FIFA targets gay slurs by Chile, Mexico fans in Russia

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) In a bid to rid the World Cup of gay slurs, FIFA will get tough with Latin American fans in Russia.

FIFA has ordered tighter monitoring of offensive incidents at Confederations Cup matches which kick off Saturday, and wants referees to stop play if fans persist.

FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said Friday that curbing problems now is “exactly the whole purpose” of anti-discrimination work at the World Cup rehearsal tournament.

“Fans (must) understand that they will be jeopardizing the game by refusing systematically to respect fair play,” Samoura said at a briefing.

Confederations Cup teams Chile and Mexico have been sanctioned by FIFA a combined 17 times for fans’ homophobic chants in the current World Cup qualifying program.

Chants aimed at opposing goalkeepers are rife in South and Central America football, though some insist they are simply part of terrace culture.

“It’s complicated, because for Mexicans it’s not a chant with the intent to offend,” midfielder Miguel Layun said after a training session in Kazan, Russia. “It’s not about racism, it’s a chant that we even use among friends.”

A leader of the Mexico fan group “Green Wave” doubted FIFA was serious about intervening.

“We talked among ourselves and the feeling is that the chant won’t stop. No one believes they’ll really stop the game,” Gabriel Galvan told The Associated Press.

Mexico’s federation has been fined $120,000 by FIFA in recent months. The Gold Cup winner plays Portugal on Sunday in Kazan.

Chile’s football federation has been fined a total of $210,000 and prevented from playing four games at its national stadium in Santiago. The Copa America champion plays Cameroon on Sunday in Moscow.

Samoura said pre-match announcements in the four Confederations Cup stadiums can start a process that allows referees to pause play to broadcast warnings, and ultimately abandon games.

“If sanctions and education do not work then we have to take it further,” said the FIFA official, who said it has prepared an anti-racism message from Diego Maradona to be revealed on Saturday.

The process now adopted by FIFA has been used for several years by European football body UEFA. It was highlighted ahead of the 2012 European Championship played in Poland and Ukraine when Italy forward Mario Balotelli, who is black, said he was prepared to walk off the pitch if targeted by fans for abuse.

Russian league matches have also had a problem with racism and far-right fans with 89 incidents reported last season.

“We are grateful to FIFA,” Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko said through a translator on Friday, sitting next to Samoura at a briefing. “With great satisfaction we have welcomed this decision that the system will be strict.”

However, Mutko suggested racism in football was no longer a “systematic” problem in Russia.

“We do not see any big problems here,” said Mukto, who heads the World Cup organizing committee. “This is a problem that is not purely Russian. It exists everywhere in the world.”

AP Sports Writer Carlos Rodriguez in Kazan, Russia, contributed to this report

VIDEO: Thirsty goalkeeper concedes bizarre goal

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Rule number one for a goalkeeper: always pay attention to the action if you’re going to take a swig from your water bottle in the net.

Duisburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken didn’t pay attention and he will see this clip played over and over again as he conceded a bizarre goal in the German second tier against Ingolstadt.

Take a look at the video below to see the unbelievable scenes as the commentary team sum it up best with  their stunned reaction.


Mourinho on Conte feud, facing Chelsea again

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Jose Mourinho will meet Chelsea once again on Sunday as the Manchester United manager welcomes his former club to Old Trafford (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Mourinho, 55, has been involved in a public spat with Antonio Conte in recent months but the Portuguese refused to dredge up any more abuse for the current Chelsea manager ahead of this crucial top four clash.

The duo traded insults earlier this year as Mourinho suggested Conte and other managerial rivals “acted like clowns” on the sidelines, while Conte said Mourinho perhaps had “demenza senile” and Mourinho hit back with a quip about Conte’s four-month ban for not reporting alleged match-fixing in Italy. The spat ended when Conte said Mourinho was a “little man” and “fake” and said he would not forget the comments.

“The real meaning [of this game] is two of the best teams in England, two of the biggest clubs, are playing a match,” Mourinho said when asked about Conte.

Mourinho has lost three of the four games he’s played against Chelsea since he became United’s manager and in the first defeat, a 4-0 hammering in the league in October 2016, he reacted angrily to overzealous celebrations from Conte on the sidelines.

Speaking to the media about Chelsea, Mourinho played down any sentimental feelings he has for the club he led to three Premier League titles over two spells in charge.

“To play against Chelsea will mean less and less and less with the years,” Mourinho said. “So of course I left already a couple of years ago, and next season [it will be] three years ago, so step by step that feeling of: ‘I was the Chelsea manager’ or ‘I was their manager’ for them I think disappears. I have a good relation with the [Chelsea] board.

“I don’t forget how nice they were to me in a difficult period with the departure of my father. They show me in that moment they feel me as a friend that did his best for the club and always respects the club. So the board know the relation with me is always good. With the players, I don’t have any problem, any regret, any stone on my shoes, no problem at all. And the fans are fans. With many of them in the street I feel that empathy and that relation that normally should be a connection and feeling forever. When I play at Stamford Bridge some reactions from the fans are just reactions.”

Mourinho is still admired and thanked by the vast majority of Chelsea’s fanbase but there is always going to be a small contingent who hurl abuse at Mourinho simply because he isn’t their manager anymore.

Since he was fired as their boss in December 2015, the “Special One” has been complimentary of his time at Chelsea but when he managed United in 2016 at Stamford Bridge, he wasn’t subjected to chants of “you’re not special anymore!” from the home fans, to which he held up three fingers to signify how many league titles he delivered.

Mourinho isn’t talking about his spat with Conte ahead of this game, but let’s see how things play out on Sunday. If Chelsea stroll into Old Trafford and win to throw United’s top four hopes into doubt, Mourinho will likely come out swinging.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Stoke City

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Leicester City host Stoke City on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com) at the King Power Stadium.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Leicester currently sit in eighth place in the Premier League table and have one eye on finishing in the top six, while Stoke are second from bottom in the table but are just six points from the top 10.

In team news Leicester start Riyad Mahrez with Demarai Gray and Marc Albrighton in an attacking lineup, while Stoke bring in USMNT man Geoff Cameron in midfield with Stafyldis and Martins Indi coming into defense.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Maguire, Morgan, Chilwell, Ndidi, James, Mahrez, Albrighton, Gray, Vardy. Subs: Jakupovic, Dragovic, Fuchs, Iborra, Silva, Diabate, Iheanacho.

Stoke City: Butland; Bauer, Martins Indi, Zouma, Stafyldis; Cameron, Badou, Allen; Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting; Diouf. Subs: Grant, Pieters, Jese, Johnson, Adam, Ramadan, Campbell

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”