England’s European Championship Qualifier Marred by Racist Abuse

SOFIA, Bulgaria — England’s Football Association called on UEFA to take “very stringent” action after the country’s European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria was stopped twice in the first half because of racist chants and Nazi salutes from the home supporters.

England’s 6-0 win was halted in the 28th minute and again in the 43rd, but the English players opted against leaving the field and the game was quickly resumed after both breaks.

Bulgaria supporters in the crowd were seen directing monkey chants at England players, doing Nazi salutes and holding up shirts with the UEFA logo and the text “No Respect” — a reference to the European governing body’s “Respect” campaign aimed at curbing racism in the sport.

During the first break, the public announcer warned that the match could be called off completely unless the racist abuse stopped — the first step in UEFA’s anti-racism protocol for games. During the second break, dozens of Bulgaria fans involved in the chanting, many of them wearing dark hooded sweatshirts, left the stadium.

“I would like to see a very stringent review by UEFA because I know they take racism very seriously,” English F.A. Chairman Greg Clarke said. “We should join a movement to drive racism out of our game and have zero tolerance for it.”

The F.A. also issued a statement saying the England players “were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting,” which seemed to be aimed mainly at black players like Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings.

“As we are sadly aware, this is not the first time our players have been subjected to this level of abuse and there is no place for this kind of behavior in society, let alone in football. We will be asking UEFA to investigate as a matter of urgency,” the F.A. said.

Mings initially asked one of the assistant referees if he had heard the chants and England Coach Gareth Southgate then held a discussion with the fourth official before the game was halted for the first time.

“It was quite clear to hear on the pitch, but we showed a great response, we showed a good togetherness and ultimately we let the football do the talking,” Mings told ITV. “We made a decision at halftime to come out and play the game which we thought was the right decision and if anything else had happened we would have taken appropriate action.”

The delays led to six minutes of added time, during which Sterling tapped in England’s fourth goal.

Bulgaria’s captain, Ivelin Popov, appeared to have a heated debate with a section of home fans, asking them to stop the chants, as the rest of the players went to the dressing rooms at halftime.

The second half passed without interruption, with Sterling scoring his second goal with a precise finish in the 69th, and Kane completing the rout in the 85th minute, shortly after he was denied by the post.

The Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia was already subject to a partial closure for the match after Bulgaria was sanctioned for racist chanting during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic.

“We have made two statements by winning the game but also we have raised the awareness of everyone of the situation,” Southgate said. “The game was stopped twice. I know for some people that won’t be enough.”

Please Take Them Home. Please Just Take Them Home.

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In May, as thousands of England fans prepared for a few summer days in Portugal, the Football Association felt compelled to release a short video, less than a minute long, with a simple request. A request so simple, in fact, that it should not really have to be made. Over footage of a man throwing a bicycle into a canal, jumping on a car, and taking his shirt off in a restaurant, it asked one thing of fans: don’t be that idiot.

The campaign did not work. A few days later, before the team’s Nations League semifinal against the Netherlands in Porto, England fans threw bottles at local supporters, smashed car windows, and filled the city’s streets with sporadic fighting. Eventually, the authorities deployed the riot police. Before England’s second game, held in the city of Guimaraes, schools were closed on safety grounds, and people were advised to stay indoors. “That idiot came, and brought twenty of his friends,” as one police officer put it.

They were, clearly, expecting much the same in Prague this week, where England will play the Czech Republic on Friday night. Gareth Southgate, the England manager, expressed his fears last month over a fixture in a city that is easy to reach, where beer is cheap, that has long been a favorite for English bachelor parties, and, ridiculously, will be held on a Friday.

The Czechs were taking no chances, readying police on foot, on horseback and in helicopters to deal with the expected influx of about 6,000 England fans. They planned to have English speaking “anti-conflict units” on patrol, and the support of 11 trouble-spotters from British police forces. The riot units were on standby, and there was talk of a “zero tolerance” approach.

There are some who feel this form of policing can be counterproductive. Certainly, whenever trouble stirs involving England fans — and that is separate from English fans, because Premier League clubs now travel around Europe largely without incident — there is a tendency to suggest that the strong-arm tactics of the local authorities have exacerbated the problem, rather than defused it, and the argument has some merit.

And yet that does not really confront the issue, just as the inclination to blame a “minority” of troublemakers who are not “true” England fans, whatever that means, is nothing more than a deflection. The local police, like the British police who advise them, like the F.A., like Southgate, like the official fan clubs, are generally doing their best, or what they perceive as their best.

They are, certainly, not the root of the problem. That blame lies squarely with the section of England fans who see the opportunity to travel to a European city as a chance for invasion, who treat an airport as a gateway to an anything-goes stag party, who put on a replica jersey and feel compelled to live up to the stories they have seen and heard about the bloodstained hooligan glory days of the 1970s and ’80s.

Crucially, too, these are young(ish) men who have come of age in an era when public rhetoric here pits England against everyone else — the Scots, the Irish, the European Union — and Englishness against Otherness. Along with a songbook that references not just World War II, but the I.R.A. and the Pope, there is an evident strain of Islamophobia in some of the far-right organizations that have taken root among their number.

But there is something else, too, that is often missed, an environmental factor that allows that malevolence to fester. I remember being struck, during the 2016 European Championships in France, by how different England fans and fans of other nations traveled.

In Toulouse, Spain fans draped their flags and paraded their colors, but they were diffuse, small groups occupying different bars, different restaurants, dotted around the city. In St. Etienne, England fans had found a pub, and several thousand of them had congregated around it, claiming it as their land, annexing the space, making it clear outsiders were not welcome, that this was a little patch of England.

There is no malice in that, necessarily, but there is a thoughtlessness, a lack of care for the people who call that place home, and a territoriality that can be a midwife to something worse. It is a cliché, but it is just a minority of fans who actively seek violence. Most England fans want to watch a soccer game. To do that in peace, though, perhaps it is necessary to think about not what image they think they are showing, but what others might see.

Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus chairman, does a fine line in dystopian visions. He has long been the most outspoken advocate of the need to reform men’s club soccer; chances are, if you have heard an outlandish idea about what the future of the game should look like in the last couple of years, it originated with Agnelli.

In London this week, he offered up another: Soccer is at risk of losing out to the video game Fortnite, apparently, and is in danger of “falling into irrelevance.” His solution — and this will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever heard Agnelli say anything — is to make sure all of the big clubs are always playing each other in the Champions League, because domestic soccer is “of little interest for our kids.”

I wonder, Andrea, why that might be. Could it be that the big clubs, one of which you run and on whose behalf you speak, have spent the last two decades hoarding not just the bulk of the money generated by soccer’s inexorable growth, but increasingly all of the best players, much of the aspiring talent, and pretty much all of the oxygen? Do you think that maybe younger fans don’t find domestic leagues compelling because you, and your ilk, have spent quite a long time deliberately making them as predictable as possible?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not talk so much about the 1990s now. A few months ago, when he was in the first flush of restored love with Manchester United, those years came up all the time. A mention of his past, his club’s past, was an obligatory feature of almost every news media call; unable to escape memory lane, he talked endlessly about late winners and Sir Alex and Barcelona 1999.

After a while, it became a bit of a joke; a well-meaning, affectionate one, but a joke nonetheless. Now, though, those little reminiscences have gone, and in the vacuum there is a sadness.

As United has slumped to a dreadful start in the Premier League, the focus has been — understandably — on the gamble the club took in hiring Solskjaer permanently. But what about the other side? What about the gamble Solskjaer himself, through loyalty, could not help but take? His popularity as a player with United’s fans will always endure, but — barring a miraculous turnaround — his legacy now and forever will be a much more complex thing. And what of him? He found happiness in his memories of United; they clearly meant the world to him. When this second stay ends, he will have lost not just a chance he had long dreamed of, but that happiness, too, and that is an awful lot to lose.

I’ve been slightly out of the loop this week for personal reasons, and appear to have missed one of those genuinely seismic, ground-shaking stories that comes along once in a while: two people having an argument. This one is about Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, on the surface, but it is also about trust and sleuthing and the blurring of lines between public and private, and it reads a bit like a John le Carré novel, except one in which George Smiley is on Instagram Stories. Mystified? Fortunately, my colleagues Caity Weaver and Elizabeth Paton were on hand to explain.

You may remember a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about how UEFA is trying to solve a problem of its own making by introducing a third European club competition. Or you may not. Either way, Alan Goldhammer, an Ajax fan with an outstanding name (my name fixation is, I think, rooted in being called Smith), has an idea worth exploring.

