Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Arsenal releases statement from Xhaka detailing fan abuse

1 Comment

No one’s excusing Granit Xhaka for swearing and gesticulating at the home fans who booed him off the pitch this weekend, but plenty are going to have sympathy for the Arsenal captain after he released an emotional statement on Thursday.

Xhaka, 27, admits to having been deeply hurt by reprehensible comments from “fans” on social media, and said it all boiled over on the pitch. The Swiss star had been dealing with disgusting comments regarding both him and his family, and admitted that they had affected him greatly. He is asking fans to join him in going back to a “place of mutual respect.”

[ MORE: Berhalter calls up 20 ]

When someone wishes death and disease on your wife and baby daughter, well, what’s wrong with people?

Those comments are far from excusable, and imitate the worst qualities of humans. Yes, there is a pretty vile culture right now where folks believe they’re entitled to call names and berate  people of all sorts — and not just on social media — but the fact that Arsenal green lit this statement from Xhaka shows that the club recognizes how bad things have gotten between players and fans.

Look at even the tamer comments on this Instagram photo of Xhaka and his new daughter, saying things like, “I hope you’re a better father than a football player” and begging him to take paternity leave.

The other thing about Xhaka is that whether he’s being played out of position, utilized incorrectly, or simply not playing well, the guy clearly busts his bones for Arsenal. There’s a reason his teammates elected him captain, and he cares deeply for the club. How that ever gets to death and cancer threats is beyond the pale and against the very nature of what it means to care about the club.

Either way, we’re unabashedly in his corner. Making millions of pounds/dollars/euros may allow fans to judge players critically, but it doesn’t turn them into inanimate targets. At least it shouldn’t.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Leave a comment

It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

Manchester United Watford live stream link
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

coronavirus
Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images
1 Comment

ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf