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Neymar regrets slapping incident

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Neymar is getting fed up. FRANCK FIFE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS, France (AFP) — Neymar said he “acted like a fool” following his red card against Marseille but called on football officials to do more to combat discrimination after accusing Spanish defender Alvaro Gonzalez of racism.

The Brazil forward was one of five players sent off after a mass brawl at the end of PSG’s 1-0 loss in Ligue 1 on Sunday, and later claimed Gonzalez had called him a “monkey” in a series of furious tweets.

PSG has stood by the world’s most expensive player, saying the club “strongly supports” him, but Neymar conceded he would accept his punishment which is expected to be revealed by the French league’s disciplinary commission.

“Yesterday I revolted. I was punished with red because I wanted to hit someone who offended me,” Neymar said in a lengthy Instagram post Monday.

“I thought I could not leave without doing something because I realized that those in charge would not do anything, did not notice or ignored the fact.”

Neymar was dismissed for slapping Gonzalez on the back of the head, with teammates Layvin Kurzawa and Leandro Paredes also sent off, as well as Marseille’s Dario Benedetto and Jordan Amavi.

“In our sport, aggressions, insults, swearing are part of the game, of the dispute. You can’t be affectionate. I understand this guy partly, all is part of the game, but racism and intolerance are unacceptable,” Neymar said.

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Brady recovers powers Bucs

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Tom Brady bounced back with his first victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday as Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to a thrilling overtime victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Brady, who suffered a mauling in a debut loss to the New Orleans Saints last week, showed flashes of his old self in a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at the Raymond James Stadium.

The six-time Super Bowl champion, who joined Tampa Bay in March after ending a 20-year career with the New England Patriots, threw for 217 yards with one touchdown from 23 completions.

“It feels good to win,” Brady said.

“It’s going to feel good to watch the film and learn.”

“There was a lot of good things and definitely things we can be better at. So it was fun to win and we’ve worked hard at winning. We’re going to take it and we’re going to try to be better next week.”

The Buccaneers had taken control of the contest in the first half, racing into a 14-0 first quarter lead with a close-range rushing touchdown from Ronald Jones before Brady connected with Mike Evans from 23 yards for a second score.

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Solid showing for Etheridge

Ian Suyu

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Azkals star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge came up with an impressive debut performance as Birmingham City FC battled Swansea City FC on Sunday to a rare nil-nil draw in the second match day of the English Football League.

Etheridge pulled off his first clean sheet of the season, highlighted by his last minute heroics against the heavily-powered Swansea team, regarded as one of the powerhouse teams.

Despite the goalless encounter between the squads, the Filipino stopper expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance in the early stage of their season.

With an additional point on their end, the 30-year-old goalkeeper said that their performance will definitely boost their momentum for their upcoming matches.

“Great feeling to make my Birmingham City FC debut! A good point away from home, keeping the momentum,” said Etheridge, who is the first Filipino to ever play in the prestigious Premier League with his former club Cardiff City FC.

“The boys worked hard for 90 minutes, with the bonus clean sheet on the road.” Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka also agreed with Etheridge and said that the squad’s collective effort really countered the Spurs’ fiery offense.

Birmingham is currently seated in the middle of the league rankings, with one win and one draw on their card. The club is next scheduled to battle the visiting Rotherham United FC at their home turf on 26 September.

“I’m really pleased because it’s a second game against another team that was in the playoffs last year and this was another really good performance,” said Karanka.

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Barca: Messi our leader, captain

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MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said he does not want to argue with Lionel Messi and believes the Argentinian is excited to play under new coach Ronald Koeman.

Bartomeu also said he has no intention of resigning, despite a petition to oust him as president gathering more than 20,000 signatures last week.

Messi has reintegrated with the team since admitting he had been forced to stay at Barcelona and claiming Bartomeu had broken his word over a clause in his contract allowing him to leave.

The 33-year-old could still depart for free when his contract expires next summer.

“As president I will not enter into any conflict with Messi,” Bartomeu said on Saturday in an interview with Catalan television channel TV3.

“Messi is our captain, the leader. We have seen him in recent days and does his talking on the field as we have seen. The issue is parked. What has been said has been said.

“I couldn’t allow, like anyone on the board or coaching staff, to let the best player in the world go. The team needs him. Things have to be discussed at home. You have to support the team and the players.

