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Atletico Madrid to join Juventus and Tottenham in Melbourne’s ICC

Spanish giant Atletico Madrid is the final team confirmed for July’s International Champions Cup tournament in Melbourne, joining fellow title-chasing duo Juventus and Tottenham.

A-League champions Melbourne Victory will open the 2016 ICC against Juventus on July 23, before the Italian giants clash with Tottenham three nights later.

Then Spurs and Atletico, two of Europe’s most exciting up and coming teams, conclude the tournament on July 29, with all games played at the MCG.


Hakeem al-Araibi: Football Hero to Tortured Villain

A talented young ­Melbourne-based football player has revealed how he went from national hero to torture victim in 48 hours.

Hakeem al-Araibi, a former Bahrain national youth player, fled to Australia after being bailed following his arrest by state security police during the 2011 pro-democracy uprisings that swept the Middle East.

He was charged over an ­attack on a police station — yet insists that at the moment of the attack, he was playing in a match shown live on national TV.

The promising defender had his legs badly beaten in jail and, fearing for his life, left his birthplace as soon as he could.

His claims come as the then president of the Bahrain Football Association, Sheik Salman, is being touted as the favourite to replace disgraced Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.

Doubts have been raised over Sheik Salman’s suitability ahead of the vote tomorrow night by 207 FIFA nations.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy has lodged an official complaint to FIFA investigators and called for Sheik Salman, now president of the Asian Football Confederation, to be disqualified from the election for breaching FIFA’s code of ­ethics.

BIRD claims Sheik Salman neglected his obligation to protect Bahraini footballers.

Al-Araibi, now 22, is one of six players forced into exile who have not played for­ ­Bahrain since.

Hakeem in Melbourne

Hakeem al-Araibi in Melbourne.

 

More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees have been jailed without due process in the emirate, with 70 still behind bars, it is claimed.

Protests erupted in February 2011, with the country’s majority Shia calling for political reforms by the ruling Sunni royal family.

Al-Araibi is a Shia, but says he played no part. Asked if Sheik Salman was aware of his plight, he said: “Yes, of course. He was the president of ­Bahrain Football Association. He awarded me a medal but two days later, I was arrested and they accused me of attacking a police station.

“At the same time of that incident, I was playing for Al-Shabab against Al-Busaiteen on live TV. Sheik Salman did not do anything for me.’’

Of his torture, he said: “When I was (first) arrested, they took me to the police ­station and once they confirmed who I was, they started beating my legs for more than three hours. That’s the reason why I’m scared to go back to Bahrain, so I don’t get abused and tortured again.

“In any second, they can break my leg and destroy my future,” he said.

Al-Araibi, who has just signed with Victorian second-tier side Goulburn Valley Suns, says he is aware of the risks of speaking out, but insists he has been left with no choice.

Sheik Salman has denied any wrongdoing, and said he had no direct influence over the country’s security services.

© 2016 Herald Sun | This article was written by David Davutovic first appeared in the Herald Sun on 25 February 2016.


Apostolos Giannou to switch allegience to Socceroos

Greek-born, Australian-raised striker Apostolos Giannou wants to play for the Socceroos despite representing his birth nation at an international level.

Giannou, who grew up in Melbourne, is eligible for Australia due to his single appearance for Greece in 2015 being in an international friendly.

“I want to play for Australia,” Giannou told Fox Sports Australia.

“Australia would be better for me as a footballer and to play for them and give everything that I can and bring the best out of me.”

The 26-year-old is now tipped to be called up by Postecoglou for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Tajikistan in Adelaide and Jordan in Sydney.

Giannou this week signed with Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F on a three-year deal after netting 13 goals for Greek Super League side Asteras Tripolis from 21 appearances this season, sitting second on the Greek league’s goal-scoring table.

 

Recent Australian success under the tutelage of coach Ange Postecoglou was a pull factor to adorn the green and gold, Giannou admitted.

And he revealed Postecoglou had travelled to Greece to speak to him face-to-face about a potential switch of allegiances – a move which ultimately won the striker over.

But Giannou said his intention wasn’t to jump on the Socceroos bandwagon without a deep-rooted connection to Australia, highlighting eight appearances with the under-17 national side.

He also attended a Socceroos training camp under former coach Holger Osieck in Germany in 2011.

“It’s difficult to chose which country to play for since I feel the same for both countries,” Giannou said.

“I know Australia has been going upwards since Ange took over.”

“It hasn’t been like I’ve been away and just popped now into the Australia team.”

The news will surely add an extra element to the June 4 friendly announced this week between Australia and Greece at Sydney’s ANZ stadium.

© 2016 Fox Sports, The Age, Football Federation Australa, Yahoo Sports | This article was created using multiple sources which first appeared online on 25 February 2016.


Apostolos Giannou signs for China’s Guangzhou R&F

FIA Sports Management is pleased to announce the signing of Apostolos Giannou to Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F.

Giannou has signed a three-year contract worth $1.5 million a season with the club.

Second in the scoring charts in Greece with 13 goals in 21 starts for Asteras Tripolis, the Melbourne-raised striker only has to complete the formality of a medical to seal the move just a day before the Chinese transfer window officially closes.


China’s football boom fed by desire to become a global heavyweight

Liverpool has been outbid before, but not this way.

Having identified Brazilian attacker Alex Teixeira as their preferred January target, the Reds started bidding at $49.8m and sent a delegation to meet with his Ukrainian club in January.

Defiant Shakhtar Donetsk officials demanded more, but the Reds capped their offer at $59.8m.


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