Five-term FIFA president Sepp Blatter was set to announce a special election for his replacement to be held in February of next year, but the press conference on early Monday didn’t go exactly as planned.
As Blatter was preparing to address the press, English comedian and prankster Simon Brodkin, whose stage name is Lee Nelson, suddenly took the stage and introduced himself as a “North Korean World Cup delegate” who was bidding to be the host for the 2026 World Cup.
In a blatant nod to Blatter’s alleged corruption, Brodkin threw a handful of bills over the FIFA president, saying, “Here you go, Sepp,” as he was handily escorted out by security guards and cameras snapped away.
Blatter refused to speak to the media until the money had been cleared away. “This has nothing to do with football,” he said.
Simon Brodkin, aka Lee Nelson, being taken away by Swiss police after today’s money throwing prank at FIFA. pic.twitter.com/WzFlr0PmFA
South Korean soccer’s whiz kid Lee Seung-woo has taken a significant step towards realizing his dream of playing alongside Lionel Messi at Camp Nou, home of the world-renowned FC Barcelona.
It’s been four years since the 17-year-old Lee joined the glamorous club’s academy, and now the Korean player will be joining Barcelona “Barça” B, a reserve team that serves as the final stage of development for players who have been groomed in Barcelona’s youth system before they ascend to the big league. Barça B alums include Messi as well as World Cup winners Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
Lee, along with his countryman and teammate Paik Seung-ho, was recently summoned by Barça B to join the team’s preseason camp beginning next week, according to Spanish daily Sport. Barça B will compete in the third-tier Segunda Division B in the upcoming 2015-16 season. Up until last season, Lee and Paik had trained with Barça Juvenil A, a youth team for players under the age of 18 or younger.
“I feel honored to play for Barça B,” Lee told the Korean media on Tuesday. “I didn’t think I’d get an opportunity this quickly. This is the result of my years worth of hard work. My goal is to make my debut in Barcelona’s top team within two to three years.”
It is yet to be confirmed whether Lee and Paik will stay with Barça B beyond preseason, as the team has yet to hire its head coach for the new season. Nonetheless, their promotion to the professional ranks is significant. It hints how highly Barcelona rates them among their peers in the club’s youth system. Although Paik is already 18, Barcelona’s call-up for Lee is a rare case since he will be Barça B’s only underage player.
There’s one catch to Lee’s promotion to Barça B: Lee will have to wait until January to play in official matches. In 2013, international soccer’s governing body FIFA ruled that Barcelona had violated its regulation when the club brought Lee, two other Korean youngsters (Paik and Jang Gyeol-hee) and other foreign prospects from outside of Spain to its youth academy. To prevent mega-rich soccer clubs from putting children’s futures at risk by luring them away from their homes, FIFA’s regulation stipulates that clubs cannot take foreign players who aren’t of legal working age. In Spain, the legal working age is 18.
Due to Barcelona’s alleged violation of FIFA’s regulation, Lee has been banned from playing in official matches for the club since 2013. Although Lee is allowed to appear in exhibitions and play for his country’s youth national team matches, he will only be able to train with Barça B until his eligibility can be restored after his 18th birthday on Jan. 6, 2016.
“A lot of world’s best players went through Barça B,” Lee told reporters at the Incheon Aiport. “I know that in Korea, I’ve been told that I lack maturity and physicality. But Barcelona just promoted me to their professional team. Over there, they see me differently. So I thank them.”
A big part of Lee’s frustration with his Korean critics stems from the public notion that his outward display of confidence and honesty doesn’t jibe in Korea, where uniformity and conformity often take precedence over individuality. The diminutive, 5-foot-6 teenager has only played a handful of matches in Korea since leaving for Spain at age 13, but has already been labeled by some as “arrogant” and “selfish” for his unique attitude.
The criticism surrounding Lee is not completely unfounded as his tendency to openly express his feelings on and off the field is foreign to native South Koreans, many of whom have been raised in a culture that’s deeply rooted in rigid hierarchy. As Lee played for Korea’s under-18 national team this past spring—his first time playing in Korea since 2011—in an international youth tournament, the spotlight at times shifted to Lee’s behavior rather than the three matches, which assembled some of the country’s finest young talents to play against Uruguay, France and Belgium.
During the match versus Uruguay, Lee visibly expressed his displeasure when Korea’s head coach An Ik-soo substituted him in the second half by storming off to the locker room. In another instance, Lee became angry and kicked the advertising board after whiffing a scoring opportunity.
This was Korea’s firsthand experience of seeing Lee in action. Since rising to fame last year, Lee has displayed his undeniable talent along with flamboyant goal celebrations and bold statements, such as guaranteeing a win over arch rival Japan while playing for the country’s under-16 national team in Thailand. His boldness has made him both a controversial and likable figure to his fans.
