0Shares0000UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has defended the decision to host the Europa League final in Baku © AFP / FERENC ISZABERLIN, Germany, May 24 – UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has defended the decision to host the Europa League final in Baku in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel set to be published on Saturday.Chelsea and Arsenal are set to play in Baku on May 29, and UEFA has faced heavy criticism, both for the distance of the venue from London and over Azerbaijan’s record on human rights. Ceferin, 51, told Der Spiegel that the final would be played in Baku because “there are people who live there who love football”.“The human rights situation is a problem, but it is also a problem in other European states. Does that mean the fans in Baku do not deserve live football?”The controversy over Baku increased this week, when Arsenal’s Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan decided not travel to the final amid concerns for his safety.The UEFA president said that the decision was Mkhitaryan’s to make, and said that Azerbaijan had given guarantees about the player’s safety.“If football allows itself to be stopped by such tensions, then we will not be able to organise anything in future,” said Ceferin.“We managed to organise a safe European Championships in France when the country was a target of terrorist attacks.”Ceferin also said that he was in no rush to reform the UEFA Champions League.“If you ask me, there is no need to change anything,” he said.The 51-year-old said that UEFA were in a “consultation phase” over reforms proposed earlier this year by the European Club Association.The proposals envisaged a restructuring of all European club competitions into a three-tiered system with internal relegation and promotion from 2024.Ceferin said that UEFA had already vetoed a suggestion to hold Champions League games at the weekend, saying that “this will not happen”.– ‘The Chinese are nice people’ –Yet he also called for a more measured approach to the reform proposals, and argued that UEFA had to respond to its global market.“Football is the only European product which is the best in the world in its field by some distance.”“The Champions League is a global product, it is getting bigger in China and the USA. Why should Chinese fans not be treated well? They are nice people.“Everything is dramatised. The usual suspects start shouting about the death of football and demand more solidarity.“I think that the five big leagues should give money to the federations in smaller countries when they sell TV rights there. Because if you show the top leagues on TV, you weaken the football in the smaller markets.”Ceferin said he was not afraid that the top clubs would attempt to break away from UEFA to form a separate European super league.“That will never happen. The clubs know that it would be a pretty boring competition.”“The national leagues are also important for the clubs to keep the link to their fans.”0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)
Women and minorities are less content than men and whites, which has been true for years. But all four groups are at or near record lows for the AP-Ipsos poll, and at unusually low levels for older surveys, as well. Ann Bailey, 69, a retired school secretary in Broken Arrow, Okla., is a conservative who believes the country is on the wrong track. That sentiment should raise alarms for Republicans hoping to hold the White House and recapture Congress next year. She cites a widespread lack of honesty plus immigration, gasoline prices and Iraq – where a son and grandson are serving. “As much as I hate it, I think they need to finish up what they’re doing and get out of there,” said Bailey. “I think we should step out and say, `OK, now you solve your problem. We’ve done the best we can do.”‘ Larry Ward, a moderate Republican from Pocomoke, Md., also senses the U.S. is heading the wrong way. WASHINGTON – It’s gloomy out there. Men and women, whites and minorities – all are feeling a war-weary pessimism about the country seldom shared by so many people. Only 25 percent of those surveyed say things in the U.S. are going in the right direction, according to an AP-Ipsos poll this month. That is about the lowest level of satisfaction detected since the survey started in December 2003. Rarely have longer-running polls found such a rate since the even gloomier days of 1992 ahead of the first President Bush’s re-election loss to Democrat Bill Clinton. The current glumness is widely blamed on public discontent with the war in Iraq and with President Bush. It is striking for how widespread the mood is among different groups of people. “We’re still fighting a war we can’t win,” said Ward, 47, who operates a tree service. “That’s a real big thing for me.” Three in 10 men and two in 10 women said this month they think the country is on the right track, down from nearly half of each who felt that way at the end of 2003. By race, 28 percent of whites and 18 percent of minorities said the same – just over half their rates of optimism from late 2003. Asked in April why they felt things were veering in the wrong direction, one-third overall volunteered the war and one-fourth blamed poor leadership. Nine percent faulted the economy, 8 percent a loss of moral values and 5 percent gasoline prices. “We need to get out of war, get our economy back up, quit spending money outside of America and bring it here,” said Democrat Lisa Pollard, 45, an insurance company analyst in Arlington, Texas. “It all starts at the White House.” When voter optimism hits such low levels, “It’s not being driven by any specific group. It’s a general kind of malaise that’s across the board,” Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!