Mundo, the leaked documents relate to the time that Jose Mourinho spent as manager of Real Madrid, between 2010 and 2013.
Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo’s current employer, did not respond to requests from news agencies for comment.
Manchester United said the allegations related to events before Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the club and so it would not comment.
Jose Mourinho is reported to have moved €12 million ($13.2 million) into a Swiss account owned by a British Virgin Islands company, according to the EIC.
According to the reports, December 2 first batch of leaks centered on “a system” put in place by Jorge Mendes, whose company has denied any wrongdoing.
Jorge Mendes’ company, Gestifute, said in a statement that neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Jose Mourinho “have been implicated in legal proceedings of the tax evasion commission in Spain”.
Gestifute noted it had taken legal redress against claims of tax evasion and stressed it had always acted with “the highest degree of professionalism in relations with [its] clients and authorities”.
It accused the media consortium of operating in an “insidious” way concerning the stars’ tax obligations.
Gianni Infantino has been cleared of wrongdoing following a FIFA investigation into his expenses, recruitment and alleged sacking of whistleblowers.
He took charge of soccer’s world governing body in February after the disgraced Sepp Blatter resigned.
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FIFA’s ethics committee found no “conflicts of interest” and no breaches of the organization’s ethics code.
“The benefits enjoyed by Mr. Infantino were not considered improper,” it said.
A leaked internal FIFA memo outlined a series of claims relating to 46-year-old Gianni Infantino. The claims were that he: left himself exposed to claims of a possible conflict of interest by using private jets laid on by a World Cup bidding country; filled senior posts without checking people’s eligibility for the role; billed FIFA for mattresses, flowers, a tuxedo, an exercise machine and personal laundry; demanded FIFA hire an external driver, who then billed the governing body for driving his family and advisors around while he was abroad.
Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff has died of cancer at the age of 68.
Johan Cruyff, who made his name as a forward with Ajax and Barcelona, was European soccer player of the year three times.
The soccer icon won three consecutive European Cups with Ajax from 1971, coached Barcelona to their first European Cup triumph in 1992 and helped the Dutch reach the 1974 World Cup final, where they were beaten 2-1 by West Germany.
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The Dutch Football Association said: “Words can hardly be found for this huge loss.”
It added: “The greatest Dutch footballer of all time and one of the world’s best ever. Our condolences go to his wife, family, friends and the entire football world at home and abroad. We wish everyone a lot of strength in this difficult time.”
Two FIFA officials have been arrested in a dawn raid at the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich on suspicion of accepting millions of dollars of bribes.
Police swooped on the luxury hotel, where several FIFA officials were arrested in May.
A two-day meeting of FIFA’s executive committee is taking place in Zurich, Switzerland, to vote on reforms.
“FIFA became aware of the actions taken today by the US Department of Justice,” the soccer’s world governing body said.
“FIFA will continue to co-operate fully with the US investigation as permitted by Swiss law, as well as with the investigation being led by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General.
“FIFA will have no further comment on today’s developments.”
In May, seven FIFA officials, including two vice presidents, were arrested at the same hotel at the request of a US investigation into corruption, as the organization was engulfed by claims of widespread wrongdoing.
The Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) has said the two people arrested overnight are alleged to have taken money for selling marketing rights in connection with soccer tournaments in Latin America, as well as World Cup qualifying matches.
“A further two FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich today,” the Swiss FoJ said on December 3.
“They are being held in custody pending their extradition [to the US]. According to the US arrest requests, they are suspected of accepting bribes of millions of dollars.”
Swiss officials said they would release the names of the two arrested people and the outcomes of the hearings later on Thursday, December 3.
A Swiss criminal investigation into the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was also launched earlier this year, alongside the US inquiry.
FIFA has rejected president Sepp Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini’s appeals against their 90-day suspensions.
Sepp Blatter and Michele Platini were suspended in October while the world soccer governing body’s ethics committee investigates corruption claims against them.
Sepp Blatter, 79, is accused of signing a contract “unfavorable” to FIFA and making a “disloyal payment” to Michel Platini.
Both deny wrongdoing and could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was also suspended in October but there was no mention of him in today’s FIFA statement.
The adjudicatory panel of FIFA’s ethics committee is due to hold hearings into the misconduct charges before Christmas.
Former France captain and current UEFA chief Michel Platini – who wants to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president – has said the 2millio euros payment was “valid compensation” from his time working under the Swiss more than nine years earlier.
They insist there was an oral agreement for the payment in 1998, although it was not made until 2011.
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were suspended after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against Blatter, who has been FIFA president since 1998.
The ethics committee also opened an inquiry into Michel Platini over the payment.
Michel Platini’s suspension means his bid to succeed Sepp Blatter has had to be put on hold. He is one of seven candidates for the presidential election on February 26 but no integrity check will be carried out until his case is resolved.
Sepp Blatter was discharged from hospital last week after what was described as a “small emotional breakdown”.
Earlier this year, US authorities indicted 14 FIFA officials and associates on bribery and racketeering charges. A simultaneous Swiss investigation was started into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Sepp Blatter has revealed he had a “gentleman’s agreement” with Michel Platini over the 2 million euro payment he made to the UEFA president in 2011.
The 79-year-old FIFA president faces a criminal investigation over the payment, made nine years after Michel Platini, 60, carried out consultation work for the Swiss.
Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini deny any wrongdoing.
“It was a contract I had with Michel Platini, a gentleman’s agreement that was followed through on,” Sepp Blatter told Swiss broadcaster RROTV.
Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has imposed a 90-day suspension on Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini while corruption claims concerning the payment are investigated.
Former France international captain and coach Michel Platini says the money was an unpaid additional salary due from the time he served as Sepp Blatter’s advisor between 1998 and 2002.
Following a UEFA meeting on October 15, the Football Association (FA) suspended its support for Michel Platini’s bid to become FIFA president “until the legal process has been concluded and the position is clear”.
UEFA issued a statement saying Micehl Platini should be given the opportunity “to clear his name” and urged the FIFA ethics committee to conclude its investigation by mid-November.
The FIFA presidential election is scheduled to take place on February 26, 2016.
Meanwhile, FIFA says it will investigate “very serious allegations” that a 6.7 million euro payment was made to it by Germany’s 2006 World Cup organizing committee.
The bid, led by former World Cup-winning captain and coach Franz Beckenbauer, edged out favorites South Africa in the July 2000 vote to win the hosting rights for the 2006 tournament.
FIFA said the allegations would be reviewed “as part of the independent internal investigation currently being conducted by FIFA under the direction of its legal director with the assistance of outside counsel”.
Germany’s Football Association is also investigating the payment, saying it had found no indication of wrongdoing in the overall bid process but that the payment “may potentially not have been used for the intended purpose”.
Soccer’s governing body chief Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini are facing an investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee.
The move comes after the Swiss attorney general opened criminal proceedings against 79-yar-old Sepp Blatter.
Sepp Blatter is accused of signing a contract “unfavorable” to FIFA and making a “disloyal payment” to UEFA President Michel Platini, 60.
Photo Getty Images
The FIFA president denies wrongdoing and his lawyer says he is co-operating fully.
The ethics committee is looking into the circumstances of a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million) that Michel Platini received in 2011 for work said to have been carried out more than nine years previously, reported the Press Association.
Swiss prosecutors opened criminal proceedings against Sepp Blatter on September 25.
Michel Platini – who worked as Sepp Blatter’s technical advisor between 1999 and 2002 – was interviewed as a witness by officers from the attorney general’s office.
Michel Platini is yet to explain the nine-year delay in payment but he too denies any wrongdoing.
Swiss banks have reported suspicions of money laundering by soccer’s governing body FIFA.
Local prosecutors are investigating 53 cases of possible money laundering in their inquiry into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.
Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said the incidents had been reported by Swiss banks.
He said his office was analyzing a “huge amount” of seized FIFA data in its inquiry.
