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Referees in Berlin to strike over violence at soccer games

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BERLIN (AP) Soccer referees in Berlin are going on strike because of ongoing violence at games.

The Berlin soccer federation, known as the BFV, said Friday it has been informed by its referee committee that the officials are withdrawing their services this weekend from all games in the sixth division, the highest level in the German capital.

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“Violence on Berlin’s soccer fields has gone up this season compared to last season,” the referees said in a statement quoted on the BFV’s website. “After just a few match-days we have already recorded 109 incidents of violence and discrimination on Berlin soccer fields. In 53 cases the referee was the victim. These are alarming numbers. Action is needed, and a clear sign to stop.”

The refs are receiving support from league leader Sparta Lichtenberg.

“It’s about time someone bangs their fist on the table,” Lichtenberg president Werner Natalis told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. “Lately I’ve seen again and again how referees are abused and almost physically attacked.”

It was unclear if Sunday’s 11th round of games would go ahead. Clubs had the option of agreeing on impartial officials from within their own ranks.

“In any case,” BFV spokesman Ralf Kisting said, “we won’t be making any referees available.”

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Girl soccer player challenges gender rules in Argentina

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CHABAS, Argentina (AP) At age 7, Candelaria Cabrera goes after the soccer ball with determination. She drives toward her rivals without caring much about getting hurt and deftly manages the bumps on the dirt field.

She wears a loose white jersey from Huracan de Chabas, her hometown, located 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of the capital, Buenos Aires. Printed on the back and on her red shorts is a number 4. She uses white boots and shin guards. Her long, copper colored hair tied in a ponytail distinguishes her from the rest of the players.

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“Cande,” as she is known by friends and family, is the only girl playing in a children’s soccer league in the southern party of Santa Fe province, birthplace of stars including Lionel Messi, Gabriel Batistuta and Jorge Valdano. Former Argentine coaches Marcelo Bielsa, Gerardo Martino and Jorge Sampaoli were also born there.

But a regional regulation that prohibits mixed-gender teams in children’s categories threatens to take her off the field – a ruling that has helped dramatize the inequality in opportunities for men and women in this soccer-crazed county.

“I had to sit down with her and tell her that there are some people who have to make rules in soccer and that these rules do not agree with what she wants,” said Rosana Noriega, Candelaria’s mother. “And, well, we both cried, and she said: `The people who make the laws are bad people.”‘

She was 3 years old when her parents gave her her first ball. They understood that it didn’t make sense to insist she play with dolls, even if there were “comments from other moms that they should not give her male toys because it would encourage her to be a lesbian,” Noriega recalled.

Two months ago, the regional soccer authorities notified Huracan that the team could no longer include Candelaria. She could only play on a girls’ team – which does not exist where Candelaria lives.

Noriega took to social media to speak out about her daughter’s case and was surprised to find that she was not the only one. Girls wrote to her saying they were facing the same problem in nearby towns and more distant provinces.

Of the 230 regional leagues recognized by the Argentine Football Association, only 68 have women’s teams. This is just one of the many disparities with men’s soccer. The most notable is financial: The best-paid contract in men’s first division is around $3 million a year. In contrast, women who play in their top category receive a travel voucher of $44.

Argentina’s female players, who will play in a November runoff game for the 2019 World Cup, have struggled financially when their payments were delayed. They also expressed discomfort when Adidas, the brand that sponsors a few members of the national teams of both genders, unveiled the new shirt for the Female America Cup this year with models rather than players.

“The biggest lack is that they don’t have younger players. They start playing at age 16, 17 and by then they’ve missed out on a bunch of issues that have to do with understanding the game,” said Ricardo Pinela, president of the Football Association’s Women’s Football Commission.

“The important thing is that every club in every corner of the country gives a girl the possibility of joining a female soccer team, to play with other girls, even if it’s just for fun, and from there generate the necessary structure that … sets them on equal standing as the male players”, he argued.

After Candelaria’s case became widely publicized, her regional league committed to reviewing the rule in an assembly at the end of the year – leaving her case in limbo until then.

While she’s officially now banned, the team has let her keep playing – at least until an opponent objects.

Candelaria’s most recent match ended with her team beating rival Alumni de Casilda 7-0.

“No one should say that a girl can’t play soccer,” she said.

Expansion LAFC sells out of season tickets at new stadium

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The expansion Los Angeles Football Club has sold out of season-ticket packages for its inaugural season in its new downtown stadium.

LAFC announced the sellout of 17,500 full-season memberships Wednesday, four days before the team makes its MLS regular-season debut Sunday at Seattle.

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The franchise’s $350 million Banc of California Stadium is still being completed ahead of LAFC’s home debut on April 29, but the team has already sold as many season tickets as it will allow in the 22,000-seat arena.

Fans can still buy single-game tickets in the North End supporters’ section and other spots around the field.

LAFC is MLS’ 23rd franchise. The club is attracting significant attention throughout Los Angeles’ revitalized downtown, where it is building the city’s first new open-air stadium in more than 30 years.

Kansas City named Soccer City USA by WalletHub

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Ever wondered where the best city to be a soccer fan is in the United States? Well WalletHub has the answer.

After researching and comparing nearly 300 U.S. cities, WalletHub determined that Kansas City, Missouri is the best city in the United States to be a soccer fan. The top 15 cities all house Major League Soccer clubs and all of the top cities house at least two soccer teams, whether a combination of professional or college.

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Source: WalletHub
Rounding out the top five is Orlando, New York City, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. While the research and study is inexact, it’s an interesting look at where the best places are to watch and enjoy life as a soccer fan.

Sampaoli debuts as Argentina coach with win over Brazil

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Jorge Sampaoli is off to a positive start as manager of the Argentina National Team, even if the game was just a postseason international friendly more than 7,200 miles from home.

Argentina secured a 1-0 victory over Brazil in front of more than 95,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia. Defender Gabriel Marcado scored the game’s only goal in the 45th minute, reacting quickest to a ball that caromed off the post right into his path before finishing into an empty net.

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With this match and Tuesday’s game against Singapore the only friendlies Sampaoli will have to work with his squad, the Argentine manager called in a largely first-team squad and played one of his best available starting lineups to face Brazil, even playing Lionel Messi the full 90 minutes in the match.

Having Lionel Messi couldn’t be more crucial for Argentina, which sits in fourth place currently in CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying. In May FIFA lifted Messi’s four-match ban, giving Argentina its talisman back for the final four World Cup qualifiers this fall.

Without Messi against Bolivia, Argentina struggled in the high altitude and fell, 2-0. At other points during this qualifying campaign without Messi La Albiceleste have struggled to create goal-scoring chances.

For Brazil, with the team already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, manager Tite took the opportunity to test out some of the fringe players on the team as well as first team regulars, including Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, Manchester City’s Fernandinho and Chelsea’s Willian.