By DAN KARELL
FIFA look to finally be taking some serious steps to combat racism in the game.
The organization, hosting their annual conference, this year in the island nation of Mauritius, passed an anti-racism initiative that could deduct points, force relegation, or expel teams from competitions for repeated offenses of racism. A first offense could face a warning, fine, or playing a match behind closed doors.
This season, a number of Italian clubs were fined multiple times for racism on the part of fans and AC Milan Kevin Prince-Boateng famously walked off the field after suffering racism from Pro Patria fans in a friendly match last January.
CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb has called the anti-racism measures a “defining moment” in FIFA history, adding that the reports of racism picked up by the media are only one percent of all cases.
“We’ve got to take action so that when we look to the next 20 or 50 years this will be the defining time that we took action against racism and discrimination,” Webb told BBC Sport.
In addition, FIFA will elect the first woman to sit on the powerful Executive Committee, with Moya Dodd of Australia likely to be the representative. (UPDATE: Lydia Nsekera of Burundi has been elected, winning 95 votes to become the first woman on the FIFA ExCo.)
Here are some more stories to start your Friday on the right (or left) foot:
REPORT: SUAREZ HAS DEAL WITH REAL MADRID
After missing out on signing Brazilian starlet Neymar, Florentino Perez and Real Madrid’s management have moved on to their second target, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan, known as much for his stunning goals as for his head scratching bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, has agreed personal terms with Real Madrid, according to reports out of Spain. The report states that, though nothing has been signed yet, it would be a four-year contract with a significant pay raise to Suarez. It would cost Real Madrid nearly $61 million to activate Suarez’s release clause in his current Liverpool contract.
On Friday morning, numerous English outlets reported that the 26-year-old wants to leave Liverpool, saying that he isn’t comfortable living in England anymore.
Suarez had his best season at Liverpool this past campaign, scoring 30 goals in 44 matches in all competitions.
BRAZIL VS. ENGLAND FRIENDLY WILL TAKE PLACE
A judge in Rio de Janeiro reversed the decision to rule the recently reopened Maracana unsafe, leaving the upcoming Brazil national team friendly match against England back on track to be played on Sunday.
On Thursday, a prosecutor submitted a request to stop the game due to unfinished work conditions, debris lying around the stadium, and problems with flooring according to reports out of Brazil. However, on Friday, the judge reversed the initial decision to stop the match from occurring, having been reassured that the national stadium will be safe to hold the match.
“All safety requirements for the friendly between Brazil and England have been complied with and, because of a bureaucratic failure, the appraisal from the public ministry that proves the compliance with the rules on safety at the Maracana have not been sent to Suderj,” a statement said, translated via The Guardian.
England has won three, drawn nine, and lost eleven in 23 official matches against Brazil. The two nations met in February, with England taking a 2-1 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at Wembley Stadium.
Third division club FC Pasching defeated first-tier side Austria Vienna, 1-0, to win the Austrian Cup, one of the country’s greatest upsets of all time. (REPORT)
Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has been banned nine months for physically accosting a referee last month. The club have announced they will appeal the decision. (REPORT)
Barcelona are interested in acquiring Chelsea defender David Luiz, though it would cost them upwards of $52 million in transfer fees. (REPORT)
Victor Valdes explained at a press conference his reasons for leaving Barcelona, saying that it’s been very mentally taxing and the pressures are very tough to live with. (REPORT)
Bundesliga side SC Freiburg has completed the signing of former German international Mike Hanke. (REPORT)
What do you make of these reports? Do you believe FIFA will end up forcing a club into relegation over racism? Do you see Suarez moving to Real Madrid? Do you see the Maracana fully ready for matches in time for the 2014 World Cup?
Share your thoughts below.