The Swiss investigation is running in parallel to one being carried out by the US.
The 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively. But leading FIFA official Domenico Scala has said the awards could be cancelled if evidence emerges of bribery.
Russia and Qatar deny any wrongdoing.
FIFA is facing claims of widespread corruption after Swiss police raided a hotel in Zurich – where the soccer’s governing body is based – and arrested seven of its top executives last month.
The seven were held at the request of the US DoJ which has charged 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.
The charges follow a three-year inquiry by the FBI.
Also in May, Swiss prosecutors opened separate criminal proceedings “against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering” in connection with the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
However, until now, much less has been revealed about the Swiss investigation than the inquiry being led by the FBI.
Michael Lauber told a news conference that the investigation was “huge and complex on many levels” and would take a long time.
“We note positively that banks in Switzerland did fulfill their duties to file suspicious activity reports. Partly in addition to 104 banking relations already known to the authorities, banks announced 53 suspicious banking relations via the anti-money-laundering framework of Switzerland,” he said.
Michael Lauber said he did not rule out interviews with FIFA president Sepp Blatter as part of his investigation.
Sepp Blatter has denied any wrongdoing and announced earlier this month that he will resign.
The attorney said his investigation was separate from that being carried out by the FBI and that documents and data would not be shared automatically with the US.
Michael Lauber added: “The world of football needs to be patient. By its nature, this investigation will take more than the legendary 90 minutes.”
Interpol has suspended its 10-year partnership with FIFA over allegations of corruption against the soccer’s governing body.
The international police agency had a €20 million anti-match-fixing program with the soccer’s governing body.
Interpol is now freezing the money donated by FIFA in 2011 for the program.
The “Integrity in Sport” agreement was intended to combat match-fixing and illegal gambling.
FIFA is under investigation by authorities in the US and Switzerland for alleged bribery and corruption.
Jurgen Stock, the head of Interpol, said in a statement: “In light of the current context surrounding FIFA, while Interpol is still committed to developing our Integrity in Sport program, I have decided to suspend the agreement.
“All external partners, whether public or private, must share the fundamental values and principles of the organization, as well as those of the wider law enforcement community.”
The agreement between Interpol and FIFA stated that the soccer body must be “compatible with the principles, aims and activities of Interpol”.
Last month, 14 current and former FIFA officials and sports marketing executives were charged over allegations of corruption and bribery following a years-long US-led investigation into the organization.
The scandal has raised questions over the legitimacy of the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.
The 2026 World Cup bidding process has been delayed amid corruption allegations around the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
According to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, it was “a nonsense” to begin the process in the current climate.
The vote to decide who will host the 2026 World Cup is due to take place in Kuala Lumpur in May 2017.
The US is front-runner to stage the tournament, but Canada, Mexico and Colombia are also thought to be interested.
Russia and Qatar were selected to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups by a secret ballot of FIFA’s 22 executive members in December 2010.
Meanwhile Swiss prosecutors are investigating alleged financial irregularities surrounding the bidding process. Both Russia and Qatar have denied any wrongdoing.
Soccer’s world governing body had planned to inform its member federations this week of the bidding schedule for 2026, but Jerome Valcke said: “Due to the situation, I think it’s nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being.”
Speaking in the Russian city of Samara, Jerome Valcke also defended FIFA’s handling of a $10 million payment from the South African government towards a Caribbean Diaspora legacy program.
US prosecutors allege the payment was a bribe to help secure the 2010 World Cup for South Africa.
The South African government insists it was a legitimate payment to promote Caribbean football.
Jerome Valcke said: “It was not FIFA’s money. It was a request from official South African authorities and the South African Football Association (SAFA). As long as it is in line with rules we do it.
“I don’t understand what’s the problem and why I am such a target in this question.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has announced he will step down from his role, amid the ongoing allegations of corruption in the governing body, including the indictment of 14 people on corruption charges by US authorities.
Sepp Blatter is expected to be replaced at an election on December 16.
