Carlo Tavecchio in racism row after calling African players “banana eaters”

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Who is Carlo Tavecchio, and why should I care if he’s a racist?

Well, beyond a general dread of racism, the reason to care about Tavecchio is because he’s about to become the next president of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC). Currently he’s a vice-president, and he’s in charge of the Lega Nazionale Dilettanti (National Amateur League), which controls all amateur soccer in Italy.

Tavecchio caused a stir this weekend when he suggested that Italy implement England’s strict requirements for non-EU players, holding them to high standards of play and professionalism.

He went on to contrast that with the Italian attitude, saying:

Here instead we get Opti Pobà, who previously ate bananas and then suddenly becomes a first-team player with Lazio. That’s how it is here. In England, you need to demonstrate what you have on your CV and your pedigree.

Opti Pobà is not, in fact, a person. He is an invention of Tavecchio’s, a way of referring to African players. Lazio have but one African player on their team. Nigerian Ogenyi Onazi arrived from Lagos club My People, joining the Lazio youth system in 2011.

Despite referring to Africans as banana eaters, Tavecchio remains in prime position to become head of the FIGC, after former president Giancarlo Abete stepped down following Italy’s early exit from the World Cup. Perhaps those prepared to vote for him believe what he said after his speech:

I can’t remember if I said the word ‘banana’ but I was referring to the CV and professionalism required by English football for players who come from Africa or other countries. If anyone has interpreted my speech as offensive, I offer my apologies.

Wanting to hold players to high standards before granting them work permits is one thing. Referring to them by use of a racial slur is quite another. Especially since Italy still grabs headlines for the racist behavior of its fans. They abused Mario Balotelli after the World Cup, the ultras regularly find themselves in trouble for racist chants or banners, and the fan curvas are often closed in punishment for behavior that abuses those of a different skin color — or even those from a different region of Italy.

This is the sort of behavior that Italy should be weeding out, not ushering up to such an influential position in the sport. Italy needs to take steps to address racism in soccer, not elevate a man that is likely to look the other way when players are abused.

VAR allows Man Utd goal, overturns Mane as Liverpool trails at half

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Marcus Rashford has put Manchester United ahead at Liverpool, and the Reds are furious that VAR didn’t reverse the marker.

The English striker was on the business end of a Daniel James cross, which came two moves after Victor Lindelof kicked Divock Origi as the Belgian lost possession with a sloppy touch.

[ MORE: WATCH 2nd HALF LIVE ]

Scott McTominay picked up the ball and sent James down the right flank. Virgil Van Dijk played off the crosser, and Joel Matip couldn’t clear the effort and it reached Rashford who beat Alisson Becker.

Origi was certainly caught by Lindelof, and no one would’ve blinked had Martin Atkinson ruled it a foul, so perhaps the poor touch is what cost the Belgian his whistle?

VAR again worked against Liverpool minutes later when a long ball over the top glanced off Sadio Mane’s hand before the Senegalese scored a goal. It had a little impact on the play, but the rules are the rules when they are bad ones.

Either way, the Red Devils relish the chance to deny Liverpool its chance at history. The visitors are one win from matching PL records for consecutive wins and away wins.

Tuanzebe injured in warm-ups, Rojo now in Manchester United XI

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Well then.

Manchester United’s announced XI has changed thanks to a presumed injury to center back Axel Tuanzebe.

Marcos Rojo will take the youngster’s place in a back three with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

Liverpool and United kickoff from Old Trafford at 11:30 a.m. ET (Watch live at on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The 29-year-old Rojo has played four times this season, but just 30 minutes in the Premier League.

Phil Jones has been added to the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Rojo, Young, Fred, McTominay, Pereira, James, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Mata, Martial, Jones, Greenwood, Garner, Williams.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Origi, Firmino. Subs: Adrian, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana.

Lukaku scores 2, celebrates with Conte as Inter Milan bounces back

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If this guy was still in red, Manchester United would have a lot more hope heading into today’s visit from Liverpool.

Romelu Lukaku scored his fourth and fifth Serie A goals of the season on Sunday as Inter Milan outlasted Sassuolo 4-3 at Stadio Citta del Tricolore.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch Sargent scores ]

Lautaro Martinez also scored twice in the win, as Inter rebounded from its loss to Juventus and reclaimed second place. Inter sits a point back of The Old Lady.

Lukaku caused a bit of buzz online when he raced over to manager Antonio Conte following his second goal for a fiery embrace (It’s Conte. Fiery is his thing).

From Football-Italia:

“Conte and I are both team players, so when I score a goal, I want to celebrate with everyone. I am focused only on working and giving my best in every match.”

Inter is home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in almost a must-win given its slow start to life in the Champions League.

Lukaku, who’s also scored six goals in his last four appearances for Belgium, already has a goal in a Milan Derby and a solid strike partner in Martinez.

He ranks near the top of Inter’s performance charts on WhoScored, chipping in on the defensive end as well.

Watch Live: Manchester United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United chases a notable home win over rivals Liverpool without Paul Pogba and David De Gea, as the visitors look to match a pair of Premier League records on Sunday at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Liverpool can tie the standard for consecutive away Premier League wins (9) while also winning its 18th-straight league match.

There’s a place on the Manchester United bench for Anthony Martial, but there are three center backs in the forms of Harry Maguire, Axel Tuanzebe, and Victor Lindelof.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is not ready for any sort of return.

David De Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have passed fit for United, while Divock Origi starts with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane for Liverpool.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Tuanzebe, Young, Fred, McTominay, Pereira, James, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Mata, Martial, Rojo, Greenwood, Garner, Williams.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Origi, Firmino. Subs: Adrian, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana.