Yaya Toure, Kirill Nababkin

UEFA fail again, order CSKA Moscow to play Champions League game with ‘partial closure’ after racist chanting

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On Wednesday UEFA inexplicably sentenced Russian side CSKA Moscow to play their upcoming Champions League game against Bayern Munich with ‘partial closure’ of the Arena Khimki stadium following the racist abuse of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure last week.

The verdict was released, read the full statement below, after uproar in the soccer world about the continued level of racist abuse in Russia and other Eastern European countries in recent years, with CSKA themselves denying the racist abuse of Toure ever occurred, despite clear audio and video footage showing the incident taking place in Section D behind the goal which has now been closed.

(MORE UEFA opens CSKA racism investigation, Yaya Toure says it’s not enough)

However the sanction imposed by UEFA on CSKA for their game against Bayern on Nov. 27 is laughable, in my opinion CSKA should have been thrown out of the competition. Yes, that would’ve caused uproar and unrest, but racism in soccer isn’t going to be stopped by ‘partial closures’ of stadiums, miniscule fines or getting players to hurriedly pass around a sign that reads “say no to racism” during the prematch anthem.

UEFA has missed a golden chance to set a precedence as to how racists who attend soccer games in Europe and across the world should be punished. Swift and harsh punishment should be the order of the day, and if domestic teams and national teams aren’t allowed to compete in the Champions League, Europa League and other big tournaments, then that should be a big enough punishment to make the clubs whose fans are guilty of such deplorable behavior stand up, take notice and do something to eradicate it.

(MORE CSKA Moscow president Evgeny Giner: ‘Yaya Touré made it up’)

Following the incident at CSKA Moscow, a formal charge was made by UEFA after Toure had complained to the referee during the game that a section of supporters made monkey chants and gestures at the Ivory Coast international during his sides 2-1 win in the Russian capital. Since then, CSKA have denied any racism took place, stating many other excuses and trying to blame the British media for creating a frenzy.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the racism allegations,” CSKA said on their website last week. “In a thorough study of the videotape, we found no racist insults directed at the guests by CSKA fans, and the delegate confirmed this at the end of the match.”

This incident is not an isolated one.

Across Russia in the past few seasons there have been numerous reports of racist abuse against players, Roberto Carlos had bananas thrown at him and racist banners waved about him when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala against Zenit St Petersburg and Krylia Sovetov Samara back in 2011.

In 2012  fans of Lokomotiv Moscow threw bananas at Anzhi defender Christopher Samba, while earlier this year a supporters group for Zenit wrote a statement demanding that the club didn’t sign any black players.

This has gone on long enough, and UEFA missed the perfect chance to do something meaningful in the battle against racism in soccer.

Here is the full statement from UEFA following the decision to punish CSKA for their fans’ behavior:

The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to PFC CSKA Moskva following incidents during their UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City FC on 23 October.

Charges
• Racist behaviour of CSKA supporters during the above-mentioned match (Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations).

Decision
• Partial closure of the Arena Khimki, where CSKA play their home games in UEFA competition: specifically, the Control and Disciplinary Body has decided to close sector D of the stadium during the club’s next UEFA competition home match.

CSKA’s next home fixture is scheduled against FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League on 27 November in Moscow.

The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. The European governing body has a zero tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination on the pitch and in the stands. All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions. Following the entry into force of the new disciplinary regulations on 1 June, the fight against racist conduct has been stepped up a level – resulting in more severe sanctions to deter any such behaviour.

UEFA say it themselves in the final sentence, as terms such as “more severe sanctions” and “fight against racist conduct has been stepped up” are used.

But is forcing a closure to one small section of a stadium really enough punishment for widespread racist abuse of an opposition player?

I don’t think so. UEFA need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that by handing out insignificant punishments like this, they’re only further encouraging this awful behavior to take place. Fans aren’t scared of the repercussions of their actions, and they won’t be until tougher sanctions are made.

Europe’s governing body missed the perfect opportunity the make an example of CSKA and the disgusting behavior of a section of their fans.

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

NYCFC
New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.