Real Madrid have called on authorities to hold those responsible for the abuse of Vinicius Junior to account.

Madrid host rivals Atletico Madrid in a Copa del Rey encounter on Thursday.

In the build-up to the match, pictures were shared on social media showing a mannequin, wearing a Vinicius shirt, hung by the neck from a bridge in the Spanish capital.

This was condemned by Atleti, who released a statement saying: "Such acts are absolutely repugnant and inadmissible and shame society. Our condemnation of any act that attacks the dignity of persons or institutions is categorical and unreserved."

Madrid have now joined their neighbours in condemning what they label as a "repugnant act of racism, xenophobia and hatred".

A statement read: "Real Madrid would like to thank you for the support and expressions of affection received after the regrettable and repugnant act of racism, xenophobia and hatred against our player Vinicius.

"We would like to express our strongest condemnation of these acts which are an attack on fundamental rights and the dignity of people, and which have nothing to do with the values that football and sport represent.

"Attacks such as those suffered by our player, or those suffered by any sportsperson, have no place in a society such as ours

"Real Madrid trust that those who have participated in such a despicable act will be held accountable."

The Confederacao Brasileira de Futebol (CBF) also joined in the condemnation.

"The CBF vehemently repudiates the racist acts suffered once again by Vinicius," a statement read.

"Intolerance and discrimination are not part of sport and must be eliminated from society. We hope that those responsible are identified and punished under the law."

LaLiga called for a full investigation to be launched and criminal sanctions issued against guilty parties.

Atletico Madrid condemned the "repugnant" actions that have seen Vinicius Jr the target of abuse ahead of Thursday's derby against Real Madrid.

The two great rivals clash in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey at Santiago Bernabeu, but build-up for the tie has been marred by a section of Atleti supporters.

Pictures spread on social media showed a mannequin, wearing a Vinicius shirt, hung by the neck from a bridge in the Spanish capital.

A banner in the colours of Atletico was displayed on the same bridge which read: "Madrid hates Real".

In a statement, Atletico said: "Such acts are absolutely repugnant and inadmissible and shame society. Our condemnation of any act that attacks the dignity of persons or institutions is categorical and unreserved.

"The rivalry between the two clubs is the greatest, but so is respect. No individual, whatever their intentions or colours, can tarnish the coexistence between different supporters. It is everyone's responsibility to avoid this.

"We do not know the perpetrator or perpetrators of this despicable act, but their anonymity does not avoid their responsibility. We hope that the authorities succeed in clarifying what happened and that justice helps to banish this type of behaviour."

LaLiga also issued a statement on the matter, calling for a full investigation to be launched and criminal sanctions issued against guilty parties.

"We strongly condemn the acts of hatred directed towards Vinicius Junior. Intolerance and violence has no place in football," the statement read.

"As it has done before, La Liga will press for a full investigation in search of the facts and the conviction of those responsible, requesting the most severe criminal sanctions."

It is not the first time Vinicius has been targeted by sections of the Atletico fanbase, with footage outside the Civitas Metropolitano ahead of the LaLiga clash between the two clubs earlier this season showing fans chanting abuse.

Lazio have condemned the "despicable, shameful and anachronistic" racist abuse aimed at Lecce players Samuel Umtiti and Lameck Banda in Wednesday's Serie A match.

Lecce's 2-1 comeback victory at Stadio Via del Mare was overshadowed by a section of Lazio fans in the away end aiming abuse towards Umtiti and Banda.

The game was halted for several minutes and a message was played over the announcer system warning the contest would not resume if the chants continued.

Umtiti's name was chanted by home fans in solidarity and the centre-back personally asked for the match to resume, though he reportedly left the field in tears at full-time.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino called out the latest example of racist abuse in Italian football, coming on the day the Serie A season resumed from its near-two-month break.

In a statement released on Thursday, Lazio vowed to do everything they can to find those responsible, but they denied the club's supporters as a whole are racist.

