Bob Bradley’s Egypt squad may not be playing Ghana in Cairo after all

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The Ghana Football Association has written a letter to FIFA requesting next month’s World Cup play-off against Egypt be played at a neutral venue.

The second leg of the play-off, to be played on November 19th, is currently set to be played in Cairo after the Egyptian Football Association granted Bob Bradley’s request to play in the nation’s capital and in front of fans.

MORE: Bob Bradley’s wish granted – Egypt to play in Cairo

Arguing it is too dangerous to play the game in Cairo, Ghana is now requesting FIFA force Egypt to play the match at a “safe and secure” venue. “Our request is premised on the alarming and fast deteriorating security situation in Egypt,” Ghana officials wrote.

With last week’s riots in Cairo resulting in the deaths of 51 people, the GFA claimed some of its players expressed “grave concern over their safety for the match.”

“Much as we sympathize with our brothers at the Egyptian Football Association, we are highly concerned about the security and safety of our players, officials and supporters and would like Fifa to take the necessary steps to protect lives and from both Ghana and Egypt during the second-leg game,” the letter stated.

The GFA’s letter also notes that for the past two years Egyptian authorities have barred spectators from football matches, including World Cup qualifiers against Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Guinea.

The request, while not by any means surprising or unreasonable, will serve to frustrate Bradley.

After overcoming incredible odds both on and off the pitch to win all six of their group stage games in the qualifying process (the only team in the world to go unbeaten during such a stretch), the Egyptians were dealt a difficult blow when they drew the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists for the play-offs.

Through the entire qualifying process thus far, political uproar and violence has forced Egypt to play its matches outside of the capital city, in places like Alexandria and the seaside resort of El Gouna. The decision to award Egypt a match in Cairo with fans in the stadium was a major coup for Bradley, whose squad faces a tricky first leg match up in Kumasi on October 15th.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.