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After being racially abused, England’s players want hefty sanctions

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England’s players were subjected to racist abuse in Montenegro on Monday, as monkey chants and other racist comments were directed at several black players in the Three Lions squad.

[ MORE: UEFA charge Montenegro ]

Speaking after the game, Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi both hit out at the racist abuse of Danny Rose as Hudson-Odoi (making his full England debut at the age of 18) was also subjected to monkey chants from sections of the home fans.

“It’s unacceptable. I don’t think there should be discrimination no matter where you go, no matter what. It’s not right in football, at all,” Hudson-Odoi said after the 5-1 win for England. “We should be all playing fair, have a good game and enjoy ourselves but to hear that it’s not right and hopefully UEFA deal with it properly.”

England manager Gareth Southgate spoke passionately and eloquently on the topic, as his main aim is to protect his players and help them any way he can.

“I’m reflecting on ‘should I have done more?’ In the end, I think I tried to protect my players as much as I possibly can. I’m not the authority on the subject. I’m a middle-aged white guy speaking about racism,” Southgate said. “It’s not something I really have… I’m just finding it a really difficult subject to broach. I want my players to enjoy playing football and not be scarred by the experiences.”

What can be done to eradicate the racist abuse England’s players, and sadly, many others, have suffered on the pitch?

Small fines and one-game stadium bans are clearly not working, as UEFA have dished them out on multiple occasions in Russia, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia in recent years. Sterling is calling for longer stadium bans to punish all fans.

“It’s now time for the people that are in charge to put a real stamp on it because you can fine someone but what’s that going to do?” Sterling said. “You’ve got to make it harder – you’ve got to punish all the fans so they can’t come to the games, you’ve got to do something that’s really going to make them think twice. Because if their team can’t play with fans it’s going to be difficult for them and make them think twice about it.”

Southgate added that education of young people in societies across the globe — he was keen to point out that English soccer must get their own house in order too — is the only way to truly halt the shocking racist abuse.

“Sanctions are only of any use if they lead to education. Sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people,” Southgate added. “My kids don’t think, for one minute, about where people are born, what language they speak, what color they are. There’s an innocence about young people that is only influenced by older people. So we have to make sure the education is right for everybody, in our country the same.”

Back on the pitch, many believe that players subjected to racist abuse should simply walk off the playing field and the game should be forfeited. Stadium bans of 12 months would do plenty more damage than the current one-game bans dished out halfheartedly. Southgate is 100 percent correct.

This is not just about sanctions, it is about society and educating people. UEFA and FIFA are custodians of the game and must use their vast resources, along with national associations and clubs, to put programs in place to educate youngsters. This will not be a problem that is solved overnight in soccer or society. The future generations must know that this kind of behavior is abhorrent and the likes of Sterling is leading the calls for authorities to come down hard on anybody found guilty.

Small fines and minimal stadium bans haven’t worked. There has been some progress, but not enough. Heavier sanctions are needed. Now.

UEFA in particular have stood still for too long. We are in 2019. England’s players should not be the ones taking this sickening abuse head on.

River Plate to sponsor car in Indy 500

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There will be a soccer presence at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500.

On Thursday, Club Atletico River Plate announced, along with car owner Juncos Racing that Kyle Kaiser’s No. 32 car will feature a River Plate logo on the front of the vehicle. Juncos Racing is named after founder Ricardo Juncos, an Argentine native and clearly a big River fan.

Per a press release from River Plate, it’s the first time a soccer team is sponsoring a car in the Indy 500, which takes place this Sunday, May 26.

[READ: Pochettino hopeful Kane will be ready to make an impact in UCL final]

“As a River fan, I always wanted to have the logo of the Club in the car,” Juncos said in a press release.
“This race is very important for me. I am very happy and I believe that in the goal of River to expand into the Indy 500. From here to there will come positive things for both.”

Kaiser, just 23, is one of the new guys on the main IndyCar scene, especially after winning the IndyCar Lights title in 2017. It’s the racing equivalent of winning the Europa League. Unlike River’s reputation as one of the biggest clubs in South America, Kaiser just barely made it into the field all together, bumping former Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso out of the field by about one hundredth of a second.

While it’s cool to see a soccer team get involved in the Indy 500, a worldwide viewing event that’s also akin to a religious holiday throughout the state of Indiana, it’s another Buenos Aires club that really should have been the first to sponsor a car.

