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Volume 6 No. 213

World Cup

The head of FIFA’s anti-racism task force -- VP Jeffrey Webb -- "has voiced his disappointment at the failure to appoint staff trained to record discriminatory abuse in World Cup stadiums in the wake of a series of contentious incidents," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. FIFA "did not take action" over offensive chanting by Mexican fans, racist chanting at matches involving Russia and Croatia, or “blacked up” fans who were pictured at the Germany-Ghana game. Webb: "There is no reason why someone should be entering the stadium clearly displaying their intent. We at FIFA and the local organizing committee should be doing a much better job." He said that a proposal to have three officials at every match trained to spot and record evidence of anti-discriminatory behavior "had been knocked back by Fifa and the organizing committee." Webb said the proposal, made in March, was one of the “top priorities” of the task force "because of the sort of incidents that had happened in Brazil" and that the failure to implement it was “very unfortunate.” FIFA Disciplinary Committee Chair Claudio Sulser "dismissed criticism of the decision not to take action over the 'inappropriate' and 'inconvenient' behaviour of fans." He said that "it was hard to prove cases that involved racist or homophobic behaviour by the crowd because it was not easy to tell which country the offenders were from" (GUARDIAN, 7/3). The PA noted Webb confirmed that the task force had not met since September "because the FIFA administration had been unable to organise another meeting." He also believed that "special attention should be given to anti-discrimination in Russia" for the 2018 World Cup. Russia "has had a history of racism in football." Webb: "It is much more of a problem in Russia. Russia itself needs a special task force, just for Russia and from an educational standpoint internally" (PA, 7/3).

Former French national team Manager Gerard Houllier said that FIFA will reconsider a proposal "to allow a fourth substitution in extra-time for the next World Cup," according to REUTERS. Houllier, who has managed France and Liverpool, among others, "is the senior member of FIFA's technical study group (TSG) which analyses trends and tactics at the World Cup." He said that "he was in favour of a fourth substitute if it would help maintain the game's entertainment and intensity, a feature of this World Cup." FIFA proposed the idea to football's rules panel the Int'l Football Association Board two years ago, saying that "its introduction would limit the risk of injury in the later stages of knockout games or finals," but it failed to win the necessary 75% majority and was not passed into law (REUTERS, 7/3). The AP reported FIFA asked Houllier's group "to propose ideas" to IFAB. The panel has previously rejected the fourth sub plan, though Houllier suggested that "it could be revisited." Houllier: ''At this World Cup everything is going so quick, so fast, the tempo has been so high. As a technician we would like to have in extra time the possibility to have another substitution" (AP, 7/2).

Brazil forward Neymar "has potentially cooked up a World Cup storm" by sporting a pair of Beats by Dre headphones -- even after players "were specifically told they were banned from the tournament," according to Jack Gaughan of the London DAILY MAIL. Neymar "wore the merchandise at a press conference on Wednesday" ahead of Brazil's quarterfinal against Colombia on Friday. The incident comes after FIFA "struck an agreement with Sony for the rights during the month-long showpiece." Players from all 32 competing countries "were told they mustn't wear Beats' product during media briefings and on matchdays." They were "all sent free pairs of Sony's gear to wear, but few have been spotted using them." Marketing experts said that "only amplifies their appeal" (DAILY MAIL, 7/2).

Ahead of the start of the quarterfinals on Friday, Argentina's group stage match against Bosnia on June 15 had the highest attendance of any game so far, with 74,738 fans. Spain's loss to Chile in the group stage drew the next largest crowd (74,101), followed by Belgium-Russia (73,819), Colombia-Uruguay (73,804) and Cameroon-Brazil (69,112). So far, the least attended game was a group stage match between Russia and South Korea (37,603), with the next smallest crowds occurring at the Iran-Nigeria (39,081), Mexico-Cameroon (39,216), Honduras-Ecuador (39,224) and Australia-Spain (39,375) matches (LA AFICION, 7/2). ... The Ghana FA has offered its "unqualified apologies" to its nation after crashing out of the World Cup at the group stage of the competition. GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi said, "We wish to offer our unqualified apologies for the disappointment." The "sombre tone" adopted by Ghana "is in stark contrast to the apathetic response of the English FA following the country’s group stage exit in Brazil." Rather than apologizing to the country’s supporters, FA Chair Greg Dyke "came out in the immediate aftermath of England’s exit and simply declared that Manager Roy Hodgson would remain in his job for at least another two years, stating that England 'were not humiliated'" (London DAILY MAIL, 7/2). ... South Korea's football governing body announced Thursday "it has rejected a resignation offer by men's national team head coach Hong Myung-bo in the wake of the country's winless FIFA World Cup in Brazil." Korea FA VP Huh Jung-moo said that "the beleaguered bench boss will stay on board for at least the remainder of his contract" (YONHAP, 7/3).

OVERPASS COLLAPSE: An unfinished overpass "collapsed" in the Brazilian World Cup host city of Belo Horizonte on Thursday, "killing at least two people," emergency officials said. The cause of the collapse "was unclear." The overpass "was part of a network of bus lanes that Brazil planned to have ready for the World Cup, but was not finished on time" (REUTERS, 7/3).