Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to support South American World Cup host bid

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Stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are set to offer their backing to a joint bid from Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to host the 2030 centenary World Cup, bid organisers told AFP.

“Messi will join us in this initiative, and Suarez certainly,” Fernando Marin, the joint bid co-ordinator, told AFP on Monday.

“We told him (Messi) about our aims, and he feels it’s doable.”

Argentina’s minister of sport Carlos Mac Alister said “it’s important to know we have the support” of such high-profile players as Argentina’s five-time world player of the year Messi and Uruguay striker Suarez.
“In 2030, we won’t be there any more, Messi will.

“He showed great desire to help us. He will surely be the flag-bearer for the World Cup.”

The very first World Cup in 1930 was held in Uruguay and won by the hosts, who beat Argentina 4-2 in a memorable final at the Centenary Stadium in Montevideo.

Paraguay were also one of the 13 participants, but the World Cup has grown immeasurably since then and now features 32 teams, although that number will rise to 48 at the 2026 World Cup.

In 1930 there were 18 matches, but that will become 80 in a 48-team tournament, making it far more difficult for a single nation to host alone.

Before then the World Cup will be held in Russia later this year and then Qatar in 2022. The bid city for the 2026 edition has yet to be decided.

The joint bid has the support of the heads of state of the three countries, all of whom were president of a football club before leading their country.

Argentina’s Mauricio Macri used to head Boca Juniors, the country’s most successful club; Tabare Vazquez was in charge at Uruguay’s Atletico Progresso; while Paraguayan Horacio Cartes was once the boss at Club Libertad.

The joint bid would see Argentina host eight of the 12 groups in the opening phase, with Uruguay and Paraguay given two each.

The initial idea centred around a joint Uruguay-Argentina bid, which was announced in July.

Paraguay were added to the bid in October with the backing of the South American federation, CONMEBOL.
Uruguay and Argentina have both hosted the World Cup before, winning on home soil in 1930 and 1978 respectively.

They have also both won the global football showpiece a second time – in 1950 for Uruguay and 1986 for a Diego Maradona-led Argentina.

No other potential candidates have expressed an interest in hosting the 2030 tournament, but China are rumoured to be preparing their candidature.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Barcelona's Lionel Messi named UN ambassador

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The UN World Tourism Organization said Monday it has appointed FC Barcelona‘s Argentine star Lionel Messi as an ambassador to promote responsible tourism.

“During my travels I have had the opportunity to know other cultures and societies as well as other ways to see the world and this is very enriching,” Messi said in a statement released by the Madrid-based United Nations body announcing his nomination.

“I am happy I can join this mission of promoting responsible tourism,” the five-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award added as the body steps up its campaign to minimise harm tourism can cause to the environment and historical sites.

The UN body defines “responsible tourism” as tourism that “helps maximise the sector’s benefits while minimising its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe”.

World Tourism Organization chief Zurab Pololikashvili said it was a “great honour” to have Messi promote “the positive values and benefits that tourism represents.

“Messi is a unique sportsman and an example of how willpower and constant work yield good results,” he added.

The 30-year-old is the leading scorer in La Liga this season with 29 goals and is also the all-time top marksman in Spain’s top flight.

He is also the top scorer in the history of Barcelona and Argentina.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Barcelona boosted as Sergio Busquets returns for Champions League tie with Roma

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Barcelona have been boosted by the return of Sergio Busquets from injury.

The midfielder was named in the squad to travel to Rome for the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

The Catalans hold a 4-1 lead over AS Roma from the first leg at the Camp Nou.

Busquets was sidelined for three weeks before returning to play the first leg despite not being fully fit. He then missed the game against Leganes as he continued his recovery.

It seemed as if Ivan Rakitic, who played in the weekend’s 3-1 win over Leganes, would deputise for the Spaniard in this encounter as well.

While he may not play the full 90 minutes, Busquets’ inclusion in the squad is certainly a welcome surprise for La Blaugrana.

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