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FIFA Rejects 2018 Cup Move

Geneva — FIFA rejected calls to move the 2018 World Cup from Russia, saying the tournament “can achieve positive change.”

Some lawmakers in Germany want the hosting rights reviewed because of Russia’s alleged involvement in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week.

Political pressure on Russia increased Friday when the European Union sought to freeze assets and restrict travel for more individuals and businesses.

FIFA said in a statement it “deplores any form of violence” and questions the purpose of relocating the showcase tournament.

“History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems,” FIFA said, adding that global attention on the World Cup “can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.”

The conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatist rebels escalated days after the World Cup ended in Brazil.

On July 13 in Rio de Janeiro, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a World Cup handover ceremony with Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff. Both then sat next to FIFA President Sepp Blatter to watch the final at the Maracana Stadium, won by Germany.

FIFA, which has Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko on its executive committee, said a World Cup in the country “can be a force for good.”

“FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia,” the governing body said.

Blatter already rejected calls to strip Russia of the tournament after it annexed the Crimea this year.

“The World Cup has been given and voted to Russia and we are going forward with our work,” Blatter said in March.

Former U.S. Defender DeMerit Retires

Vancouver, British Columbia — Former U.S. national team player Jay DeMerit has retired from soccer.

DeMerit, the first player signed by the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps in 2010 and the Major League Soccer team’s first captain, officially announced his retirement Thursday.

“When it makes sense, when it’s right, it’s not sad,” DeMerit said. “It’s not something I am going to regret. It’s something I am very proud of.”

The 34-year-old DeMerit will continue to work with the Whitecaps as an ambassador and has other business interests in Vancouver.

Brazilian GK Back to England

Toronto — Toronto FC officially parted ways with on-loan goalkeeper Julio Cesar on Friday, saying the Brazilian international had returned to the Queens Park Rangers in England

The 34-year-old Cesar played for Brazil in the World Cup. He joined Toronto in February and was 3-4-0 with two shutouts in seven Major League Soccer appearances.

Drogba Back at Chelsea

London — Didier Drogba rejoined Chelsea on Friday, reuniting one of the sport’s most theatrical characters with flamboyant manager Jose Mourinho.

The 36-year-old Ivory Coast striker, who was a free agent after stints with China’s Shanghai Shenhua and Turkey’s Galatasaray, signed a season-long deal with the Premier League club.

“It was an easy decision. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with Jose again,” Drogba said. “Everyone knows the special relationship I have with this club and it has always felt like home to me.

“My desire to win is still the same and I look forward to the opportunity to help this team. I am excited for this next chapter of my career.”

With the last kick in his last game with the club in May 2012, Drogba won the Champions League title for Chelsea, scoring the decisive penalty in the shootout against Bayern Munich. During eight years at Chelsea, Drogba also won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups after being signed by Mourinho in 2004 from Marseille.

Now Mourinho, who was away from Chelsea from 2007-13, is reshaping the team after failing to win a trophy in his first season back at Stamford Bridge. Drogba is the proven scorer Mourinho desperately craved last season, with 157 goals in 341 appearances.

“He’s coming because he’s one of the best strikers in Europe,” Mourinho said. “I know his personality very well and I know if he comes back he’s not protected by history or what he’s done for this club previously. He is coming with the mentality to make more history.”

Drogba was Chelsea’s man for big occasions, scoring nine goals in nine finals, but he is also one of the game’s most inflammatory players. He has infuriated rival fans with what they view as a habit of diving and enraged referees with his aggressive foul-mouthed conduct, earning several bans from UEFA.

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FIFA fines Argentina for protest banner

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Associated Press

ZURICH — FIFA has reprimanded the Argentine soccer association and fined it $33,000 after its players were pictured with a political banner before a World Cup warmup match.

Several players stood behind the slogan “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (The Falklands are Argentine) on the field at a June 7 exhibition against Slovenia in Buenos Aires.

Argentina and Britain went to war in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, called the Malvinas in Spanish. The islands have been a British territory since 1833.

FIFA rules prohibit political statements at matches it controls.

It’s the second time this month FIFA has fined the Argentine body. A $340,000 fine was ordered for failing to bring Argentina players to pre-match news conferences at the World Cup.