Romelu Lukaku speaks out in support of Nicolas Anelka, Everton removes video

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Romelu Lukaku has told Everton’s web site that Nicolas Anelka should not be suspended for his use of a quenelle in December, though good luck finding the evidence. The Toffees quickly removed video of their Chelsea loanee’s defense, with the club’s director of communications going public to distance Everton from their young Belgian’s comments.

Those comments were made in a video posted to the club’s website, with the 20-year-old Belgian making the widely held mistake of classifying Anelka friend Dieudonné, inventor of the quenelle, as merely a comedian. Now a political figure who has been repeatedly convicted of anti-Semitism France, the man Anelka was emulating has transcended his comedic past.

“[Anelka’s]  been my idol since I was a kid,” Lukaku told EvertonFC.com (as reported by The Guardian). “He still is.

“I think he shouldn’t be banned for that. He was supporting a stand-up comedian in France. We don’t have to make such a big deal about it. He’s an adult. I hope he doesn’t get suspended because he’s a player people want to see play on the pitch.”

There are enough problems with Lukaku’s statement to make a sentence-by-sentence critique. After all, who’s paying to see Nicolas Anelka play, at this point? If Anelka sits for five-plus games, nobody’s going to turn their backs on West Brom.

But that’s irrelevant. The biggest problem with Lukaku’s view is the attempt to dissociate the quenelle from its controversy. Although some have argued the gesture carries on anti-establishment sentiment, it’s more-widely known for its anti-Semitic intent, with the sign commonly evoked outside synagogues and other Jewish sites. Nobody tangentially familiar with its place in French culture can honestly separate a quenelle from that connotation, making Anelka’s defense (that he was only honoring his friend) laughable. Whether he intended any anti-Semitism, he should have known the gesture was inappropriate.

Lukaku’s willingness to defend Anelka forced Everton to quickly distance itself from their striker, pulling video his interview while clarifying the player’s thoughts did not reflect the club’s.

“It is the player’s opinion and not the opinion held by the football club,” according to Alan Myers, Everton’s director of communications. “We moved quickly to remove any interview that may have been offensive to anyone.”

Why the video ever went up in the first place may be something Everton’s pursuing. More broadly, Lukaku’s words (and the response to them) provide a couple of lessons. While nobody would begrudge somebody’s right to defend another’s acts, there are potential implications, like your employer failing to support your views.

And if you are going to defend Anelka’s act, at least put Dieudonné in the right context. While he was once a comedian, there’s little about him that’s funny anymore – particularly as it concerns his quenelle.

 

Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.