New diversity data and hiring statistics further highlight the “grass ceiling” facing black footballers, the co-founder of the Black Footballers Partnership has said.

BFP data published earlier this year found black players make up 43 per cent of those active in the Premier League.

However, statistics released by the Football Association on Wednesday show that only 7.4 per cent of people in senior leadership roles at the 53 clubs signed up to its Football Leadership Diversity Code are black, Asian or mixed heritage.

The figure was only slightly higher in team operations (8.9 per cent) and only 10.5 per cent among senior coaches. The clubs also failed to hit any of the code’s eight diversity hiring targets in the 2022-23 season, with the FA accepting the hiring rates are too low to drive the necessary rapid change in representation.

The FA is consulting on a new rule to force clubs to report biannually on their workforce, and BFP co-founder Delroy Corinaldi feels if the game cannot get this right, there could be a future role for the independent regulator in ensuring compliance.

“Black players have been told time and again by the FA that you need to give the code time to work,” Corinaldi told the PA news agency.

“How much time do they want? If the FA can’t deliver, it needs to hold its hand up.

“Black players are nearly 50 per cent of your (playing) workforce. The signal you’re sending to those people is that once you get to your 30s, it’s punditry or leave the game, because there is a real ‘grass ceiling’ the FA is doing little to remove.

“How disheartening and soul-destroying is that?

“This government has said they’re not having diversity as part of its football governance regime. But maybe we need to look at that again. An industry where nearly half the key staff are blocked from promotion is not a functioning one.

“We need to get all the authorities in and we need to get serious about this problem, otherwise it will continue for generation after generation.”

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham admitted in the foreword to this year’s FLDC report that the game was making “slower progress” towards diversifying at the executive, operations and coaching level than had been hoped.

He believes mandating clubs to report workforce data represents a “critical change for football which futureproofs our approach for years to come”.

“There is no silver bullet to solving these challenges and we know that this alone will not drive all of the change we want to see.

“But publishing who we are, measuring that regularly and setting targets that stretch clubs to do better is a big step forward. It will be for clubs to set their own targets based on local factors, but it will help provide a clear statement that football is tackling diversity head-on.”

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk believes his best form has returned ahead of his side’s top-of-the-table clash with Premier League champions Manchester City.

Van Dijk’s reputation as one of the world’s elite centre-backs has been under scrutiny since a knee injury in October 2020 sidelined him for nine months and last season’s campaign only intensified the criticism.

The Dutchman, who took over the captaincy from Jordan Henderson in the summer, does not back away from the fact he was well below his best as Liverpool finished fifth last term, but he believes there has been an upturn in his form and he is feeling “important” again.

“Last year saw ups and downs, good games and less good games,” said the Netherlands captain.

“I’m held to a very high standard and I still am. That’s what I’ve created and I enjoy that. If that’s not the case then something’s not right.

“But I feel like I am in good moment physically and mentally and I feel like I am important. I just feel very good and I want to keep going.

“For me the most important thing is how I feel, what my team-mates feel about me and especially the manager. All the noise from the outside, whether it is very good or very bad you can’t do anything with it.

“I want to keep improving and I definitely feel I did.”

Van Dijk’s biggest critics are in his homeland, with the likes of Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit among the most outspoken.

He has brushed it off in the past and continues to do so, with his form appearing to be peaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to face leaders City.

“The only thing I can influence is how I play and last year I know I wasn’t at my best,” added the Dutchman when asked about the criticism.

“I had good games and lesser good games and I just have to perform on the pitch.

“What I strive for each and every game but also all season is consistency, that the team can rely on me at a certain level all the time and this year definitely off the pitch with the captaincy, something I enjoy and am learning still.

“I’m not perfect but I’m doing it my way and enjoying the challenge.”

While Van Dijk is relishing wearing the armband for club as well as country, he has also seen a change in Trent Alexander-Arnold, the new vice-captain.

“I hope it (vice-captaincy) has helped him. Whether he likes it or not, and I think he does like it, he has to take that responsibility,” he said.

