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Benzema says race, not sex-tape scandal, reason for his EURO 2016 exclusion

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PARIS (AP) Karim Benzema has accused Didier Deschamps of giving in to pressure from racists when the France coach decided not to include him in the squad for the European Championship.

[ MORE: All the latest EURO 2016 news ]

In an interview with Spanish sports newspaper Marca published Wednesday, Benzema said he does not believe that Deschamps is a racist, but that he “bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France.”

Deschamps has been a long-time supporter of Benzema, who has been suspended from the national team because of his involvement in an extortion scam over a sex tape involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

“I would have liked to play for my country, but unfortunately that’s impossible,” said Benzema, who is of Algerian descent. “Missing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a setback, but the European Championship at home is even harder. This is one of the biggest disappointments I have had, without a doubt.”

[ MORE: Deschamps names star-filled squad for EURO 2016 ]

This latest off-the-field controversy is unlikely to improve Benzema’s already tarnished image in his own country. France’s junior minister for sports, Thierry Braillard, said on Twitter that Benzema’s statement is “unjustified and unacceptable. Total support to FFF (French football federation) and Didier Deschamps.”

Benzema’s comments echoed those of former France international Eric Cantona, who said last week that Deschamps might have left out Benzema and Nice winger Hatem Ben Arfa on racial grounds.

Ben Arfa – whose father is a former Tunisia international – scored 17 goals in 33 French league matches this season but was not selected in Deschamps’ group of players for the tournament starting in France on June 10.

Deschamps had many offensive options at his disposal and picked six attacking players, including Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac.

[ MORE: Zlatan is really enjoying the speculation over his next club

“Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player,” Cantona told the Guardian newspaper. “But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America. So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.”

Deschamps’ lawyer said he will sue Cantona for his comments.

Benzema, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid last week, said the political context in France, where the far right has been gaining political support over the past five years, played against him.

France’s far right, anti-immigrant National Front is increasingly popular under leader Marine Le Pen, who has brought it toward the political mainstream – and who is expected to make it into the presidential election runoff next year. The party was the top vote-getter in regional and European elections last year, but maneuvering by traditional parties kept it from winning any governorships, and may keep Le Pen from the presidency.

In addition to its core anti-immigration message, the party rails against what it calls the “Islamization” of France and wants France out of the euro and the European Union – though one of its major pulpits is the European Parliament, where it’s part of a far right bloc.

[ MORE: Payet and … Milner(?!) … EURO’s most in-form players ]

“You have to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections,” Benzema said.

Earlier this year, French football federation president Noel Le Graet spoke of his shock at the amount of racist hate mail he received telling him not to select Benzema.

Speaking to reporters from Austria, where the France squad is preparing for Euro 2016, Le Graet insisted Benzema has not been suspended for life.

“We’ll do without him during Euro 2016, then we’ll see,” Le Graet said. “I like him and I did not change my mind. He got a bit carried away, I’d rather he were a bit more friendly, but I won’t make further comment on the issue.”

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international matches, also missed the 2010 World Cup. Former France coach Raymond Domenech left him out of his squad in the wake of another scandal, when Benzema and teammate Franck Ribery were handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute. Both were acquitted.

“France is going to realize that it has been unfair to me,” Benzema said.

Tottenham signs Mauricio Pochettino’s son to contract extension

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Mauricio Pochettino put his arm around the player as he always does when a Tottenham member signs a new contract. This one was different.

A proud dad smiled for the camera as son Maurizio put pen to paper on a new deal seeing him move up to the U-23 side. The 18-year-old has been with Spurs youth side since following his father from Southampton to the English capital four years ago.

The boy impressed in 21 appearances for the U-18 squad last season, deployed on the wing where he scored four goals and assisted another. He was part of the squad that took on his old club Southampton in the very first event held in the club’s new stadium, essentially a trial run before the true opening match for the senior side.

Unlike his father, who is Argentinian and played for the Argentina national team, Maurizio was born in Barcelona and therefore could choose to represent Spain if he so desires, or his father’s native Argentina – given, of course, he reaches those heights. First, it will be the Checkatrade Trophy he takes part in, with the Spurs U-23 squad set to take on Gillingham, Colchester United, and Ipswich Town in Southern Section Group A.

