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UEFA struggling to combat racism, but other parties chipping in

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UEFA has received untold criticism this week after the events on Tuesday that marred England’s qualifier in Bulgaria.

Everyone saw it coming – Gareth Southgate fielded questions before the match on what his team would do if the event of an incident, and a quarter of the stadium was closed thanks to previous occurrences. Yet when fans were pictured producing clear Nazi salutes and making monkey noises directed towards black England players, the game became secondary to the atmosphere and the on-field happenings became an afterthought.

The event had been well and truly marred.

Since, UEFA has done little except release a hollow statement and charged both teams – yes, both sides, including England – with violations stemming from the match in Sofia. Still, there is hope that future incidents can be both avoided and properly dealt with.

First, it appears the Bulgarian government is stepping in to act in the wake of Tuesday’s disgusting events. Bulgarian police have reportedly arrested 12 people with connections to the racist abuse and are investigating further, utilizing the country’s “protection of public order during sports events” laws that allow police to issue fines and bans. The fines reportedly amounted to $570 per person and each individual received a two-year ban from all sporting events in the country.

In addition, the Italian football federation announced that it would be implementing a specific stadium security review system to spot and punish racism. This comes in the wake of numerous incidents over the past few seasons that have gone unpunished thanks to a disciplinary tribunal determining the chants were not perceptible enough despite being heard both on television and on the pitch.

“It astonishes me that some chanting can be heard clearly and some cannot, so we need to work out why that is, but it is not normal” Italian federation chair Gabriele Gravina said. “I’m not interested in how loud or how much chanting there is but in the principle behind it. I’m not interested if it can be clearly heard or not. If it is just one, two or 10 people doing it, we need to intervene.”

Gravina says they are collaborating with the Ministry of the Interior as well as local police forces to not just use the technology but also follow through with sanctions and legal punishments once violations have been identified.

Still, UEFA continues to fall flat when it comes to punishing clubs and national federations that have repeated and widespread racism violations. It remains to be seen what UEFA will do with the events in Sofia, but recent events yet again show they are hardly interested in coming down with punishments that effectively motivate teams to care about stamping out racism.

For Wolves’ Europa League visit to Slovakian club Slovan Bratislava on Friday, a relatively simple loophole is set to be exploited to fill a stadium otherwise condemned to a closed-door policy for previous racism violations. Children under the age of 14 are permitted to attend closed-door matches for free, along with one required adult per 10 children, and Slovan is utilizing this policy to fill the stadium with an expected 21,000 fans despite the match officially to be played in front of an empty stadium. Thanks to the sanctions in place, Wolves only received 200 allocated tickets for the match, leaving their traveling support woefully undermanned against the massive home presence.

The Slovakian club was sanctioned for racist chanting in a home Europa League match against Greek side PAOK back in August, leading to a pair of closed-door matches. However, the club allowed 2,000 children in for their next home match against Besiktas despite the sanctions and is set to fill New Slovakia National Stadium nearly to its official capacity of 22,500. Other weak UEFA sanctions for racism include a total of $82,000 in fines and Slovan forced to display an “#EqualGame” banner.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings see plenty of players remaining in the upper echelons.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Matchweek 12 was wild, with players from Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester City continuing to dominate our top 20. The likes of Ciaran Clark, John Lundstram and Dwight McNeil were so close to cracking the top 20…

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1.  Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) – Up 2
2. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – Up 2
3. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 2
4. Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) – Down 2
5. Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester) – New entry
6. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester) – Up 1
7.  Fabinho (Liverpool) – New entry
8. Andy Robertson (Liverpool) – Down 2
9. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 6
10. Willian (Chelsea) – Up 6
11. Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) – New entry
12. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 7
13. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Even
14. Youri Tielemans (Leicester) – Even
15. James Maddison (Leicester) – New entry
16. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Down 4
17. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) – Up 2
18. Fernandinho (Man City) – New entry
19. Matteo Kovacic (Chelsea) – New entry
20. Richarlison (Everton) – New entry

U.S. teenager Matteo Ritaccio signs pro deal with Liverpool

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Another American making waves at a Premier League giant?

Maybe.

