International Soccer Update

Champions League

Eight teams played their first leg in the round of 16 for the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and Wednesday, Feb. 15. The results were: Milan 1-0 Tottenham, Paris 0-1 Bayern, Club Brugge 0- 2 Benfica and Dortmund 1-0 Chelsea. The second leg of these matches will be played on Tuesday Mar. 7, and Wednesday Mar. 8. 

The other 8 teams in the knockout stage played their first legs on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and Wednesday, Feb. 22. The results were: Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid, Frankfurt 0-2 Napoli, Leipzig 1-1 Man City and Inter 1-0 Porto. The second leg of these matches will be played on Tuesday, March 14 and Wednesday, March 15.

Europa League 

The second leg of the round of 16 for the UEFA Europa league will be played on Thursday, Feb. 23. The fixtures, and their first leg scores are as follows: Nantes 1-1 Juventus, Midtjylland 1-1 Sporting CP, Monaco 3-2 Leverkusen, PSV 0-3 Sevilla, Manchester United 2-2 Barcelona, Rennes 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk, Union Berlin 0-0 Ajax and Roma 0-1 Salzburg. 

Czech Player, Jankto Comes Out

Czech Republic international, Jakub Jankto, posted a video to his Twitter on Feb. 13, announcing that he is gay. Jankto currently plays for Sparta Prague and is on loan from Spanish side Getafe. 

In a statement made after Jankto’s announcement, Sparta showed their support for Jakub and emphasized how the soccer still to be played is not affected. 

“Jakub spoke openly about his sexual orientation with the club some time ago. Everything else concerns his personal life. No further comments. No more questions. You have our support. Live your life, Jakub. Nothing else matters,” the statement reads. Getafe also made a statement in support of Jankto.

With the announcement, Jankto is one of very few openly gay professional men’s soccer players. In recent history, Josh Cavallo came out in October 2021, becoming the first man active in professional football to be openly gay since Justin Fashanu, who publicly shared his identity in 1990. Notably, Jankto is the first active international men’s player to announce that he is gay. This fact could hold implications for his participation in international tournaments held in countries with strict anti-LGBTQ+ laws, such as Qatar, the site of the 2022 World Cup. 

 La Liga Racial Abuse

 One of the most highly touted young footballers in the world, Real Madrid’s Vinícíus Júnior, has been the target of alleged racial abuse five times this season, according to the BBC. These instances speak to a larger problem in Spanish football, and football as a whole. 

According to Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, who spoke to the BBC about the issue, “not one person in Spain has been sentenced or punished for a racist incident related to football.” 

Balague argues that Spain as a society has shrugged off allegations of racism in a manner which suggests a lack of cultural attention toward racial injustice. 

“Apart from the work La Liga is doing I don’t think there is a real interest from anyone to fight against this open and clearly. Socially it doesn’t feel like an urgent thing to do” Balague said to the BBC. 

Unlike other professional football leagues, according to the BBC, La Liga does not hold the power to deliver punishments for racism from fans on its own. This has meant individual clubs have been the ones to take isolated cases, and ban fans from stadiums

For an example outside of Spain, England’s Bukayo Saka was the target of racial abuse after missing a penalty kick against Italy in the 2020 Euro Final. 

Manchester City Investigation

On Monday, February 6 the English Premier League charged the reigning league champions, Manchester City, with a decade’s worth of financial fair play allegations. Manchester City are charged with over 100 violations, stemming all the way back to “2009—a year after Manchester City was purchased by the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and began a turbocharged era of spending and success,” an article in The New York Times reads. 

Given how successful City have been, if the charges are upheld, a decades worth of league play could be spoiled. There have been numerous Soccer players from teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United, who have tweeted out asking the question, “Am I a Premier League Champion?”

The likelihood of any of the charges being upheld is unclear, though the punishments may range from financial penalties, to points deductions and even expulsion from England’s top league.