Gianni Infantino

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FIFA president lambasts Italian soccer for ‘hiding’ racism

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ROME (AP) FIFA president Gianni Infantino lambasted Italian soccer authorities for “hiding the truth” about racism in a scathing assessment Tuesday following a complete lack of punishment after three cases of discriminatory chants during the four opening rounds of Serie A.

Three black players – Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, and Fiorentina’s Dalbert Henrique – have been targeted by racist chants but no sanctions have been handed out by the Italian league, federation or police.

“I don’t see why we have to hide the truth, not talk about what happens or say that it is not serious. No, that’s not how you go about it,” Infantino said in an interview with Sky Italia. “It’s unacceptable, absurd and surprising.

“It’s upsetting, because Italy is a country that people love, where you can live and eat well, where there’s culture,” added Infantino, who is the son of Italian immigrants to Switzerland. “This is supposed to be a modern, civil, polite country. And I think it’s moving in the wrong direction.”

Infantino suggested identifying fans responsible of racism and throwing them in jail, calling on the Italian federation to work with its clubs and local police.

Likewise, the Italian government’s new sports minister vowed to eliminate racism “with more severe and efficient sanctions.”

“I will dedicate myself toward eliminating it from stadiums during my mandate – even at the cost of making unpopular decisions,” Vincenzo Spadafora, the minister, told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

“The time has come for everyone to assume responsibility: institutions, politicians, federations and fans,” Spadafora added. “Soon I will meet with all of the sports representatives to share with them a significant change, with more severe and efficient sanctions.”

Atalanta’s 2-2 draw with Fiorentina on Sunday was suspended briefly during the first half due to chants aimed at Dalbert.

However, the Italian league’s judge announced Monday that he has yet to decide whether Atalanta warrants punishment. Judge Gerardo Mastrandrea said in his weekly disciplinary report that Dalbert needs to be interviewed before his decision is made.

Following FIFA’s “three-step process” for handling racism inside stadiums, referee Daniele Orsato ordered a warning to be read over the stadium’s loudspeaker that the match would not resume until the chants ceased.

The FIFA process requires the referee to briefly pause a match at the first hint of discriminatory chants and request an announcement over the stadium public address system asking fans to stop. If the chanting persists, the referee can suspend the match and order the teams into the changing rooms until it stops. If that doesn’t work, the referee can stop the match definitively.

While the FIFA process is straightforward it has rarely been implemented in Serie A.

“The problem is, we have some laws stipulating that if it’s a concrete number of people we stop the match. If it’s 2, 3 persons or 10 persons then we cannot stop the match,” Danilo Filacchione, the Italian football federation’s international relations director, told The Associated Press in Ljubljana, Slovenia, after attending a UEFA meeting.

“But the clubs are also fighting,” Filacchione added. “We are doing our best.”

AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Ljubljana, Slovenia, contributed to this report.

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

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USWNT’s Rapinoe on MSNBC: I spoke with Infantino about equal pay

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The USWNT continues its victory lap ahead of Wednesday’s ticker tape parade in New York City, and superstar Megan Rapinoe used her time to hit the television circuit including an interview with “MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Rapinoe was asked about many things over the course of the episode, including the fight for the same pay as the United States men’s national team.

[ MORE: What’s next for USMNT? ]

And she seems confident that the USWNT has won that battle, even saying she’s spoken a little with the highest official in world soccer.

“I even had a brief conversation with FIFA president Gianni Infantino after the game,” Rapinoe said on the show. “I think everyone realizes now, okay, it’s time for the next step. It’s time to work together to get there to a better place. The conversation is not about equal pay anymore. If you’re not down with equal pay or equality by now, you’re so far out of reality and the conversation that we can’t even go there. Nobody wants this contentious fight all the time.”

Rapinoe says that the United States Soccer Federation, FIFA, and all the confederations need to take the next step in their support of the women’s game.

“The (U.S. Soccer) Federation has put a lot of resources and money and support behind the team. They deserve credit for that when we talk about all the other federations of the world. Just because you’re better than someone who’s bad doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re good.”

Rapinoe also said that a next step for fans who love the team would be to support the National Women’s Soccer League.

“We have nine teams in the NWSL,” she said. “You can go to league games. You can support that way. You can buy jerseys, you can tell your friends about it, become a season ticket holder. That’s the easiest way.”

FIFA: Afghanistan coach’s Infantino criticism ‘unjustified’

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LYON, France (AP) FIFA has denounced “ill-informed and unjustified” criticism of its president, Gianni Infantino, after the coach of the Afghanistan women’s national team called him “disgusting” over the handling of sexual abuse investigations.

At a news conference in Lyon ahead of the Women’s World Cup final, coach Kelly Lindsey demanded Infantino’s departure from FIFA for allegedly not being rigorous enough in pursuing officials in the Afghanistan soccer federation.

[ MORE: Jagielka staying in PL ]

FIFA has so far only sanctioned Keramuudin Karim, who was banned for life from soccer last month for repeated sexual abuse of female players while president of the Afghanistan Football Federation.

But in a statement to The Associated Press, FIFA says it is “carefully looking into allegations levelled against additional persons, and will not hesitate to take appropriate measures and impose sanctions if justified.”

FIFA added that Lindsey “is well aware of these efforts and the support that FIFA has provided and we are surprised and disappointed at her criticism, which we consider to be both ill-informed and unjustified.”

The United States plays the Netherlands in Sunday’s final.

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

Afghan coach ‘disgusted’ by Infantino, wants FIFA head to go

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LYON, France (AP) — The coach of the Afghanistan women’s soccer team says she is “disgusted” with Gianni Infantino over the handling of sexual abuse cases and called on the FIFA president to resign.

FIFA banned Keramuudin Karim for life from soccer this month for repeated sexual abuse of female players while president of the Afghanistan Football Federation.

But coach Kelly Lindsey is angry that only Karim has been punished, saying FIFA “didn’t investigate anyone but the president. They didn’t go any deeper than the top layer. In my mind, it’s not what we need as a leader of FIFA.”

Expanding further on Infantino at a briefing in Lyon at the Women’s World Cup, Lindsey said “I’m disgusted with him as a human being, as a leader of our sport. He should not be president of FIFA in my mind.”

Infantino tells Iran to let women into World Cup qualifiers

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino had asked Iran to ensure women are allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Now he’s expressing disappointment the country has reneged on its commitments.

In November, Infantino was in Teheran for the Asian Champions League final when Iranian women were allowed to watch Persepolis play Kashima Antlers of Japan. But things have changed since then.

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Infantino wrote this week to Iranian soccer federation president Mehdi Taj to say it’s “all the more disappointing that it was not possible to keep up the positive momentum and to continue with similar progress.”

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, Infantino highlights a June 6 game between Iran and Syria when “the gates were closed to female spectators and when, it would appear, a number of women seeking to attend the match were detained by security forces for a number of hours.”

Infantino says he wants “concrete steps” from the federation by July 15 “to ensure that all Iranian and foreign women who wish to do so will be allowed to buy tickets and to attend the matches” for 2022 World Cup qualifiers which begin in September.

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