The ‘Theater of Dreams’ too quiet for Manchester United supporters

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Apparently the “Theater of Dreams” has not been very dreamy of late.

Manchester United, eager to bring the club in line with the ebullient atmospheres of European clubs, has hired a “specialist” to help provide an extra boost at Old Trafford. The audio consultant, who was present at the stadium for United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool this past January, is planing to attend another match before the season is out.

The impetus for bringing in the specialist are the nearly 15,000 fans who pack Old Trafford’s famed Stretford End, who have become increasingly crestfallen with the lack of noise inside the nation’s largest stadium. “There were supporters in the Stretford End who thought they had made a lot of noise only for friends in different parts of the ground to say they couldn’t hear them,” a United source told the Manchester Evening News.

The club initially tried to tackle the problem by creating a ‘singing section’ in the newly-named Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. The section was planned to be similar to the ‘Red Action’ section at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. While many may laugh at the idea that United was taking atmosphere tips from group in a stadium renowned for its modern comfort and not it’s operatic noise, the Red Devils were nevertheless forced to scrap the plan due to safety and security fears.

Like most crowd issues in England, it all comes back to the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. Specifically, United feared that housing fans in the top tier could cause the stand to “flex” during active unifying celebrations like Manchester City’s ‘Poznan’ adaptation. United claim they continue to remain committed to moving away supporters from their current location but the task is proving difficult.

United supporters blame the hushed atmosphere at Old Trafford on the increase of corporate and tourist guests. There’s little doubt that this issue is affecting not only Old Trafford but every major sporting venue across the globe. Rising ticket prices and a slumped economy mean that only those with the deepest pockets can afford to attend a match. And those flush with cash much prefer to sit quietly in the stands with their peacoat buttoned high, legs crossed and silk scarf blowing in the wind. These gentlemen aren’t ripping off their shirts and belting out supporters chants.

But in England the problem is much deeper than snooty and potentially disinterested guests. The problem begins and ends with ridiculously tight security. Yellow Jackets flood the aisles, diffusing any potential for uproar between opposing fans even when it’s harmless banter. Merely standing up at a Premier League game puts you at risk of being removed. Heck, taking pictures with your camera phone can land you in trouble. Banners aren’t permitted to be flown freely and instead must be strategically placed against cement walls.

Fact is, the security at Premier League matches isn’t changing and the atmosphere at Old Trafford will never be like Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena or Red Star Belgrade’s Marakana Stadium. But advancements can be made. And more than anything it’s up to the supporters to band together, figure out the security loopholes and access them. Maybe it’s time United supporters looked to their brothers across the pond in places like Portland and Seattle, where some pretty notable “specialist” lay.

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

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Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE