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Former Arsenal players Djourou, Song cut by club

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The shutdown of soccer in Switzerland has cost two former Arsenal players their jobs.

After reportedly refusing to take a paycut, FC Sion in the Swiss Super League announced that it had fired nine players, including defender Johan Djourou and Alexandre Song. Also included is Swiss National Team midfielder Pajtim Kasami, Ivory Coast forward Seydou Doumbia, and club captain, Xavier Kouassi. Kouassi also formerly played for the New England Revolution.

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According to a report in Switzerland newspaper Blick with quotes from Djourou, the players were asked to sign new contracts, with less than 24 hours notice, that would have significantly cut their wages. The report states the players were asked to sign a contract that would have provided them a maximum of 12,350 francs, or around $12,521 in salary. It’s unclear whether that’s a yearly salary or monthly, though it’s the same as the maximum available in unemployment insurance.

According to Djourou, the players as a whole rejected the request from upper management, but it ended with nine players losing their jobs. Internally, Djourou said, the players had discussed donating some wages to the staff, as the whole club struggles in this crisis. Djourou only joined Sion in January and played just once before suffering another injury.

The Swiss Super League has been suspended since March 1, when the Swiss government banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in response to the spread of the new Coronavirus.

Song and Djourou were teammates at Arsenal between 2005 and 2012.

Swiss soccer president Blanc tests positive for coronavirus

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BERN, Switzerland — The president of Switzerland’s soccer federation has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The 70-year-old Dominique Blanc got the results of a test on Sunday morning and isolated himself at his home.

“I feel pretty good right now and have only mild flu symptoms,” Blanc said in a statement released by the federation. He was tested after developing a sore throat and mild cough.

The headquarters of Swiss soccer in Bern has been closed and staff who had recent contact with Blanc have received medical advice, the federation said.

Blanc attended the annual meeting of European soccer body UEFA on March 3, and raised the issue of consequences for shutting down domestic soccer with leaders from 55 member countries.

“Due to the coronavirus we are in a situation that could shake, for a part of us, our professional football to its foundations,”

in Amsterdam.

The day before Blanc spoke, Switzerland was among the first countries in Europe to suspend its national league due to the spreading risk of COVID-19.

Switzerland’s soccer federation will take part in conference call talks with UEFA on Tuesday to discuss plans for how or if to restart the European soccer season which is now in almost total shutdown.

EURO 2020: Switzerland, Denmark qualify; Ireland into playoffs

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Denmark, Switzerland and Ireland, the top three teams in Group D, could have finished 2020 European Championship qualification in any one of six permuted orders following Monday’s final round of fixtures, with the top two sides heading straight through to this summer’s tournament and third-place nation going the dreaded playoffs route.

[ MORE: Van Dijk leaves Netherlands squad for “personal reasons” ]

Everything was all set up for a dramatic final day, for prayers to be answered and heartbreak to occur. First-place Denmark visiting third-place Ireland facing one another head-to-head added an even greater level of intrigue of potential for a massive swing in the final standings.

In the end, Ireland came ever so close to causing colossal chaos. Everything finished effective just as it began, with Switzerland and Denmark securing automatic qualification after swapping places and Ireland heading down the road less desired.

Denmark got there by way of a 1-1 draw with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. The Danes took the lead through Martin Braithwaite in the 73rd minute and appeared destined to finish top of the group after missing the competition in 2016, but Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Matt Doherty headed home to equalize in the 85th. Ireland had a pair of chances after that, but Kasper Schmeichel held firm and saw Denmark over the line.

[ MORE: Premier League Team of the Season so far ]

Switzerland took care of business with hardly a worry in the world, as the hammered Gibraltar to the tune of 6-1. Cedric Itten put the Swiss ahead after 10 minutes, though the game remained 1-0 early into the second half. Ruben Vargas made it 2-0 in the 50th minute, followed by a goal from Christian Fassnacht in the 57th. Gibraltar got one back in the 74th, before Loris Benito, Itten and Granit Xhaka each added another in the final 15 minutes.

As things stand, Switzerland will be placed into Pot 2 for the group stage draw, while Denmark would go into Pot 3.

Report: Granit Xhaka to leave Arsenal in January

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This outcome was inevitable.

After Granit Xhaka was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy on Tuesday, various reports have immediately emerged that the midfielder will leave the Gunners during the January transfer window.

A report from The Times states that Xhaka’s future at Arsenal is non-existent and the Switzerland national team captain will be made available for transfer in January.

Xhaka, 27, has publicly apologized after he swore and gestured at Arsenal’s fans, threw off the captains armband and stormed down the tunnel as home supporters cheered his substitution in their 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Oct. 27.

He hasn’t played for Arsenal since.

Xhaka’s public apology took four days and in that apology he hit out at supporters for their vile abuse of him and his family.

The central midfielder has become a scapegoat for Arsenal’s poor form this season and he was only appointed captain at the start of the campaign after manager Unai Emery conducted a vote among Arsenal’s players to select a club captain.

Xhaka hasn’t handled this situation well, at all, but Arsenal’s supporters should also take a look at themselves for jeering one of their own players off the pitch.

Did Xhaka react badly? Yes. Was it a situation which had been bubbling up over many months? Yes. Should Arsenal’s fans single out one player to abuse given most of their team have been underperforming? No.

Nobody wins in this situation, as Xhaka will at least get a fresh start elsewhere as his two-and-half year stay at Arsenal can be described as nothing short of a disaster, on the pitch.

Off the pitch it looks to have ended disastrously too.

Basel forward Van Wolfswinkel has successful brain surgery

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BASEL, Switzerland (AP) Basel forward Ricky Van Wolfswinkel is to leave the hospital after successful brain surgery to treat an aneurysm.

The club says the operation was performed Tuesday and the Dutchman has been cleared to leave.

[ MORE: UEL group stage draw ]

Van Wolfswinkel’s aneurysm was discovered by chance during scans after he sustained a concussion in a Champions League qualifying game this month. His injury occurred late in a 2-1 home loss to LASK Linz on Aug. 7.

The 30-year-old former Norwich and Sporting Lisbon player has said he expected to be out of action for at least six months.

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