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FOOTBALL

FIFA’s honorary prez resigns over bribe claims

Joao Havelange has resigned as honorary FIFA president over claims that he had accepted bribes, world football's governing body announced on Tuesday.

Havelange stood down after being targeted in the findings of an Ethics Committee set up by FIFA to investigate a scandal involving the now bankrupt Swiss-based marketing agency International Sport and Leisure (ISL) and World Cup television rights.
   
The Brazilian's conduct was described as "morally and ethically reproachable" in the report into the affair headed by FIFA's ethics chairman, Hans-Joachim Eckert.
   
Havelange, now 96 and in poor health, is alleged to have taken improper payments during his time serving as FIFA's seventh president between 1974 and 1998.
   
The report also accused Havelange's son-in-law and former FIFA executive, Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz, of taking kickbacks.
   
But while qualifying as bribes, the report stressed that payments received by this trio between 1992 and May 2000 were not crimes at the time.
   
Leoz, accused in the report of being "not fully candid",  resigned last week from FIFA's executive committee.
   
Havelange's successor, Sepp Blatter, is said to have known about one payment to ISL destined for Havelange of 1.5 million francs ($1.6 million), with the report concluding that Blatter's conduct was "clumsy" but not "criminal".
   
Blatter welcomed the report's findings.
   
"I have taken note of the report from the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, regarding the examination of the ISL case," Blatter said in a statement.
   
"I note in particular that, in his conclusions, chairman Eckert states that 'the ISL case is concluded for the Ethics Committee' and that 'no further proceedings related to the ISL matter are warranted against any other football official'.
   
"I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that 'President Blatter's conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'.
   
"I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue, which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution, does not happen again."
   
Tuesday's ethics report seemingly draws a line under the damaging long-running affair which began when the marketing agency ISL folded with huge debts in 2001, triggering an investigation by Swiss authorities.
   
In 2010, BBC's Panorama programme alleged that three senior FIFA offiicals had taken bribes from ISL, forcing FIFA, under orders from the Swiss supreme court, to hand over confidential documents relating to the case last year.
   
That release of papers led in turn to Tuesday's findings.

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FOOTBALL

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said. 

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