SOCCER

International and domestic soccer officials have spent years battling racism in Italy, where a star player in the country’s top league recently punted a ball into the stands and threatened to abandon a match over racist chants.

The problem also has trickled down to the youngest levels of the sport, and one youth soccer club – Aurora Desio –recently announced an unusual response: It planned to support a 10-year-old player subjected to racist abuse by having its players wear blackface during an upcoming match.

But after that controversial gesture was criticized, the youth players will instead wear two black streaks on their faces.

“We will paint two black fingermarks on the cheeks as a sign that we’re all brothers and that the color of the skin doesn’t matter,” Aurora Desio director Alessandro Crisafulli told CNN.

The youth club, based 15 miles north of Milan, was playing neighboring Sovicese on Saturday when the mother of an opposing player directed a profane slur toward a black player, according to a post on Aurora’s Facebook page and local newspaper La Repubblica.

The boy playing for Aurora pretended not to hear the slur, according to the club’s post, but reported it to coaches and parents after the game. Aurora leaders demanded afterward Sovicese conduct an internal investigation “to identify who has made herself the author of this vile and unworthy gesture toward a 10-year-old child” and said the club would not play Sovicese again until then, even at the risk of incurring fines or penalties.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: A teenager’s three goals and one team’s three goalkeepers perked up league play as three European powers advanced to the Round of 16.

Real Madrid prodigy Rodrygo’s hat trick in a 6-0 rout of Galatasaray gave notice of a fresh young talent on a night when the familiar names of Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain won to take their usual places in the knockout rounds.

Bayern Munich’s 2-0 win over Olympiakos was a winning start for Coach Hansi Flick, the interim replacement for Niko Kovac who was fired on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo holds the all-time competition record of 127 goals, and was denied adding to it by teammate Aaron Ramsey in a 2-1 win for Juventus at Lokomotiv Moscow.

Ronaldo’s third-minute free-kick squirmed through goalkeeper Guilherme’s hands and the ball was rolling over the line when Ramsey poked it into the net. The victory was secured in stoppage time by substitute Douglas Costa after a dancing run through the defense.

Paris Saint-Germain got a fourth straight win with a 1-0 home victory against third-placed Club Brugge. PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas saved a second-half penalty to preserve the win.

SPAIN: The Spanish soccer federation is offering $1.3 million to help pay for the salaries of female players and avoid a strike.

The federation says the money will allow players in Spain to earn a minimum wage of at least $17,800 per year. The amount would be increased to at least $19,900 after the current television contracts with clubs are finalized.

WORLD CUP: FIFA says Iraq is not safe enough to host World Cup qualifying games against Iran and Bahrain.

FIFA says it asked the Iraq soccer federation “to nominate a neutral venue” for the matches on Nov. 14 and 19.

The games were to be played in Basra, the southern city that hosted Iraq’s return last month to playing competitive games at home.

AUSTRALIA: Australia’s football federation and players’ union say they have agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement that closes the pay gap between the men’s and women’s national teams.

The new four-year CBA ensures the Socceroos and Matildas receive a 24 percent share of an agreed aggregate of generated revenues in 2019-20, rising by 1 percent each year.

DOPING

WADA: Three-time Olympian Ben Sandford won the election to replace Beckie Scott as chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athlete committee.

The 40-year-old former skeleton racer from New Zealand defeated Belgium’s Yuhan Tan in the committee’s vote and will officially get the job at WADA’s executive committee meeting in January.

PARALYMPICS: Two-time Paralympic gold medalist Martina Caironi was provisionally suspended after testing positive for a steroid.

Italy’s anti-doping agency says Caironi failed an out-of-competition test on Oct. 17 in Bologna.

The 30-year-old Caironi won the T42 100 meters at both the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. She also won a silver medal in the T42 long jump in Rio – where she was Italy’s flagbearer.

The T42 category is for single above-knee amputees and athletes with similar impairments.

Caironi had her left leg amputated following a motorcycle accident in 2007.

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