“He will grow into it. He’s not the most vocal guy out there but he is learning and doing his thing and it’s really good how he copes with it, especially off the pitch and taking that responsibility.

“It is a new role but it suits him, especially as a local guy who knows everything about the club.”

Wales have been drawn to host Finland in the semi-finals of the qualification play-offs for Euro 2024.

The match will take place on Thursday, March 21 at Cardiff City Stadium.

Should Rob Page’s men win that single-leg tie, they would then host either Poland or Estonia five days later at the same venue to play for a spot at next summer’s tournament in Germany.

Finland finished third in Northern Ireland’s qualifying group – four points behind both Denmark and Slovenia – after winning six of their 10 fixtures.

They sit 62nd in the FIFA rankings, 34 places below Wales, and are aiming to qualify for the European Championship finals for only the second time following their debut at Euro 2020.

Wales are seeking to secure a third successive appearance at the finals of the competition and reach a fourth major tournament out of the last five after last year ending their 64-year wait to play at the World Cup.

They finished third in Group D of qualifying, behind pool winners Turkey and second-placed Croatia.

Just three of the 24 places at Euro 2024 remain up for grabs, with Wales attempting to navigate Path A of the play-offs.

In Path B, Israel face a semi-final against Iceland following Thursday’s draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, while Bosnia and Herzegovina will host Ukraine.

Georgia take on fellow potential tournament debutants Luxembourg in Path C, while Kazakhstan travel to 2004 European champions Greece in the other semi-final of that route.

The 10-point penalty imposed on Everton shows the Premier League is a “defunct organisation”, former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has said.

An independent commission sanctioned the Toffees last week after they exceeded losses permitted under the league’s profitability and sustainability rules by £19.5million in the three seasons ending in 2021-22.

Neville compared Everton’s penalty with the £3.5m fines imposed on the ‘Big Six’ clubs in 2021 over their involvement in an attempt to launch a European Super League.

Neville described what those clubs had done as “the attempted murder” of football.

“Everton’s trust and faith (in the Premier League) has gone completely. The greed and selfishness is out of control – it’s lawless,” he said on the Stick to Football podcast brought to you by Sky Bet.

“The Premier League is a defunct organisation because they’ve got 20 clubs all voting with self-interest. This has been coming for many years.

“The Super League clubs that tried to destroy the whole of European football – they were fined a total of £22m, £3.5m for each team, which is an absolute disgrace and a scandal for what they attempted to do, which was the attempted murder of our game.

“I actually feel sorry for the executives at the Premier League because I think they’re dealing with a mob that you can’t control.”

Everton have appealed against the sanction, but could yet face compensation claims from other clubs.

Neville’s former United team-mate Roy Keane told the same podcast Everton should just “take their medicine”.

“I know it’s extreme with 10 points, but it brings a bit of closure to Everton after a difficult few years, and we all think that from a football point of view they’ll still be able to stay up,” he said.

“They’ll have enough to stay up, have got a cup game coming up, and can try and get the feel-good factor back in the club and take their medicine, have closure, move on, and learn from their past mistakes.”

The Wembley arch is unlikely to be lit in support of campaigns and causes or to mark tragic events in the future.

The Football Association faced criticism last month – including from the Cabinet minister responsible for sport – after a decision was taken not to light the arch in the colours of the Israeli flag following attacks on its citizens by Hamas militants.

The Israeli government has said 1,200 people were killed in the attacks.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said on October 19 that his organisation would review its approach to lighting the arch, and the PA news agency understands it is now unlikely to be lit in future except for matters directly related to Wembley’s purpose as a sport and entertainment venue.

It is understood this will also mean the arch is not lit in relation to inclusion and diversity matters, such as being lit up in rainbow colours to support the LGBTQ+ community.

However, the FA still intends to use the power of the sport to support a range of campaigns and causes in other, meaningful ways.

The arch could still be lit in other exceptional circumstances, such as the death of the monarch or an England footballer.

Bullingham said last month: “This week has made us question whether we should light the arch and when, and we’ll be reviewing that in the coming weeks.

“I recognise that our decision caused hurt to the Jewish community, who felt that we should have lit the arch and that we should have shown stronger support for them.

“This was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make and the last thing we ever wanted to do in this situation was to add to the hurt.”

The FA was heavily criticised by a number of Jewish community groups, while Rabbi Alex Goldberg resigned from an FA faith in football group over its response.

The governing body was also criticised by Lucy Frazer, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The Republic of Ireland are looking for a new manager after Stephen Kenny’s ill-fated reign drew to a close on Wednesday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the men who could come under consideration for the vacant post.

Lee Carsley

Former Derby and Everton midfielder Carsley has enjoyed significant success as England Under-21s boss, guiding his side to European Championship glory last summer. Birmingham-born, he won 40 senior caps for Ireland and, at 49, has a wealth of coaching experience with Coventry, Sheffield United, Brentford, Manchester City, Birmingham and England Under-20s.

Roy Keane

The former Republic skipper remains a divisive figure in his native country after his bust-up with McCarthy in Saipan ahead of the 2002 World Cup finals, and it is approaching 13 years since he last managed in his own right at Ipswich. The 52-year-old former Manchester United star served as Martin O’Neill’s number two during his five-year reign with Ireland and, while he still enjoys the kind of profile which makes him a major figure in football, his lack of recent work as a coach – he spent five months working under O’Neill at Nottingham Forest in 2019 – may not be in his favour.

Chris Hughton

Current Ghana boss Hughton, who won 53 caps for Ireland as a player, has vast experience as a manager, guiding Newcastle and Brighton into the Premier League either side of spells in charge at Birmingham and Norwich. The 64-year-old was less successful in his most recent domestic role at Nottingham Forest, but has been working on the international stage since February and would tick a lot of boxes.

Sam Allardyce

Allardyce, who began his managerial career in Ireland with Limerick, has track record reorganising and revitalising struggling teams and there is little doubt that he would make the Republic more difficult to beat as a first port of call. Now 69, he last worked at Leeds, where he was parachuted in for a brief, desperate and ultimately futile Premier League rescue mission at the end of last season.

Neil Lennon

Former Northern Ireland international Lennon has long been touted as a future Ireland manager after the success of his first spell at Celtic, during which he led the club to three successive Scottish Premiership successes, two Scottish Cup wins and the last 16 in the Champions League. However, his stock has fallen since his second incarnation at Celtic Park ended in disarray in February 2021 with the Bhoys trailing arch-rivals Rangers by 18 points.

Mick McCarthy

McCarthy’s disgruntlement at the succession plan which saw Kenny replace him ahead of a Euro 2020 play-off tie against Slovakia was only thinly disguised, and he was not alone at the time. The prospect of taking the job for a third time might prove attractive to the 64-year-old, who guided the nation to the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, who has worked at Cardiff and Blackpool since his second international exit.

What the papers say

The Evening Standard reports Fulham are ahead of Liverpool and Manchester United in the battle to sign Fluminense’s 22-year-old Brazil midfielder Andre.

The same newspaper says Fulham have also showed interest in 24-year-old Denmark striker Jonas Wind, who has scored eight goals in 11 matches so far for Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.

The Daily Star reports there could be a cleanout at Manchester United next year with the possibility of 15 players leaving the Premier League club. The first player out the door is rumoured to be 23-year-old Jadon Sancho.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Newcastle are reportedly monitoring the 26-year-old Everton striker, TeamTalk reports. The England forward has scored three goals in nine games for the Toffees in the Premier League this season.

Santiago Gimenez: Football Transfers reports Chelsea are interested in the 22-year-old Feyenoord striker, who has scored 13 goals in 12 games so far for the Dutch club this season.

Blackpool forward Jake Daniels has said it was a slap in the face when Jordan Henderson moved to play in Saudi Arabia.