“We have to congratulate ourselves that Messi is still with us. He is excited about Koeman. The important thing is he plays for Barca, at his home. We want him to retire at the club and to start a project with Messi.”

The chaos surrounding Messi’s future prompted a motion of censure against Bartomeu, who will face a vote of no confidence if more than 16,520 of the 20,867 signatures against him are approved.

A vote will then be held and if two thirds of voting members go against Bartomeu, he will have to step down, with an election held perhaps as early as January.

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Neil banks on experience

Ian Suyu

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NEIL Etheridge vows to power Birmingham City FC to prominence. GLYN KIRK/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Neil Etheridge will use his experience to his advantage when he sees action for Birmingham City FC in the English Football League.

Speaking at the CPT Crossover Podcast late Thursday, Etheridge, the star goalkeeper of the Philippine Azkals, said he is ready to play for his new club using the experience he gained after becoming the first Filipino to play in the Premier League.

“It’s all about Birmingham’s consistency over the season. There would be bumps in the road and the championship would change so quickly,” said the 30-year-old stopper, who is the remaining active member of the Azkals squad that essayed the “Miracle of Hanoi” back in 2010.

“Hopefully, I can bring that experience here at Birmingham together with the senior players that I am joining in the dressing room.”

Etheridge played a key role in the success of Cardiff City FC in recent years, guarding the post with authority in its promotion-winning season in 2017 and in its Premier League campaign in 2018 to clinch the club’s Best Player of the Year honor.

But his performance took a dive this year as he lost his spot in the rotation due to hamstring injury.

Still, the Filipino was considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship League and a major part of Cardiff City’s rebuilding effort.

Aside from him, Birmingham City also acquired the services of veteran Aston Villa and top striker Scott Hogan to fire up its offensive arsenal.

Birmingham finished the season at the bottom of the standings with only 12 wins in 46 matches and Etheridge is looking forward to turn things around.

“I’m ready for it actually. It will be a new experience and a new challenge. I don’t think anyone could argue that I’ve never faced tough challenges in my career,” he said

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COVID costs football $11B

Agence France-Presse

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BELLINZONA, Switzerland (AFP) — FIFA on Wednesday put the cost of Covid-19 on football around the world at $11 billion in lost revenue.

The pandemic has already led to over 150 football associations to seek financial help from the $1.5 billion emergency relief fund set up by football’s governing body.

Olli Rehn, chairman of FIFA’s coronavirus steering committee, laid bare for the first time the true financial impact the virus has had on the game through fixture list chaos, empty stadiums and loss of TV rights revenue.

“It’s a huge number and it covers the football economy in its entirety, including all youth academies,” Rehn, a Finnish politician and governor of the Bank of Finland, told a press conference.

“This will impact next year as well, there is a carry over. That is why this Covid-19 relief fund is not time-bound — they may request loans later on if they need to,” Rehn, who is also independent deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, said.

He said that while Europe was hit hardest in terms of absolute cost, it was the associations outside Europe which “have suffered more”.

“In particular in South America, many on account of their relative means and the spring to autumn season,” he said.

Last month European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli predicted lost revenue of four billion euros over two years for its member clubs.

Each national association can request a FIFA grant of $1million ($2mn for confederations) plus $500,000 for women’s football.

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Messi strikes twice in Barca victory

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Lionel Messi of Barcelona makes his move against a Girona defender. JOSEP LAGO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) — Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona beat second-division Girona 3-1 in a preseason friendly.

Messi helped set up Philippe Coutinho, back from his loan at Bayern Munich, for the first goal after 21 minutes.

The Argentine scored his first after 45 minutes, spinning on the edge of the penalty area and drilling a shot in off the base of the far post. He scored his second, with a deflected shot, after 50 minutes.

He went off after an hour.

Messi only returned to training at the start of last week after saying he wanted to leave the club.

Messi started Barcelona’s first friendly on Saturday, playing 45 minutes without scoring in a 3-1 victory over third-tier Gimnastica Tarragona.

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.

“Messi is important for our competition,” said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. “He is a player who was born in our competition… and hopefully he will finish his career in our league.”

Barcelona used 20 players in Wednesday’s game at the club’s training center but neither Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez nor Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal appeared.