"During the Lecce-Lazio match, the referee was forced to stop the match due to racist howls towards a player from the home team," the statement read.

"Lazio has always opposed all forms of racism and discrimination with all the means available.

"Initiatives are in place aimed at repressing these phenomena, making its fans aware of this issue and acting in the appropriate offices to protect its image.

"Even today, Lazio condemns those who have become the protagonists of this despicable, shameful and anachronistic gesture.

"We will, as always, offer the maximum collaboration to the authorities to identify those responsible. 

"Lazio fans are not racist and cannot be associated with a few individuals who seriously harm the club's image."

Ciro Immobile had given fifth-place Lazio the lead prior to Gabriel Strefezza and Lorenzo Colombo striking in the second half for Lecce, who moved up to 12th in Serie A.

LaLiga has filed charges to a local court relating to the racial abuse aimed at Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior during last week's 2-0 win over Real Valladolid.

Vinicius was targeted by home fans after being substituted late on at Estadio Jose Zorrilla, where Karim Benzema's double secured all three points for Madrid.

The Brazil international criticised LaLiga for its lack of action to eradicate racism, though league chief Javier Tebas said those comments were "unfortunate" and "unfair".

LaLiga on Tuesday moved to punish those responsible for abusing Vinicius by taking the matter further.

"LaLiga has filed the corresponding charges regarding the racist insults directed against footballer Vinicius Jr, before the relevant judicial, administrative and sporting bodies," a statement read.

"A criminal charge for hate crimes has been filed with the Valladolid Magistrates' Courts, supported by audio-visual evidence gathered in the investigation carried out through images and audio clips published on open sources.

"LaLiga has also asked the Valladolid Magistrates' Courts to transfer the complaint to the Public Prosecutor's Office for Hate Crimes so that it can participate in the case.

"In addition, and as has been the case for several seasons, a report of the racist insults has been submitted to the RFEF Competition Committee and the State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, to be studied and assessed for a sanction."

In a social media post following Friday's win over Valladolid, Vinicius said: "Racists continue to go to stadiums and watch the biggest club in the world up close and @LaLiga continues to do nothing..."

Tebas was quick to refute that claim at the time, and LaLiga has now vowed to "increase its ongoing efforts to eradicate any kind of violence, racism or xenophobia inside and outside stadiums".

Tuesday's statement added: "As a result, the number of LaLiga integrity officers present at matches where there is a risk of racist insults will be increased, in order to maximise detection and identification of this type of behaviour, which has no place in sport.

"Furthermore, in stadiums where there is considered to be a risk of possible racist behaviour in the stands, messages will be broadcast over the public address system and advertising hoardings surrounding the pitch to combat and condemn racism.

"LaLiga's objective is zero violence in sport and in order to achieve this, a variety of training, prevention, detection and reporting practices are carried out on each matchday, which are then reported to the State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, as well as to the Public Prosecutor's Office for Hate Crimes. 

"Similarly, LaLiga denounces and takes legal action as a plaintiff in any criminal proceedings related to violent acts occurring in the sphere of football. LaLiga continues to work with clubs, players, authorities and all parties involved in the sport to ensure that there is no place for violent or racist behaviour in football."

Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti said on Monday a "zero tolerance" policy needs to be taken against racism after the fourth high-profile incident involving Vinicius.

"It's society's problem, it shouldn't exist, for me it has to be zero tolerance," Ancelotti added. "I don't think it's LaLiga's problem. It's a general, cultural problem in society. Society doesn't have the education it should have.

"With such an important issue I wouldn't focus on Vinicius or LaLiga or the punishments. It's much bigger."

Vinicius is not part of Madrid's squad for Tuesday's Copa del Rey round-of-32 tie at lower-tier Cacereno, with Ancelotti opting to rest a number of first-team regulars.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas labelled Vinicius Junior's criticism of the league's anti-racism work "unfair" after the Real Madrid winger vented his frustration on social media.

