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Landon Donovan's support for Mexico sparks pitched battle off the pitch

Landon Donovan’s support for Mexico at the World Cup has sparked a pitched battle between the most recognizable name in American soccer and his peers, ESPN reported Sunday.

>> Read more trending news 

Donovan has been part of an advertising campaign for Wells Fargo to support Mexico, which opened its World Cup play in Russia with a stunning 1-0 victory against defending champion Germany on Sunday. Critics of the promotion have criticized Landon, calling his cheerleading inappropriate.

Donovan posted a photo on Twitter on Saturday holding a scarf that read “My other team is Mexico.”

Donovan played this spring for León, which is part of Mexico’s Primera Division. Still, some questioned Donovan’s motives.

“Watering it down for beer/banks won’t enrich the rivalry,” ESPN announcer Sebastian Salazar tweeted.

Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain of the U.S. national team, tweeted “Really?” 

Donovan tweeted back that Bocanegra should “remember where you came from.”

“Look around our country, are you happy with how we are treating Mexicans?” Donovan answered. “Open your mind, stand for something and remember where you came from.”

Donovan’s former teammate, Herculez Gomez, an ESPN analyst, criticized that exchange, ESPN reported, tweeting that it was “an incredibly terrible take.”

Singer Robbie Williams makes obscene gesture at World Cup opening ceremony

English singer Robbie Williams made an obscene gesture toward the camera during the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Moscow, ESPN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Williams was singing at Luzhniki Stadium when he gestured with his middle finger. The 44-year-old pop star had been criticized before the event for agreeing to participate in the ceremony.

“Robbie Williams emerged, busked his way through a medley of his two-decade old hits and was gone again in a pleasing hurry,” the Independent reported.

Williams said he was told not to use his song “Party Like a Russian,” which was seen as mocking Russia. Before his gesture, Williams added the line “I did this for free,” to the lyrics of one of his songs, ESPN reported.

Fox issued a statement apologizing for showing the gesture on television.

"The 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony was a newsworthy event produced by a third party and carried live on Fox," the statement said. "As it was broadcast live, we did not know what would happen during Robbie Williams' performance and we apologize."

The Russian soccer team played immediately after the ceremony and won its first match, shutting out Saudi Arabia 5-0.

Fans say Brandi Chastain's Hall of Fame plaque is a bust

American soccer legend Brandi Chastain is one of the most recognizable women athletes in the world. But sports fans were scratching their heads after viewing her plaque as she was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night.

>> Read more trending news

In their minds, Chastain’s bust was, well, a bust.

Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote inscription for the plaque, called the rendition “shameful” and tweeted that Chastain’s plaque makes Cristiano Ronaldo’s plaque “look perfect.”

“Brandi Chastain is one of the most beautiful athletes I’ve ever covered. How this became her plaque is a freaking embarrassment,” she tweeted.

Chastain was inducted during a ceremony at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. She has won two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles with the United States women’s soccer team.

Chastain was diplomatic about the plaque, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“It’s not the most flattering,” Chastain said. “But it’s nice.”

On a lighter note, social media posters were having a field day. Some compared Chastain’s likeness to Gary Busey, Rex Ryan, Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Glanville, Peter King, Jerry Lewis, John Goodman, Bill Belichick and even Mickey Rooney. Others were comparing it to a hideous rendition of another soccer legend, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Cristiano Ronaldo sculptor: Eh, this isn’t too bad. Brandi Chastain sculptor: Hold my chisel,” The Washington Post tweeted.

“I don’t know about Brandi Chastain, but they nailed Mickey Rooney,” Jason Davis tweeted.

There are no plans to redo the plaque, Andy Savick, the vice president of finance and administration for BASHOF told the Mercury News. He told the newspaper that images on the plaques are “representations” and not intended to be photographic likenesses. 

Chastain’s bust was on a more favorable view at the 1999 World Cup. She scored the game-winning penalty kick and celebrated by sinking to her knees, ripping off her jersey to reveal her sports bra while clenching her fists. The photograph of that moment has become an iconic moment of celebration in sports history.

There are no plans to redo the plaque, Andy Savick, the vice president of finance and administration for BASHOF told the Mercury News. He told the newspaper that images on the plaques are “representations” and not intended to be photographic likenesses. 

Chastain’s bust was on a more favorable view at the 1999 World Cup. She scored the game-winning penalty kick and celebrated by sinking to her knees, ripping off her jersey to reveal her sports bra while clenching her fists. The photograph of that moment has become an iconic moment of celebration in sports history.

Here are some other infamous renditions of athletes. How does the Chastain plaque measure up?