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2019/20 underway… #COYS

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USMNT notes: Robinson moves to Wigan, and more

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It’s been a busy day of U.S. Men’s National Team related news, from Tyler Boyd signing with Besiktas to U.S. Soccer announcing a friendly match with Mexico in September at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Here’s everything else you may have missed today relating to the USMNT and Americans Abroad.


Robinson joins Wigan in permanent transfer

Antonee Robinson is heading back to the Championship, but this time, he won’t be heading back to Everton at the end of the season.

Robinson on Monday completed a permanent transfer to Wigan. where he spent last season and helped the club avoid relegation. Robinson has signed a three-year contract and he joined for a reported $2.5 million transfer fee, per Wigan Today. He battled injuries to make 26 appearances in all competitions.

Robinson, born in England to an American father and British mother, came up in Everton’s Finch Farm academy but never broke through to make a first team appearance. Instead, he spent time in the lower levels on loan to Bolton and then Wigan. With Everton’s signing last year of Lucas Digne, the left back spot is locked up for quite a while, leaving Robinson second-choice and in search of first team minutes again.

For the USMNT, Robinson made his debut in the 3-0 win over Bolivia in late May, 2018, and has gone on to make seven appearances for the senior team, including a start against Jamaica, though it didn’t go well in a 1-0 defeat at home. Robinson was on the 40-man provisional Gold Cup roster for coach Gregg Berhalter and he also took part in a European-based training camp for the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team as the team starts preparing for Olympic qualifying, which will likely take place later this year.

Robinson will likely play a key role in helping the U.S. make it to their first Olympics since 2008 in Beijing.


Reyna heading to USA with Borussia Dortmund

Claudio Reyna’s son Giovanni Reyna is off to a strong start after officially being announced as a signing by Borussia Dortmund. Whether for marketing reasons or sporting reasons, Reyna was one of the 26 players to make the flight to Seattle as Dortmund takes some preseason action in the U.S.

BVB will face the Seattle Sounders in Seattle on Thursday before heading to take on Liverpool in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday.

It’s a quick burst in the U.S., but perhaps Reyna can get a few minutes of action in his home nation before heading back to Germany to try and see if he can break into the squad.


Scott set for Newcastle? 

British-born American midfielder Kyle Scott appears that he will still be on the books at a Premier League club next season.

According to multiple reports, including the Newcastle Chronicle, Newcastle FC is interested in signing Scott, thanks to a reported recommendation from former coach Rafa Benitez. Scott, 21, has spent the past 12 years in Chelsea’s academy and reserves, but he’s hardly sniffed a match, at least for the first team. He spent some time on loan with Dutch second-division side Telstar last year, but it wasn’t declared permanent.

Now, having been let go by Chelsea, Scott is looking for a new club. It’s unclear, however, considering his lack of first team experience, if he’d be able to step into the lineup at Newcastle and really make a difference so soon.

In the past, Scott has appeared for the U.S. Under-18s and U-20s. Perhaps some regular playing time in the Premier League can get him into the senior national team.

Watch: Hear from Bournemouth’s Howe in training

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Ever wondered what it is like to go through preseason training with a Premier League?

Thanks to AFC Bournemouth, now we know.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was “mic’d up” during a preseason training session on Monday, giving fans an inside look into his team gaining fitness and going over some key movements that they’ll surely be using during games this season.

Plus….players biking to practice and the dreaded beep test.

Here from Howe and the players above and take a look at a Premier League preseason.

Dietrich quits as club president of crisis-hit Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Wolfgang Dietrich quit as president of German second-division team Stuttgart on Monday after saying he no longer wants to be made a scapegoat for all that’s wrong at the crisis-ridden club.

The 70-year-old Dietrich, who took over as president in October 2016 and whose term was due to run until 2020, said he never expected such “hostility and malice” as he experienced at the club’s annual general meeting on Sunday.

[READ: Tyler Boyd signs with Besiktas]

The AGM had to be cancelled after about 4,500 members were unable to vote for the club’s management board because of Wi-Fi problems. Dietrich broke off the meeting to loud jeers and protests and was accompanied by bodyguards from the interior of the stadium.

Dietrich said he no longer wants to “be in charge of an organization that is neither willing to stand up to these interests against me nor is able to guarantee the smooth running of a general meeting.”

Dietrich was already under fire for his links to investment company Quattrex Sports, which provided loans to several of Stuttgart’s rivals. In his 3+ years at the club, Stuttgart has had three coaches, two sporting directors and was relegated from the Bundesliga last season.