Daniels last year became the first openly gay active British male professional footballer since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

Former Liverpool captain Henderson had been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community before his decision to join Saudi club Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool in the summer.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state, leading some to accuse the England midfielder of turning his back on the community.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newsbeat, Daniels said: “He (Henderson) messaged me when I came out. He was backing me and said: ‘We’re proud of what you’ve done.’ And seeing him move to Saudi, it kind of like, slaps me in my face really.

“Obviously it was frustrating. But I guess the money pays well, and money must mean more to people.”

Henderson’s former Liverpool and England team-mate Steven Gerrard is currently his manager in the Saudi Pro League.


Daniels, who made his senior debut for Blackpool in May 2022, said Gerrard had personally reached out out to him following his decision to come out.

He added: “I met him in person and he said: ‘If you ever want to get in contact then message me’. But he moved over (to Saudi Arabia). It was frustrating”

Saudi Arabia is the sole bidder to host the 2034 men’s World Cup, 12 years after Qatar – where homosexuality is also illegal – staged the global tournament.

Daniels said he “wouldn’t feel safe” travelling to such places.

He said: “The World Cup that happened in Qatar, the one that is going to happen in Saudi Arabia, for me if I was there I wouldn’t feel safe, so that’s just putting your football in jeopardy.”

Daniels believes his decision to come out 18 months ago has helped his career.

“It has been crazy since coming out,” he added.

“I didn’t think it would blow up as much as it did. The reception I’ve had, the people I’ve met, it’s been a crazy experience.

“Coming out was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m playing better now.”

Teams at every step of the pyramid will be encouraged to embrace AI as part of a new partnership the Football Association’s director of women’s football hopes will help boost attendances at overlooked local clubs.

On Thursday the FA announced a new three-year deal which will see tech company Adobe take over as title sponsor for the Women’s FA Cup, which this year boasts a doubled prize pot from £3million to £6m.

But while the women’s game has witnessed unprecedented recent growth, particularly following the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 triumph, Baroness Sue Campbell admits clubs below the top tiers have not equally benefitted from the boost.

The FA’s director of women’s football told the PA news agency: “If you’re talking about Newcastle in tier three, they’re getting 20,000 people through the gates already, but you could also be talking about another club at tier three who are lucky if they get two people at a game.

“So we’ve got a long way to go still to get people to commit to come. There are a lot of lessons to learn by looking around, we’ve really done some good looks across at the United States where they get massive audiences for relatively low-tier games, but I think there’s a different culture in the way Americans either play sport or watch it.

“So we are having to build that culture of attending women’s games. The volume of interest is just growing and growing (but) people aren’t used to going and looking at their local women’s team.

“I think that’s what part of this (partnership) is about, using the FA Cup to connect clubs with their local population, their local community, looking at how they generate content which excites people to want to come, which gives them an interest in the individuals that are playing.”

Marketing is key to drawing those audiences, but, like ticket sales, staffing and resources across the lower tiers of English women’s football vary wildly.

Part of the new partnership will see Adobe give access to and train all 460 clubs in the competition on what it describes as an “AI-first” content creation app the FA hopes will allow teams to better market and promote themselves to boost interest and attendances, without putting undue strain on already-stretched staff.

Campbell, who in September announced she will retire from her role at the FA in 2024 after eight years, appreciates a one-size-fits all approach will not work but is optimistic about the technology’s potential.

She said: “We’ll have to think about how we support those clubs that perhaps are the one-person club, where they are trying to organise the post, send out the kit and also do the marketing.

“I hope we can actually enable these people to do things they perhaps don’t even know right now they are capable of doing. I think we will have to tailor it according to what is there, but we’ve got really good intelligence from the FA’s point of view about where every club in that structure is, and I’m sure we can adapt.”

Beyond the practical and potential financial advantage there is, at least for Campbell, also a more philosophical benefit in putting the latest tech in the hands of hundreds of clubs.

She added: “I think women and girls often haven’t had a voice, and certainly not in football. We’re gradually giving them one, and I think therefore the potential is just enormous.”

Barnet missed the chance to cut the gap at the top of the Vanarama National League as they were comprehensively beaten 4-1 at home by Oldham.

