FIFA critic Gary Lineker hosting World Cup draw

By Alex Butler  |  Nov. 30, 2017 at 11:42 AM
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Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Less than two years ago, Gary Lineker called FIFA a "deplorable organization." Now he's working for it.

Lineker will co-host the 2018 World Cup draw Friday at the State Kremlin Palace.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will also attend the event. Lineker, a BBC broadcaster, was once a soccer star for the England national team. He led the squad with six goals in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya is co-hosting the event. It is set for 10 a.m. on Friday in Moscow. It will be streamed at fifa.com/worldcup and air on Fox Sports 1 in English and Telemundo in Spanish.

A retired soccer legend from each nation of World Cup winners will draw the teams. Those stars will include Diego Maradona, Gordon Banks, Miroslav Klose, Laurent Blanc, Carles Puyol, Diego Forlan and Fabio Cannavaro.

"As a player, I was fortunate enough to take part in the World Cup finals on two occasions. It is quite special to be involved in yet another tournament -- now on the stage, unveiling the results of the draw. I have been on the other side, waiting to find out my opponents, and I know how exciting this occasion is," Lineker said in a release from FIFA.

Lineker, 56, has sharply criticized the football body over the last few years, targeting former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and corruption in the sport.

"I'm starting to think that FIFA and even Sepp Blatter might just be corrupt," Lineker tweeted in June 2016.

"There can't be a more corrupt, deplorable organization on earth than FIFA," he tweeted in 2015. "The house of cards is falling. Time for change!"

"This is extraordinary! FIFA is imploding," Lineker tweeted two years ago. "The best thing that could possibly happen to the beautiful game."

That tweet came as a response to news that the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland seized documents in 2015 at FIFA and 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," according to the Swiss Federal Court.

Lineker responded to criticism for accepting the job by saying that he would continue to "tweet about corruption and human rights issues if and when necessary."

"There is a new guard," he added. "If it were still Blatter and his brigade, I would not have done it. I was approached by Van Basten and Boban, 2 good football people. I hope and think FIFA is changing. New people deserve a chance to prove it is. We will see."

Blatter resigned as FIFA president in 2015, following charges of corruption against several figures in the organization.

Lineker was also a critic of FIFA's allocation process for World Cup hosts. He was part of England's bid for the 2018 tournament. Blatter recently repeated his claims that former France President Nicolas Sarkozy influenced the 2022 bidding process to favor Qatar, according to ESPNFC. The former FIFA boss is serving a six-year ban from all football-related activities.

FIFA published an investigative report in June, detailing the process of how voters exploited the system, but allowed Russia and Qatar to host the tournament in 2018 and 2022. The FIFA team found no evidence of undue influence from Russia or Qatar in using bribes to secure the tournament, according to the New York Times.

The investigation found that Putin met with six FIFA voters months before the 2010 vote, but Russia's bid committee was cleared of any wrongdoing.

"We at FIFA are really pleased that Gary has accepted our invitation and that he will be with us for such an important occasion for the world of football. Following a football career as a legendary goalscorer, which was marked with a burning passion for the game, Gary continued in the same light as a football expert. His honest and open views together with his in-depth knowledge of the game greatly enrich the world of football journalism. It is therefore an honor that Gary will conduct the Final Draw for the World Cup in Russia," FIFA Deputy Secretary General Zvonimir Boban said in a release from FIFA.

Host Russia is included in Pot 1 for the draw, which includes top seed Germany, No. 2 seed Brazil, No. 3 Portugal, No. 4 Argentina, No. 5 Belgium, No. 6 Poland and No. 7 France.

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