The Latest: SAfrican police investigating World Cup bribes

0100 GMT (9 p.m. EDT)

The Asian Football Confederation has issued a statement to erase any conjecture about its support for Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup.

Investigations into corruption within FIFA have reignited criticism of the process to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Qatar has denied any wrong doing in its bid.

''The Gulf is a true football region, with some of the world's most passionate football lovers, and Qatar is no exception,'' the AFC said in a statement on its website. ''Football is the world's game that should set itself no geographical borders.''

Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, the only time the sport's showcase tournament has been staged in Asia. Those two nations, along with Australia, which switched from Oceania to the Asian confederation in 2006, were among the other countries bidding for 2022.

''The AFC and the whole Asian football community stands with Qatar and we all look forward to hosting the World Cup, and welcoming the world.''

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2210 GMT (6:10 p.m. EDT)

In the opening news conference for the Women's World Cup, the first question the head of Canadian soccer faced was whether there were bribes involving Canada's bid to be host.

The question stemmed from the corruption scandal that has rocked FIFA.

''This World Cup? No, absolutely not,'' said Victor Montagliani, the president of the Canadian Soccer Association.

He was peppered at the start of Thursday's press conference with questions related to possible improprieties. It was somewhat amusing because Canada was the only candidate when the bids were considered in 2011. Zimbabwe withdrew because of a lack of infrastructure.

He was also asked, since it was the first major FIFA event since the scandal broke, whether it had had any impact on the tournament.

Montagliani pointed to ticket sales: Over 52,000 tickets have been sold for the tournament opener on Saturday between host Canada and China in Edmonton.

''I actually think that it's a positive thing that the first tournament after whatever happened last week is the Women's World Cup,'' he said. ''Because women's football is a very pure form of football. And I think women's football can shine some light in the dark clouds that are hanging over the game.''

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2020 GMT (4:20 p.m. EDT)

Updates with motion to unseal Daryll Warner plea agreement denied.

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The New York Times has asked a U.S. federal judge to make public the government's plea agreement with former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer.

In a motion filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, the paper said the plea agreement should be made available under rights attached to federal common law and the First Amendment.

The plea agreement was referenced in a 40-page transcript of Blazer's November 2013 plea hearing, which was unsealed on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie ordered the government to respond by Tuesday.

Blazer, the former No. 2 official of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, forfeited over $1.9 million at the time of his pleas to 10 counts of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion, and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. He agreed to pay a second amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.

A separate motion by the Times to unseal the plea agreement of Daryll Warner, a son of former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, was denied on Thursday by U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz II.

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1920 GMT (3:20 p.m. EDT)

The New York Times has asked a U.S. federal judge to make public the government's plea agreement with former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer.

In a motion filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, the paper said the plea agreement should be made available under rights attached to federal common law and the First Amendment.

The plea agreement was referenced in a 40-page transcript of Blazer's November 2013 plea hearing, which was unsealed on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie ordered the government to respond by Tuesday.

Blazer, the former No. 2 official of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, forfeited over $1.9 million at the time of his pleas to 10 counts of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, income tax evasion, and failure to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts. He agreed to pay a second amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.

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1910 GMT (3:10 p.m. EDT)

FIFA has admitted to writing off a $5 million loan to Ireland in compensation for missing out on the 2010 World Cup after Thierry Henry's handball set up the French winner.

The payment, initially a loan, was not disclosed following the 2009 playoff game, which France won 2-1 on aggregate to reach the finals in South Africa.

The cash from FIFA was first disclosed in public on Thursday by Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney, who didn't say it was a loan.

FIFA says it granted the loan ''to put an end to any claims against FIFA,'' but it would have to be reimbursed if Ireland qualified for the 2014 World Cup.

After Ireland failed to qualify, FIFA says the loan was written off.

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1845 GMT (2:45 p.m. EDT)

Qatar's foreign minister says racism is behind the allegations that his country was wrongly awarded the 2022 World Cup, and he denounced the furor surrounding the widening FIFA scandal.

Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, visiting Tunisia, said on Thursday that his country cooperated with American investigators and was cleared of any suspicion.

''Unfortunately, there are some parties that cannot swallow the fact of an Arab and Muslim country hosting this competition,'' he said. ''This cup will take place for the first time in the history of football and sport in an Arab country.''

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1615 GMT (12:15 p.m. EDT)

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has issued his first public statement since announcing his resignation two days ago, saying he has already started the process of reforming soccer's governing body.

Blatter said Tuesday he would step down amid a corruption crisis that has shaken FIFA and soccer officials around the world.

FIFA says Blatter met with audit and compliance chairman Domenico Scala on Thursday to ''instigate meaningful reform of the administration and structure of FIFA.''

''I had a good, constructive meeting with Mr. Scala to establish a framework for action and a timetable. I am pleased to take advice and guidance from Mr. Scala,'' Blatter said. ''I want a comprehensive program of reform and I am very aware that only the FIFA Congress can pass these reforms. Furthermore, the Executive Committee has a particular duty to share the responsibility of driving this process.''

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1408 GMT (10:08 a.m. EDT)

Military intelligence officers have raided the headquarters of the Venezuelan Football Federation amid the spiraling FIFA scandal.

Venezuela's public prosecutor's office said agents raided the Venezuelan organization's offices Wednesday to gather evidence for a criminal investigation. The organization's former head, Rafael Esquivel, was detained in Switzerland last week along with six other FIFA officials accused of taking bribes.

The raid came hours after the prosecutor's office asked that Esquivel's bank accounts be frozen as he is investigated for money laundering. Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has expressed support for the public prosecutor's actions against Esquivel even as he's raised concerns about the role of the U.S. in the larger investigation.

Esquivel, 68, may face extradition to the U.S.

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0940 GMT (5:40 a.m. EDT)

The British government says England is ready to step in and host the 2022 World Cup if the tournament is stripped from Qatar amid the corruption scandal engulfing FIFA.

''Obviously if FIFA came forward and asked us to consider hosting it, we have the facilities in this country and of course we did mount a very impressive, if unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 World Cup,'' culture secretary John Whittingdale told the House of Commons.

However, Whittingdale acknowledged that ''it does seem very unlikely that another European country would host it in 2022'' because Russia is due to stage the World Cup in 2018.

Swiss authorities are investigating the bidding contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, and have seized documents at FIFA headquarters as part of their corruption probe.

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0845 GMT (4:45 a.m. EDT)

South Africa's organized crime unit is conducting a preliminary investigation into bribery allegations surrounding the 2010 World Cup bid after being provided with documents by an opposition political party.

The unit's spokesman, Hangwani Mulaudzi, says a file has been opened and the unit will decide whether the information calls for a full investigation.

Mulaudzi would not describe the documents the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation received from the Freedom Front Plus political party.

Mulaudzi says the unit has ''investigators looking into the matter.''

Former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer said in court documents unsealed Wednesday in the United states that he and other top officials at FIFA took bribes connected to South Africa's successful bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

South Africa's government denies it paid bribes.

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