He understands why the biggest leagues might have the most participants in the Champions League, but he wants to “liven up the qualification process,” essentially by inverting it. “Grant league champions from 14 leagues, as well as the reigning Champions League and Europa League winners, a spot in the group stages,” he wrote. “Make everyone else qualify for the remaining 16 spots. Knockout competition is always more exciting than the group stage.”

Tim Elcombe, meanwhile, has an idea that could prevent us all spending our whole lives embroiled in various stages of V.A.R.-related controversies. He wants to see a “two-tiered interpretation of the rules,” in which on-field officials should be allowed to make human-error prone judgment calls as they do now, with the crucial twist that they can only be overturned by a video referee if a distinct set of protocols are met.

So, for offside: “assistant referees should not be expected to see if a toe is offside … But to overturn it, there must be daylight between a player’s torso and the last defender for it to be considered offside.” That, he wrote, would be “a clear and obvious error worthy of overturning.”

That sounds eminently sensible, Tim. So we will have to disregard it immediately.

That’s all for this week. I hope you didn’t miss Tariq too much, after he added to his already considerable workload to cover for me last week. You can encourage your loved ones to sign up for the newsletter here, and direct all other enquiries to Twitter. All suggestions, questions and reviews are always welcome at askrory@nytimes.com.

An Iranian Soccer Fan’s Dream Comes True Without Her

ISTANBUL — Zeinab Sahafi didn’t want to be an activist.

All she ever wanted to be, she said, was a regular fan, another of the millions of soccer obsessives around the world who every week step into stadiums to scream and shout in support of their teams for 90 minutes, and then return and do it all over again at the next game.

Only Sahafi, 23, is Iranian, and a woman, and that has changed everything. To pursue her passion over the last decade she has dressed up first as a boy and later as a bearded man to attend games. She has been arrested and handcuffed and detained in jail, all because since 1981 Iran has barred women from attending soccer matches.

So when the ban was finally lifted — though only partially — on Thursday for a World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia, it would have been natural for Sahafi to be among the 4,000 women who eagerly bought tickets and entered the Azadi stadium, the cavernous arena in western Tehran where the national team plays its home games.

Except she was not there. Instead, Sahafi watched the match alone in a mostly empty Iranian cafe in Istanbul, where she is in a temporary self-exile. It was from there that she reveled in the rare access granted to thousands of other Iranian woman, where she cheered each of Iran’s 14 goals, where she was moved to tears at times by the sheer emotional power of the day.

“I’m so disappointed I cannot be there, but at the same time I’m happy other women can go,” Sahafi said. “It’s like planting a very small tree, watching it grow and finally seeing that there are fruits. It’s just that other people are now eating the fruits.”

It all seemed a cruel twist of timing. After slipping into matches for a decade, Sahafi fled her homeland in August, a 30-hour journey by road that began when she received word that the Iranian authorities were seeking to detain her. Part of the reason, she was told, were her efforts in recent years advising other frustrated young girls and women on how to evade the ban and attend games.

For years Sahafi has used her Instagram account to post videos and pictures of herself inside stadiums and to — perhaps most frustratingly for the authorities — give master classes in passing as a man to get into stadiums.








A tattooist in her home city Ahvaz, Sahafi started the journey that has led to exile when she was 13. When her favorite team, Persepolis, came to her hometown, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) southwest of Tehran, an uncle helped her dress as a boy and took her to the stadium. She made it inside, but shortly after halftime her emotions got the better of her and she let out a cry that drew the attention of stewards. They told her to leave. A stadium, they said, was no place for a young girl. But Sahafi was hooked.

She waited until she was 16 before trying again, one of dozens of such attempts. Sometimes she was able to fool the guards, and sometimes she was not. Willowy and with a mane of long black hair, Sahafi experimented with different looks: a 5 o’clock shadow created with black makeup, or bushy beards made by cutting her own hair and sticking it to her cheeks with glue. (That was itchy, she says now.) As she got older, her disguises evolved to include bandages across her chest, pulled so tight, she said, that it was difficult to breathe.

Once inside a stadium, she would post her successes to Instagram. Her audience grew — her account now has more than 140,000 followers — but it also made her a target of the police.

Several times Sahafi has been caught trying to enter stadiums, detained overnight and only released after signing documents attesting that she would not try again. “But I always do. I’m stubborn,” she said.

Years ago, after waiting hours in a team hotel, she told her hero, the since-retired player Ali Karimi, that she would watch him play in a stadium. He told her not to come, warning that she would be arrested. Sahafi ignored him. “I didn’t” stay away, she said, “and kept doing it again and again.” Today, she has Karimi’s name tattooed on her left wrist.

