• Gladbach’s Thuram hit with six-game ban
  • Goretzka called AfD a “disgrace”
  • Lars and Sven Bender announce retirement

December 21

Thuram hit with six-game ban

Borussia Mönchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram has been banned for six games and fined €40,000 ($48,936) after he spat in the face of Hoffenheim’s Stefan Posch, German football’s governing body, the DFB, said on Monday.

France international Thuram spat at Posch from close range when he confronted him off the ball and was sent off on Saturday following a VAR review that upgraded the yellow card to red.

“Five of the six matches are to be served directly in Bundesliga and cup games, with the sixth suspended until Dec. 21, 2021,” the DFB said in a statement. The ban means he will miss the visit of Bayern Munich to Mönchengladbach on January 8.

Thuram, 23, apologised on Sunday and said he would “accept all the consequences” of his actions.
 

Goretzka: AfD is a ‘disgrace for Germany’

Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka has hit out at Germany’s right-wing populist AfD party, saying they are not an “alternative for Germany,” but a “disgrace.”

“When a party is supported and led by Holocaust revisionists – look at the “speck of bird poop on German history” comment from [former AfD co-chief] Alexander Gauland – then the mask falls by itself,” Goretzka told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The 25-year-old has previously expressed concern about the AfD, which entered parliament in 2017 with 12.6% of the vote, saying in February that it is necessary to confront AfD voters “with knowledge,” adding that visits to former Nazi concentration camps ought to be made “obligatory” for all.

This year, German international Goretzka has spent time with Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer.

“Despite all the suffering she experienced, she has remained such a positive person,” he said of his meeting with the 99-year-old. “What Mrs. Friedländer lived through is unimaginable. She even brought her Jewish star with her. That’s the sort of moment where you truly freeze.”

He added on Twitter: “We have to be the ones who make sure that such a thing never happens again.”

Goretzka, who co-launched the “We Kick Corona” fundraising initiative earlier in the pandemic, said that he has received abuse from AfD supporters for his public stance, but insists that, “if anything, hateful comments will just make me position myself even more clearly.”

Leverkusen’s Bender twins to end career

Bayer Leverkusen twins Lars and Sven Bender will hang up their boots at the end of the season, the club announced on Monday.

“After much consideration and countless thoughts about our future, we finally decided that we would not be continuing our journey with Bayer Leverkusen,” the two 31-year-olds said in a joint statement.

“Ultimately, this was not a decision against the club, but in favor of our health and our family,” they continued. “We have come to the realization that it will be difficult to continue playing football at this level beyond the summer. We are finding it increasingly hard to consistently deliver, given all the pain and physical problems which we are suffering from more and more.”

Lars Bender has played for Leverkusen since 2009 and has been captain since 2015. His brother Sven joined from Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Gladbach’s Thuram faces fine and ban for spitting

Borussia Mönchengladbach have fined striker Marcus Thuram a month’s wages after the 23-year-old spat at Hoffenheim’s Stefan Posch during Saturday’s match. Thuram (above left) was sent off for the incident as his team lost 2-1, but he’s now likely to face an internal ban as well.

“I had a long discussion with Marcus this morning, in which he apologised to me and to the club once again for his actions,” Borussia sporting director Max Eberl told the club homepage, adding that Thuram told him “he had unintentionally spat after cursing several times in French in the heat of the moment,” following a dispute with his opponent. 

“Last night, Marcus apologised to Stefan Posch, Hoffenheim, his team-mates, the coaching staff and the Gladbach fans, and I would like to do this again explicitly on behalf of Borussia Moenchengladbach,” said Eberl. “Marcus made a big mistake and is being punished for it. He remains the same person we know, and we will stand by him.”

Thuram will not be in the squad for Tuesday night’s cup game away at SV Elversberg.

December 18

Schalke sack Manuel Baum

Bundesliga stugglers Schalke have sacked head coach Manuel Baum after just ten league games in charge, according to media reports in Germany. The 41-year-old took over from David Wagner on matchday two with the Royal Blues 18 Bundesliga games without a win, a run which has only extended to 28 games under Baum.

His only victory came in a cup match away at fourth-division outfit Schweinfurt.

Schalke legend Huub Stevens will take over for the next two games against Bielefeld and Ulm (in the cup), as he did following Domenico Tedesco’s sacking in 2019. Stevens led Schalke to their greatest ever triumph, winning the UEFA Cup in 1997.

This season, the club are rooted to the bottom of the Bundesliga and plagued by considerable financial problems.

December 17

Klopp, Neuer and Bronze win FIFA Best awards

Bayern Munich’s stunning treble season in 2019-20 meant it was little surprise that Manuel Neuer, their number 1, picked up the award for the best goalkeeper on Thursday. The 34-year-old has recaptured his best form in the last 18 months after a bad knee injury in 2017-18.

