FIFA Under Investigation By Switzerland, USA

Developing story

https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-57391.html

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown on suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 Football World Cups. In the course of said proceedings, electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/nine-fifa-officials-and-five-corporate-executives-indicted-racketeering-conspiracy-and

Nine FIFA Officials and Five Corporate Executives Indicted for Racketeering Conspiracy and Corruption

The Defendants Include Two Current FIFA Vice Presidents and the Current and Former Presidents of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF); Seven Defendants Arrested Overseas; Guilty Pleas for Four Individual Defendants and Two Corporate Defendants Also Unsealed

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Cycles Of Spanglish: Chicano Batman’s Nostalgic Sound Makes Them Hispanic Heroes For All

This article was written for and published in the 2015 edition of the Coachella Valley Music Festival CAMP magazine. The magazine is distributed free of charge to all Coachella attendees. The text is reprinted here in its entirety as it appeared in the issue.

In the late 19th century, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche shared with the world his ideas developed around the concept of eternal recurrence, a.k.a. the eternal return, a thought experiment based on the cyclical view of time that originated in ancient Egypt and Indian philosophies.

In the early 21st century, a group from Los Angeles named Chicano Batman has–whether by fate, design, or mere happy coincidence–reshaped the idea of the eternal recurrence as an experience based on music: a “cycle of existential rhymes.”

It’s a task these Latino musical übermensches have worked on since 2008, when singer/organist/guitarist Bardo Martinez, bassist/vocalist Eduardo Arenas, drummer Gabriel Villa, and (eventually) guitarist Carlos Arevalo came together to create music that throwbacks to a variety of classic Latino genres while remaining yet distinctly their own.

The band succeeds where many like-minded artists fail, in their ability to pull a unique sound out of their well-known and well-worn influences as Os Mutantes, Los Angeles Negros, Ritchie Valens, and a permeate mix of mid-20th century Latin soul, funk, oldies, rock, psychedelia, tropicalia, and cumbia.

As such, the question of “Who is Chicano Batman?” is a study in paradoxes. The band manages to be an homage to the past yet also absolutely original. Their music is the soundtrack to a romanticized ideal of the quintessential experience of life as a Latino in L.A., yet that same romanticism that can be felt and appreciated as a universal experience.

Chicano Batman’s most recent album, Cycles Of Existential Rhyme, embodies all of that.
The group’s second full-length release is an affectionate 14-song journey through their familial aural histories, as well as their own lived experiences. It is music seen through nostalgic filters, intended to resonate with the current generation as well as the one to come, in a continuous cycle–an eternal recurrence–of never-ending inspiration.

“For me, that’s what music is about” explains Martinez, “It’s about carrying the inspiration and trying to feel inspired at the same time.”

That loop is best summed up in the title track, in which Martinez sings of “the rhythm of our place and time in cycles of existential rhyme.” The wavy-haired crooner says his band  creates the type of ’70s sounds their parents were dancing to in the prime of their youth. Both Martinez and Arenas have relatives who wrote and performed such music during that era, too. Arenas even plays the same type of bass one of his uncles once plucked.

So convincing is the mood of the music that one can envision an alternate universe where callers dedicate Chicano Batman songs such as “She Lives On My Block,” “A Hundred Dead And Loving Souls,” or “Itotiani” to their lovers on Art Laboe’s now-cancelled “Oldies But Goodies” radio show.

Still, though it evokes certain musical signposts thanks to the suggestive power of memory, in direct comparison their style matches none of the previously mentioned forms. And in that way, the music manages to be timeless, transcending the limits of labels and genre.

That organic formula proved to be successful among their hometown crowds.

Chicano Batman made an indelible mark on L.A.’s musical landscape with shows in Boyle Heights, Echo Park, downtown, and Hollywood in their early years. Their rise from backyard band to club staple to festival favorite has been steady.

The quartet performed at the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in New Orleans in 2012, toured Japan in 2013, and most recently, opened for Jack White on a handful of U.S. shows.

That most recent tour thrust them further into the national spotlight, with mixed responses from audiences. Thankfully, the positives outweighed the negatives, as their music struck a chord with the right listeners at each stop. They were most surprised by the amazing receptions they received in states like Ohio and Oklahoma where the Latino population is scarce at best.

“The Norman, Oklahoma show was a big surprise,” says Arevalo. “The audience just ate it up. They understood it. It was the most interaction we got with any crowd–the biggest applause and the loudest screaming. It was a magical show.”

“That tour was the biggest task that the band has had,” adds Arenas. “We were all tense, but it was exciting! We had nothing to lose because we got to play for thousands of people. And if we got booed, who cares? At least we got to play for Jack White!”