Two months into her exile in Turkey, Sahafi has slowly adapted to her new circumstances. But even for this freewheeling young woman, who has the carefree air of a teenager and draws crowds on Istanbul’s streets when she dances with buskers, the reality of her situation can be overwhelming, particularly when family members call. So swift was her exit from Iran this summer, she said, that she didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to her father. She spends her days watching videos of her seven-month-old brother, Shahin, on her cellphone. When her mother called before the world qualifier kickoff on Thursday, it was with a message: I wish you were there.

Instead, she was alone as kickoff approached, rising from her seat to mouth the words to Iran’s national anthem, and then settling back down to soak in every moment on a television that only she was watching. Within five minutes, Iran had scored the first of what would 14 goals in its thrashing of Cambodia. Even as the game got out of hand, Sahafi celebrated each goal as if it was a crucial marker on the road to a major victory, her joyful yelps matched only by the occasional squawk of the cafe’s African gray parrot.

Her future is unclear. Iranians are allowed to enter Turkey for a maximum of three months before they must leave, and Sahafi has less than three weeks before her window closes.

She said FIFA could do more for Iranian women like her — “If they put more pressure on, I wouldn’t he here” — but she also acknowledged that she faces arrest if she returns to Iran.

“I’m sure they will put me in jail,” she said.

In the meantime, Sahafi will await her fate.

“I just want to have a life without stress,” she said. “And maybe watch a little bit of football.”

Iranian Women Allowed to Attend Soccer Game for First Time Since 1981

When Iran’s national soccer team takes the field on Thursday for an otherwise humdrum World Cup qualifier, there will be outsize interest not in the action on the field but in who is seated in the stands.

For the first time in almost four decades, women will be allowed to buy tickets and attend a match.

The game on Thursday between Iran and Cambodia would typically merit little interest as another mismatch between a regional heavyweight and an also-ran in an early qualifier for the 2022 World Cup.

But the match in Tehran is arguably among the most consequential sporting fixtures to be played in years

as women will be watching from seats inside the Azadi, or Freedom, stadium, ending a prohibition that has been bitterly opposed. It comes only one month after a female soccer fan died after setting herself on fire in protest of a six-month prison sentence for attending a club game this year.

The ban itself dates from 1981, introduced by hard-line conservatives, and is an unwritten rule that has denied women access to stadiums since then. In recent years, it has been extended to volleyball and basketball as the popularity of those sports has grown.

Iranian women and girls have long tried to overturn — or evade — the ban by organizing weekly protests or disguising themselves as men to slip inside stadiums. While government and soccer officials were unmoved, the activism gradually grabbed the attention of international rights groups and the Iranian public. It was also the subject of a 2006 movie, “Offside,” by the famed Iranian director Jafar Panahi.

But it was the September death of the woman who set herself ablaze, that had the biggest impact. The news of her death at age 29 spread widely online with the help of the hashtag #bluegirl — a reference to the color of the Tehran club she supported, Esteghlal.

The outcry quickly grew to include Iranian and international soccer players. Many Iranians — including a former national team captain — called for a boycott of all soccer games until the ban on women in stadiums was lifted.

Within weeks, the president of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, said the Iranian authorities had assured him that women would be allowed to attend matches, beginning with the World Cup qualifier against Cambodia. For years, FIFA had avoided taking a hard line on Iran’s exclusion of women, but as public pressure increased, it left open the possibility of banning Iran, an Asian soccer powerhouse, from qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup.

In a speech at a women’s soccer conference in Milan in September, Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, told delegates that his organization could no longer wait.

But even as women gained access to the game, activists noted that FIFA appeared to have extracted no assurances from Iran that women would be allowed to attend future domestic and international matches. They also pointed out that Iranian officials had placed an arbitrary cap on the number of women who could attend Thursday’s game.

While Azadi stadium holds more than 78,000 spectators, only a few thousand tickets were reserved for women. Those sold out almost as soon as they became available.

The few lucky ticket holders expressed joy on social media at finally being able to share in the passion for the country’s national soccer team. One woman said she wanted to hug her ticket and cry; another said she would travel to the stadium with her elderly father.

Despite the demand — and the size of the stadium, which was expected to remain largely empty on Thursday — Iranian officials made little effort to increase the allotment.