A win at the Hive would have seen the hosts draw to within five points of leaders Chesterfield but they fell behind after 26 minutes when goalkeeper Laurie Walker brought down Mike Fondop and conceded a penalty, which James Norwood converted.

Walker had initially been shown a red card before the referee rescinded the decision and issued a yellow.

Barnet looked to have taken advantage of the reprieve when Harry Pritchard levelled from the spot 10 minutes into the second half.

But from there the visitors took control, Fondop restoring the lead before Norwood got his second from 12 yards.

Hallam Hope netted in the 90th minute to make it back-to-back wins and move Oldham to within two points of the play-off places, while Barnet fell to a third straight loss.

Interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert will again be without his more established players for the decisive legs of their Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures against Panama and Guatemala on November 29 and December 3.

With the players, who achieved the historic feat of making the Round of 16 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year still out, Gilbert has once again assembled a squad filled with more youth than experience where senior international caps are concerned.

In fact, Sashana “Pete” Campbell is the only experienced player called up to join fellow 2019 World Cup veterans Chinyelu Asher and Marlo Sweatman in the team.

The Girlz, who lost 1-2 away to Panama and were held to a 2-2 stalemate at home by Guatemala, are faced with a must-win situation in the League A encounters, if they are to secure an automatic berth to next year’s Women’s Gold Cup.

They currently sit at the foot of the three-team standing with a point. Panama heads the standings on six points, with Guatemala on four. Should the Girlz fail to top the standings, they would at least need to finish second to have another shot at Gold Cup qualification through a playoff contest against a League B group winner.

With that in mind, expectations were that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the World Cup players –who withdrew their services over lack of payment and general “mistreatment” from the governing football body –would have arrived at an amicable settlement, as it is understood that several meetings were planned.

JFF’s General Secretary Dennis Chung explained that meetings were in fact planned but didn’t materialize.

“We had reached out to them and asked them to specify in writing what the details of the mistreatment they allege are, and also to advise us of two dates they want to meet and who the representatives are from their end to discuss, as per the grievance procedures under the contract, as we want to ensure that we do everything according to contract for the protection of all. We didn’t receive any feedback on proposed dates, so we proposed December 8,” Chung told SportsMax.TV.

“Someone said to us they would speak to the players about meeting earlier (Tuesday), but this was not official communication from the players and there was no confirmation from them. And there is still no response to the December 8 proposal, so we have to wait on the feedback,” he added.

However, SportsMax.TV has been reliably informed that the reason for the Girlz silence is due to the fact that they are still yet to be paid in full.

This is contrary to a JFF release on October 27 which states: “The JFF is pleased to advise that, as committed, we have now paid in full balances due to the Women’s World Cup team.”

A source close to the situation denied the claims.

“The players have not received their money and they want it to be made public,” the source shared.

But Chung rebutted.

“As far as we know we have paid all the monies due. I have heard people say that players are due money still, but no one has come to us and say what is outstanding. So, persons outside can say anything, but I have to go by the records we have. If there is money outstanding, then it should be for the players to state what is outstanding, not for people in the public to say money is outstanding. That is not something anyone can act on,” Chung argued.

“Our focus right now is on the upcoming games, while we wait on the response to the proposed date, as we of course want to understand the allegations of mistreatment so that if it is something we need to address then we ensure that it is dealt with for all our players, current and future,” he noted.

The Girlz will face Panama at the National Stadium next Wednesday, before travelling to lock horns with Guatemala a few days later.

Squad: Lauren Reid, Malikae Dayes, Zoe Vidaurre, Chinyelu Asher, Israela Groves, Ricshya Walker, Marlo Sweatman, Davia Richards, Mikayla Dayes, Shaneil Buckley, Melissa Johnson, Aliyah Morgan, Theanna Burnett, Serena Mensa, Shanice Foster, Destiny Powell, Njeri Butts, Sashana Campbell, Shania Harris, Sydnie Street, Javanae Jones, Lachante Paul, Maliah Atkins.

