After playing its home games abroad for most of its existence, the Iraqi Football Association has lobbied FIFA to once again lift its ban on hosting matches in Iraq. The item is on the agenda for discussion at the FIFA Executive Committee meeting on Thursday and Friday in Zurich.
On March 26, more than 50,000 fans showed up to Al-Shaab Stadium in Baghdad to watch Iraq defeat Syria, 2-1, in a friendly. Soon after, FIFA imposed a ban on home matches because of increased security risks.
The decision was a reversal on the decision in March to lift the sanction, which had been in place since 2011, but it is nothing new for the nation. Since the 1980s, Iraq has had to play “home” games across its borders because of various conflicts in the nation.
Iraq failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after finishing last in its five-team group in the fourth round of Asian qualification. Its only win of the stage came in a 1-0 defeat of Jordan, a home game played in Doha, Qatar.
The last World Cup qualifier played on Iraqi soil was a 2-0 loss to Jordan on Sept. 2, 2011, in front of 24,000 fans at Franso Hariri Stadium in Arbil.
Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.
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The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.
At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.
A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”
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Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.
Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.
Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.
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While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.
Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.
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With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.
I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.
He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.
But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.
I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…
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Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.
Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.
After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.
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Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.
However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.
I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.
There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.
Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.
Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.
Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.
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Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.
France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.
Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.
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PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.
On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.
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However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.
Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.