Once inside, the women will be segregated from men by both empty stretches of seats and metal fencing erected around the sections reserved for women. Fans criticized the enclosure as a “cage.”

“Part of me is happy, but they have basically created a wall,” said Maryam Shojaei, the sister of Iran’s national team captain, Masoud Shojaei, and one of the leaders of the open stadiums campaign. “It’s not what we’ve been asking for. It’s not like everybody can go and sit freely with their brothers, fathers or husbands.”

Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, who has for years lobbied FIFA to pressure Iran to lift the ban, said the soccer body should be criticized, given its failure to open the entire stadium to women.

“The women are eager to finally have the ban fall, so much so that a number of them will show up to purchase tickets at the gate and they will show up to protest,” Worden said in a telephone interview. “That creates a really unacceptable situation, an unacceptable risk.”

Still, even the limited concessions to female fans resulted in counter protests by Iranian hard-liners. One group rallied on the streets of Tehran this week holding banners denouncing what they said was capitulation in the face of pressure from the West.

There were also indications that easing the restrictions will take more than allowing women to attend one game, with media credentials denied to female photographers applying to document the historic match.

Expecting a large number of security forces, some activists said that they planned to stay away from the game. But at least one said she was willing to take the risk.

The woman, who runs the Open Stadiums network and uses the nickname Sara to conceal her identity, left for Europe over concerns for her safety but returned to Iran this week She said she planned to take her mother to the stadium.

“After everything we’ve been through,” she said, “I just couldn’t not go.”

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

Carlos Vela Ties M.L.S. Goal Record

When Josef Martinez set the Major League Soccer scoring record last season with 31 goals, commentators described the feat with words like “remarkable” and “historic.”

And why not? After all, the previous record of 27 had stood since Roy Lassiter set it in 1996. It was tied by Chris Wondolowski in 2012 and Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2014, but never bettered until Martinez.

But on Sunday, just a season later, Carlos Vela of Los Angeles F.C. tied Martinez’s mark, and he has one game to break it, next Sunday at home against the Colorado Rapids.

Vela, of Mexico, played a little while for Arsenal as a youngster, but really made his mark at Real Sociedad in Spain, where he scored 54 goals. He moved on to the expansion L.A.F.C as its first designated player and thrived immediately, making the league’s best XI and being captain of the All-Star team in his first season in 2018.

But this year he has really poured it on, scoring his 31 goals in 30 games. He also has 15 assists, rating third in the league, an unusual combination of skills.

“You either get a Wondo or Josef Martinez that are pure finishers or you get the pure passers,” his L.A.F.C. teammate Steven Beitashour told The Athletic, referring to Wondolowski of the Earthquakes. “To have someone with their ability to put a ball on a dime for an assist or have the wherewithal to finish is rare.”

Vela is part of an electrifying offense at L.A.F.C. With a game to go, the team has 82 goals, 21 more than the next closest team, New York City F.C. That is the second highest total in league history, trailing the 85 by the L.A. Galaxy in 1998, so long ago that the team was led by Cobi Jones.

You score goals by shooting, of course, and Vela leads the league with 154 shots and 67 shots on goal. But it isn’t just volume that has him on top of the scoring list. Vela has astounding skill, as evidenced by his best goal against San Jose in August.

Vela picked up the ball on the run 25 yards from goal, eluded a tackle from behind, ran by another defender, beat the goalie and then shot it past another defender desperately trying to make a last-ditch save.

Coach Bob Bradley was caught on camera asking Vela to play like Lionel Messi in an ESPN documentary this year, a tall, tall order. But the goal against San Jose seemed to live up to the billing.

“To be clear on this, it’s 100 percent sure that Carlos isn’t playing this well because I told him to be like Messi,” Bradley told ESPN after Sunday’s game. “If it was that easy, I’d tell them all, or I’d tell some to be like Xavi to spread it out a little bit.”

Vela isn’t the only player to threaten Martinez’s record this season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on 29 goals after scoring another Sunday. He was runner-up to Martinez last season with 22.

As for Martinez, his 26 goals this season would have led the league any year from 2015 to 2017 but are good for only third place this season.

At least one coach feels that the success of Vela and Ibrahimovic has occurred in part because of star treatment from referees.

Referring to his own scorer Shea Salinas, Earthquakes Coach Matias Almeyda told reporters Sunday: “If they foul Salinas, it should be judged in the same way as if they’ve fouled Vela. And if they foul Wondolowski, the player is judged as if he was Ibrahimovic.”

