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PSG says it was not aware scouts were racially profiling

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain says it was not aware some club scouts outside the capital were secretly and illegally profiling potential young recruits with lists containing their ethnic origins.

PSG acknowledged that forms with “illegal content were used between 2013 and 2018”, but declined responsibility for implementing the policy.

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Speaking of his shock at hearing of the list, although acknowledging it existed, PSG deputy CEO Jean-Claude Blanc told of his outrage and pledged to get to the bottom of what had happened after an internal investigation was launched by the club last month.

“That we’re having to defend ourselves or justify ourselves on this subject now, with regards to unacceptable profiling, is a feeling of betrayal,” Blanc told The Associated Press in an interview at PSG’s office.

“Ethnic profiling made by a certain number of individuals in a recruitment cell outside of Paris is absolutely unacceptable and against our values. It doesn’t exclude the fact it happened.

“Our responsibility, in addition to shedding all the light on why it happened, will be to take measures to ensure it never happens again.”

Blanc told The AP a total of six players, spotted by the network outside Paris, were recruited to PSG’s youth academy based on profiling criteria.

He repeated that neither he, nor any other member of management, knew such lists had been compiled by cells working independently of the club’s knowledge.

According to a report from the Mediapart news website earlier Thursday, PSG’s non-Paris based scouts listed ethnic origins of potential recruits.

Mediapart and French TV program “Envoye Special” said a young black player was overlooked by PSG because of color.

Following an investigation based on the “Football Leaks” documents, Mediapart alleged 17-year-old midfielder Yann Gboho, who plays for France’s under-18s, was disregarded by PSG when he was 13, and the club’s management decided to cover up “those implicated in the scandal.”

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PSG confirmed in a statement Thursday that forms with such illegal content relating to ethnicity were used by the department responsible for player scouting outside the Paris region.

The club launched an investigation after being made aware, by media consortium EIC, of the scouting files last month.

“They existed. These ethnic parameters were introduced through the individual incentive of this small group of scouts who operated outside of Paris, who operated in a closed circuit. We were not aware of this,” Blanc explained. “It happened and it’s unacceptable. We are all shocked at the club.”

PSG has pledged to implement a code of conduct to reaffirm values and ethical practices, and to set up an ethical alert procedure to help prevent a repeat.

Blanc said the internal investigation will be conducted by external lawyers in the presence of a compliance officer.

French law prohibits the collection of personal data that shows the racial or ethnic origins of individuals.

French Sports minister Roxana Maracineanu expressed her “dismay” at the revelations.

“If these acts of discrimination are proven, they are punishable by disciplinary or even penal sanctions,” she said. “We cannot tolerate people being identified, recruited, according to the skin color or their origin.”

Nathalie Boy de la Tour, president of the French soccer league, added: “Such practices are unacceptable and illegal.”

According to a document obtained by Mediapart, PSG scout Serge Fournier had given Gboho excellent ratings, yet he was overlooked.

Fournier told Mediapart that PSG did not want scouts to recruit “players born in Africa, because one is never certain about their dates of birth.”

Mediapart also obtained documents from a meeting held in 2014 during which Marc Westerloppe, then in charge of PSG player recruiting outside the Paris area, said: “There is a problem on the orientation of the club, a balance is needed on the mixing, too many West Indians and Africans around Paris.”

Blanc said he knew of what he called the “extremely ambiguous” comments made by Westerloppe during one meeting, comments for which Westerloppe was summoned by the club.

“We asked him to explain and justify himself, which he did and we judged at the time – without knowing about the existence of the profiling and the ethnic criteria – his explanations as acceptable,” Blanc told The AP. “So we didn’t take any sanction against him, but we explicitly reminded him as to have no ambiguity with regards to the recruitment of youngsters.”

Asked why Westerloppe was not dismissed, Blanc replied: “Labor law does not allow you to fire someone just for making an ambiguous comment during a meeting … We didn’t have sufficient elements in hand to fire him three years ago. The existence of the lists was not known.”

Although PSG had not planned to speak directly with Gboho, who is now with first division Rennes, Blanc says discussions could take place.

“I think we’ll meet this young player at some point in the next few weeks,” Blanc said. “We’ll see if we meet him as part of the internal inquiry. For now it’s not planned.”