Those tours were good practice for what would eventually come: a slot at a world-famous music festival in their own backyard, with a mix of hometown fans and international spectators.

It may verge on cliché to hear a Southern California artist to say that the opportunity to perform at Coachella is a dream come true, but the sentiment remains authentic. “I saw The Mars Volta play one of their first shows in 2002 at Coachella,” says Arevalo reminiscing on his first of many festival experiences. “They were still setting up their own equipment. They didn’t have roadies back then. I remember thinking, ‘One day I’m going to be on that stage.’ I didn’t think it would take this long, but better late than never.”

Chicano Batman is one of a handful of Latino groups scheduled to perform at the festival. Bay Area Hip-Hop duo Los Rakas, Tijuana legends Nortec Collective Presents Bostich & Fussible, Hard Rock outfit Antemasque, and Low End Theory alum The Gaslamp Killer (whose father hails from Mexico City) will also be on stage. Of this group, only Chicano Batman represents a melting pot of Latino cultures.

The members count three ethnicities–Mexican, Colombian, and Salvadoran–between the four of them, despite their name specifically referencing Mexican-Americans. Martinez, who is half-Mexican and Colombian, created the name nearly a decade before the band was even a consideration. He sketched a drawing of a Latino character dressed in a tanktop with a flannel shirt as a cape, and dubbed him Chicano Batman.

It wasn’t until the band released its self-titled debut album in 2010 that their Batman/United Farm Workers hybrid logo appeared, carrying with it as many political overtones as one wants to attach. The image of the Dark Knight vigilante fused onto the wings of the UFW eagle begs to be viewed from a number of social justice angles. The band, however, hasn’t pushed any overt agenda through its music the way that, say, Rage Against The Machine has.

“The whole way it came about was really random,” Martinez admits. “It was something I really identified with when I was in college–a separate entity within itself.”

That’s not to say that Chicano Batman hasn’t pulled a few politically influenced moves over the years. They performed a handful of shows across the southwestern United States under the banner of the “Outer City Limits Tour” last October. The title was a response to the lack of diversity in the lineups of music festivals like Austin City Limits, scheduled during the same month.

And in November, the quartet went north, to Oakland, to play the Benefit Concert for Migrant Children hosted by Chipsterlife and the Social Justice Collaborative. The latter is a non-profit that represents unaccompanied, undocumented minors in court.

Around that time, Chicano Batman suffered a loss, too–Isaiah “Ikey” Owens, keyboardist for White, The Mars Volta, and Free Moral Agents. Their longtime friend and fan passed away of a heart attack while on tour with White in Mexico. He had promised to produce the band’s next album. They’ve talked about releasing an EP dedicated to the late musician, and are currently working on that third LP.

“We have the material so we might as well do it,” says Arevalo. “I’m always a fan of more output sooner than later. It’s been a long time too with our first album in 2008 and the new one last year. I’m personally pushing to put stuff out every year whether it’s a 45′ or an album. That’s what it’s about anyway: making music.”

It remains to be seen whether or not the band will preview any new music at the festival. Either way, their presence at Coachella closes another cycle: that of the festival goers who evolved into festival performers, inspiring a new generation, all on the very same field.

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Why Piojo’s Summer Tournament Goalkeeper Choices Make Sense

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Ochoa, right, on the bench against Ecuador, March 2015.

It’s unofficially official: goalkeeper Jesus “Chuy” Corona of Cruz Azul will guard Mexico’s goal during the Copa America tournament in June. Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa will do the same the following month for the Gold Cup tournament, which coach Miguel “Piojo” Herrera has prioritized as a must-win.

The selections make sense. Corona had a great game against Ecuador last month where he made a number of key saves including stopping a penalty kick in his team’s 1 -0 victory. Corona and Mexico will face Ecuador again in the C.A. group stage alongside Chile and Bolivia.

His regular spot in La Maquina’s starting XI guarantees he’ll be in fine form entering the tournament, which will be packed with World Cup-caliber CONMEBOL teams looking to win the Copa and its coveted 2017 Confederations Cup spot.

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(l – r) Andres Guardado, Corona, Miguel Layun in the starting lineup against Ecuador, March 2015.

Meanwhile, Ochoa’s move to La Liga hasn’t turned out as promising as he and fans his had hoped. The keeper who stunned the planet with his breathtaking saves at the 2014 World Cup has spent much of his time with Malaga CF as its secondary keeper behind Idriss Kameni.

His spot in CONCACAF’s Gold Cup will give him a month between the end of La Liga and the start of the aforementioned tournament to train with his World Cup squadmates. That could help boost his morale given his current situation.