Madrid beat Real Valladolid 2-0 at the Jose Zorrilla on Friday, but the match was marred for Vinicius.

The Brazil international wrote on Instagram the following day that "racists continue to go to the stadiums and see the best club in the world up close, and LaLiga continues to do nothing".

Vinicius was substituted during the match and almost hit by several objects thrown from the stands as he walked behind one of the goals, with fans appearing to direct racist chants at him.

Tebas rejected Vinicius' claim that LaLiga is doing nothing to drive racists out of the sport, however.

"At LaLiga we have been fighting racism for years," Tebas tweeted. "Vinicius Junior, it is unfair and not true to publish that 'LaLiga does nothing against racism'.

"Find out more. We are at your disposal so that all together we can go in the same direction."

Also included in the tweet from Tebas was the link to a LaLiga statement that insisted the incidents in Valladolid will be reported to the hate crimes prosecutors' office; additionally, it documented previous instances of complaints being filed with legal authorities, in an attempt to disprove Vinicius' criticism.

"Before the publication of Vinicius Jr, a Real Madrid player, on his social networks making a comment in which he alludes to the lack of action measures by LaLiga in the fight against racism, LaLiga has detected racist insults from someone from the stands of the Zorrilla stadium, [which were] published on social networks," the statement began.

"These events will be reported to the anti-violence commission and the hate crimes prosecutor's office, as has been done on other occasions in which LaLiga, after investigating racist behaviour inside and outside the stadiums, has led the fight against this type of act."

Vinicius Junior has criticised LaLiga bosses for failing to effectively tackle racism after the Real Madrid forward was targeted at Real Valladolid.

The Brazilian had items thrown at him from the stands after he was substituted late on, and shocking footage of verbal abuse emerged after Friday's game.

Madrid sealed a 2-0 win in their first league game since the World Cup, with Karim Benzema getting both goals.

Vinicius posted a picture of himself with Benzema soon after the away victory, with the caption: "God bless us!"

Having considered the unsavoury events of the evening, Vinicius added on social media on Saturday: "Racists continue to go to stadiums and watch the biggest club in the world up close and @LaLiga continues to do nothing...

"I will continue with my head held high and celebrating my victories and those of Madrid. In the end it's MY fault."

Madrid are next in action against fourth-tier Cacereno in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday.

Benetton Treviso apologised for "absurd stupidity" after a banana was given to Cherif Traore in the team's Secret Santa.

Traore, who is an Italy international having made his debut in 2018, was given a rotten banana during the United Rugby Championship side's Christmas dinner.

The prop was born in Guinea but moved to Italy aged seven, and has lived in the country ever since.

Traore spoke out against the act on social media, saying he had not "slept all night" and had "decided not to keep quiet this time to ensure that episodes like this do not happen again".

Benetton responded with a statement, which said that Traore had "accepted his comrades' apologies".

President Amerino Zatta declared: "What happened against Cherif does not in any way reflect our identity and the values that the Benetton family has been carrying forward for years.

"I'm glad Cherif accepted the apology, understanding the absurd stupidity committed by one of his teammates.

"I am sure that this will strengthen the sense of cohesion within the group and that such a gesture will never again find fertile ground within our family.

"On behalf of the entire team, I reiterate that we condemn any expression of racism and that no form of discrimination is accepted in our dressing room."

Traore was involved in the team's statement, adding: "This afternoon's meeting was an opportunity to discuss and understand how what one of my companions did on the occasion of exchanging Christmas presents is purely the result of idiocy and nothing other.

"I appreciated and accepted his apologies and those of the entire team. I'm happy with the gesture and I'm sure what happened will make the group even more solid.

"We are a family and as such we will continue to commit ourselves on and off the pitch, fighting, as we always have, against all forms of discrimination."

The French Football Federation (FFF) has confirmed it will be filing complaints after some France players were subject to "racist and hateful remarks" on social media.

France went down 4-2 on penalties to Argentina in the World Cup final on Sunday, following a 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium in Doha.

In the wake of that loss, several France players are said to have been racially abused on social media.

On Monday, Bayern Munich condemned the abuse of Kingsley Coman, who missed a penalty in the shoot-out. 

Now, the FFF has promised to lodge complaints against those responsible for the abuse of Coman and his team-mates.

"Following the World Cup final, several players from the French team were the subject of unacceptable racist and hateful remarks on social networks," a statement read.

"The FFF condemns them and will file a complaint against those responsible."

Marcus Rashford is hoping he gets a chance to redeem himself from a missed penalty in England's European Championship final defeat to Italy during the World Cup.

The Manchester United forward was among three members of Gareth Southgate's side to fail to beat Gianluigi Donnarumma from the spot in the shootout, alongside Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.

The trio were then subject to racial abuse on social media, but that has not put him off stepping up for the Three Lions if required in Qatar.

"Racism is not good to go through as an individual but it's not good to see anyone go through it. [It's] more just disappointment. You're disappointed that people have views like that," he said.

"And the main reason is that you don't have those views about anyone else, regardless of their race or religion. It's more the disappointment that people are thinking those things, rather than saying them.

"I've missed a penalty before. You never want to miss a penalty, it's a great opportunity for forwards especially to score goals, and obviously they're big moment.

"As an individual I've always been comfortable with and enjoy big moments so I'm hoping I get to take another penalty in the tournament. I'm looking forward to it."

England were booed off following a goalless draw against the United States last time out, but stand on the brink of qualification for the knockout stages – with only a four-goal defeat to Wales in the final match enough to send them home.

Rashford is confident England will do what is required and will "leave it all out on the pitch" against Wales.

"It is not often I come away with England and feel like we're going to lose games. I think as a collective, we're very strong," he added.

"The togetherness is really high and it is a big feature that Gareth puts emphasis on.

"It is something we have worked on and it has improved as time has gone on. But like I said, the main reason why we are in the position we're in is because we have good players who are willing to work for one another and leave it all out on the pitch.

"In the next game, we'll definitely look to do that."

Germany coach Hansi Flick refused to hide his frustration at FIFA's decision to ban teams from wearing the OneLove armband at the World Cup.

The OneLove campaign, which promotes "inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind", grew in significance ahead of the tournament in Qatar, partly due to the host country's criminalisation of homosexuality and poor human rights record.

Germany were one of seven European nations to back the initiative, which involved captains wearing special armbands featuring a multi-coloured heart.

The move was shelved on Monday after it emerged FIFA was set to impose "sporting sanctions" on the teams involved, with the expectation being that captains would be booked at kick-off for wearing the armband.

While FIFA has been criticised for seemingly opposing an anti-discrimination gesture, teams have also been slammed for lacking the bravery to proceed regardless of sanction threats.

Although Flick did not address the criticism of the teams, he did express regret regarding FIFA's decision.

"About the armband, together with the DFB [German Football Association] and the other countries, we wanted to do this to take a stand, and then what happened is FIFA threatened us with sanctions and the associations were told [on Monday] at short notice," Flick told reporters ahead of Wednesday's Group E opener against Japan.

"If you want to run a campaign as a group, you should stick to decisions.

"Of course, it's a shock for the team to not do it, it was a sign of human rights and diversity. And the way I treat my team, the values I and the team represent, well all of that is based on mutual respect, mutual appreciation, that's just part of life. I expect that from everyone.

"There are some parties involved who think differently. We wanted to embody our values."

Regarding the threat of a potential instant yellow card, Flick said: "We talked about it, a yellow card can happen. If [Joshua] Kimmich then has to leave pitch, we have options. However, it was unclear and the mere threat of sanctions was difficult for us, especially because it was so short notice before the England and Netherlands games, that's when the decision was communicated.

"We didn't have time to react, the federations decided to take responsibility off the players' shoulders and that's why the situation is what it is now.

"I'm sorry we can't be here and take a stand for human rights, apparently."

Midfielder Kimmich largely echoed the sentiment of his coach, expressing shock at Monday's announcement.

He also questioned how much players should be expected to use their platforms to fight for social causes, pointing out that ultimately they are in Qatar to play football.

"Eventually there was a decision of the DFB, a decision supported by everyone: England and all the other teams," Kimmich said.

"Generally speaking, I was quite surprised because a few weeks ago when we discussed the armband, I felt people were criticising it. A lot of people thought it was pointless, a fig leaf, but I think it was a strong stance to take.

"We as players, and the DFB, have addressed the issues and problems. We had a campaign on human rights, and in Nepal we'll work on donations for supporting people. I think we're good at pointing out things around the world that are not going well, but now we concentrate on the football.

"On Qatar being awarded the World Cup, it was 12 years ago, I was 15, now I have to keep making statements.

"We are all very aware. Time and time again we have had the opportunity to point out mistakes and issues in the world, but we have to be honest as well, here we don't learn enough about what's going on in the world because we are busy training, playing games. You [the media] have the opportunity to go out and see.

"I think it's important us as players to take advantage of our platforms to point out wrongs, but we also have to focus on the game regardless of where the World Cup is hosted.

"It's the greatest competition out there for footballers. It's every boy's dream to participate in it. I think a lot of people tried to convince us we shouldn't be looking forward to it, many at home aren't excited, but I should be able to look forward even if it's here."

Gareth Southgate confirmed England will take a knee before their World Cup opener against Iran on Monday in a show of solidarity against discrimination.

Premier League teams had adopted the gesture on a regular basis following the death of George Floyd in the United States back in 2020.

It was scrapped as a regular feature ahead of this season, with the Premier League instead announcing the gesture would be reserved for special occasions.

All Premier League games between October 8 and 16 saw players take the knee as part of the 'No Room for Racism' campaign, and it was also confirmed games on Boxing Day, the last weekend of the season and the finals of the FA Cup and EFL Cup will also see its return.

It had been reported that England players were discussing whether to kneel during the World Cup and Southgate confirmed the squad came to an agreement.

"We have discussed taking the knee, we feel we should," Southgate told reporters on Sunday.

"It's what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time.

"We understand in the Premier League, teams decided to only do it for the big games, the big occasions.

"We feel this is the biggest.

"We think it's a strong statement that will go around the world to young people in particular to show inclusivity is important."

On a similar note, Southgate and England captain Harry Kane also reiterated their commitment to the latter wearing the OneLove armband throughout the tournament.

England were one of eight teams to pledge their support to the initiative designed to promote inclusion ahead of the tournament in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are illegal.

FIFA launched its own "social campaign" and is urging captains to wear armbands provided by the governing body that promote its own slogans.

Additionally, regulations suggest the wearing of equipment not endorsed by FIFA are outlawed, giving rise to reports Kane could receive an immediate yellow card for donning the armband.

But England plan to stand by their decision.

"I think we made clear as a team, as a staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband," Kane said.

"I know the FA [Football Association] is talking to FIFA at the moment and I'm sure by game time they'll have their decision, but we made clear we want to wear it."

Southgate continued: "There's nothing more I can add to what Harry's said. I know there are conversations going on.

"A number or European countries have spoken and we made our position clear, and hopefully everything will be resolved before the game."

However, there are no plans to make a gesture in support of women in Iran.

The death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini – who was arrested for not wearing a hijab properly – in police custody in September sparked mass protests across the country, and it is a backdrop that has dominated Iran's build-up to the World Cup.

Iran showed solidarity with the protestors – 15,000 of whom have reportedly been arrested by the regime – in September when covering up their national symbols before a friendly against Senegal, but Southgate said England are not planning to make any gestures of their own.

"I don't feel informed enough to comment on what's going on in Iran, it's not my place either," he added. "I understand for Iranian players and the manager, they're in a difficult position but they're better informed.

"If we were asked by their team to support in some way, we would have to consider that, but at the moment it hasn't happened.

"We're all focused on the football now. This has been a complicated build-up in terms of many issues, but now our country expects us to focus on preparing the team as well as we can. I don't think people should expect that to be any different for us."

Gianni Infantino's press conference in Doha ahead of the Qatar World Cup was scheduled to last 45 minutes.

Yet, 55 minutes had passed before FIFA president Infantino said: "Now I will move on to the World Cup."

The best part of the proceeding hour had involved a long and winding monologue from the Swiss, who targeted the hypocrisy of the western media and insisted he must take criticism, not the players and coaches, for the controversy surrounding the upcoming tournament.

Infantino also defended the Qatari state, insisting that engagement must be prioritised over possible provocation over matters such as human rights and migrant worker pay and conditions.

With questions fielded after Infantino's monologue, the press conference lasted over 90 minutes. Here are the key points.

 

The opening comments

"Today I have very strong feelings. Today, I feel Qatari. Today, I feel Arab. Today, I feel African. Today, I feel gay. Today, I feel disabled. Today, I feel a migrant worker.

"I feel all this because what I have been seeing and what I have been told, since I don't read, otherwise I will be depressed."

On migrant worker conditions

"I am a son of migrant workers, my parents were working hard in very difficult conditions, not in Qatar but in Switzerland, I remember it very well. I know the rights migrants in Switzerland had. I remember as a child how migrant workers were treated when they wanted to enter a country and look for work. 

"I remember what happened with their passports, their medical checks, with their accommodation and when I came to Doha for the first time after I was elected FIFA president I went to see some of the accommodation and I was brought back to my childhood. I said to the people in Qatar, this is not right, and the same way that Switzerland has become an example of tolerance, inclusion and rights, Qatar has made progress as well."

On European "hypocrisy"

"We know there are many illegal workers in Europe, living in conditions that aren't the best. Those who reach Europe or want to go to Europe, they have to go through a very difficult journey. Only a few survive.

"So, if you really care about the destiny of these people, these young people, then Europe could also do what Qatar did: create legal channels for at least a number or percentage of these workers, who can come to Europe, give them some work, a future, hope. In Qatar, of course, there are things that still don't work, but this moral lesson-giving is one-sided, it is just hypocrisy."

On being discriminated against personally 

"Of course, I am not Qatari, I am not Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled, I am not a migrant worker but I feel like them because I know what it feels to be discriminated against by a bully. As a foreigner in a foreign county, as a child at school, I was bullied at school because I had red hair and freckles. I was Italian, and didn't speak good German.

"What do you do? You lock yourself down, go to your room and cry. And then you try to make some friends, to engage, make friends. And then you try to make these friends engage with others. You don't start fighting, you start engaging and this is what we should be doing."

On "racist" reporting and "organising a World Cup, not a war"

"Help, don't divide. Try to unite. The world is divided enough. We are organising a World Cup, not a war. Where anyone can come and enjoy. Look at the city – it's beautiful, it's happy, they celebrate.

"They went to see the teams, and what happened when they did – 'well they don't look like English, they look like Indians!'. Can someone who looks Indian not cheer for England? Or Spain or Germany? You know what this is – it's racism, pure racism. Everyone in this world has a right to cheer for who they want."

On the "best World Cup in history"

"Qatar is ready and it will be the best World Cup ever. As soon as the ball rolls, people will focus on that. I think this World Cup will be an exceptional one from a football point of view. For the first time, the teams will stay in one place, and play in one place.

"They don't need to travel, spend the night and then recover. Of course, the temperature is a bit warm, but during the next days it will be perfect. Also, when the players have been playing in July, they are really tired, especially the best players who play in the Champions League. It will be an exceptional World Cup and I think we will see the best World Cup in history."

On banning alcohol in stadiums

"If this is the biggest issue we have, I will sign immediately and go to the beach until December 18. Every decision taken in this World Cup is a joint decision between Qatar and FIFA. It's discussed, debated and taken jointly. There will be fan zones where you can buy alcohol. I think if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer you will survive.

"We tried, the late change of policy because we tried to the end to see if it's possible. It's one thing to have the designs, it's another to put them in place. Budweiser is a great partner of FIFA. A few weeks ago we were shaking hands with their CEO to continue our partnership until 2026. Partners are partners in good and bad times."

On LGBTQ+ issues

"I can confirm that everyone is welcome. If you're a person here or there that says the opposite, well it's not the opinion of the country, and it's certainly not the opinion of FIFA. This is a clear requirement, everyone has to be welcome. Whatever religion, race, sexual orientation or belief that she or he has, everyone is welcome – this is our requirement and the Qatari state sticks to this.

"Do you want to stay home and criticise, say how bad they are – these Arabs or Muslims or whatever, because it's not allowed to be publicly gay. Of course, I believe it should be allowed, but I went through a process."

On taking a tournament to... North Korea

"Tolerance starts with ourselves, we shouldn't spread aggression, we have to spread understanding. If we wanted to organise a tournament in North Korea, then I would try. I have been a few years ago, to try and organise part of the women's World Cup there. I was not successful, but I would try again."

On criticism

"Here I have to deal with other topics. If you want to criticise somebody, don't criticise the players, the coaches, let them focus on football and making their fans happy.

"If you want to criticise someone, criticise me, I am here, crucify me. Don't criticise Qatar. Criticise FIFA, criticise me. But let people enjoy this World Cup."

On FIFA uniting the world

"We are a global organisation, and we want to remain an organisation that unites the world. I am still convinced, though not sure how optimistic I still am, that this World Cup will help to open the eyes of people in the western world to the Arab world. We have to live together, but we have to understand we have different beliefs, different history and backgrounds, but we are in the same world.

"It's why you have to come here and say what you see – when you see something that is wrong, say how it can be rectified, please. So maybe, we can help everyone to understand how we can help each other a little bit better."

On Iran's place in the tournament

"Because it's not two regimes playing each other, not two ideologies, it's two football teams. It's football. If we don't have football to bring us together… You want another World War? Okay, go ahead, without me. We have to bring people together.

"In Iran there are 80 million people living. Do you think they are all bad? All monsters? I don't think so. Do we have to exclude everyone because not everyone is good or says the right thing? We'll fight and fight to bring people together, and the more we can do that, the better it will be because no one else is doing that."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino slammed coverage of so-called "fake fans" as "pure racism" during his remarkable pre-World Cup address.

Infantino gave a lengthy speech on the eve of Qatar 2022, commenting on a vast range of the controversial subjects that have dominated the tournament's build-up.

One of the topics highlighted was the coverage of fans in Qatar over the past week, with teams beginning to arrive in the country.

Social media has been awash with suggestions that many of the fans pictured in parades and congregating at team bases have not been the same nationality as the team they appear to be celebrating – or, "fake", to some.

It emerged a group celebrating the England team's arrival were Indian, and Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy called the scepticism of their passion "disappointing and unsurprising".

Infantino went a step further.

"Help, don't divide. Try to unite. The world is divided enough," he told reporters. "We are organising a World Cup, not a war. Where anyone can come and enjoy. Look at the city – it's beautiful, it's happy, they celebrate.

"They went to see the teams, and what happened when they did – 'well they don't look like English, they look like Indians!'. 

"Can someone who looks Indian not cheer for England? Or Spain or Germany? You know what this is – it's racism, pure racism. Everyone in this world has a right to cheer for who they want."

The promotion of 'togetherness' was a common motif throughout Infantino's press conference, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes.

He brought it up again when asked about the validity of Iran taking part in the World Cup despite a backdrop of women's oppression in the country.

Women cannot attend football matches in Iran, and widespread demonstrations in the country were recently sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody two months ago after being arrested for not wearing a hijab properly.

It was highlighted to Infantino that FIFA's own statutes say discrimination of any kind is banned, including gender discrimination, but Infantino defended Iran's inclusion in the tournament.

Asked why England should have to face a country with such ideologies, Infantino said: "Because it's not two regimes playing each other, not two ideologies, it's two football teams. It's football. If we don't have football to bring us together… You want another World War? Okay, go ahead, without me. We have to bring people together.

"If we could go with a tournament in Iran, let's go because maybe that will change something. Of course we'd need certain guarantees, but together we can play in a tournament. In Iran there are 80 million people living.

"Do you think they are all bad? All monsters? I don't think so. How many people live in England? Are they all good?

"Do we have to exclude everyone because not everyone is good or says the right thing? We'll fight and fight to bring people together, and the more we can do that, the better it will be because no one else is doing that."

The French Football Federation (FFF) has condemned racist messages directed towards Eduardo Camavinga on social media after Christopher Nkunku was injured ahead of the World Cup.

Nkunku was ruled out of the tournament in Qatar after suffering a knee sprain in training on Tuesday and is reportedly facing up to eight weeks on the sidelines.

Video footage circulated on social media purporting to show Nkunku sustaining the injury in a challenge with Camavinga, which led to the Real Madrid midfielder receiving discriminatory messages.

A statement released by the FFF on Thursday read: "Following Christopher Nkunku's injury, Eduardo Camavinga was the victim of racist messages on social media.

"The FFF condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms and is in full support of Eduardo."

Nkunku also defended Camavinga when addressing his social media followers on Wednesday, saying the 20-year-old had been "unfairly targeted" and calling for unity from supporters.

"Yesterday evening, following the medical examinations, I had to leave Les Bleus and forfeit the World Cup," Nkunku wrote on Twitter.

"Now, let's get to work with one and only objective, to come back even stronger.

"A thought for my team-mate Eduardo Camavinga, who was unfairly targeted. The World Cup must be a moment of togetherness and not of division."

France begin their Group D campaign against Australia on Tuesday, having suffered several injury blows ahead of their bid to become the first team to successfully defend the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

Midfield duo Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante will both join Nkunku in missing the tournament, as will Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe, who withdrew from their squad on Monday.

LeBron James has spoken out against former team-mate Kyrie Irving, making it clear he does not condone his behaviour.

The Brooklyn Nets point guard has been issued a five-game suspension by his team for posting a documentary featuring anti-semitic material on Twitter, and subsequently falling short of apologising until after he was banned.

Irving has been widely criticised for his actions, with Nike terminating their relationship with the 30-year-old, while his fellow Nets star Kevin Durant believes the entire process has been "unnecessary".

James, who has long been one of the NBA's vocal leaders on social issues, is disappointed with what he has seen from his former Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate.

"It's simple. Me, personally, I don't condone any hate to any kinds, any race, to Jewish communities, to black communities, to Asian communities. You guys know where I stand," he said after the Los Angeles Lakers' loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday.

"I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people. He has since, today, or was it yesterday, apologised. But he caused some harm, and I think it's unfortunate.

"I don't stand on the position to harm people when it comes to your voice or your platform or anything.

"So, it doesn't matter what colour your skin is, how tall you are, what position you're in. If you are promoting or soliciting or saying harmful things to any community that harm people, then I don't respect it. I don't condone it."

The Nets did not struggle in Irving's absence on Friday, as they claimed a 128-86 win over the Washington Wizards, overseen by interim coach Jacque Vaughn.

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