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Russian referee insulted over stadium PA system

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian soccer club Akhmat Grozny is facing punishment after its stadium’s public address system was used to insult the referee during a game – not for the first time.

Shortly after referee Alexei Sukhoi sent off Akhmat striker Ablaye Mbengue in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Spartak Moscow, a shout came over the PA system calling the referee by a Russian expletive. Many in the crowd cheered.

Club CEO Akhmed Aidamirov told Sport Express newspaper on Monday that a stadium employee had been fired for shouting into the PA system’s microphone.

When the club played Rubin Kazan in 2013, the political leader of Russia’s Chechnya region, Ramzan Kadyrov, used the PA system to accuse the referee of corruption. The club, then named Terek, was forced to move a home game to a neutral venue over that incident.

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Russian fans clash with baton-wielding police at stadium

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian soccer fans have criticized what they consider heavy-handed policing after clashes at a league game.

Video footage posted online shows police in riot gear beating Spartak Moscow fans on the stadium concourse after a game Saturday with FC Rostov, including two who have fallen to the ground. Fans have alleged they were kept tightly packed in the corridor after the game and then attacked by police with batons.

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The Russian Football Union has told the Sport-Express newspaper that it is calling for an investigation and that “this kind of situation should not be repeated at stadiums.”

The Russian Premier League says in a statement that it is satisfied police acted correctly and accused Spartak fans of trying to free fellow supporters arrested earlier over allegations of throwing pyrotechnics.

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Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

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EURO qualifying: Hazard drives Belgium past Russia; Scotland rocked

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EURO 2020 qualifying allows for a few hiccups along the way. Both Scotland and Russia produced one each on opening day.

Granted the Russians lost a game many suspected they might, falling 3-1 at Belgium, but we want to highlight the unexpected first, don’t we?

Scotland’s trip to Kazakhstan was just that, Alex McLeish’s men falling for the seventh time in his 11-match second tenure with the club.

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And boy, did they fall. Scotland conceded twice in the first 10 minutes and again after halftime in a 3-0 loss to the 117th ranked team on the FIFA scale (106th in the slightly fairer Elo Ratings).

Plucky Azerbaijan served notice that it remains a solid dark horse, scaring World Cup finalists Croatia before ultimately losing 2-1.

Back to Russia, it fell by a pair of Eden Hazard goals after Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans and Valencia’s Denis Cheryshev traded first half markers.

Hazard now has 29 international goals ahead of his 100th cap, which will come the next time he hits the pitch.

He may have dove to earn his penalty, but there’s no debating he had the skill buttons activated on the day:

EURO qualifying

Croatia 2-1 Azerbaijan
Slovakia 2-0 Hungary
Netherlands 4-0 Belarus
Austria 0-1 Poland
Israel 1-1 Slovenia
Macedonia 3-1 Latvia
Cyprus 5-0 San Marino
Belgium 3-1 Russia
Kazakhstan 3-0 Scotland
Northern Ireland 2-0 Estonia

Putin asks FIFA for support on World Cup legacy

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin says he wants FIFA to help ensure last year’s World Cup has an effective legacy.

At a meeting with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Putin says “ahead of us we now have a different task, to use everything that was done for the World Cup, to use it effectively, and on this issue we are also counting on your support.”

Many Russian clubs have already seen a boost in attendance in the season following the World Cup. With new arenas, teams in the host cities of Volgograd and Nizhny Novgorod have more than doubled their average home attendance, though Sochi and Kaliningrad are lagging behind.

Putin awarded Infantino a medal earlier this month for his help with staging the World Cup.

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