Prison team containing inmates and officers given go-ahead to join league

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On the small island of Guernsey in the English Channel, something rather peculiar will occur this season.

When the Sunday Soccer League kicks off on the tiny island that’s just a stones throw away from Northern France, a team called Prison Lions FC will take to the field.

But only for home games.

In a novel approach to reward their prisoners for good behavior, Les Nicolles Prison has set up a soccer team that will be made up of current prisoners and prison officers who will play alongside each other every Sunday.

The 15-game season will see all of Prison Lions FC games played at home, for obvious reasons.

David White, physical educator at the Guernsey Prison, believes the prisoners can really benefit from the league — by the way Guernsey’s famous soccer son is Southampton and England legend Matthew Le Tissier — letting a team from the prison join.

“They’re really buzzing about it,” White said. “It’s a good vibe for the prison. They love their football and it’s their 90 minutes of freedom.”

One thing that could create a problem, numbers wise, for Prison Lions FC, is that most of their squad could be depleted at any time if paroles are granted and prisoners are released. But don’t worry, they’ve been given extra time by the league to sign players on if that happens.

As mentioned, prisoners who are the best behaved will be able to play and it is hoped that the team will help to create a bond between prisoners and the prison officers. But I can’t help but think some prisoners will not be happy if one of the guards doesn’t slot him through when he’s in a great position on the edge of the box…. But what can he say without losing his privileges for the next week?

What a bizarre situation. But hats off to Les Nicolles Prison for thinking outside the box.

One more thing, won’t the visiting players and referees be intimidated by the inmates, apparently not.

“If they misbehave, they’ve got more to lose than the people coming in from outside, ” said referee and league President Rod Hamon. “And to be honest, we get more stick from the players outside than from the prisoners.”

BONUS: For any of you out there who enjoy the good natured banter of legendary British comic Ronnie Barker, take in this delightful clip from the hit TV Series “Porridge” from the 1970s as inmates from “HMS Slade Prison” take on a cast of ‘celebrities’ in a hastily arranged match inside the prison. At one point a rallying call goes up from the soccer team of criminals, “Come on Slade… take no prisoners.” Classic.

Report: FIFA president Infantino in hot water

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The more things at FIFA change, the more they stay the same.

According to a bombshell report from The Guardian, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was under investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee before the president disbanded the committee in May. The report states that Infantino spent around $1.16 million on his election campaign, despite declaring publicly he had only spent around $583,000 on flights around the world to meet with national FA presidents.

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The report claims Infantino was also being investigated by then committee chairman Cornel Borbely over whether he influenced the election of a new president in the Confederation of African Federations, or CAF.

FIFA rules state that presidential candidates must declare campaign expenditures publicly.

The latest bad press on FIFA follows the arrest of Spanish Football Federation president and UEFA vice president Angel Maria Villar and his son among other national and regional officials on charges of corruption and improper management.

Villar appeared in court on Thursday, and a judge denied he and his son bail.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Liverpool rejects Barca bid for Coutinho, Roma offer for Mahrez turned down

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Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.

Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.

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“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”

Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

(more…)

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.