Brazilian government sends troops to World Cup city after police strike

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A police strike in World Cup host city Recife has compelled the Brazilian government to send in army troops to the Pernambuco state capital to restore order amid a series of protests that have engulfed the city and country. After overnight reports of looting of shops and supermarkets and theft of cargo trucks, federal troops were sent to the northeast city as a the labor dispute reaches its third day.

Schools and universities have been closed amid the disturbance and civil servants have been given the day off off work while protests continue to criticize government spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The demonstrations have also hit the nation’s largest city, Sao Paulo, where protestors cut off access to the venue that will host the World Cup’s opening match.

From the Wall Street Journal:

State police walked off the job on Tuesday, demanding higher salaries. Schools and universities were closed because of concerns for student safety, local media said.

Recife will host five matches during the World Cup, starting with a match between Ivory Coats (sic) and Japan on June 14.

Pernambuco state has 18,800 police offers, according to spokeswoman Marcela Pimenta. Citing security concerns, she declined to say how many have walked off the job or how many federal troops are now in the city.

Given we saw similar incidents grab headlines before last year’s Confederations Cup, there’s no reason to think such protests are going away anytime soon. Perhaps there will be a break after this summer’s tournament, but demonstrations against the governments’ spending are likely to be prevalent through the 2016 Olympics.

For those protesting, the issue continues to be one of priorities. Whereas Brazil’s federal government is spending huge amounts on new facilities for its upcoming events, many would prefer those resources not go to isolated sporting events. That some infrastructure improvements around the events have been abandoned as the country struggles to meet deadlines has only heightened protestors’ concerns.

The World Cup begins on June 12 when Brazil hosts Croatia in Sao Paulo.

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.