Matteo Ritaccio, who just turned 18 years old, has signed his first professional contract with Liverpool.

The Long Island native has been playing with their U18 academy side since the summer of 2018, as he holds an Italian passport and was therefore able to make the move to Europe from the USA.

Liverpool detailed how they have worked hard to scout and then secure the signature of Ritaccio, a midfielder.

“He had first been spotted by the Reds as a 13-year-old at a training camp for the US national team, though he also holds an Italian passport. A tough-tackling and exciting player, Ritaccio started the season in fine form for the U18s but his momentum was brought to a halt by a leg injury.”

Ritaccio is a product of the famed youth side BW Gottschee and he impressed Liverpool’s coaches with a fast start to the 2019-20 season before injury struck.

He will be back fit early in January and it will be intriguing to see how he develops.

Jurgen Klopp isn’t afraid to throw plenty of youngsters into the side, as he proved during the recent victory over Arsenal in the League Cup.

Remember the name: Matteo Ritaccio.

Everton’s Moise Kean dropped due to discipline issues

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Everton striker Moise Kean was dropped for the 2-1 win at Southampton on Saturday after being late for a team meeting.

Kean, 19, was not in the Toffees squad for their first Premier League away victory since March and Sky Sports in the UK say that was because the Italian international has been having issues with his timekeeping.

Here’s some more information from our partners at Sky Sports News in the UK:

“The former Juventus forward was late for a team meeting and as a result was left out of the squad for the 2-1 Premier League victory at St Mary’s. Sky Sports News understands it is the second time Kean has been late for a team meeting.”

It is believed the player has apologized to Silva and his teammates for being late, but he does have previous, and not just with Everton. Italy boss Roberto Mancini left Kean out of the Azzurri squad in September after he and Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo were late for a team meeting at the U21 European Championships in the summer.

Somebody get Kean a new watch, or at least set a few more reminders on his phone!

Kean arrived at Goodison Park for $33 million this summer but has yet to score for the Toffees as Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun have all been preferred to him in the central strikers role.

This is a tough one. Kean is young and adapting to life in a new country, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, but rules are rules and Silva obviously runs a tight ship.

Southgate on Sterling punishment: ‘We are like a family’

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Gareth Southgate called an impromptu press conference at England’s St. George’s Park training base on Tuesday to discuss one thing.

Raheem Sterling v. Joe Gomez.

[ MORE: Sterling issues public apology ]

According to multiple reports, on Monday the Man City winger was sat in the players’ canteen at England’s training base when Gomez, the first of several Liverpool players to arrive, walked in and was laughing. Sterling then reportedly said “you’re the big man now are you?” and confronted Gomez, trying to grab him around the neck as the two were separated.

This all came after Sterling clashed with Gomez in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over City at Anfield on Sunday, as the England winger was booed heavily by the home fans and also clashed with England teammates Jordan Henderson and Trent-Alexander Arnold during the game.

After a tumultuous 24 hours, Southgate kept calm as he discussed why he had decided to punish Sterling by making him unavailable for the EURO 2020 qualifier against Montenegro on Thursday.

“I love all of my players. We are like a family. The important thing is for a family to communicate and work through problems,” Southgate said. “I don’t expect as a manager to not have to deal with issues. In the end I have to find the right solution for the group. That’s a difficult line, you try to be fair when dealing with all players. I won’t always get that right but I am the manager. Raheem is very important for us but I felt it was the right thing.”

Southgate has been criticized by the likes of Rio Ferdinand and other ex-England players for making the spat public, but others believe he has handled it well and sent a clear message out to the rest of his squad.

Sterling is England’s best player, on current form, so leaving him out is a big call for Southgate. England’s manager is a big fan of Sterling and has praised his ability on the pitch and his maturity off it in recent months.

But Sterling was wrong to go at Gomez and he has since admitted it on social media.

Southgate wanted to nip this in the bud and he is in full control of the situation. What damage this incident, and the way he reacted, does in the long-term remains to be seen. But Southgate is a man who sticks to his principles and he doesn’t want England’s players going at each other due to club matters.

If he sent out a weak message following Sterling’s actions it would have told the rest of the squad it was fine for them to act in a similar manner.