When faced with questions over his own future, Jerome Valcke said: “You – the media – have decided that after Blatter I am the head to be cut, fine, but don’t say it is because of this $10 million.”
Alejandro Burzaco, who is wanted by the US in connection with the investigation into allegations of corruption at soccer’s governing body FIFA, has turned himself in to police in Italy.
The Argentine was the president of Argentine sports marketing firm Torneos y Competencias and one of 14 current and ex-FIFA officials and associates indicted over the scandal.
Interpol had issued an alert requesting Alejandro Burzaco’s arrest.
Alejandro Burzaco disappeared following the arrest of seven FIFA executives on May 27.
Swiss media reported that Alejandro Burzaco was not in his room when police acting on extradition requests from US authorities raided a hotel in the Swiss city of Zurich, but was having breakfast and so was not arrested.
Alejandro Burzaco, who also has Italian citizenship, walked into a police station in the northern Italian city of Borzano along with his two lawyers on June 9.
He is being held in a cell in Borzano police station, officials told Spanish news agency EFE.
The DoJ alleges that Alejandro Burzaco conspired to win and keep hold of lucrative media rights contracts from regional football federations by paying up to $110 million in bribes.
An Argentine judge ordered Alejandro Burzaco’s arrest after he was named in the US indictment for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.
Judge Marcelo Martinez de Giorgi warned Alejandro Burzaco and two more indicted Argentine sports executives, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, that they would be considered fugitives if they did not turn themselves in.
The whereabouts of father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis is currently unknown.
Interpol issued “red notices” for their arrest, along with Alejandro Burzaco and three others, on June 1.
Alejandro Burzaco was dismissed from Torneos y Competencias on June 3.
Torneos y Competencias has denied any involvement in the alleged bribery.
United Passions, a vanity film about the history of soccer’s governing body FIFA, has flopped in the US, taking just $607 in its opening weekend.
The movie was funded by about $25 million of FIFA cash, and was completed before corruption charges were made against 14 of its officials at the end of last month.
Starring Tim Roth as Sepp Blatter, the hagiography of FIFA has had damning reviews.
The movie’s budget was estimated at between $25 – $32 million, with FIFA said to have put up about three-quarters of the money.
United Passions debuted in the States on June 5, on just 10 screens.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FilmBar cinema in Phoenix reported takings of just $9, meaning only one person bought a ticket.
The movie’s release came as FIFA faces an investigation into allegations of corruption during the bidding process to host the 2010 World Cup.
The DoJ has indicted a total of 14 current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption following a major inquiry by the FBI.
President Sepp Blatter stood down last week, although he faces no charges himself.
United Passions purports to present the history of FIFA through three leaders, and co-stars Sam Neill as Sepp Blatter’s predecessor, Joao Havelange, and Gerard Depardieu, who plays FIFA founder Jules Rimet.
Gerard Depardieu was the only actor who attended the movie’s world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014.
Chuck Blazer, the most senior American official at FIFA, has admitted that he and others on the executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the choice of South Africa as 2010 World Cup host.
Chuck Blazer said he also helped to arrange bribes over the 1998 event.
The admissions come in a newly released transcript from a 2013 US hearing in which he pleads guilty to 10 charges.
The US has launched a wide-ranging criminal case that engulfed FIFA and led President Sepp Blatter to resign.
The US prosecutors last week indicted 14 people on charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. Four others had already been charged, including Chuck Blazer.
The DoJ alleges they accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150 million over a 24-year period.
Seven of the 14 were top FIFA officials who were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, as they awaited the FIFA congress. Two were vice-presidents.
The details of Chuck Blazer’s guilty pleas came as prosecutors unsealed the transcript of the 2013 hearing in the Eastern New York District Court. The admissions are part of a sentencing deal with prosecutors.
Chuck Blazer, 70, was the second highest official in FIFA’s North and Central American and Caribbean region (CONCACAF) from 1990 to 2011 and also served on FIFA’s executive committee between 1997 and 2013.
In the transcript, prosecutors refer to FIFA “and its membership or constituent organization” as a RICO enterprise – a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization.