But Neuer’s boss Hansi Flick couldn’t follow his goalkeeper’s lead, surprisingly losing out to Liverpool manager and fellow German Jürgen Klopp. Flick’s achievement in winning the treble for Bayern despite only taking over in October was deemed to be less impressive than Klopp leading Liverpool to their first English title for 30 years.

But Bayern did enjoy some success in the form of Robert Lewandowski, who picked up the best men’s player award. Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Lewandowski and Thiago (who has since left for Liverpool) were named in the team of the year. Somewhat strangely though, that XI had no place for Neuer. 

England’s Lucy Bronze won the women’s gong while Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman was named women’s coach of the year. Megan Rapinoe was named in the team of the year, despite not having played since March.

Szoboszlai joins RB Leipzig from Salzburg

Highly-rated Hungarian midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai has joined RB Leipzig, the Bundesliga club has announced.

Szoboszlai, 20, has impressed at Leipzig’s sister-club RB Salzburg and joins the German club on a four-and-a-half year deal that runs until June 2025.

The Hungary international has eight goals an 10 assists in 20 appearances for Salzburg this season. He will be available for Leipzig’s home game against Borussia Dortmund on January 9.

December 16

Eberl: ‘Five million euros for Rose not enough’

Borussia Mönchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl says that five million euros would not be enough to prise head coach Marco Rose away from the club. “When a coach is in demand, there has to be an appropriate fee,” he told Sport Bild. “The most important colleagues must be remunerated accordingly, and that applies to transfer fees too.”

Rose, who took charge of Gladbach in summer 2019 and has since led the Foals into the knock-out stage of the Champions League for the first time, has been linked to the Borussia Dortmund job following Lucien Favre’s sacking on Sunday.

“All the excitement doesn’t affect me because I don’t take any notice of it,” said Rose ahead of Gladbach’s 3-3 draw away at Eintracht Frankfurt on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Eberl also called speculation surrounding the possible transfers of midfielders Florian Neuhaus and Denis Zakaria as “disrespectul – firstly because we’re living in a time when we’re all rightly demanding a bit more modesty, and secondly because we [Gladbach] are not nobody anymore.”

December 15

Imke Wübbenhorst sacked by Lotte

Imke Wübbenhorst, the only female head coach in the top four divisions of German football, has been sacked by Sportfreunde Lotte, with the team third bottom of the fourth-tier Regionalliga West.

Wübbenhorst, 32, took over at Lotte in April 2020 with the aim of returning the club to the third division. But, after just three wins in 19 games and the worst goal difference in the league (-24), she was relieved of her duties following a 2-0 defeat to league leaders Rot-Weiss Essen.

“Things cannot continue as they have been doing,” said club chairman Sven Westerhus in a statement. “Every single player has to get that into their heads. We now expect the team to win more points and stay in the division.”

Wübbenhorst, who holds an A License coaching badge and who represented Hamburg as a player, became the first woman to coach in semi-professional men’s football when she took over fifth-division BV Cloppenburg for four games in 2018. In 2019, she won Germany’s “Football Quote of the Year” after quipping: “I’m a professional: I pick the team based on penis size.”

December 11

American athletes free to take a knee

American athletes will not face sanctions for kneeling or raising fists on the podium at next year’s Olympic Games and beyond.

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) made the announcement following pressure from its athletes to be free to make symbolic gestures to highlight racial injustice and police brutality.

The USOPC are hoping to change the controversial Rule 50 of the IOC Olympic Charter, which prohibits inside-the-lines protests at the Games.

December 10

Antoine Griezmann terminates Huawei deal

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has announced that he is terminating his sponsorship contract with Huawei over reports the Chinese telecoms giant has been involved in the surveillance of Uighur Muslims.

“Due to strong suspicions that Huawei has contributed to the development of a ‘Uighurs alert’ through the use of facial recognition software, I am immediately ending my partnership with the company,” the 29-year-old said in a statement posted in French on his Instagram account on Thursday.

US-based surveillance research firm IPVM said in a report released on Tuesday that Huawei had been involved in testing facial recognition software in China that could send alerts to police when it recognised Uighur faces.

Griezmann who was a member of the France team that won the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has been a Huawei brand ambassador since 2017.

December 9

Wolfsburg cruise to Champions League win in Serbia

Wolfsburg cruised to a 5-0 win away to Spartak Subotica in Serbia in the women’s Champions League round of 32.

Zsanet Jakabfi scored twice in a game that saw Wolfsburg 2-0 to the good inside eight minutes and never troubled by the Serbian minnows.

Wolfsburg have lost to Lyon in three of the last five Champions League finals including last season, and Lyon suffered a scare in the competition, needing an 88th minute winner from Japan international Saki Kumagai to sneak a 3-2 win at Juventus.

PSG vs. Basaksehir game is completed

Neymar scored a hat-trick and Kylian Mbappe a double as PSG won 5-1 against Istanbul Basaksehir after the remaining 76 minutes of their abandoned Champions League game was completed on Wednesday.

Their game was called off in controversial circumstances on Tuesday, with both sets of players walking off the field following accusations of racist language used by the fourth official towards a member of Basaksehir’s staff, which UEFA has said will be the subject of a full investigation.

PSG’s victory sees them top their grouo ahead of RB Leipzig, who went through to the last 16 on Tuesday at Manchester United’s expense.

December 8

Qatar to play as guests in UEFA World Cup qualifying groups

Qatar will be included as a guest team in Group A of European World Cup qualifying as part of their preparation for hosting the 2022 tournament, according to multiple reports.

As hosts, Qatar qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup and have to rely on friendly games to get ready for the finals. But the plan is for the tiny Gulf nation to be placed as a ‘shadow’ team and play friendlies against Portugal, Ireland, Serbia, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, depending on which team has a free date on a given matchday.

The move mirrors the approach taken by France for the 2016 European Championship that they hosted.
 

IIHF brass cancel trip to Minsk 

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has said that COVID-19 infections have forced its president, Rene Fasel (pictured above), and General Secretary Horst Lichtner to postpone “until further notice” their planned trip to Minsk to meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Fasel said he and Lichtner are both in isolation at home for the next 10 days. 

Belarus is scheduled to co-host the next World Championship with Latvia starting in May, but the Latvian government has called on the IIHF withdraw the tournament from Minsk after Lukashenko’s disputed election win in August – and a violent police crackdown on anti-government protesters. 

Fasel said the planned meeting with Lukashenko was to explore what steps are being taken to ensure that the tournament can be held safely and in cooperation with co-hosts Latvia.”

This comes a day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended Lukashenko, who is head of Belarus’ National Olympic Committee, as well as Dimitry Baskov, head of the Belarusian ice hockey federation 

Fasel, who is a longtime IOC member, also said that a virtual meeting of IIHF National Associations scheduled for Friday would be postponed. 

Hoffenheim condemn online absuse of Samassekou

Bundesliga club Hoffenheim have condemned online abuse sent to their Malian midfielder Diadie Samassekou in the early hours of Tuesday. 

Unfortunately it now seems to be common that people abuse others online. We don’t accept that and stand for tolerance, respect and behind @Diadios,” the team tweeted following Monday’s 3-1 win over Augsburg. 

The 24-year-old Samassekou had posted a screenshot of abuse he said was received on Instagram. Samassekou added his own message saying: “May God sooth the hate in your heart.” 

Hoffenheim had previously defended midfielder Ryan Sessegnon after he received racist abuse in November. 

Union extend coach Fischer, assistant 

Union Berlin have extended the contracts of coach Urs Fischer and his assistant Markus Hoffmann, the Bundesliga club has announced – without revealing the term of the deals. Fischer led the team to a first-ever Bundesliga promotion i201819 season, his first with the club – and avoided the drop last term.  

“The decision to sign Urs Fischer has proven to be absolutely right for Union Berlin,” said club president Dirk Zingler. “Together with his team of coaches, he is making a decisive contribution to establishing Union in the Bundesliga and developing the club even further.” 

December 7

‘Angry’ Löw never considered resigning

Germany coach Joachim Löw says he didn’t think about resigning after the country’s humiliating 6-0 defeat by Spain in the Nations League last month. Speaking for the first time since he received the backing of his bosses at the German Football Federation (DFB), Löw said the defeat had made him “angry” – but that his desire was still there.

“We were all bitterly disappointed and angry with the result,” Löw told a virtual news conference. “But we are absolutely convinced of the road we have taken in 2019,” referring to his decision to rebuild the Germany squad with younger players.

Löw didn’t rule out recalling the veteran trio Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, who were all dropped in 2019, saying that he would “do everything I can to make us successful.” But he added that he saw no need for that at the moment.

Reporting by DW’s Jonathan Crane.

Grillitsch double ends Hoffenheim drought

Florian Grillitsch struck twice as Hoffenheim secured a much-needed three points against Augsburg to move them into mid-table in the Bundesliga.

In the final game of Matchday 10, Grillitsch struck each side of Daniel Caligiuri’s equalizer before Ihlas Bebou secured a 3-1 victory.

It was Hoffenheim’s first league win in seven games, and their first victory since their shock 4-1 win over Bayern Munich in late September.

 

QPR and Millwall players to link arms

Players from English second tier clubs Queens Park Rangers and Millwall will stand arm-in-arm ahead of their game on Tuesday evening.

Millwall fans booed the ‘take a knee’ gesture, which continues in England for the Black Lives Matter movement, in their game against Derby on Saturday, triggering widespread criticism.

QPR’s director of football Les Ferdinand, the only black director of football in England, said that QPR’s players would no longer take a knee because it was “action and not taking a knee that would bring change”.

Following events at Millwall, QPR had initially announced that they would reverse that decision, but released a statement on Monday evening saying they would instead stand arm-in-arm with Millwall’s players “in a show of solidarity for football’s fight against racism”.