Confederations Cup

FIFA targets gay slurs by Chile, Mexico fans in Russia

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) In a bid to rid the World Cup of gay slurs, FIFA will get tough with Latin American fans in Russia.

FIFA has ordered tighter monitoring of offensive incidents at Confederations Cup matches which kick off Saturday, and wants referees to stop play if fans persist.

FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said Friday that curbing problems now is “exactly the whole purpose” of anti-discrimination work at the World Cup rehearsal tournament.

“Fans (must) understand that they will be jeopardizing the game by refusing systematically to respect fair play,” Samoura said at a briefing.

Confederations Cup teams Chile and Mexico have been sanctioned by FIFA a combined 17 times for fans’ homophobic chants in the current World Cup qualifying program.

Chants aimed at opposing goalkeepers are rife in South and Central America football, though some insist they are simply part of terrace culture.

“It’s complicated, because for Mexicans it’s not a chant with the intent to offend,” midfielder Miguel Layun said after a training session in Kazan, Russia. “It’s not about racism, it’s a chant that we even use among friends.”

A leader of the Mexico fan group “Green Wave” doubted FIFA was serious about intervening.

“We talked among ourselves and the feeling is that the chant won’t stop. No one believes they’ll really stop the game,” Gabriel Galvan told The Associated Press.

Mexico’s federation has been fined $120,000 by FIFA in recent months. The Gold Cup winner plays Portugal on Sunday in Kazan.

Chile’s football federation has been fined a total of $210,000 and prevented from playing four games at its national stadium in Santiago. The Copa America champion plays Cameroon on Sunday in Moscow.

Samoura said pre-match announcements in the four Confederations Cup stadiums can start a process that allows referees to pause play to broadcast warnings, and ultimately abandon games.

“If sanctions and education do not work then we have to take it further,” said the FIFA official, who said it has prepared an anti-racism message from Diego Maradona to be revealed on Saturday.

The process now adopted by FIFA has been used for several years by European football body UEFA. It was highlighted ahead of the 2012 European Championship played in Poland and Ukraine when Italy forward Mario Balotelli, who is black, said he was prepared to walk off the pitch if targeted by fans for abuse.

Russian league matches have also had a problem with racism and far-right fans with 89 incidents reported last season.

“We are grateful to FIFA,” Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko said through a translator on Friday, sitting next to Samoura at a briefing. “With great satisfaction we have welcomed this decision that the system will be strict.”

However, Mutko suggested racism in football was no longer a “systematic” problem in Russia.

“We do not see any big problems here,” said Mukto, who heads the World Cup organizing committee. “This is a problem that is not purely Russian. It exists everywhere in the world.”

AP Sports Writer Carlos Rodriguez in Kazan, Russia, contributed to this report

FIFA’s Confederations Cup has uncertain future after Russia

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GENEVA (AP) The Confederations Cup soccer tournament might have some fans around the world. If so, they should enjoy this one in Russia while they can.

FIFA’s eight-nation World Cup rehearsal for the host country, World Cup title-holder and six continental champions is not sure to survive for another edition.

“If there was no Confed Cup in 2021, I wouldn’t be unhappy,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said last month when he announced a squad for the June 17-July 2 tournament in Russia with only three of his 2014 World Cup winners. “I don’t think those involved would be unhappy either.”

The Confederations Cup has struggled to spark attention outside the competing countries since FIFA took over organizing it for the 1997 edition, which tournament founder Saudi Arabia hosted.

Now that some teams seem to care little – and sluggish ticket sales to Germany fans have lagged behind Chile’s – the tournament has a problem in an increasingly crowded calendar.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino put the Confederations Cup on notice as part of a leadership review.

“We are putting everything on the table,” Infantino said of the Confederations Cup’s future at the group-stage draw in Kazan last November. “Shall we play it in June? Shall we play it in November? Shall we think about the format?”

Momentum for change was created by moving the 2022 World Cup dates in Qatar to start in November instead of June to avoid the searing heat.

A traditional Confederations Cup as rehearsal exactly one year ahead in peak time for European leagues is not acceptable. FIFA suggested in 2015 that Qatar could stage a Club World Cup in late-2021 as an “operational test event.”

Then under Sepp Blatter’s leadership, FIFA also said a Confederations Cup in June 2021 could still be held “in another (Asian Football Confederation) country.”

China would be an obvious potential host for a four-venue event if FIFA agrees. Australia, Japan and South Korea would also be options.

FIFA already has other test event plans for the expanded, 48-team World Cup in 2026. A new six-team, four-game playoff round in November 2025 will be played in the host countries.

