World Cup 2026 to feature 48 teams instead of usual 32 — FIFA
FIFA, the football governing body has expanded the 2026 men’s World Cup in North America to 12 groups of four teams. This is a change from the original 8 groups of 4 teams. FIFA announced this on Tuesday, March 14. The next World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be the first to feature 48 teams, a sharp increase from the 32 sides at last year’s tournament in Qatar. “The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” FIFA said on its website. It means that there will be 104 matches, a huge rise compared to the 64 games played in the 2022 tournament and an increase even on the original plan that the 2026 World Cup would feature 80 matches. FIFA’s initial plan for 2026 was for 16 groups of three teams, from which the top two countries would advance to the last 32. The new decided format means the top two in each group will go through to the knockout round along with the eight best third-placed sides. As a result, the finalists, and the teams finishing third and fourth, will play a total of eight games instead of the current seven. The decision comes after an entertaining group stage at Qatar 2022 convinced FIFA that a rethink to its original 2026 blueprint was needed. Tuesday’s decision was announced following a FIFA Council meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali, at which it confirmed the next men’s World Cup final will be played on Sunday, July 19, 2026. FIFA said that the total number of days between when clubs must stop playing and release players for international duty, and the final, would be 56, identical to the previous three tournaments. Nevertheless the World Cup itself may be played over a longer period, after Qatar 2022 was held over just 29 days. Infantino could get another four year term as FIFA president as he stands unopposed for re-election at Thursday’s FIFA Congress Expanding the World Cup had been a priority for Infantino following his election in 2016, when he took over from Sepp Blatter at the head of world football. The number of venues for the 2026 finals will double, from eight stadiums in Qatar last year to 16. Eleven venues will be in the USA, with three in Mexico and two in Canada. FIFA also projected a huge increase in revenues in the four-year cycle leading up to 2026, up to $11 billion from $7.5 billion in the four years up to 2022.
29 African Migrants trying to cross to Italy die as Boat Sinks in Tunisia
A boat carrying 29 African migrants trying to cross to Italy has capsized. Tunisia’s coast guard recovered 10 bodies from the migrant boat which sank near the coast, the second vessel to sink within hours off Tunisia, bringing the death toll to 29, according to a security official. According to Al Jazeera, Houssem Jebabli, a national guard official, said that the boat sank off the coast of Mahdia, without giving further details. Earlier on Sunday, a human rights group said at least 19 refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa had drowned off the coast of Tunisia while trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach Italy. Romdhane Ben Amor, an official at the Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES), told the Reuters news agency that the deaths also occurred when a boat carrying the refugees and migrants sank off the coast of Mahdia after a journey that started from Sfax beaches. He said the Tunisian coast guard was able to rescue five people from the boat. Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment. Reports of the deaths came as Italy’s ANSA news agency said more than 2,000 asylum seekers had arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa within 24 hours. The agency described the arrivals on Saturday as a “record”. In the last four days, at least five boats carrying refugees and migrants have sunk off the southern city of Sfax, leaving 67 missing and nine dead. The coast guard previously said it had stopped about 80 boats heading for Italy in the past four days and detained more than 3,000 people, mostly from sub-Saharan African countries. The coast near Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe. The latest disaster comes amid a campaign of arrests by Tunisian authorities of undocumented sub-Saharan Africans. According to United Nations data, at least 12,000 people who reached Italy this year set sail from Tunisia, compared with 1,300 in the same period of 2022. Previously, Libya was the main departure point for refugees and migrants.
Three arrested over murder of South African Rapper, AKA
Three suspects have been arrested over the murder of South African rapper, Kiernan Forbes, popularly known as AKA. Recall that he was gunned down on February 10, 2023 around Florida Road. Confirming the devastating development, the police in Durban said the rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting on Florida Road by persons in two cars around 10 pm on Friday. It was reported that AKA was standing outside the Wish Restaurant when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Reports, however, emerging in the last week of March, revealed that after investigations into AKA’s killing, the police in Cape Town arrested three people on Sunday after monitoring them during the week. According to reports, the suspects, now in police custody, would be brought to Durban, where they are expected to be charged. Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel André Traut, while addressing journalists referred questions about the arrest to the KwaZulu-Natal police. “It is a KZN case; should we get any information, it will be sent to them. You should contact them for information,” he reportedly told the local publication, The South African.
Court adjourns Fayose’s alleged N6.9bn fraud trial till May 8
Justice Chukujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, March 21, 2023, adjourned further hearing in the trial of a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, and his company, Spotless Investment Limited, over an alleged N6.9bn fraud, till May 8, 2023.
The Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, re-arraigned Fayose and Spotless Investment Limited on an 11-count charge bordering on money laundering and stealing to the tune of N6.9bn ( Six Billion Nine Hundred Naira).
The defendants had first been arraigned on October 22, 2018 before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun.
At the resumed sitting today, the 12th prosecution witness, PW 12, Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Minister of State for Defence, told the court that he had no document showing that he withdrew the sum of N1.2billion, which he allegedly gave Fayose.
During cross-examination by counsel to the second defendant, Olakekan Ojo, SAN, Obanikoro told the court that he never, at any time, showed the EFCC operatives any document showing that he gave instruction or withdrew the sum of N1.2 billion from the Diamond Bank account of Sylva McNamara Limited.
Obanikoro, in his previous testimony, had told the court that the sum of N1.2 billion was deposited into the account of a company, Sylva McNamara, to fund “clandestine security operations” to prevent terrorists’ activities in Lagos State in two installments.
When asked if he produced any resolution of Board of Directors of Sylva McNamara, authorising him to control the management of the account of the company, he said “No.”
According to him, “I didn’t produce any Board resolution or letter to the EFCC. Also, there was no letter from Sylva McNamara to the then Diamond Bank, telling the bank that I was asked to control and manage the account.”
Obanikoro, who said Sambo Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser, had no interactions with Fayose or Diamond Bank in respect of the N1.2billion withdrawn from the account of Sylva McNamara Limited, further told the court the EFCC exonerated him of any wrongdoing after investigations.
Asked if he was ever asked to refund money to the EFCC, he said: “Yes, I refunded, as it was part of the conditions given for my release. Anywise man would do the same.”
When asked how much was refunded, the he said: “I do not recall.”
But when Ojo asked Obanikoro if the money he refunded was between N100m and N200m, he responded: “ Okay, around that…”
Obanikoro, while reacting to the question about the sum of $4bn he allegedly gave Fayose, said: ”In our line of business, it is not customary to ask for receipt or acknowledgement of such money.
“So, there was no confirmation of the money.”
The case was adjourned till May 8 and 9 and June 6, 8, 2023 for continuation of trial.
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