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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

Transfer news: King to Man United; Tagliafico to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Josh King has been linked with a move to Man United this summer as several top clubs are circling, while Ajax and Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico could be heading to Arsenal.

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First up, our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have a beauty of a report which states that four of the Premier League’s top six clubs want to sign Bournemouth striker Josh King.

King, 28, was the subject of a late bid form Man United in the January window but the Cherries turned it down as they needed him to help with their relegation battle. Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted it was tough on King and the players also revealed he was it was tough to see the move blocked, as he came through Man United’s youth academy and the Norwegian international is close with Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. King has scored 46 goals in 154 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth and has been instrumental since they were promoted to the top-flight in 2015. King loves Man United and this would clearly be a good fit for all concerned.

Per the fresh report, Man United are keen on King because he can play centrally and wide and with Odion Ighalo’s future uncertain amid his loan move from Shanghai Shenhua, Solskjaer wants to add one more striker this summer. King has one year left on his contract and Bournemouth are expected to cash in on him but Chelsea are also said to be interested, as well as two other ‘top six’ clubs.

Bournemouth rejected a $25 million offer for King in January but they would snap anybody’s hand off for that this summer given the financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact King will have just one year left on his current deal. Bournemouth have already been burned by not extending Ryan Fraser’s contract and he is set to be out of contract on July 1.

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Heading from Manchester to London, Arsenal are said to be interested in Ajax and Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico.

The Gunners continue to be linked with plenty of defenders and even though it is believed Mikel Arteta will not have a big transfer budget in the upcoming transfer windows, Tagliafico for $25 million is a steal.

According to the Sun, Arsenal want the 27-year-old as Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar recently said that Tagliafico, Andre Onana and Donny van de Beek are free to leave this summer if their transfer value is met. Tagliafico is said to be keen on a fresh challenge and wants a move to the Premier League.

Do Arsenal need a left back? Teenage star Bukayo Saka has been splendid out of position at left back this season but both he and Arsenal are keen to move him back into his natural position as a left winger, while young Scottish left back Kieran Tierney has struggled with injuries throughout his debut campaign in the Premier League.

Tagliafico can also play as a left-sided center back and with the Gunners experimenting at times with a 3-4-3 formation, he would give them flexibility and defensive options. It is clear Arsenal need to improve defensively and Tagliafico is a very solid left back who is good on the ball and is also a goal threat at the other end of the pitch.

Cologne deny Fortuna with amazing late comeback (video)

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Relegation-threatened Fortuna Dusseldorf thought they had secured a massive win away at FC Cologne in the Rhine Derby on Sunday as Kenan Karaman and Erik Thommy struck in each half to put them 2-0 up, but the hosts struck twice late on to grab a dramatic 2-2 draw.

Anthony Modeste and Jhon Corodba were the heroes for Cologne, who blew a 2-0 lead last week to draw 2-2 at home with Mainz but this time out they were on the other end of a comeback.

It didn’t look like being Cologne’s day for vast swathes of the game as at 1-0 to Fortuna, Florian Kastenmeier saved Mark Uth’s penalty kick in what looked like a key moment for Uwe Rosler’s Fortuna who are embroiled in the Bundesliga relegation battle.

The draw sees Fortuna move onto 24 points as they sit in 16th place, which is the relegation playoff spot. After a big win for 17th place Werder Bremen this weekend, plus heavy defeats for Mainz, Augsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt above them, the Bundesliga relegation battle has become extremely intriguing. A note for USMNT fans: midfielder Alfredo Morales put in a tireless 90 minute shift in central midfield.

Cologne sit 10th on 34 points and are in the hunt for Europa League qualification.

Fortuna went ahead early on as Karaman found some space in the box and his shot deflected in as the away side led at the break.

Cologne were handed the perfect opportunity to get back into the game in the second half as Uth first hit the post, then was denied by Kastenmeier before he was scythed down in the box as a penalty kick was awarded.

Uth, who scored a penalty kick last week, appeared to take the ball off Cordoba and Kastenmeier produced a fine save down low as Fortuna celebrated wildly once the ball was cleared.

Buoyed by that penalty save, Fortuna went up the other end moments later and doubled their lead as the ball found Thommy at the back post and he curled a sumptuous effort into the far corner.

