EPL, Serie A, others end, Sunday, as FIFA appoints 6 women, others to officiate in 2022 Qatar World Cup


Football action in the 2021/2022 season across the various European leagues will come to an end today, Sunday, with matches to be traditionally played simultaneously at match centres.

In the English Premier League (EPL), the title race will see defending champions, Manchester City still holding out a one-point lead against closest rivals, Liverpool. If both teams win their matches, then the former is expected to lift the trophy for the third consecutive time.

In the Serie A in Italy, the same scenario sees AC Milan leading by a point against their closes challengers and defending champions, Inter Milan, going into the final day.

The leagues in France and Germany are mere formalities as PSG and Bayern Munich have already won the titles, respectively. The German league which has fewer teams has already closed, last week.

In the La Liga in Spain, Real Madrid were already crowned champions penultimate week, though the season officially also ends, Sunday.

In a related development, Belgium international and Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has been named the EPL’s Player of the Season for the 2021-22 season, the league announced, Saturday.

De Bruyne scored 15 goals and provided seven assists in 29 games this season and has been a key player for City, who need a win in their final game on Sunday against Aston Villa to lift its sixth Premier League title.

The Manchester City midfielder won the award for the second time after also getting the prize in the 2019-20 season. The 30-year-old saw off competition from City team mate Joao Cancelo, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min.

“There is so much quality in the Premier League and it is a pleasure to be nominated with so many other great players who have had incredible seasons for their clubs,” De Bruyne said.

“I think my performances this season have been good and I am happy that I have been able to contribute with goals and assists throughout the season.”

Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden was named Premier League Young Player of the Season for the second year in a row, the league announced on Saturday.

Foden beat seven others to the award, including Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, West Ham’s Declan Rice and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, after he received the most combined votes from the public and a Premier League panel.

“I am very proud to have won this award for a second season in a row. There are so many talented young players in the Premier League and it is a real honour to win it again,” said Foden.

The 21-year-old has scored nine goals and assisted five more in 27 league appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side this season.

Meanwhile, ahead of the November 2022 World Cup, organisers, FIFA has appointed six women as part of a long list of 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video match officials for the football tournament.

This is the first time in the history of the World Cup that the appointment of up to six women will be made.

FIFA Referees Committee announced the lists with the names of the selected match officials for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video match officials have been chosen in close cooperation with the six confederations, based on their quality and the performances delivered at FIFA tournaments as well as at other international and domestic competitions in recent years.

“As always, the criteria we have used is ‘quality first’ and the selected match officials represent the highest level of refereeing worldwide,” said the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina. “The 2018 World Cup was very successful, partly because of the high standard of refereeing, and we will do our best to be even better in a few months in Qatar.”

The “Road to Qatar 2022” project started already in 2019, with more than 50 trios considered possible candidates and going through intensive preparation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this preparation was anything, but easy, as in-presence activities were suspended for a long period.

“The pandemic affected our activities, in particular in 2020 and at the beginning of 2021. Luckily, the World Cup was still quite far, and we had enough time to provide the candidates with good preparation. We are announcing these selections well in advance as we want to work even harder with all those who have been appointed for the FIFA World Cup, monitoring them in the next months. The message is clear: don’t rest on your laurels, keep working hard and prepare yourselves very seriously for the World Cup,” said Collina.

FIFA’s Director of Refereeing, Massimo Busacca, assured that the match officials will receive all the necessary support by FIFA, as their preparation is paramount.

“Thanks to an innovative tracking and support programme, all the match officials can be supervised by FIFA referees’ instructors even more closely and intensively than in previous years. This is a very important factor, from which we expect considerable improvements and progress in view of the FIFA World Cup 2022,” explained Busacca. “In addition to that, there will be tailor-made individual programmes, in particular concerning health and fitness. Each match official will be carefully monitored in the next months with a final assessment on technical, physical and medical aspects to be made shortly before the World Cup, in order to have them in the best conditions when the ball starts rolling in Qatar.”