The tournament would also provide an avenue for Ochoa to regain any form he’s lost on Malaga’s bench. Mexico’s G.C. opposition is on a competitively lower level with El Tri set to face Trinidad & Tobago, Guatemala, and Cuba in the group stage. It’s a far cry from Corona taking on Chile, Ecuador, and possibly Brazil or Colombia later on.

Those early matches c/should help the keeper regain his footing and form in time for the next round of matches against tougher CONCACAF opposition (possibly Honduras, Costa Rica, and the USA).

Corona will get to show off his skills in South America against tough competition and Ochoa will rejoin his World Cup squad for an opportunity to show the world he hasn’t lost a step despite his role as a secondary goalie.

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Photos From Mexico vs. Ecuador International Friendly Match

The national teams of Mexico and Ecuador met at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday March 28th for an international friendly match. Mexico won the game 1 – 0 thanks to a goal by Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, his 39th for the national team which moved him past Cuauhtemoc Blanco as Mexico’s second leading goal-scorer.

It goes without saying I attended and got some great photos in the process. The full album of photos is on my flickr. Below are some of my favorites from the event.

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Spot me with my camera behind the goal

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ZZK Celebrates Life of Bolivian Singer Luzmila Carpio with Remix EP

Buenos Aires-based label ZZK has long been a champion of both traditional Latin American sounds and modern digital works. The label’s latest foray into both worlds is a celebration of the life and work of one of Bolivia’s most beloved artists. Luzmila Carpio Meets ZZK is a seven-song EP of remixes of four tracks from her upcoming album, Yuya Jap’ina Tapes, by some of the best names in digital cumbia/electropical.

Read the rest of this story at MTV Iggy, my first for the site.

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Free Agency & The Heart Of Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer’s 2015 season is set to kickoff in exactly two weeks but there’s a chance first kick will be delayed indefinitely. The league and the MLS Players Union are currently sitting with a federal mediator in order to update the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the two, which expired at the end of January. Members of the MLSPU have threatened to go on strike if both sides are unable to reach an agreement.

Should we get to a point before the season where things and negotiations aren’t where they should be, we are ready to strike, and we are united as a group to make real progress in terms of the way players get treated in this league.

Michael Bradley, Toronto FC

I think at this point a strike is imminent if we don’t get what we want.

Brad Evans, Seattle Sounders

What the players want is free agency and they’re now at the point of putting the league and their careers on hold in order to get it, as the quotes from Bradley and Evans illustrate. MLS is a special type of beast in the soccer world (along with Australia) in that it’s a closed, single-entity system in which the league itself dictates everything. Teams aren’t owned and run separately but run by league “investor-operators.” As such, player contracts are also owned by the league and not individual teams.

Here’s how Mike Jarosi explains it:

Insiders, and the attorneys, call the MLS structure “the budget” and the players’ projected compensation “the budget number.”  This accurately reflects the compensation structure.  That is, MLS LLC determines (as part of the collective bargaining process) how much it will spend on player compensation, and allocates that amount for each investor/operator to assign to its players (I will not muddy this piece with the “designated player” structure).  MLS LLC then pays the players.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. MLS’s structure dictates that all players are employees of the league and not the team they play for. As such, there are a number of rules and regulations in place that any foreign player would deem arcane and ridiculous.

Consider the case of Herculez Gomez who I wrote about last month in Remezcla:

Gómez cut his teeth in MLS up until 2009 when he left Sporting Kansas City (then the Kansas City Wizards) and the USA to sign with Puebla F.C. in Mexico following a dispute with then-coach Peter Vermes. Gomez has expressed a desire to return to MLS, but continues to be hindered by one important limitation: the fact that Kansas City controls his rights to play in the league under the right of first refusal. Gómez’ career in the US is at the mercy of a team he hasn’t played with in seven years.

His current situation is similar to that of Jean-Marc Bosman. Bosman’s career, however, took a very different and deeply influential turn as Scott Nicholls details in Prost Amerika:

Bosman was playing for Belgian club FC Liege when his contract ran out in 1990. He wanted to play for Dunkirk in France but in an effort to keep Bosman at Liege, the team slapped a huge and unrealistic transfer “fee” on his head, despite being out of contract. This ultimately deterred Dunkirk because they could not afford the transfer fee.

The case of Union Royale Belge des Sociétés de Football Association ASBL v Jean-Marc Bosman changed modern football. The member nations of the European Union (EU) had agreed on ‘free movement of labour’ as they strove towards a stronger economic union.

Bosman took the Belgian Football Federation to court for five years, claiming that as a citizen of the EU he could play wherever he wanted to because he should be allowed “freedom of movement” as any citizen in other occupations was guaranteed.