Racing Club, defending Argentine league champs, would have been terrific, Racing in Uruguay, or Racing de Santander in Spain. Perhaps one day in the future the three clubs can combine forces to sponsor an IndyCar event or a car competing in a race.

USSF, Relevant Sports clash in court over international matches

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NEW YORK (AP) A lawyer for a promoter asked a judge to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF last month denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company partly owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

During a half-hour hearing Thursday before New York Supreme Court Justice W. Franc Perry, a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration.

Blair G. Connelly, the lawyer representing the USSF, said because Relevent’s application included its executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, as the FIFA-licensed match agent requesting approval to stage the game, Relevent was bound by a provision in FIFA’s match agent regulations requiring any dispute with a national association be submitted to arbitration. FIFA’s rules specify such a case be heard by its player status committee, whose decision could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

“What they’re trying to do is outsource the court’s authority … to two bodies in Switzerland that don’t follow New York law and have nothing to do with it,” said Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent.

Connelly said the USSF’s decision could be overruled only if the court found it to be irrational. He also cited a 2007 decision by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Illinois, who ordered a suit against the USSF by ChampionsWorld, a previous Stillitano-affiliated company, be stayed pending FIFA’s arbitration procedure.

“They are bound by the contracts their agent enters into on their behalf,” Connelly said.

Litt said FIFA never issued a formal regulation against international club matches in different countries and the USSF cited only a news release.

“Was U.S. Soccer irrational when it concluded that something that FIFA itself called a decision by its decision-making body was in fact a decision? We’re we crazy to think that? Was U.S. Soccer just in outer space?” Connelly said.

Litt claimed the USSF made its decision to protect Soccer United Marketing, an affiliate of the USSF and Major League Soccer.

“We believe that the only reason that they don’t want professional league matches that count in the United States is because that would damage Major League Soccer,” Litt said.

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Perry did not announce any decision.

Wenger hints he may be retired from management

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It’s been a year since Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal departure was announced, and the legendary manager remains on the sidelines.

Whether by his choice or not, Wenger has spent the year away from soccer, instead vacationing and being a studio TV pundit in France. In his latest public comments, Wenger hinted that while he still plans to return to a role in soccer, he likely won’t be a club manager anymore.

“I thought I will come back into management very quickly, but I enjoyed taking a little distance,” Wenger told the BBC. Now I’m at a crossroads.”

Per the BBC, Wenger later added: “You will see me again in football. As a manager… I don’t know.”

In the weeks and months after Wenger was effectively forced out of Arsenal after 22 seasons, Wenger repeatedly said that he had many offers to return to management, and it was only a matter of time before he’d accept one of these offers. And yet, it’s been a year and Wenger remains on the outside, perhaps a clear sign that today’s soccer has passed him by, and unless he wants to move to the Middle East or another soccer outpost, he won’t be able to get a top job in Western Europe.

Despite his acrimonious exit, Wenger still supports the Gunners and had some thoughts on the team’s season, as well as the club’s run to the Europa League final.

“I miss competition and I miss Arsenal because I left my heart in there,” Wenger said. “I gave my life to this club for 22 years. Every minute of my life was dedicated to this club and I miss the values we developed inside the club.

“I support Arsenal. It will be forever my club.”

Pochettino hopeful Kane can “give us a hand” in UCL final

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Harry Kane returned to training this week as Tottenham continues preparations for the UEFA Champions League final.

The England and Tottenham captain has been out with yet another ankle injury since April 9. Initially feared he would be out for the rest of the season, Kane now looks set to play in the final match of the season, and his manager Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful he can make an impact.

“He’s training and has entered the final stage of his recovery, Pochettino told a conference in Bilbao, via video link, per AS. “We’re hoping he’ll be able to give us a hand – either from the start, from the bench or if not, then by giving us moral support in the dressing room. But we are optimistic that he’ll be able to help us on the pitch.”

Pochettino completed a magnificent feat guiding Tottenham to the Champions League final, but he may have one of the most difficult decisions he has to make in his managerial career ahead.

Should Kane be available to start, Pochettino has to decide whether he should break from the lineup that came back from a 3-0 deficit to Ajax, and potentially put Lucas Moura on the bench. If Tottenham loses, Pochettino is probably darned if he does, darned if he doesn’t with Kane.

Either Kane wasn’t fit enough to play and make a big impact, or he clearly was and he didn’t have enough time in the match.

Regardless, Pochettino will hope to have a full squad available, with Kane able to make a difference should be needed.