UEFA fail again, order CSKA Moscow to play Champions League game with ‘partial closure’ after racist chanting

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On Wednesday UEFA inexplicably sentenced Russian side CSKA Moscow to play their upcoming Champions League game against Bayern Munich with ‘partial closure’ of the Arena Khimki stadium following the racist abuse of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure last week.

The verdict was released, read the full statement below, after uproar in the soccer world about the continued level of racist abuse in Russia and other Eastern European countries in recent years, with CSKA themselves denying the racist abuse of Toure ever occurred, despite clear audio and video footage showing the incident taking place in Section D behind the goal which has now been closed.

(MORE UEFA opens CSKA racism investigation, Yaya Toure says it’s not enough)

However the sanction imposed by UEFA on CSKA for their game against Bayern on Nov. 27 is laughable, in my opinion CSKA should have been thrown out of the competition. Yes, that would’ve caused uproar and unrest, but racism in soccer isn’t going to be stopped by ‘partial closures’ of stadiums, miniscule fines or getting players to hurriedly pass around a sign that reads “say no to racism” during the prematch anthem.

UEFA has missed a golden chance to set a precedence as to how racists who attend soccer games in Europe and across the world should be punished. Swift and harsh punishment should be the order of the day, and if domestic teams and national teams aren’t allowed to compete in the Champions League, Europa League and other big tournaments, then that should be a big enough punishment to make the clubs whose fans are guilty of such deplorable behavior stand up, take notice and do something to eradicate it.

(MORE CSKA Moscow president Evgeny Giner: ‘Yaya Touré made it up’)

Following the incident at CSKA Moscow, a formal charge was made by UEFA after Toure had complained to the referee during the game that a section of supporters made monkey chants and gestures at the Ivory Coast international during his sides 2-1 win in the Russian capital. Since then, CSKA have denied any racism took place, stating many other excuses and trying to blame the British media for creating a frenzy.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the racism allegations,” CSKA said on their website last week. “In a thorough study of the videotape, we found no racist insults directed at the guests by CSKA fans, and the delegate confirmed this at the end of the match.”

This incident is not an isolated one.

Across Russia in the past few seasons there have been numerous reports of racist abuse against players, Roberto Carlos had bananas thrown at him and racist banners waved about him when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala against Zenit St Petersburg and Krylia Sovetov Samara back in 2011.

In 2012  fans of Lokomotiv Moscow threw bananas at Anzhi defender Christopher Samba, while earlier this year a supporters group for Zenit wrote a statement demanding that the club didn’t sign any black players.

This has gone on long enough, and UEFA missed the perfect chance to do something meaningful in the battle against racism in soccer.

Here is the full statement from UEFA following the decision to punish CSKA for their fans’ behavior:

The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to PFC CSKA Moskva following incidents during their UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City FC on 23 October.

Charges
• Racist behaviour of CSKA supporters during the above-mentioned match (Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations).

Decision
• Partial closure of the Arena Khimki, where CSKA play their home games in UEFA competition: specifically, the Control and Disciplinary Body has decided to close sector D of the stadium during the club’s next UEFA competition home match.

CSKA’s next home fixture is scheduled against FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League on 27 November in Moscow.

The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. The European governing body has a zero tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination on the pitch and in the stands. All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions. Following the entry into force of the new disciplinary regulations on 1 June, the fight against racist conduct has been stepped up a level – resulting in more severe sanctions to deter any such behaviour.

UEFA say it themselves in the final sentence, as terms such as “more severe sanctions” and “fight against racist conduct has been stepped up” are used.

But is forcing a closure to one small section of a stadium really enough punishment for widespread racist abuse of an opposition player?

I don’t think so. UEFA need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that by handing out insignificant punishments like this, they’re only further encouraging this awful behavior to take place. Fans aren’t scared of the repercussions of their actions, and they won’t be until tougher sanctions are made.

Europe’s governing body missed the perfect opportunity the make an example of CSKA and the disgusting behavior of a section of their fans.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.