Olivier Letang, PSG’s sporting director at the time of the aforementioned lists, is now president of Rennes. He hired Westerloppe in January. Gboho signed professional forms this year.

Seven years ago, French soccer was rocked by revelations from Mediapart that then-national team coach Laurent Blanc and others discussed informal quotas limiting black and Arab youth players’ involvement in the national squad.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Robertson signs new long-term Liverpool contract

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Andrew Robertson will remain a hero at Anfield for a very long time.

The Scottish left back, 24, committed his future to Liverpool Thursday, as he signed a new long-term deal which will reportedly run until 2024.

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Robertson arrived from Hull City in the summer of 2017 and was expected to be the back-up left back behind Alberto Moreno. Instead he has become one of the top left backs in Europe, with his marauding runs down the flank a focal point of Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

Speaking about his new contract, the captain of the Scottish national team revealed how easy a decision it was to make.

“As soon as the club came to me, it was a no-brainer for me – I want to stay here, so as soon as they put an offer on the table it was signed as quickly as that,” Robertson said. “It was a pretty easy contract for me and I’m sure for the club as well. We both agreed very quickly, that’s why it’s been done so quickly. Getting to know the lads and working with all the staff at Melwood has been a pleasure. The best thing about work is when you love coming in every day – and that’s what I do here. I am glad I have extended my stay and hopefully we have a lot of good days ahead.”

Robertson’s rise to the top of the game has been quite sensational.

He started off in the lower leagues of Scottish soccer before landing at Hull and then having a decent season in the Premier League in 2016-17, although the Tigers were relegated.

Liverpool snapped him up for $10 million and he has gone from strength to strength with his incredible energy down the left making him a firm fans favorite. Off the pitch he does a lot in the community and he just seems like one of the good guys.

Klopp added that “he might be from Glasgow originally, but everything about him screams Liverpool” and hailed Robertson’s quality on the pitch as well as off it.

“Everyone knows about his personality, on and off the pitch, but maybe we are guilty at times of overlooking his quality,” Klopp said. “Ask those who play against him – be it matchday or training – and they speak about his technical and tactical qualities, just as much as his character and heart. Our supporters have fallen in love with him, he has fallen in love with them – and both he and his amazing young family are very much at home in Liverpool.

Robertson’s rise deserved to be rewarded as he was a regular at Liverpool for most of last season and his performances in Europe helped the Reds reach the UEFA Champions League final.

His target is clear: to win trophies at Liverpool.

“I hope to achieve success as a team over the course of this new deal,” Robertson added. “This club demands trophies and too long has probably passed without trophies. So I hope to help bring another couple of trophies to this club and help push in that direction because the fans demand it and the club demands it, so that’s what we aim to give. We came close, of course we have with the Champions League and things like that, but it’s about taking that next step and hopefully getting a winner’s medal around your neck, whatever competition it is. That is the main aim for us.”

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 23 of the Premier League season is almost here as a big London derby between Arsenal and Chelsea takes center stage.

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The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

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You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Leicester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Brighton – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle United v. Cardiff City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton v. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Chelsea – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9:15 a.m. ET: Huddersfield v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Fulham v. Tottenham – NBCSN [STREAM]

Madrid enduring its worst struggles in decades

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MADRID (AP) The first season without Cristiano Ronaldo is proving to be a difficult one for Real Madrid.

The Spanish powerhouse hasn’t been this bad in more than two decades.

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Not since 1996 had Madrid lost 10 matches at this point of the season. That team, led by Raul Gonzalez, lost 12 times by the end of January. Madrid’s team coached by Guus Hiddink three years later also struggled, losing 10 of its first 32 matches in all competitions, exactly like this season.

But all had gone mostly well for Madrid since then, especially after Ronaldo arrived in 2009 and led the club to a trove of trophies.

“The last few years have been some of the best in the history of Real Madrid,” defender Nacho Fernandez says. “It’s going to be difficult to match or surpass that.”

Madrid’s latest loss was at Leganes in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. It still advanced to the quarterfinals after having won the first leg 3-0, but the defeat again exposed some of the team’s problems since Ronaldo departed to join Juventus:

COACHING WOES

Zinedine Zidane left just before Ronaldo and his absence has been felt just as badly.

Madrid replaced the France great with Julen Lopetegui, but the former Spain coach lasted only about three months before he was sacked.

Former player Santiago Solari arrived as an interim coach and was given the full-time job after a good start, but confidence in him has quickly eroded as the team continues to be inconsistent.

He has struggled to manage some of his players, including Francisco “Isco” Alarcon, who could be on his way out because of his lack of playing minutes. He was substituted in the second half against Leganes on Wednesday.

Calls for another coaching change have been getting louder, adding to the team’s instability on the field.

BETTING ON YOUTH

Madrid did not make any blockbuster signing to try to replace Ronaldo, betting instead on youngsters such as Vinicius Junior, who is only 18.

The Brazilian has shown signs he could be a star, but still lacks the experience to lead the squad.

Mariano Diaz was given the No. 7 jersey when Ronaldo left, but his season has been marred by injuries and he hasn’t been able to contribute much so far.

SLUGGISH VETERANS

Madrid hoped veterans Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema could take over the leadership role that Ronaldo used to carry, but that never happened even though their numbers improved significantly after the Portuguese star left.

They each have scored more goals, but haven’t been consistent enough to also notch victories.

DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The club has conceded more than 30 goals and has one of the worst defenses among the teams in the top half of the Spanish league standings.

It lost 3-0 to Sevilla, Eibar, and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, and was demoralized by Barcelona 5-1 in the league at Camp Nou Stadium.

“We know that we have to get better,” midfielder Casemiro says.

INJURIES

It hasn’t helped coach Solari that he lost Bale, Marcelo, Toni Kroos and Diaz to lengthy injuries. Benzema is the latest concern for Solari because of a broken hand.

“It’s been an atypical season with all the injuries,” Fernandez says. “We haven’t been playing our best soccer, but there is a lot of season left.”

Madrid’s next match is on Saturday at home against Sevilla in the Spanish league. Madrid is fourth in the standings, 10 points behind leader Barcelona after 19 matches.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Humble Jose Mourinho: “I belong to top level”

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Jose Mourinho is back in the public eye a month after being fired as Manchester United’s manager.

Did he every really leave?

Mourinho is working as a pundit for beIN Sports in the Middle East and will give analysis of the huge Arsenal v. Chelsea clash on Saturday.

Speaking with huge passion to the outlet about a multitude of topics, Mourinho revealed he isn’t considering retirement and has his eyes on a top job.

“I want to coach. I am too young. I am in football for a long, long time but I will be 56 in a couple of weeks. I am too young. Where I am going to stay is where I belong. I belong top level football and that is where I am going to be,” Mourinho said.

We see that Mourinho’s famed confidence hasn’t taken a battering from losing his job at United…

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On a serious note, he did have some interesting things to say about his two-and-half seasons in charge of the Red Devils.

Mourinho said that the second-place finish he achieved at United in 2017-18 was one of his greatest achievements as a manager, and added that “some people don’t know what is going on behind-the-scenes” at the club.

And he added that the structure of the club has to be set up in a way for the manager to not focus on everything the modern day player is involved with, while several times he pointed to the fact that players now have a huge amount of power.

“A club must be very well organised, where the manager is only the manager and not the man that is trying to keep the discipline or educate the players,” Mourinho said.

Hmmm. I wonder who he could have on his mind there…

The former Chelsea, United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach also tried to put plenty of wrongs right (his words) about him, as he talked about the results versus style of play debate — he is obviously a fan of the former — and stated that he didn’t sell Mohamed Salah while he was in charge of Chelsea.

“People try to identify me as the coach who sold Salah. I am the coach that bought Salah,” Mourinho said. “It is completely the wrong idea. I played against Basel in the Champions League. Salah was a kid in Basel. When I play against a team I analyze the team and the players for quite a long time and I fell in love with that kid. I bought the kid. I pushed the club to buy him. At that time we already had fantastic attacking players… He was a lost kid in London. He was a lost kid in a new world. When the club decided to sell him, it was not me.”

It safe to say that Mourinho will be absorbing to watch as an analyst, and he plans to do that for a little while as he added that he wants to learn more about what goes on behind the camera in order to learn more about the modern game.

All of this talk taught us one thing: Mourinho really is struggling with how the game has changed and he needs to adapt to the modern game if he’s going to continue to be successful and last longer than a few years at one club.