SOCCER

Former FIFA officials Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were charged with fraud and other offenses by Swiss prosecutors on Tuesday after a six-year investigation into a controversial $2 million payment.

The 85-year-old Blatter and 66-year-old Platini now face a trial at federal criminal court in Bellinzona. They could be jailed for several years if found guilty, though Swiss cases often take years to reach a conclusion.

“This payment damaged FIFA’s assets and unlawfully enriched Platini,” Swiss federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The case was opened in September 2015 and ousted Blatter ahead of schedule as FIFA president. It also ended Platini’s campaign to succeed his former mentor.
It centers on Platini’s written request to FIFA in January 2011 to be paid backdated additional salary for working as a presidential adviser in Blatter’s first term, from 1998-2002.

Blatter told FIFA to make the payment within weeks. He was preparing to campaign for re-election in a contest against Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, where Platini’s influence with European voters was seen as a key factor.

“The evidence gathered by the (attorney general’s office) has corroborated that this payment to Platini was made without a legal basis,” prosecutors said.

Both Blatter and Platini have long denied wrongdoing and cited a verbal agreement they had made, now more than 20 years ago, for the money to be paid.

Blatter has been charged with fraud, mismanagement, misappropriation of FIFA funds and forgery of a document. Platini has been charged with fraud, misappropriation, forgery and as an accomplice to Blatter’s alleged mismanagement.

U.S. MEN: The United States will play an exhibition against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18 at Carson, California, to keep its Major League Soccer-based players fit ahead of January World Cup qualifiers.

The match is not on a FIFA international fixture date, which means neither team will have most of its Europe-based players.

The U.S. is second in the final round of the World Cup qualifying in North and Central American and the Caribbean through six of 14 matches. The Americans host Mexico on Nov. 12 at Cincinnati and are at Jamaica four days later, then play three qualifiers from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 and their final three from March 24-30.

MLS’s regular season ends Sunday and its postseason ends Dec. 11. The U.S. training camp will start Dec. 5 at Carson.

ERITREA: Five players on the women’s under-20 soccer team went missing from a hotel in Uganda during a regional tournament, police and organizers said.

The players disappeared from the hotel in Jinja in southeastern Uganda and “the matter has been reported to the police,” said the East and Central African soccer association, which is overseeing the tournament.

Eritrea is due to play host Uganda in the East and Central African women’s under-20 championship on Wednesday.

Eritrean athletes have often gone missing while with their teams at international sports events, usually to escape an oppressive regime and forced military conscription in their home country.

TOTTENHAM: Tottenham hired Antonio Conte as its third manager in seven months, handing a return to the Premier League for the title winner with Chelsea.

Conte’s contract runs through the end of the 2022-23 season with an option to extend. Conte arrives a day after the firing of Nuno Espirito Santo, who was dismissed for losing half of his 10 Premier League matches in charge.

Conte, who has been out of work since leaving Inter Milan after winning Serie A in May, won the Premier League title and the FA Cup in his two seasons at Chelsea before leaving in 2018.

BASEBALL

MAJORS: The Indians began removing the team’s scripted logo atop the giant scoreboard at Progressive Field as they transition their name to the Guardians.

Crews started dismantling the letters, beginning with the “I” on the 80-foot-long sign. It’s another step in the offseason change for the Major League Baseball team, which has been called the Indians since 1915.

The removal of the letters is expected to take several days. The sign will be placed in storage while the club evaluates options for a permanent spot for it.

A new “Guardians” sign will replace the old one and be erected before Opening Day 2022.

The American League franchise announced earlier this year it was changing its name in a move prompted by a national reckoning on racist names and symbols.
The team already has removed other signage inside and outside the downtown ballpark. The team’s official name switch is expected to take place in a few weeks, when Guardians merchandise will go on sale.

The changeover hit a snag last week when a roller derby team known since 2013 as the Cleveland Guardians sued the baseball team in federal court, alleging the switch infringes on its trademark.

In a statement, the Indians said they don’t believe there is a conflict between the parties and they remain confident in their position to move forward with the name change.

TENNIS

PARIS MASTERS: In his first singles match since missing out on a calendar-year Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic beat Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round at Paris.

No. 1 ranked Djokovic showed signs of rustiness with a couple of unforced errors in the opening game, but he put pressure on his Hungarian opponent with the quality of his service returns, breaking him twice in the first set.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion dropped serve with a forehand error to trail 2-1 in the second set. Fucsovics leveled the set score when Djokovic hit a return long.

Clearly not at the top of his game, a roaring Djokovic punched the air after whipping a forehand pass to hold serve in the third game of the final set. He broke for a 4-2 lead when Fucsovics sent a backhand long before converting his second match point with a forehand winner.

“It was a great fight,” Djokovic said. “We kind of pushed each other to the limit. It was a great opening match for me, I’m very pleased.”

Djokovic could clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking in Paris before the end of the season and break a tie with Pete Sampras with a record seventh year-end No. 1 finish.

Also Tuesday, Felix Auger-Aliassime stayed in contention for a place at the ATP Finals by beating Italian qualifier Gianluca Mager 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first round.

The ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime hit two double-faults and sent a forehand wide to allow Mager to serve out the first set. But he leveled the match when Mager double-faulted on set point in the second.

Auger-Aliassime then broke Mager twice in the third.

Qualifying for the ATP Finals would cap a good season for the 21-year-old Canadian, who reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. He also reached the final at the Murray River Open in Melbourne and the Stuttgart Open in Germany.

Djokovic, Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini have already qualified for the ATP Finals. Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud, Jannik Sinner, Hubert Hurkacz and Cameron Norrie are among the players hoping to join the eight-man tournament.

American players Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz also advanced to the second round, as did Karen Khachanov of Russia, Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and James Duckworth of Australia.

Opelka, the runner-up in Toronto, hit 19 aces while beating Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6 (4), while Fritz defeated Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 and Paul beat Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-3, 6-4.

HALL OF FAME: Former No. 1-ranked doubles player Cara Black led the fan vote for the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 in results announced and will get a boost to her support from the official voting group.

Black, who is from Zimbabwe, is the first African-born woman nominated for the tennis Hall. She won five women’s doubles Grand Slam titles, including three at Wimbledon, and another five major trophies in mixed doubles. She spent 163 weeks at No. 1 in women’s doubles.

Black will receive three bonus percentage points for the final tally in this election. Flavia Pennetta was next in the fan vote and gets two bonus points, while Ana Ivanovic was third and gets one bonus point. The other three nominees are Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moya and Lisa Raymond.

AUTO RACING

NASCAR: Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch should not have used a slur referring to the mentally disabled during a postrace interview and NASCAR was right to order the tempestuous driver to undergo sensitivity training, team owner Joe Gibbs said.

Busch apologized on social media for using the slur while complaining about driver Brad Keselowski following Sunday’s race at Martinsville. NASCAR said Busch must complete the training before the start of the 2022 season because of language used in violation of NASCAR’s conduct guidelines.

“I think Kyle knows he should not have used that word,” Gibbs said. “I think NASCAR’s response to it is appropriate.”

Busch, the Cup champion in 2015 and again in 2019, has two wins this season for Joe Gibbs Racing but failed to qualify among the championship four drivers for Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

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