Greek officials vow action after soccer team owner enters pitch with gun 

Sports officials in Greece are investigating the actions of one team owner, who apparently was carrying a gun when he charged onto the pitch to protest a disputed goal at the end of Sunday’s Greek Super League match, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

Greece’s sports minister said Monday he was considering sanctions against Ivan Savvides, the owner of soccer team PAOK and one of the country’s richest men. Photographs and video footage showed Savvides, with what appeared to be revolver strapped to a holster on his waist, trying to intervene in the closing moments of a home match against rival AEK of Athens, Reuters reported.

After Fernando Varela scored from a header in the 89th minute, putting PAOK ahead 1-0, the referee signaled a score but then disallowed it for offside, ESPN reported. Savvides walked onto the pitch twice to protest the call. The first time he was wearing an overcoat; the second time, his coat was off and his holster was in plain view, Reuters reported. Savvides did not draw a weapon from the holster.

The goal was eventually allowed to stand and PAOK was awarded a 1-0 win, ESPN reported.

AEK officials claimed Savvidis threatened the referee during his trip onto the pitch.

"We suddenly saw a man on the pitch with bodyguards and everyone started saying it was the PAOK president and he went first to the referee and then to our bench and started threatening everyone," AEK Athens coach Manolo Jimenez told Radio Marca.

"We didn't fear for our lives initially, but then, when I saw the photographs of the gun, you think to yourself, 'What if he does something crazy and pulls it out?' It's true that initially we didn't know that he had a gun on his belt, but that could be a small thing as he could have authorization to carry one, but what isn't normal is that a president jumps onto the pitch to protest and threatens a referee.”

Images of “persons entering sports grounds armed” harm PAOK and soccer in general, Greek Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis said in a written statement Monday.

“Such extreme phenomena call for bold decisions,” Vassiliadis said.

Georgia State soccer player withdraws from school after backlash over racial epithet

A Georgia State University soccer player who was suspended from the team after she used a racial epithet on social media has withdrawn from the school, officials said.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Georgia State soccer player suspended over racial slur used on social media

Some students had called for the expulsion of 18-year-old freshman defender Natalia Martinez after the epithet appeared on her Finsta page, a secret version of Instagram that is growing in popularity among teens.

>> On AJC.com: What is a ‘Finsta'? Teens and their secret Instagram accounts

“As a progressive, diverse university, we ... feel like this sort of behavior should not be tolerated,” said India Bridgeforth, who created a petition demanding the university take a tougher approach with Martinez.

The petition had garnered more than 500 signatures by Monday afternoon when the university announced Martinez had “officially withdrawn.”

Associate athletic director Mike Holmes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that officials were made aware of Martinez’s post Friday morning — just days after the University of Alabama expelled a 19-year-old student who posted a video of a racist rant on her Finsta page.

>> Read more trending news 

That student, Harley Barber, uploaded a second video on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in response to people who were upset by the language and threatened those who wanted to report her fake Instagram account, The Washington Post reported

In a statement, Georgia State University said the school does “not tolerate the language (Martinez) used in her post.”

Liverpool coach swears on the air, says 'I thought in America it's OK'

To Jurgen Klopp, the expletive seemed appropriate, even during an on-air interview.

>> Read more trending news

Klopp, the German-born manager of Liverpool’s Premier League soccer team, let a vulgar word escape as he did a post-match interview with NBC Sports Soccer on Sunday, The New York Daily News reported.

Klopp was exulting after the Reds’ 4-3 victory against Manchester United when he dropped the F-bomb on the air, causing the interviewer to apologize to the viewing audience.

“I thought in America it’s OK,” Klopp joked, referencing an alleged vulgarity uttered last week by President Donald Trump during a meeting with members of Congress..

Arlo White of NBC Sports Soccer later tweeted that “the language got little ‘fruity’ at our pitch side desk. Apologies again for that.”

3 Florida teens arrested in theft of soccer star Abby Wambach’s car

Police in southwest Florida arrested three juveniles in connection with the burglary and theft of a vehicle belonging to former soccer star Abby Wambach, The Naples Daily News reported.

>> Read more trending news

The teens were arrested by Naples police Dec. 15 on charges of grand theft and auto theft, the Daily News reported. The juveniles, whose names are not being released because they are minors, admitted committing the crimes when interviewed, police said. 

Wambach had posted an angry message on Instagram about the alleged crimes.

Wambach — a longtime U.S. soccer player and Olympic gold medalist — and her wife, Glennon Doyle Melton, told police that someone entered Wambach’s car parked in the driveway of their home between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. Dec. 6.

In a post on Instagram, Wambach said the burglars stole valuables and wrote hate speech with a permanent marker all over the inside of the car, according to the post.

The Dec. 6 Instagram post said a neighbor's surveillance camera recorded video of the burglars, with one wearing a hoodie and cargo shorts and another wearing an Ohio State cap, a gray top, and Nike shorts and shoes. The burglars left fingerprints on the car door.