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Neymar banned two matches as league opens racism probe

Agence France-Presse

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Neymar received a two-match ban Wednesday for his red card against Marseille as the French league announced it would open an investigation into accusations of racism by the Brazil forward against Alvaro Gonzalez.

Angel Di Maria will also be summoned to the league’s next disciplinary commission meeting on September 23 over claims he spat at Marseille defender Gonzalez during PSG’s 1-0 loss which ended with a mass brawl and five players sent off.

Neymar was sent off for slapping Gonzalez on the back of the head and accused the Spaniard of calling him a “monkey”.

Gonzalez denies the allegation.

“We know there was an exchange of words. But right now, there isn’t enough certainty to call in the players,” said Sebastien Deneux, president of the disciplinary commission.

He said the investigation would study the footage further to determine whether there was enough evidence to substantiate the claims of racist abuse.

The goal will be to establish “what was actually said and what was actually heard”, Deneux added, while insisting the commission would only rule on “objective, tangible elements.”

The probe could also potentially interpret whether Neymar made homophobic remarks to Gonzalez, as reported by Spanish media.

PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa incurred a six-match ban for kicking out at Marseille left-back Jordan Amavi, who was hit with a suspension of three games after he too was dismissed.

Leandro Paredes was banned for two games after he was sent off for a clash with fellow Argentine Dario Benedetto, who was also red-carded and will be suspended for Marseille’s game with Saint-Etienne on Thursday.

Neymar watched Wednesday’s 1-0 win at home to Metz from the stands as PSG registered their first points of the season courtesy of a stoppage-time Julian Draxler goal, after successive opening defeats for the first time since 1984/85.

He will be free to return to face Reims on September 27 but will miss Sunday’s trip to Nice.

The suspension adds to a growing list served by Neymar since his arrival in Paris in 2017 as the world’s most expensive football.

He was banned for three games by UEFA — eventually reduced to two — following a foul-mouthed rant at officials following PSG’s Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester United in March 2019.

A couple months later he lashed out at a Rennes supporter following PSG’s defeat on penalties in the French Cup final, earning himself a three-match ban from the French FA.

Neymar was also sent off in a 2-2 draw against Marseille in October 2017 for two petulant yellow cards late in the game.

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PFL ready to adjust

Ian Suyu

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The Philippine Football League (PFL) is ready to adjust its calendar depending on the decision of the government on the resumption of contact sports.

PFL commissioner Coco Torre said they are ready to move their opening salvo to a later date if the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would not give them the green light to resume.

In a statement over the weekend, IATF vice chairman Karlo Nograles said the government is not yet confident on allowing the resumption of contact sports such as basketball and football due to the high number of coronavirus cases in the country.

With that, doubts were raised on whether the Philippine Basketball Association could resume its Philippine Cup on 9 October and if the PFL could kick off its fourth season on 15 October.

“We respect their decision, first and foremost. And second is that we will continue to cooperate and abide by their directives,” Torre added.

Torre said the trainings of their team under strict health and safety measures are going well at the Philippine Football Federation training center in Carmona, Cavite, where they are also planning to hold their season using bubble concept.

But with Nograles’ statement, they are shifting to Plan B, which is to push it to a later date while abbreviating their competition format to only 45 days.

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Messi richest footballer

Forbes’ top 10 earning players made a combined $570 million this season.

Agence France-Presse

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PARIS, France (AFP) — Lionel Messi may have had to stay put at Barcelona but the Argentine legend did succeed in joining one new club this year — the one reserved for sporting billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.

The Argentine striker’s career earnings of over one billion dollars (840 million euros) places the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a group of mega-wealthy sports figures containing just Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather and his great rival on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Forbes said that in 2020 Messi was the best-paid footballer in the world with an income of $126 million from his Barca salary ($92 million for the 2020/2021 season) and $34 million from sponsors and other sources.

The 33-year-old knocked Juventus forward Ronaldo ($117 million) off the top of the football salary chart with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar ($96 million) in third place.

Forbes’ top 10 earning players made a combined $570 million this season, a jump of 11 percent despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to European leagues and the global economy.

Michael Jordan is also in the billionaire’s club but the basketball legend’s fortune has largely come after retirement through his longstanding contract with Nike and acquisition of NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.

Messi remains at Barcelona this season after conceding defeat in his attempt to leave without triggering his 700-million euro release.

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