Chuck Blazer says: “Beginning in or around 2004 and continuing through 2011, I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup.”
On June 3, South Africa denied paying a $10 million bribe to secure the hosting of the 2010 event.
Chuck Blazer also says: “I and others agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003 Gold Cups (the regional championship for national teams).”
Other admissions among the 10 charges in the 40-page dossier include US tax evasion.
Federal agents investigating the tax evasion had detained Chuck Blazer and he agreed to co-operate in the US investigations.
He is said to have agreed to record his colleagues using a microphone hidden in a keychain.
Chuck Blazer is said to be seriously ill, suffering from colon cancer.
In addition to the US case, Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were allocated.
Qatar has said there is no way it will be stripped of the right to host the 2022 World Cup despite the corruption probe.
Foreign minister Khaled al Attiyah dismissed what he called “a bashing campaign” as anti-Arab prejudice and said Qatar was confident it could prove there had been no wrongdoing in its selection.
In another development, former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner made a televised address in Trinidad on June 3 in which he said he could link FIFA officials to the 2010 election in Trinidad and Tobago.
Jack Warner has been indicted by the US with corruption, a charge he strongly denies.
On June 3, FIFA President Sepp Blatter was given a 10-minute standing ovation by some 400 staff as he returned to FIFA’s Zurich headquarters a day after announcing he was to step down.
Reportedly close to tears, Sepp Blatter urged his “fantastic team” to “stay strong”.
This June sees Chile host soccer’s Copa America. The world’s oldest international soccer tournament is also one of the most raucous and colorful sporting festivals in the world.
Some of the most entertaining soccer players in the world combine with wild spectators to create a dramatic spectacle throughout the whole of the four week-long competition. Supporters are currently snapping up tickets for this year’s event which takes place in Chile and begins on June 11.
One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s Copa America will be watching how two of the giants of world soccer react following their last tournament performances, which were played out in the FIFA World Cup a year ago.
Copa America 2015 – Fans, Flair and Fatigue
Recently, Brazil looks to have overcome the hangover following the harrowing 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semifinals. As if the scoreline was not embarrassing enough, the result was exacerbated by the fact that the Brazilians were on home soil, in front of their adoring fans.
Legendary World Cup winner Dunga is now in charge of la seleção, and they have powered to eight straight wins since last summer’s debacle. The form of talismanic striker Neymar, now installed as captain, has had a big role to play.
Eternal rivals Argentina managed to progress one round further at the World Cup, eventually losing out to Germany in the final. It will be 22 years since Argentina lifted silverware—their last trophy being 1993’s Copa America.
National coach Gerardo Martino will be looking to knit together a side that can be as resilient as it is exhilarating. Blessed with a forward line that reads like a who’s who of the world’s greatest—Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria—surely the time has come for them to deliver?
And yet, the 2015 Copa America could be the most unpredictable tournament in years. Most of the world’s finest players migrate toward the riches of the European soccer leagues for their regular jobs. This year, a mere five days separates the end of the European soccer season and the opening game of the Copa America. (The UEFA Champions League final takes place in Berlin, Germany on June 6th).
With such close proximity between the Copa America and a regular season which followed a World Cup year, a major factor in deciding the outcome of the tournament could be which nation copes best with fatigue.
Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli has been charged by the Football Association for an Instagram post which appeared to contain anti-Semitic and racist references.
The Liverpool striker reposted an image of computer game character Super Mario on Instagram, which included the words “jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”
Mario Balotelli, 24, tweeted to deny the post was offensive, before apologizing.
He has until 18:00 GMT on December 15 to respond to the charge.
A Liverpool spokesman said: “We acknowledge the FA’s decision and the player will work through the process to answer the charge.
“While that process is on-going the club will make no further comment.”
An FA statement read: “It is alleged the Liverpool player breached FA Rule E3 in that his posting was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper.
“It is further alleged that this is an <<Aggravated Breach>> as defined by FA Rule E3 as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or color and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief.”