Chairman Peter Lawwell presided over Celtic’s annual general meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The Parkhead club are in a healthy financial situation, having recently announced record annual profits of more than £40million.

Celtic had £72.3m in the bank “net of bank borrowings” on June 30 this year, group revenue was up by more than a third to £120m and the club reported a gain in the transfer market of £14.4m.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the main topics which emerged from the meeting at Celtic Park.

On and off-field performances

Lawwell, who returned as chairman at the beginning of the year – after previously being chief executive – was pleased with the financial results. However, amidst general domestic dominance, he also recognised the on-going difficulties Celtic have in Europe. The Hoops sit bottom of their Champions League section with one point from four fixtures including a 6-0 thrashing away to Atletico Madrid, leaving Celtic looking for their first group-stage win since 2017.

Lawwell said: “From a financial perspective it was an exceptional year. A record turnover of £120million, record profit before tax of £41million, a very strong balance sheet and big cash reserves so we have been very satisfied. The fundamentals are very strong. In Europe, it is getting tougher and tougher. There is a financial gap between ourselves and the major European clubs which is getting bigger. But we don’t give up. We competed well at home against Atletico and Lazio. We just have to be more consistent.”

The Green Brigade

Celtic have been at loggerheads with the fans’ group recently, following a string of disputes and flashpoints and the Green Brigade remain suspended from Celtic Park and are not receiving tickets for away matches. Chief executive Michael Nicholson said: “We all want Celtic Park full of Celtic fans supporting the team and (manager) Brendan (Rodgers). That has to be done in a safe way. We have had some concerns about safety in that particular section of the stadium and with that particular group for some time and this season those concerns have escalated. It was not a decision taken lightly but a decision taken for safety.”

Rodgers challenged to keep top players at Celtic

Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers – in his second spell in the Parkhead hot seat – said: “If a player is offered six times more money to go and play elsewhere in a more competitive league or one of the big leagues then that is a challenge for a club like ourselves to keep hold of that player. That is something I struggled with in my first time here but experience and perspective helps me in understanding the climate and challenges a club like Celtic has at the top level. But we have to find a way.”

Who brings in the players?

Rodgers denied he has players foisted upon him as he backs his recruitment team which is headed by Peter Lawwell’s son, Mark Lawwell. He said: “I just want to categorically say none of the players who came in have been pushed on to me. The players have been identified by a fantastic recruitment team. The recruitment team is one of the reasons I came back. I can only vouch for the quality and depth of knowledge that Mark and his team have. We have a profile for each position. They will go out and find that player. I will then decide who comes in – or else it doesn’t work.”

Chelsea captain Millie Bright is likely to miss her side’s Women’s Champions League meeting with Paris FC at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

Blues manager Emma Hayes confirmed Bright has a knee problem and, although it is not a serious issue, said the 30-year-old will also be a doubt for Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses squad for the upcoming Nations League games against the Netherlands and Scotland in the first week of December.

Bright had knee surgery prior to last summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where she skippered England to second place, before returning to pre-season training at Cobham ahead of the Women’s Super League season.

The defender, who took over as Chelsea skipper from Magdalena Eriksson for the new WSL season, featured in all seven matches as England finished runners-up behind Spain having not played a competitive game for club or country since March.

“I’ve made it clear that having so many games in quick succession, we’re managing our load,” said Hayes. “We wanted to give her a bit of extra time but I think she’s very much in doubt for (Thursday).

“Prior to the World Cup she had surgery on her knee, so preparation going into the World Cup wasn’t ideal. She rushed herself back.

“She’s come back and quickly into the Chelsea season, so perhaps she needed a little bit longer.

“Her knee’s a little bit angry at the minute. It’s not anything too detrimental, we’re just listening to her body and how it’s feeling.

“There’s a strong possibility (of missing the Lionesses’ games).”

Hayes said she is yet to decide whether she will travel to the United States during the international break, following the announcement last week that she is to take over the US national team after standing down as Chelsea coach in May.

But she reiterated her stance that until then she remains committed to helping the club to a fifth straight WSL title and a first Champions League crown.