Every ruling was appealed, but in 1995 the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled in Bosman’s favour. It was too late for Bosman, but the consequences of the case were much, much bigger regarding the development of world football.

Gomez is most likely not planning on taking MLS all the way to the Supreme Court anytime soon, if ever, especially since he’s been enjoying his time playing in his parent’s home country of Mexico. Bosman’s situation was also more complicated (he had to go to an international court, after all) but the basic idea, however, is similar. The MLSPU wants the league to incorporate free agency in order to give players the freedom to decide where to play with less restrictions and, thus, more control over their careers as players in the USA.

Free agency, however, would risk the very nature of the structure of MLS. Again, Mike Jarosi:

First, and simply put, free agency would just plain muck everything up:  payroll, workers’ compensation payments, application of individual state laws versus a centralized system, etc., etc.

Second, it would shift the player compensation financial liabilities — and the accounting of the same — to the investor/operators (technically, the LLC “Members”).  This, in turn, would affect the taxing structure and the revenue flowLimited liability companies can elect to be taxed on a “pass-through” basis, which is a huge advantage.

Third, MLS has enjoyed 20 years of slow, steady growth.  There are ways to increase player rights and compensation without free agency.  Free agency would put the league in a position to seriously risk repeat of the NASL — spending itself out of existence in an arms-race for over-the-hill foreign players.

Most importantly, if MLS continues to shift its structure to where it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably not a single-entity LLC.

That last paragraph is very important. The incorporation of free agency would radically redefine what type of entity and structure MLS is and would open the metaphorical floodgates for further radical changes that could be enforced by the courts.

Chase Woodruff elaborates on this further in Eight By Eight:

The league contends that free agency could lead to out-of-control salary costs and hinder its ability to compete on the global transfer market, but its real concerns likely have to do with the battle that began in a Boston courtroom nearly twenty years ago. Since the Fraser ruling, it’s grown increasingly difficult to view the league as a single, unified organism, and not what it really is: a league like any other, composed of various constituent parts with diverse and at times conflicting interests. Over the past decade, the number of MLS franchises has close to doubled and continues to grow. Most clubs play in slick new soccer-specific stadiums, command millions in kit sponsorships and other commercial deals, and compete to sign high-priced talent from overseas through the Designated Player system. And in addition to run-of-the-mill American billionaires like Robert Kraft and Stan Kroenke, its “investor-operators” now include an Austrian energy drink company, a Brazilian venture capitalist, an Italian-Canadian dairy magnate, and the Abu Dhabi Royal Family.

Throw in free agency, with clubs bidding against one another for talent on the open market, and it becomes nearly impossible to consider MLS a single-entity. In the event of future antitrust litigation, the league’s single-entity defense might fall apart, and MLS players would gain the additional leverage of the so-called “nuclear option” to decertify their union and sue the league in court. Even other leagues, like the ambitious NASL, might sense an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of baseball’s Federal League and challenge MLS’ division-one status with an antitrust lawsuit.

There you have it. At stake here are the rights of US players to dictate their own careers clashing with the very structure at the core of MLS. But what are the odds of changes happening this year? The MLSPU has demanded free agency in the past but acquiesced for less, such as in 2010 when the league and the union agreed on the Re-Entry Draft and a number of other changes and improvements.

Noah Davis sees history repeating itself in favor of the league. From his piece in Grantland:

Still, if a players’ union was ever going to prevail against management, it seems like it should be the MLSPU in 2015. But it’s not likely to happen. Whether you talk to sources around the league or just think about the situation, you arrive at the same conclusion: Kraft needs MLS to play this season a lot less desperately than your average MLS player does. If MLS ceased to exist tomorrow, the owners would be disappointed. Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson would have to find someone else to get into Twitter fights with, but he would be just fine. The vast majority of the 500-plus players in the league, however, wouldn’t. They’d be out of jobs, unable to go to Europe or Mexico or anywhere else to play soccer professionally because they aren’t good enough or because those rosters are already settled.

The proposed strike also comes during a huge year for the league and the national team.  The Gold Cup tournament will take place this summer, MLS will debut two new teams (Orlando City and NYCFC), and the league signed some very hefty TV contracts with ESPN and FOX Sports.

It’s impossible to know what will happen come March 6th, but if history does repeat itself, both sides will repeat the negotiation process of 2010 when the league and MLSPU arrived at a consensus two days before first kick. The MLSPU didn’t win free agency then but did win a number of concessions that gave them a bit more freedom.

The MLSPU will need its own Bosman ruling to eventually win this fight. Unfortunately for the players and the union, a ruling like that probably won’t happen for many years and many more CBA negotiations to come.

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