In the past, the young player has openly claimed that he is ready to play for the South Korean men’s national team, which recently began its qualifying rounds for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Although many in South Korea agree that Lee is a once-in-a-generation talent, Lee’s critics insist that the flashy teenager is simply too young and immature and that his physique isn’t ready yet to endure the rigors of playing at the highest level.
Lee argues that he is as ready as Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard and AC Milan’s Hachim Mastour, highly rated 17-year-olds who have already been called up by the Norwegian and Italian national teams.
“I’m the same size as Messi, Iniesta and Xavi,” Lee said in a recent interview with South Korea’sXportsnews. “I don’t think Odegaard and Mastour are better players than me. But the future is uncertain in soccer. Unlike me, they’re getting their opportunities already. So in four or five years time, they could be ahead of me. All I can do is to do my best and wait for my chance to come.”
South Korean striker Kang Soo-il has decided to not contest his 15-match suspension after he tested positive for the banned steroid methyltestosterone shorty before his international debut, reports the Associated Press.
On June 11, the Jeju United forward was only a few hours away from playing his first match with South Korea’s national soccer team against the United Arab Emirates when his test results were revealed. He was immediately pulled out of the squad and sent home to Seoul the following day.
Without Kang, South Korea still managed to beat the UAE 3-0. The team is scheduled to play against Myanmar in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Bangkok on Tuesday.
According to AP, soccer players have the option of submitting a second sample for further testing, but Kang has chosen to accept the 15-match ban the K-League doles out to first-time offenders.
“I am sorry for the fans who had high expectations of me,” Kang told reporters upon arriving in Seoul. “I feel sad … and disappointed with myself because I had no knowledge about what a professional player should know naturally.”
Kang is only the second multiethnic player to join South Korea’s national team. He is now also the second Korean athlete to fail a doping test this year after Olympic swim champ Park Tae-hwan tested positive for testosterone in March.
We’ve heard athletes give strange reasons for failing doping tests before, but South Korean soccer player Kang Soo-il’s explanation has to be the hairiest of them all.
The Jeju United striker was set to make his international debut in a friendly match against United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday, but was pulled out of the squad after he tested positive for anabolic steroid methyltestosterone, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Kang told the K-League that his doping failure was caused by his mustache-growing cream.
Since FIFA bans players who fail doping tests from representing their nations, the Korea Football Association said Kang will be returning to South Korea on Friday.
The 27-year-old forward will be allowed to submit his B sample for further tests, according to the K-League. If that sample also tests positive for steroids, then Kang would be subjected to a doping hearing and a K-League ban of 15 games.
Coach Uli Stielike invited Kang to train with South Korea’s national soccer team back in December, making Kang the second biracial soccer player in history to achieve this feat.
However, due to his failed doping test, Kang will be unable to join the national team in their 2018 World Cup qualifier against Myanmar next Tuesday.
I bet Kang is kicking himself for missing such an important match due to some upper-lip follicles. Here’s what we think Kang would look like in a few weeks, if his mustache-growing cream works its magic:
Former FIFA Vice President Chung Mong-joon said on Wednesday that he will “carefully consider” running for FIFA presidency, following Sepp Blatter’s unexpected resignation as head of soccer’s global governing body.
Chung, the biggest shareholder of South Korea’s Hyundai conglomerate, has been a fierce critic of the 79-year-old Swiss president for years, calling Blatter an “impetuous child” in his 2011 memoir. At a press conference in Seoul, Chung told reporters that the manner of Blatter’s resignation was “quite disappointing and regrettable” and emphasized the need for transparency at FIFA.
“Blatter’s cronyism and closed management led FIFA to corruption,” Chung said. “It is a shame that FIFA is unable to reform by itself.”
The 63-year-old billionaire scion added that he would make a final decision about a bid for FIFA’s top position after meeting with international soccer leaders.
Blatter resigned just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as FIFA president. On May 27, the U.S. Department of Justice indictednine FIFA officials and five corporate executives on charges racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. U.S. authorities recently confirmed that they are trying to collect evidence linking Blatter to the ongoing investigation.
Chung, who still serves an honorary FIFA vice president, said that Blatter should not have a hand in choosing his successor, stressing that the election process should be “transparent and fair.” He also suggested that anyone seen as having unfairly benefitted from close ties to Blatter should be excluded from the presidential race.
“[Blatter] was in FIFA for 40 years and he gathered his closest people to run FIFA and blocked people who asked for reforms,” Chung told the Joongang Ilbo. “It’s about time for those with independent opinions to take over.”
Head of the Korea Football Association (KFA) from 1993 to 2009, Chung played a key role in bringing the World Cup to South Korea for the first time in 2002, with Japan as co-host. When Chung began voicing his concerns about Blatter’s management, he lost his position of FIFA vice president to Prince Ali bin Al Hussein in a 2011 vote.
Chung joins Prince Ali and UEFA president Michel Platini in the unofficial shortlist of potential candidates to replace Blatter. Meanwhile, Blatter announced that he will remain in office until a new election is held, which could take place anytime from December of this year to March of next year.
