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Stalingrad history a constant presence for World Cup workers

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VOLGOGRAD, Russia (AP) Sergei Kamin knows exactly what to do if his workers find a bomb from the Battle of Stalingrad.

“The first procedure is surprise. The second procedure is fear,” he jokes. Step three is to call in the specialists.

Kamin is directing construction of a stadium for next year’s World Cup in the city of Volgograd – known as Stalingrad during World War II. Four World Cup matches are set to be staged in the new stadium.

For locals, 2018 brings the World Cup but also the 75th anniversary of the end of one of the bloodiest battles in history, which left the city devastated.

The stadium’s riverbank location was a key site in one of the war’s pivotal battles, where German forces were first stopped from crossing the Volga, then gradually surrounded and beaten. The battle lasted more than five months, with more than a million casualties on the Soviet side alone, as Germany was forced onto the defensive in the East.

When the battle finally ended, the wrecked city of Stalingrad held a football match, marking the first hopes of a return to normal life.

Local team Dynamo Stalingrad beat Spartak Moscow 1-0 on May 2, 1943, in front of some of the city’s few surviving inhabitants. The Soviet state hailed the match as a symbol of its people’s resilience and grit.

“It’s a historic match. And today we have huge traditions of football here in Volgograd,” governor Andrei Bocharov says.

The effects of the war can still be felt. During construction, Kamin’s workers have found more than 200 shells and other armaments, as well as the bodies of two still-unidentified Soviet soldiers. The site was home to a Soviet command post during the battle of Stalingrad.

When munitions were found during excavation, police sealed off the area to allow specialists to work, causing a few headaches for construction bosses. Thankfully none of the shells turned out to be live, Kamin said. It’s not a problem isolated to Volgograd, either. German aerial bombs have reportedly been uncovered during work on other World Cup stadiums in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don.

Fans coming to Volgograd for the World Cup will see reminders of the city’s violent past everywhere they go. The city is packed with memorials to the dead of World War II and also the Russian Civil War, where Volgograd – then called Tsaritsyn after the Russian emperors – was a battleground between 1918 and 1920.

Towering behind the stadium is the Mamayev hill, a complex of monuments topped by an 85-meter sculpture of a woman – representing the Russian Motherland – wielding a sword.

The Volgograd stadium was designed to be partly below ground, to ensure it didn’t block views of the memorial. “It really fits in,” Kamin says.

Governor Bocharov, a former soldier who was decorated in the First Chechen War of the 1990s, says Volgograd should be a symbol of peace.

“Every millimeter of ground here has been watered with blood,” Bocharov says. “We know the price of victory and it is very high.”

A World Cup game there between Germany and Russia would be the perfect symbol, Bocharov added, though it’s all up to the draw.

Manchester United to seek out those who continue offensive Lukaku chant

Andrew Matthews/PA via AP
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Some Manchester United supporters persisting in singing a chant glorifying Romelu Lukaku which has been deemed racist by many for its depiction of the player’s penis size.

Lukaku was among those to ask that fans stop singing the song, as did the club, but it was heard from the away end at St. Mary’s during Manchester United’s 1-0 win on Saturday (where Lukaku scored the winner).

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s gorgeous free kick ]

United responded with vigor after the match, releasing a statement claiming it would request closed circuit footage of the fans in attempts to ban those singing the song based on The Stone Roses’ “Made of Stone.”

WATCH: Coutinho spins gorgeous free kick past Schmeichel

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Minutes after setting up Mohamed Salah for a back door header for a 1-0 lead at Leicestwer City, Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho tacked on a goal of his own.

WATCH LEICESTER-LIVERPOOL ONLINE, HERE

Coutinho scored a beauty in the 23rd minute, as the Brazilian lorded over a free kick before spinning a goal just off the top of the wall and past a flying Kasper Schmeichel.

It looked like it was headed for the upper 90 even had it not taking its tiny deviation. The kick was a masterful effort from Coutinho.

Everton’s comeback win puts Koeman “in a totally different world”

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A quiz for you. Oumar Niasse‘s two goals:

  • A) Saved Ronald Koeman‘s job
  • B) Led Everton’s come back win
  • C) All of the above

Koeman admitted “there were a lot of emotions” in Everton’s 2-1 home win over Bournemouth on Saturday, as the Toffees got off the mat to post their first Premier League win since Aug. 12.

[ RECAP: Everton 2-1 Bournemouth ]

After a summer of spending, the Toffees were expected to compete for another berth in a European competition. Instead, a murderer’s row of early fixtures had Everton very low on the PL table.

Was Koeman able to stay calm as his team struggled at home against Bottom Three side Bournemouth?

“Calm after the game, yes. There were a lot of emotions. It was a difficult game, we did not create many chances and we took the right decision after 1-0 down to try something different – play two strikers and go more direct.

“It is a totally different world after winning. You have key moments during the season and this was a big win that will give everyone a boost.”

Apollon Limassol is next for the Toffees, followed by matches against Burnley and Brighton.

Jose Mourinho responds to sending off, Man United win

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho saw his side battle to a 1-0 win away at Southampton on Saturday as they kept their unbeaten start to the Premier League season going.

Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game after 20 minutes and although Saints had the better of the play in the second half, United’s defense held firm.

Towards the end of the game Mourinho was sent to the stands by referee Craig Pawson for encroachment as he stepped onto the pitch during the action.

What happened?

“I don’t know, you have to ask the referee,” Mourinho said.

He then wasted more time by shaking the hands of every member of Southampton’s coaching staff before he briefly went into the stands before the final whistle was blown.

It remains to be seen if he will face a touchline ban or fine for his actions but speaking to Sky Sports, Mourinho focused on the performance of his team.

“It is not always possible to operate at high quality but fought hard. We did what many teams in the Premier League do for 90 minutes, which was play with five defenders at the back. Credit to Southampton, they tried to play. Pellegrino changed the team and sent on another striker to play more direct.

“It was a hard game but I am really happy. Romelu Lukaku’s work is so important for us. He scored his goal and worked hard like everybody else. Nobody feels the pressure to play always attacking football because so many teams play always defensively. I felt some of the boys were not sharp. I didn’t feel like we could score three or four goals like we sometimes do so the option was to make sure we got the points.”