Fortuna believed they were home and dry.

With 88 minutes on the clock, the Cologne comeback began as Modeste headed home superbly to make it 2-1 and give his side hope of grabbing a point.

 

In the 91st minute the equalizer arrived in similar fashion.

Fortuna ran out of steam and another cross from the right found Cordoba who nodded home to snatch a point for the hosts.

The draw felt like a win for Cologne and it was a sickening blow for a Fortuna side who badly need all three points in their battle against the drop.

Crucial week ahead for the Premier League

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The upcoming week is a huge one for the Premier League as a key vote and serious talks are set to take place with regards to restarting the 2019-20 season.

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All 20 clubs will meet on several video conference calls to discuss the protocols around a return to full-contact training, subject to government approval, as players, managers and the Premier League will discuss the details with medical experts. The UK government have yet to release details about stage two of a return to training for professional athletes and several Premier League stars have revealed their angst about returning to training.

Clubs will then vote on a return to full-contact training on Wednesday and depending on the outcome of that vote, that will shape further talks. If full-contact training is given the thumbs up, it is expected that on Thursday clubs will then discuss the plan to either restart the season in mid-June or curtailment plans which would see the table potentially decided on a points-per-game basis.

The Premier League confirmed over the weekend that from 1,744 tests on players and staff across the first two rounds of COVID-19 tests, eight positive tests have been recorded with players from both Watford and Bournemouth confirmed to have the virus.

Players will again be tested on Monday and Tuesday and the results of those tests will be key in seeing how the strict protocols at training grounds are working.

All 20 clubs unanimously voted in favor of a return to small-group training and they are all said to be in favor of a return to action, although some have publicly aired reservations.

The next few days seem pivotal as to whether or not the final 92 games of the Premier League season will be played and all eyes will be on the vote on Wednesday, if the UK government can provide details on the new protocols.

With the Bundesliga off and running, La Liga set for a June 8 restart and Serie A planning for a mid-June restart, the Premier League are correctly being cautious when it comes to a restart. Sooner or later they need to vote on a path forward and this week will be crucial.

Leipzig smash Mainz; crowd noise experiment success (video)

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RB Leipzig kept their Bundesliga title push on track with a resounding 5-0 win at Mainz on Sunday as a crowd noise experiment equally stole the headlines.

Remember: Leipzig beat Mainz 8-0 earlier this season and this latest big win pushed them back into third place and five points behind leaders Bayern Munich, who face second place Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

Julian Nagelsmann’s side scored early and often with Timo Werner grabbing a hat trick, plus Youssef Poulsen and Marcel Sabitzer adding a goal each. In truth, Leipzig should have won by more in a one-sided game which was talked about around the world due to a crowd noise experiment which included cow bells, drums and more broadcast on TV feeds but not in the stadium itself.

Throughout the game, crowd noise was played over the world feed and heard by the TV audience in the USA and elsewhere as supporters’ chants, cheers and jeers could be heard as a sound engineer played certain sound tracks at certain moments with wonderful timing. It was certainly a success and made watching the game more enjoyable for the TV audience as camera angles were also used cleverly to not show empty seats as much as possible.

As for the game itself, Leipzig went 2-0 up early on as Werner and Poulsen both finished calmly from fluid moves down the right.

First, Laimer popped up on the right wing and crossed for Werner to steer home at the near post, then Sabitzer appeared down the right and his clipped crossed was nodded home by the unmarked Poulsen.

Leipzig were all over Mainz in the first half as Werner was denied by goalkeeper Muller, then Poulsen shanked his effort wide from a good position and Nkunku slotted wide as they could have easily lead by four or five at half time.

They did lead by three goals as Leipzig launched another fine counter and Poulsen set up Sabitzer who found the top corner with ease.

Wave after wave of Leipzig attack continued in the second half as Werner scored his second and Leipzig’s fourth with another poacher’s finish.

Mainz simply couldn’t handle Leipzig’s movement and dropped deeper and deeper throughout as Werner finished off Poulsen’s quick free kick to put a bow on a comprehensive win for the Bundesliga and Champions League title chasers.

Even the (manufactured) home crowd at Mainz couldn’t help but applaud the five-star display from Leipzig.