South Korean soccer prodigy Lee Seung-woo, who plays for the youth developmental team of worldly renowned Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona, is never shy about making bold statements. Last September, the then 16-year-old sparked controversy after saying that “beating a team at the level of Japan will be easy” ahead of Korea’s quarterfinals match against its arch rival at the Asian Under-16 Championships. He then kept his word by scoring two goals, one of which was a stunning solo effort, in Korea’s convincing 2-0 win.
This time around, Lee has set a far loftier goal. He now wants to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or, an annual award given by international soccer’s governing body to a player who’s been voted by journalists, national team coaches and captains. Since 2008, the prestigious award has been monopolized by superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who are considered to be in a class of their own even among the world’s very best. Although Lee hasn’t yet played in a professional match due to age restrictions, the media in Europe have touted Lee, now 17, as the “Korean Messi” because of his undeniable potential.
“It’s an honor to be called the Korean Messi,” Lee said in a press conference at the Incheon Airport on Wednesday after he arrived from Spain to join Korea’s under-18 team for the upcoming international tournament in Suwon. “I want to be the best just like Messi. Just like Messi, my goal is to win the Ballon d’Or.”
Lee is eligible to sign a professional contract with Barcelona when he turns 18 in January of next year. If that were to happen, Lee will likely play alongside Messi at Barcelona. Messi, already among soccer’s all-time greats at age 27, won four straight Ballon d’Ors from 2009 to 2012, during which he won three Spanish league titles and two European Champions League trophies. Last January, Leetweeted a photo he took with Messiat Barcelona’s training center and expressed his dream to one day play next to his idol.
Additionally, Lee also said that he aims to become Korea’s youngest ever player to represent the country at senior level. The current record is held by Kim Pan-keun, who made his international debut at just 17 years and 241 days old in 1983. Lee turned 17 on Jan. 6 last year, and he would have to be selected to Korean men’s national team before September to break Kim’s record. South Korea has six matches scheduled between now and September.
“Playing for the senior national team has been my dream since I was a little kid,” Lee said. “I want to be my country’s youngest player in history.”
Above photo: The 100-year-old veteran attended the performance along with her son Philip Cuddy. It was the first time she’d seen the EWP Theatre for Youth play about her life that is currently on tour. (Pasadena City College Courier)
The Allegiance and Sons of Anarchy star has joined Universal’s horror-thriller, Stephanie, which is directed by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. The story centers on a young girl named Stephanie (Shree Crooks) who is abandoned by her parents. When her parents return to claim their daughter, they find supernatural forces are wreaking havoc, with Stephanie at the center of the turmoil. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Daniel Tudor, former Korea correspondent for The Economist, writes on The Huffington Post that we must start paying proper attention to the North Korean people themselves–they are where the only real hope, he says.
Bassist and bandleader Adrian Cho’s Ottawa Jazz Orchestra has a long track record of tackling some of jazz’s seminal works, whether its pieces by Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Charles Mingus or Benny Goodman. But this Thursday, the group mounts its first evening of all-original music, written by Cho and trumpeter Rick Rangno. (Ottawa Citizen)
CNET’s Cho Mu-hyun details how these “cornerstones of the economic, political and social landscape” helped “save South Korea from crushing poverty and defined a country’s role on the global stage.” Part one of a series.
Style Bistro profiles L.A. native John Cho, who runs one of the top blogs on the Internet, as well as a thriving YouTube channel, a line of party supplies at Target and a graphic design business. She is also a wife, author and mother of two.
Yoon S. Choi, 48, of Silver Spring, Md., is charged with first-degree attempted murder, third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. (CBS News, Philadelphia)
Dr. Helen Cho (played by South Korean actor Claudia Kim) is a world-renowned geneticist and an ally of the Avengers. From her offices in Seoul, South Korea, to sharing workspace with Bruce Banner in his lab at Avengers Tower, Dr. Cho’s research and technology help keep the Avengers in the fight. (ComicBook.com)
FIFA announced earlier today that France will host the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup instead of South Korea.
South Korea, France, England, New Zealand and South Africa initially expressed their interest in hosting the two events. However, the candidates were narrowed down to two countries last October, when France and South Korea submitted their official bid documents to FIFA.
Following a unanimous decision, the FIFA executive committee awarded the hosting rights to France, bringing the tournament back to Europe after Germany served as host in 2007.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is considered the most important international competition in women’s soccer, and it is the biggest single-sport event played by women. The championship has been held every four years since 1991, when its inaugural tournament took place in Guandong, China.
Canada will be hosting the 2015 championship from June 6 to July 5, 2015, with 24 teams competing.
Japan is the current champion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and was the first Asian team to achieve this feat. There have been six tournaments so far, with Germany and the U.S. being two-time champions.
You can watch the host country announcement below: