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Volume 6 No. 217

International Football

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has claimed punishing fans' racist behavior by closing stadiums is "extremely dubious" and "unduly excessive," according to the PA. Blatter said that sporting sanctions such as points deductions that "cause real hurt to" clubs are a better punishment than closing part or all of a stadium for matches. But Blatter, in his column in FIFA Weekly, said that while he wants "drastic and severe" sanctions for racism, "football without a crowd is like a concert without sound." FIFA's disciplinary code "punishes racism by a warning for a first offence and then more serious sanctions such as stadium closures, points deductions or even expulsion from the competition for further offences" (PA, 4/17). The BBC reported Ukraine was ordered by FIFA to play a World Cup qualifier against Poland in an empty stadium "after fans made monkey chants and performed Nazi salutes." The punishment "was subsequently imposed on the 2018 qualification campaign following an unsuccessful appeal by Ukraine Football Federation" (BBC, 4/17).

Contrary to previous statements about plans to join the Russian league, Crimea football club Sevastopol is considering relocation to another city to stay in the Ukrainian league. After the end of the current season, FC Sevastopol may relocate to Krivoy Rog or Nikolayev, cities in which club Owner Vadim Novinsky has business assets, Novinsky said on the air of the Ukrainian TV network Futbol 1. "We will finish the season and then a lot will depend upon how the relations between the two countries develop," Novinsky said. His statement comes as contradiction to the club's stance just a month ago when FC Sevastopol President Alexander Krasilnikov was quoted as saying the club was looking forward to joining "the Russian football family." Meanwhile, the Russian Football Union (RFS) is apparently not in a hurry to welcome the peninsular region, even though Crimea is being quickly adapted to Russia in other fields. RFS First VP Nikita Simonyan was quoted by R-Sport as saying, "Crimea is unlikely to join RFS at the upcoming conference as the season in Ukraine is still in progress. The clubs need to finish it without being disturbed, after which an extraordinary conference is to be called to discuss this issue." Apart from FC Sevastopol, another football club playing in the Ukrainian top tier, Tavria Simferopol, is based in Crimea. However, it is likely to be relegated this season.
Vladimir Kozlov is a writer in Moscow.

Members of Argentine "barra bravas" ("fan gangs") who have criminal records "will be able to travel to Brazil for the World Cup without problems," according to the DPA. The Argentine government announced on Wednesday that it will "not appeal against the court's decision to prevent the State from turning into Brazil a list of the most violent fans in Argentine football." Brazilian and Argentine authorities "had agreed to exchange information to ensure security during the World Cup." Various "barra bravas" were "extradited from South Africa during the World Cup" in '10 when South African authorities received "information on fans facing charges." Fan association "Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas" ("United Argentine Fans") consists of the barras of 38 Argentine clubs and was created before the 2010 World Cup. The group's attorney, Débora Hambo, said that "650 members of the group will travel to Brazil this summer." Hambo: "They want to enjoy the World Cup" (DPA, 4/16).

Former FIFA VP Jack Warner insisted that "he will fight legal action challenging his ownership of a luxurious centre of excellence in Trinidad built with FIFA money," according to the PA. The Joao Havelange center was constructed through grants totaling as much as £15.5M ($26M) from FIFA and the North American governing body CONCACAF, "but it emerged two years ago that Warner was the owner of the land on which it was built." CONCACAF "has now filed a legal action in Trinidad, known as a caveat, which seeks to block Warner from mortgaging, leasing or selling the centre" (PA, 4/16).

Representatives of fan associations of various Liga MX sides including América, Cruz Azul, Pumas and Chivas, among others, protested outside the Mexican Football Federation's (FMF) headquarters with the "sole objective of being heard" by Liga MX Dir General Enrique Bonilla, according to Rubén Guerrero of LA AFICION. At "around noon, a group of 50 fans began protesting outside the entrance to the FMF, with security forces monitoring the peaceful protesters." The fans were protesting a recently passed Mexican law that "established that those who participate in violence at football games will face a possible prison sentence ranging from six months to 4 years." Protesters held signs that asked for equal treatment and "assured that violence is incited by security figures at football stadiums." One member of Cruz Azul fan group "Sangre Azul" ("Blue Blood") said, "The majority of times, violence is the fault of the police itself; the law punishes the fan" (LA AFICION, 4/16).

Colombia national team Manager José Pékerman confirmed that his team will play two friendlies in Argentina prior to this summer's World Cup in Brazil. Colombia's opponents for the matches, which will be held in May, were not revealed (OLE, 4/17). ... Chilean first division side Deportes Iquique defeated Huachipato 3-1 in the finals of the Copa Chile on Wednesday night, then dedicated the title to victims of the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Iquique, Chile on April 1 (EFE, 4/17). ... Uruguayan national football coach Oscar Tabárez on Wednesday addressed the "recent crisis in Uruguayan football," which resulted in the Uruguayan FA having to name new members to its exec board. Tabárez said, "What happened is not good. We do not want to give opinions outside our area beyond that, but as football people, we have a vision of what this is" (EFE, 4/16). ... ManU shares climbed more than 8% in value on the N.Y. Stock Exchange on Wednesday, "fuelling the prospect of an imminent announcement" of a new £600M ($1B) kit deal. United has been in negotiations "with current kit suppliers Nike for more than twelve months" (London TELEGRAPH, 4/17). ... FIFA this week launched the Panini Online Sticker Album for the 2014 World Cup hosted on with the support of presenting partner Coca-Cola. Supporters can collect and trade virtual stickers of the players and teams participating in the World Cup (FIFA). ... South Africa football coach Gordon Igesund "has been cleared of allegations he incited Bafana Bafana players to strike for more money ahead of CHAN 2014." The South Africa FA said that "it had found no basis for any of the allegations" (BBC, 4/17). ... Bulgarian football club CSKA Sofia repaid debts in excess of 1M leva ($692,000) "in order to meet club license requirements." The debts "were accumulated under the former ownership of Titan AS" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 4/16). ... Polish Ekstraklasa side Pogon Szczecin CEO Jaroslaw Mroczek said that the club "is planning to either modernize its stadium or build a new facility." Mroczek: "Over the next years, our aim is to play in the [Europa League]. The question of the stadium requires a final solution" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 4/17).