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Atletico Madrid players and staff hold a banner in support of Spain's Jennifer Hermoso before the match as FIFA suspend President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales after the Women's World Cup Final.


Was Rubiales’ kiss sexual assault?

The scandal involving Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales continues to deepen. More than a week after he planted a kiss on the lips of star forward Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s World Cup win over England, federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether the kiss constituted sexual assault.

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Jenni Hermoso is kissed by the president of the RFEF Luis Rubiales during the presentation ceremony of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia.

Noe Llamas / SPP

Will a kiss kick off Spain’s #MeToo?

FIFA has benched Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales for 90 days pending a disciplinary committee investigation of his conduct following Spain’s World Cup victory over England. Rubiales was suspended after he kissed star forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the presentation ceremony, provoking a storm of reaction from Hermoso, her team, the sporting world, and politicians.

While Rubiales initially claimed the kiss was consensual, “spontaneous” and “without any intention of bad faith,” last Monday he called it “a mistake.” That didn’t satisfy Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who said the apology for an “unacceptable gesture” was “not enough.” Yolanda Díaz, acting second deputy prime minister, called for Rubiales to resign. Spanish men’s international striker Borja Iglesias said he will not play for the national team “until things change,” and Hermoso’s teammates vowed not to play any more games as long as Rubiales remains as president.

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The McDougall Creek wildfire burns next to houses in the Okanagan community of West Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Hard Numbers: Canada fires, Israelis killed, Nicaraguan visas, Niger junta's plans … and where was William?

30,000: At least 30,000 households in British Columbia, Canada, have been told to evacuate, with another 36,000 homes on alert, as the province battles an unprecedented number of wildfires. Further north, 20,000 residents of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, have also been ordered to leave their homes. Overall, 1,000 fires are burning across Canada in what is now the country’s worst fire season on record.

3: Two Israeli men were killed on Saturday in a suspected Palestinian attack at a West Bank car wash, and on Monday, an Israeli woman was shot and killed in Hebron. Since the start of 2023, Palestinian attacks against Israelis have claimed 30 lives while nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed in the worst spate of violence in the region in 20 years.

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A woman outside the damaged house of her son, who was killed the day before by shelling in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine.

REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Hard Numbers: Deadly shelling, drug kingpin's jail security, Lai sighting, Sweden soccer semi, twin takeover

7: Shelling in the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson Ukraine on Sunday killed seven people, including a 23-day-old baby girl. The attack followed denials by Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar that Ukrainian forces had engaged in Russian-occupied territory in the region.

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A rescue worker searches for victims after a train derailed in District Sanghar in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

REUTERS/Yasir Rajput

Hard Numbers: Train derailment, bombing anniversary, Barbie's billion, winter heat, stunning soccer saves

30: At least 30 people were killed and another 90 injured after a train derailed in Pakistan’s Sindh province on Sunday. The country’s railway system has a notoriously dubious safety record, and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

25: It has been 25 years since al-Qaida terrorists bombed the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people and injuring thousands. The attacks took place eight years after US troops landed in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

1 billion: "Barbie" finished its third weekend in cinemas with more than $1 billion in global ticket sales, making Greta Gerwig the first solo female director to hit that mark. Warner Bros. says none of its movies have ever sold so many tickets so fast.

100: Despite it being winter in the southern hemisphere, South Americans are sweltering amid a record heatwave, with temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is another grim reminder of the fast-emerging reality that political leaders must think urgently about how to invest in new technology and infrastructure to help people adapt to a hotter planet.

11: Swedish goaltender Zecira Musovic was the star of the show in a tough World Cup match between Sweden and the United States, scoring 11 saves against 22 attempts on goal before the shootout that eliminated the US from contention. Sweden now advances to the quarterfinals against Japan.

Brazilian soccer legend Pele holds the World Cup trophy during the World Cup 2006 opening ceremony in Munich, Germany.


The king is dead. Long live the beautiful game

Twenty-one years of professional soccer, three World Cup wins, and more than 1,200 goals, including 77 for his country, Brazil. Edson Arantes do Nascimento – better known as Pelé, possibly the greatest athlete to have ever played the world’s most popular game – has died at age 82 in Sao Paulo. He was suffering from advanced colon cancer.

Pelé scored his first club goal in his first club match as a substitute at age 16. By 17, he was scoring on the international stage and lifting his first World Cup for Brazil, having scored two goals in the final in a historic 5-2 win over Sweden. That was in 1958. He would repeat the feat and bring home the World Cup again in 1962 and 1970, a record that remains unbroken today.

An international ambassador for his country and the sport, Pelé helped popularize the game in the US with a stint at the New York Cosmos in 1975. But as his golden era overlapped with a brutal military dictatorship back home, the attacking soccer star chose not to speak out against dictator Emilio Garrastazu Médici, who had seized power in 1969, suspending freedoms and conducting torture of political opponents. Médici needed a cultural icon – a face to attach to his nationalist propaganda, and Pelé provided it. In 1970, he didn’t just deliver the World Cup in Mexico, but he also turned up in Brasilia and posed next to the dictator with it, making the notoriously anti-democratic comment: "Brazilians don't know how to vote." He also never uttered a word about the thousands of political prisoners of the regime.

Post-retirement, he stayed involved politically: Pelé’s last political stint as a sports minister in the 1990s ended amid allegations against his company. Business and media savvy to the end, his continuing deals and endorsements afforded him a level of wealth that contrasted with the poverty of his childhood, when he resorted to playing soccer with grapefruits, rather than balls. The “Rei do Futebol” (King of Football), as the locals called him, will be buried in Santos, the coastal city where he played most of his soccer.

Morocco line-up during the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal match against Portugal in Doha, Qatar.

Jose Breton via Reuters Connect

What’s it worth to crush it at the World Cup?

Whether or not underdog Morocco beats France in the World Cup semifinals on Wednesday, one thing is sure: Becoming the first African or Arab nation to get this far in the biggest sporting event on the planet stands to get Morocco more than on-field glory in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions probably didn't expect to have such an amazing run, but their overperformance is no coincidence. It’s the fruit of decades of heavy investment by the kingdom in developing its players as part of Morocco’s broader sports diplomacy.

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Badr Benoun celebrates after Morocco progress to the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar.

REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Morocco’s historic World Cup run transcends its borders

Eurasia Group's Strahinja Matejic is attending the Atlantic Dialogues conference in Marrakech, Morocco. But he decided to go a day early to join local fans who watched the Atlas Lions make World Cup history.

“Are we winning tonight?”

That was the first question a Moroccan immigration officer asked me at the Casablanca airport just hours before Morocco faced mighty Portugal in the quarter-finals of the men's soccer World Cup in Qatar.

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