Infantino has also speculated about expanding the Club World Cup, which could be a candidate for the June 2025 slot.

It is unclear that the Confederations Cup earns its share of revenue.

The 2013 edition in Brazil cost FIFA $70 million in expenses, according to that year’s accounts. Yet broadcasting and sponsorship rights are bundled into World Cup deals that are the real attraction.

If FIFA does seek change in 2021, it still has contracts to provide a Confederations Cup to commercial partners whose deals run through at least the 2022 World Cup.

What about the actual football, aside from business and politics? Could it save the tournament by appealing more broadly beyond the countries taking part?

The 2013 edition was mostly a success on the field, even as tear gas wafted across nearby stadiums from a wave of street protests against unpopular tiers of Brazilian government.

Neymar’s stunning goal in the third minute of the opening game against Japan set the tone for an intriguing tournament. Italy beat Japan 4-3, Brazil beat Italy 4-2, and overmatched Tahiti lost 10-0 to Spain and 8-0 against Uruguay.

Crowd sizes averaging around 50,000 far outstripped previous editions, and 73,000 people were at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro to see Brazil beat Spain 3-0 in an incident-packed final.

In Russia, there will Cristiano Ronaldo to compensate for no Neymar – even if European champion Portugal has been less entertaining than Brazil – but the injury-hit home team lacks stars and Germany is sending a team of reserves.

Loew has some injured regulars though prefers to use the summer between a European Championship and World Cup to rest others who are also Champions League regulars.

History suggests Loew is wise. No Confederations Cup winner has ever gone on to win the next World Cup.

FIFA picks Hawk-Eye’s video review system for 3 tournaments

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA picked the Hawk-Eye Innovations video review system to help referees at three tournaments this year.

FIFA says the British firm will work at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea from Saturday, the Confederations Cup in Russia and the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

At least 11 technology firms were in trials with FIFA last year, though the decision announced Friday appears to favor Hawk-Eye for the 2018 World Cup if a contract is awarded.

[ MORE: January window was diff. maker ]

At the 2014 World Cup, Hawk-Eye lost the goal-line technology contract to German system GoalControl.

FIFA wants video review only for potential “clear errors” in four situations: goals scored, penalties awarded, players sent off and cases of mistaken identity.

Video review must still be formally approved by soccer’s rule-making panel.

Report: Fans will need ID cards to attend World Cup in Russia

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The 2018 World Cup in Russia has rarely looked like it will be a traditional celebration of soccer, and it looks less so today.

The BBC is reporting that Russia will require fans hold ID cards in order to attend matches, a measure the country hopes stops ill-intentioned people from causing problems at the games.

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The measure will be in place for this summer’s Confederations Cup as well, and the cards will double as a visa to enter Russia. From the BBC:

“What we can be sure of is that this will be a festival of football and there is no place in such festivals of football for those that are not here to support the sport or support the game,” said Colin Smith, director of competitions for football’s governing body Fifa, on a visit to the country on Thursday.

Right. This tournament looks set to be strewn with controversy off the field. Let’s hope the on-the-field is spared.

Infantino says future of Confederations Cup uncertain

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KAZAN, Russia (AP) FIFA President Gianni Infantino warned Saturday that the future of the Confederations Cup is uncertain beyond next year’s competition in Russia.

Speaking ahead of the draw for the 2017 tournament, Infantino says it remains unclear how and when the following edition, provisionally set for 2021, will be played.

That’s because the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held in November and December, meaning the Confederations Cup would cause severe disruption to the club calendar if held in its traditional slot a year before the bigger tournament.

Infantino said FIFA officials are discussing questions such as “Shall we play it in June? Shall we play it in November? Shall we think about the format?”

He added that “we are putting everything on the table.”

Last year, then-FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said the 2021 tournament would be moved from Qatar and played elsewhere in Asia. However, it’s not clear whether that plan survived Valcke being banned from football earlier this year.

Despite featuring many of the best teams in world football – with FIFA’s six continental champions, plus the World Cup holder and the following year’s World Cup host – the Confederations Cup has struggled to build a distinct identity beyond being simply a test event for a larger tournament’s facilities.

Germany coach Joachim Loew plans to leave out some of the World Cup holder’s established players to focus on youth at next year’s tournament in Russia, but Infantino insisted that didn’t devalue the tournament.

“I’m sure that Joachim Loew and his team … they take the Confederations Cup very, very seriously,” Infantino said.


DRAW: On Saturday the draw was made for the 2017 Confederations Cup tournament in Russia, with the following two groups

Group A

Russia
New Zealand
Portugal
Mexico

Group B

Winner of 2017 African Cup of Nations
Chile
Australia
Germany