The team will be looking to get the first win of their European campaign against Paris following the controversial 2-2 draw with Real Madrid last week.

“I’m not watching (the US players), I’m watching my own team,” said Hayes. “That’s the work of the full-time team that are in place. I don’t start working for US Soccer until May.

“Since I’ve been appointed as the coach I’ve had conversations with people. There are full-time people in post in the US and I’ll be there in May. When the opportunity arises I will have conversations. But my full focus is on Chelsea.”

Striker Sam Kerr praised her manager’s impact on the club during her 12-year tenure.

“It’s obviously sad,” she said. “Emma’s a great coach, a great leader and she’s been here for so long. But that’s football.

“Chelsea are very lucky that they’ve had her for as long as they have, but most of us in football are used to these things (managers leaving). We all wish her all the best (with the US).”

Hayes interjected: “Do you mean that?”

“No,” said Australia international Kerr.

Lionel Messi says Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Brazil at the Maracana will be “marked by repression of Argentinians” after the game was delayed by crowd trouble.

Kick-off was put back by half-an-hour in Rio de Janeiro as rival fans clashed with police, with both sets of players trying to calm the situation down before eventually returning to the dressing rooms before the game could get under way.

The crowd trouble began during the national anthems as police charged at away supporters using batons, causing a mass brawl which led to some fans spilling on to the pitch to escape the trouble in the stands.

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Once the trouble had subsided, Nicolas Otamendi’s second-half header from a corner settled the contest, while Brazil’s Joelinton saw red for a shove on Rodrigo de Paul late on.

The loss condemned the hosts to their third straight defeat in World Cup qualifying and their first ever on home soil.

Lionel Messi said the “great victory” could have ended in “tragedy”.

Quoted on the BBC, he said: “We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy.”

The Ballon d’Or winner added on Instagram: “Great victory in the Maracana, although it will be marked by the repression of the Argentinians in Brazil.

“This can’t be tolerated, it’s insane and it needs to end now!”

Reggae Boyz central defender Damion Lowe has described defeating Canada to advance to the 2024 Copa America and the Concacaf Nations League semi-finals as a top two moment of his national team career along with their 1-0 win over Mexico at the Rose Bowl in the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Lowe was instrumental in helping the Boyz defeat their rivals 3-2 at the BMO Field in Toronto on Tuesday to secure a spot in the semis as well as next year’s Copa America.

The final score over the two legs was 4-4 with Jamaica advancing based on the away goals rule.

“It’s up there. I think top two. I think beating Mexico 1-0 at the Rose Bowl is still the best moment of my national team career but this one is up there for sure especially with all the talking that has been going on from the Canadian team but the guys showed real heart today,” Lowe said in an interview after the game.

In what can only be described as a masterstroke by head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, Lowe, who started the game at his preferred centre back position, was moved into the midfield in the second half, a move that completely changed the game in Jamaica’s favor.

The first of Shamar Nicholson’s two goals on the night came after an excellent assist from Lowe after winning the ball in the final third.

“Nothing too hard for me to think about because I’ve played there and have experience there,” said Lowe about the move to midfield.

“I just tried to analyze the spots that I should be in and just try to help the team as much as possible. I didn’t really think about it at all. Coach just told me I’m playing central midfield and I said okay then just went in and gave my all,” he added.

A national team member for over seven years, the 30-year-old hopes that this is the first step of Jamaica consistently getting over the line and qualifying for big tournaments.

“It’s big! As I said to the guys, it’s no more almost. Every year, every two years it’s almost getting to the finals; almost getting to the semi-final; almost getting to the world cup. Now it’s time to get over the line and we’ve achieved one goal in getting to the Copa America. We’re in the semi-finals of the Nations League so I’m grateful,” he said.

Lowe will now turn his attention to an MLS Cup Conference Semi-final for his Philadelphia Union as they are set to take on FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

“That’s the focus right now. We’re going back into camp tomorrow to prepare for that and get some recovery done and Saturday we have a big semi-final against Cincinnati,” he said.




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