Hungarian political party in Romania claiming ‘anti-Hungarian’ attitudes

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FIFA will be receiving a formal protest claiming Hungarian fans were subjected to widespread “anti-Hungarian” sentiments in Romania, where the host nation won a World Cup qualifier 3-0 on Friday.

The Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România (translated: Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania) lodged the complaint after police had to use aggressive tactics to disperse Hungarian ultra activity in the streets of Bucharest. The rivalry between the two nations runs much deeper than soccer, with political arguments surrounding the region of Transylvania raging on for decades and generations.

(MORE: Romania, Hungary set to revive volatile rivalry on Friday)

However, despite Hungarians tearing through the Romanian streets, UDMR officials are claiming ethnic discrimination.

“Unfortunately, we’re not talking about isolated incidents,” the letter sent to FIFA states, based on a report from Jurnalul Național in Romania. “Lately, it’s become a normality that at soccer games, it is chanted that Hungarians should leave the country.”

In a column in Adevărul, Bogdan Diaconu responded:

Instead of condemning the Hungarian hooligan violence that turned Bucharest into a city under siege, the UDMR protested to FIFA that Romanian fans displayed anti-Hungarian attitudes. The UDMR functions, thus, as an echo for Budapest because the Hungarian soccer federation also wants to protest to FIFA for the “abuses” of Romanians against the hooligans that devastated Bucharest.

The UDMR encourages, through this action, the behavior of vandals among the Hungarian supporters and treats Romania like an enemy state. Even worse, the UDMR positions itself once again on the side of extremist Hungarians that clothed aberrant and dangerous behaviors in the occasion of the Romania-Hungary match.

The UDMR is not a sanctioned political party (it’s offically an alliance) in Romania, but as Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority in the country, at around 6 percent of the total population, it does set the political agenda to an extent. The UDMR holds nine seats in the Senate, 22 in the Chamber and three in European Parliament.

Tensions surrounding Romania’s annexation of Transylvania have a contrary voice inside Romanian borders, officially through the UDMR and unofficially through the million-plus Hungarians in the country. Hungarian influence is especially hard to ignore in Transylvania, where the majority of the Hungarian population in Romania is concentrated and where multiple towns and villages speak Hungarian as their primary language.

FIFA will likely recognize the underlying agenda of the UDMR’s protest and toss it out the window. If anything, Hungarian fans’ behavior before the game could draw sanctions from the governing body, as it continued inside the stadium, where fans clashed with Romanian riot police (pictured).

Further confrontation in the teams’ first matchup was avoided when Hungary was forced to play the game behind closed doors, in the wake of anti-Semitic behavior during an August friendly with Israel. However, the hooliganism and political fallout surrounding the game in Romania more than made up for it.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.