Defending champions Paris Saint-Germain begin their bid for a record 11th Ligue 1 title at modest Clermont in a season where games will be played on New Year’s Day.
The opening round for France’s top flight begins on the weekend of Aug. 5-7 and the league will have games on Jan. 1 and 2 for the first time because of a break for the 2022 World Cup.
There will be a six-week hiatus for the showpiece event in Qatar, with the winter break starting on Nov. 14 and play resuming on Dec. 28 with a midweek round. (Click here for full schedule).
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Kylian Mbappe will be still be the star man for PSG after he ended rumours of a departure to join Real Madrid by signing a new deal in May to stay in Paris for three more years.
There will likely be a coaching change for the defending champions, however, as manager Mauricio Pochettino is expected to be replaced before the start of the 2022-23 campaign following PSG’s failure to reach the Champions League quarterfinals and loss in the Coupe de France final.
In PSG’s UCL round-of-16 flameout against Real Madrid — in which a Karim Benzema hat trick saw them lose 3-2 on aggregate to the eventual champions — reports said that club president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo confronted Dutch referee Danny Makkelie after the match.
On Friday, UEFA cleared Al-Khelaifi, who is an executive committee member of the organization, of any punishment, while handing Leonardo a one-match ban for “violating the basic rules of decent conduct” and “unsporting conduct.”
PSG share the record for Ligue 1 titles with 10-time champions Marseille and Saint-Etienne, who were relegated last season along with six-time winner Bordeaux.
Their week one opponent Clermont finished in 17th place last season to avoid relegation.
Marseille was runner-up last season to qualify automatically for the Champions League, and starts the season at home to Reims.
AS Monaco, who finished third to enter the Champions League qualifying rounds, have a tough match at Alsace-based Strasbourg.
It was not yet decided who will play in the season-opening Friday night match on Aug. 5.
The league will also end later than usual this year with the final round of matches coming on June 3.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
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Many twists, many turns: A week in the life of AIFF
The Football House, headquarters of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), in New Delhi Qamar Sibtain/The India Today Group via Getty Images
Ah, the All India Football Federation. Trust them to keep entertainment levels high; the fact that there is no actual football happening is rather irrelevant. This past week, the last four days especially, has seen the universe descend into the most Indianfootbally state it has ever been in (arguably).
Saturday evening: Igor Stimac – on the back of three back-to-back wins and qualification to the Asian Cup – gives a sensational interview to a group of journalists. Without going through the AIFF media department, as is the norm. Among other things (a lot of other things), he questions the timing of the appointment of the Committee of Administrators and bemoans the fact that they have not yet started his contract renewal talk.
In his own words, because there’s nothing quite like it: “We might have problems very soon if these elections are not held sooner than later if we don’t start organising ourselves which is impossible as I see now.”
The problem he was speaking about was basically FIFA looking unkindly at federations where there’s been a political intervention. Like India’s neighbours, Pakistan, who have been banned.
Monday evening: Apropos of nothing, the CoA appoints an advisory committee to “advise and assist them on day-to-day operations” (a committee to advise another committee which was set up to provide advice. Bureaucracy: got to love it).
Ranjit Bajaj, Delhi FC owner and staunch critic of the previous regime, is named chairman. He is also given charge of integrity matters. There are 11 others, entrusted with everything from logistics to legal to finance, many of them known for expressing their criticism of the Praful Patel’s administration. All this while most members of the Patel administration remained in their posts.
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Earlier that day, the AIFF had announced that their general secretary Kushal Das had gone on ‘medical leave’. Indefinitely.
In case you didn’t know, last month Bajaj had lodged a sexual harassment complaint against Das with the National Commission of Women, and had written to the ethics committees of both FIFA and AFC. The AIFF’s integrity officer had then given Das a clean chit, calling the allegations “frivolous and devoid of truth”.
Tuesday afternoon: A very high-level delegation from FIFA and AFC lands in India to assess the situation… just why did India’s highest court appoint a CoA?
Tuesday evening: Jaydeep Basu, senior journalist and a member of the advisory committee (‘media and communication matters’) put this out on Twitter:
(What does anyone even say to that?!)
Tuesday night: Reports come in that the advisory committee has been disbanded. It lasts for around 24 hours…East Bengal have held on to sponsors for longer.
There are two conflicting reports, though, on the reasons behind the disbandment and neither bodes well for the CoA. One suggests that the CoA decided it was not needed and disbanded it before the FIFA-AFC delegation even met them (underscores their… decisiveness?) while another suggests FIFA-AFC asked them to do it (underscores their understanding of the regulations they need to abide by?).
On Wednesday, the delegation is set to meet the union sports minister with another round of talks with the CoA scheduled for Thursday. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left wondering if this week could get any more Indianfootbally.