The selected match officials will participate in early summer in several seminars (Asunción, Madrid and Doha), reviewing and analysing video clips of real match situations, and taking part in practical training sessions with players, which will be filmed to enable participants to receive instant feedback from the instructors.

“The key focuses of the preparation remain protecting players and the image of the game, consistency, uniformity, reading the game from a technical and tactical perspective and understanding a variety of player and team mentalities,” added Busacca. “We can’t eliminate all mistakes, but we will do everything we can to reduce them.”

The VAR system was implemented for the first time ever at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and four years later, a team of 24 video match officials (VMOs) will operate in Qatar, ready to provide their team-mates on the pitch with technological support, if needed. Due to the very limited number of FIFA member associations having implemented the VAR system at the time, VMOs for Russia 2018 were mainly selected from Europe and South America. Today, the VAR system is used in all major competitions worldwide and VMOs from Asia, Africa, as well as Central and North America will also participate in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

For the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Referees Committee has also appointed three women’s referees and three women’s assistant referees.

“We are very happy that with Stéphanie Frappart from France, Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan, as well as assistant referees Neuza Back from Brazil, Karen Díaz Medina from Mexico and Kathryn Nesbitt from the USA, we have been able to call up female match officials for the first time in the history of a FIFA World Cup. This concludes a long process that began several years ago with the deployment of female referees at FIFA men’s junior and senior tournaments. In this way, we clearly emphasise that it is quality that counts for us and not gender. I would hope that in the future, the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational. They deserve to be at the FIFA World Cup™ because they constantly perform at a really high level, and that’s the important factor for us,” concluded the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee Pierluigi Collina.

La Liga kicks, as Kylian Mbappé makes Real Madrid U-turn, resigns for PSG

Hot-in-demand France striker Kylian Mbappé has turned down Real Madrid offer as he chose to extend his stay at current club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappé had earlier this season rejected the same offer by PSG to stay at the club as he neared the end the end of his contract with the Ligue 1 champions. The striker then opened negotiations with Real Madrid with a view to joining the Spanish club as a free agent at the 2021/2022 season.

Mbappé is now expected to instead sign a new three-year contract at Paris Saint-Germain after months of speculation over his future.

However, his decision to stay at PSG after negotiating with Real Madrid has sparked consternation in Spain, with La Liga swift to file a complaint, calling the deal ‘scandalous’.

The France forward telephoned Florentino Pérez on Saturday to communicate his decision having opted against a move to La Liga despite holding positive talks with the Spanish champions only last week. Mbappé is believed to have wanted to explain to the Real president why he had chosen to stay at his hometown club before it emerged in the media.

The 23-year-old – whose contract at PSG expires at the end of the season – has agreed a lucrative extension until 2025. Mbappé and the club president, Nasser Al Khelaifi, posed holding a “Mbappé 2025” PSG shirt before the last Ligue 1 game of the season against Metz as the crowd erupted when Al Khelaifi broke the news at the Parc des Princes.

“I have chosen to extend my contract at Paris Saint-Germain, and I am very happy. I am convinced that here I can continue to grow within a club that gives itself all the means to perform at the highest level,” he said in a club statement. “I am also very happy to be able to continue playing in France, the country where I was born, grew up and flourished.”

La Liga in a strongly worded statement on Saturday night said: “It is scandalous that a club like PSG, which last season reported losses of more than €220m after accumulating losses of more than €700m in prior seasons [while reporting sponsorship income at a doubtful valuation] with a cost of sports staff around €650m for this 2021-22 season, can face an agreement of these characteristics while those clubs that could accept the arrival of the player without seeing their wage bill compromised, are left without being able to sign him.”

Mbappé joined PSG from Monaco in 2017 in a deal worth up to €180m and has established himself as one of the world’s best players.

It would be recalled that PSG rejected several offers from Madrid for him last summer, the last worth €200m on deadline day. Mbappé scored for PSG in both legs of their Champions League defeat by Madrid this season.