Mario Balotelli had until 18:00 on December 5 to submit an explanation for his comments to the FA and he reportedly provided evidence of the discrimination he has faced during his career.
The picture posted by the player had an image of Super Mario with the heading: “Don’t be a racist!”
The text read: “Be like Mario, he’s an Italian plumber, created by Japanese people, who speaks English and looks like a Mexican.”
“He jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”
After receiving criticism on Twitter for the image, Mario Balotelli tweeted: “My mom [sic] is Jewish so all of you shut up please.”
The player also described reposting the image as “my unlucky moment”.
Mario Balotelli later wrote: “I apologize if I’ve offended anyone.
“The post was meant to be anti-racist with humor. I now understand that out of context it may have the opposite effect.
“Not all Mexicans have a moustache, not all black people jump high and not all Jewish people love money.
“I used a cartoon done by somebody else because it has Super Mario and I thought it was funny and not offensive. Again, I’m sorry.”
Millions of soccer fans in America have stopped work early to watch team USA playing Belgium for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil.
The match kicked off at 16:00 on the US east coast, so offices have emptied a little early.
Big screens have been erected in public viewing areas across the country, including at Chicago’s American football stadium.
An estimated 20 million Americans watched the US-Germany game last week.
This time, as many as 14 million workers could down tools to watch Tuesday’s game, costing the US economy more than $600 million in lost labor productivity, according to an estimate by Yahoo Finance.
Millions of soccer fans in America have stopped work early to watch team USA playing Belgium for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil
Even President Barack Obama told reporters he had arranged his schedule around the match.
“I thought I’d get the cabinet together this morning, because we all know that America will be busy this afternoon. Go team USA,” he said.
Large viewing parties are planned across the US, including in Chicago, Kansas City and Washington DC.
At Freedom Plaza in Washington, the city government was hosting a viewing party, where viewers grabbed a spot on the stone plaza in the blistering heat hours before the match.
But not everyone will be tuning in. Despite the increased viewing figures, an NBC News poll suggests six in 10 Americans have very little interest or no interest at all in the World Cup. Only 22% had a “great deal” or “quite a bit” of interest.
Team USA’s success thus far – defeating Ghana and drawing Portugal to slip out of the group stage into the last 16 – has driven a wave of enthusiasm for football, which typically lags far behind American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey in popularity.
The US and Belgium have not played each other in the World Cup since the first tournament in 1930, where the Americans won 3-0.
“I’m sure if we play to the best of our ability, we’ll get a positive result,” US captain Clint Dempsey said.
“For some of the guys, it’s the last opportunity, so we have to make the most of it.”
Speaking after the US lost 1-0 to Germany on Thursday, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said: “We will work … to shift our entire game up forward. So that will put more pressure on the opponents and create more chances.”
Bryce Brites became world’s youngest professional football player at only 20 months.
Bryce Brites signed this week with Belgian club FC Racing Boxberg, based near his home city of Genk, after impressing coaches with his “highly unusual” talent and “incredible” ball control. The precocious toddler was invited to train with the club’s Under-5 team and was signed and issued his very own Belgian FA membership card the very same day.
Bryce Brites became world’s youngest professional football player at only 20 months
The toddler misses out on the all-time record for youngest-ever professional by two months. That record apparently belongs to Dutch footballer Baerke van der Meij, who signed a 10-year deal with VVV-Venlo when he was 18 months old.
Racing Boxberg club secretary Dany Vodnik raved about the young prodigy, who is still in diapers, to Dutch newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws: “Bryce kicks a ball in a way you do not even see when playing drills with four or five-year-olds. His ball control is incredible for his age. The way he dribbles with the ball at his feet between the cones, he can give a pass to the left or right.
“You ask him to kick a ball three or five meters and he does so, but he may not play with the five and six-year-old boys yet. We must remain cautious.“
Bryce Brites might just live up to the hype in about 15 years or so. But for the meantime, the toddler will likely enjoy instant celebrity status on his neighborhood playgrounds.
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