“Neighbors camera got you, you idiots!! If you turn yourself in now, and return the stolen property, and pay for the car damages we won’t press charges,” Wambach wrote on the Instagram post. “If you don’t, you are going to jail. You have 24 hours.”

Two of the three arrested attend Gulf Coast High School in North Naples, the police report states. Two of those arrested are 15, while the other is 14, police said. 

Two of the three each face four charges: grand theft of a motor vehicle worth less than $100,000; grand theft from a motor vehicle, worth between $300 and $5,000; burglary without a weapon; and criminal mischief.

The third suspect was charged with one count of grand theft of a motor vehicle worth less than $100,000, according to the police report. 

Hope Solo accuses former FIFA president of sexual assault

United States women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulting her in 2013, ESPN reported.

>> Read more trending news

Solo told Expresso that Blatter grabbed her buttocks before the pair went on stage in 2013 to present an award to Solo’s teammate, Abby Wambach.

“It's been normalized,” Solo said of such behavior.

A representative for Blatter called the allegation “ridiculous” in a statement to Expresso and The Guardian.

Solo and Blatter walked onstage together in January 2013 to present the 2012 women's world player of the year award to Wambach.

“I was in shock and completely thrown off," Solo told The Guardian on Friday. “I had to quickly pull myself together to present my teammate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.”

Solo said she never saw Blatter again after the ceremony, ESPN reported. 

“That was kind of bad,” she told Expresso. “I didn't get to tell him directly. ‘Don't ever touch me!’ That's the way I've always handled things. Directly.”

Blatter, now 81, was banned by FIFA in 2015 over a conflict of interest case.

“While in this instance it was Sepp Blatter, who was the most powerful man in football at the time, sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior are rampant at every level in women's sport, and it needs to stop,” Solo said.

 

Police release video of soccer star Alex Morgan's eviction from Disney's Epcot

On Oct. 1, one of the biggest stars of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team was out with friends at Epcot in Orlando, Florida, when the night took a major turn for the worse.

>> Watch the news report here

Alex Morgan, who also plays for the Orlando Pride, was out with Orlando City player Donny Toia and his wife, and after some sort of altercation, the trio was kicked out of the park and told not to come back, authorities said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office released body camera footage of the three as deputies issued them trespass warnings for “conduct not welcome on Walt Disney property.”

>> Watch the footage here

Deputies and park officials said Morgan and the Toias were being verbally aggressive, loud and belligerent toward park staff and other guests, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

>> On WFTV.com: Orlando Pride adds Alex Morgan to roster

In the video, the three can be heard arguing with the deputy and park employees and at one point, one of them, who was off camera, took exception with how a deputy described their behavior.

“Dude, you guys are lying right now,” the woman can be heard saying. “I can’t imagine what black people go through.”

As his son practiced at XL Soccer World in Orlando on Tuesday, Erlend Kleiven said he was disappointed in what he saw in the body camera video.

“Obviously, as a role model from the national team, for young kids to look up to her, wear her jersey, obviously that’s not something that is good for the sport,” he said.

>> Read more trending news 

While soccer dad Jason Gilmore agreed that what he saw in the video was not a good example for aspiring players, he argued that Morgan might be getting more flak than was warranted.

“It isn’t great role model stuff, but on the other hand, I mean, we kind of forgive this stuff, and worse, from male athletes,” he said.

After spending about 15 minutes in a conference room at Epcot, the three were escorted from the park, but not before Morgan assured her friends that the trespass warning wouldn’t stick.

“That’s fine,” she said after hanging up her phone. “It’ll be rescinded tomorrow. It’ll be rescinded tomorrow.”

The Walt Disney Co. warned that if Morgan or the Toias ever entered its property again – which includes all theme parks, water parks and resorts – they could face arrest.

None were charged criminally in connection with the incident.

Morgan apologized for the incident on Twitter.

>> Read the apology here

World Cup sites for North American bid in 2026 trimmed to 32

Organizers leading a North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup trimmed its list of potential host cities to 32 on Wednesday, and 254 cities in the United States remain in the running as venues for soccer’s showcase event,  The Washington Post reported.

>> Read more trending news

The U.S. front-runners include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, the Post reported. Other American cities in the running were Baltimore; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; and Tampa, Florida.

U.S. cities eliminated from consideration were Birmingham, Alabama; Cleveland; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; and San Antonio, Texas. The two Canadian cities dropped from the list were Regina and Ottawa.

The World Cup was last staged in North America during the summer of 1994.

If the North American bid is successful, the United States would stage 60 matches in about a dozen venues, the Post reported. Mexico and Canada would have 10 games apiece.

All three Mexican bidding cities (Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey) are widely expected to make the final cut. Canada will probably settle for two venues, with Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton in the running.

Representatives from the remaining cities will meet in Houston next month for a working session with the United Bid Committee. FIFA — soccer’s international governing body — will announce the winner in June, the Post reported.

 

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