All three of the top scorers are headed for the playoffs, with Vela’s L.A.F.C. the top seed by a comfortable margin. We can expect the goals to keep going in.

Champions League: Tottenham Humiliated by Bayern

Serge Gnabry scored four goals as Bayern Munich humiliated Tottenham, 7-2, in the Champions League on Tuesday, the first time in club history that Spurs conceded seven at home in a major competition.

Gnabry had never scored in the Champions League before netting all four of his goals in the second half, the first two coming in a two-minute span to put Bayern 4-1 up in the 55th. He completed the rout in the 88th, one minute after Robert Lewandowski had scored his second.

“I never dreamed I’d score four goals,” said Gnabry, who previously played for Tottenham’s archrival Arsenal. “The pressure helped. My father told me I had to play well.”

Tottenham reached the final of the Champions League last season but squandered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 against Olympiakos in its opening group game and again let a lead slip after Son Heung-min opened the scoring in the 12th minute.

Joshua Kimmich answered Son’s strike three minutes later, cutting inside a defender and then shooting inside the left post from 20 meters.

Spurs continued causing problems for Bayern’s defense, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side was to rue missed chances as the visitors gradually improved.

Lewandowski, already the scorer of 10 goals in six Bundesliga games this season, turned sharply and finished smartly to put Bayern in front just before halftime.

Gnabry then got off the mark in the 53rd after going past a number of Spurs defenders, adding another within two minutes.

Harry Kane pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 61st after Kingsley Coman was penalized for a foul on Danny Rose.

But Gnabry ended any hopes Tottenham had of a comeback when he completed his hat trick in the 83rd, then scored another for good measure after Lewandowski claimed Bayern’s sixth.

“It was Serge’s moment of glory today,” Bayern Ccoach Niko Kovac said.

It was the biggest margin of defeat suffered at home by an English team in European competition, and the fist time any had conceded seven goals since Spurs lost 8-0 at Cologne in the Intertoto Cup in 1995.

“We thought it would be a close game. But we’re happy with how it worked out,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said.

Real Madrid 2, Club Brugge 2 Host Real Madrid rallied from two goals down to salvage a draw, avoiding a defeat that would have left the 13-time European champions in a deep hole in Group A.

Emmanuel Bonaventure scored two first-half goals — imitating former Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebration after the second — but the hosts recovered with headers by Sergio Ramos in the 55th and Casemiro in the 85th.

Casemiro’s header came from a free kick straight after Brugge went down to 10 men as captain Ruud Vormer was sent off for a second yellow card.

“We didn’t get off to a good start. We had a bad first half,” Real Madrid Coach Zinedine Zidane said. “They created problems for us. We couldn’t control anything. But in the second half it was completely different. We changed our attitude. We played with more heart. You have to be focused from the first minute and we didn’t do that.”

Paris Saint-Germain 1, Galatasaray 0 Mauro Icardi scored with a tap-in after being set up by Pablo Sarabia in the 52nd minute, but P.S.G. wasted a host of other chances without the suspended Neymar and injured Edson Cavani against host Galatasaray in Istanbul.

Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera also did his part to keep Galatasaray in the game, twice denying Angel di Maria.

Thomas Tuchel was getting increasingly frustrated on the sideline as his side failed to make its superiority count. He received a yellow card in the 39th for protesting.

Manchester City 2, Dinamo Zagreb 0 Raheem Sterling came off the bench to score one goal and set up another by Phil Foden as host Manchester City earned a second straight victory to open the group stage.

City had 19 attempts on goal, but Pep Guardiola’s team lacked a cutting edge with key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne missing because of a groin injury.

“They defended very well one-on-one and were very aggressive,” Guardiola said of Dinamo. “They had 10 players in the box, they didn’t want to play.”

Agent Group Solicits Donations to Sue FIFA Over Transfer Limits

An organization representing some of the world’s biggest agents has written to its members and urged them to contribute to a fund for what it expects will be an “expensive” legal fight to block proposed FIFA regulations to cap the fees they earn in the multibillion-dollar soccer player transfer market.

The Association of Football Agents, a trade organization for intermediaries in Britain, home to global soccer’s richest transfer market, issued an emotional appeal to its members in the wake of the plans revealed earlier this week that would severely restrict the money — sometimes tens of millions of dollars in a single transaction — that agents can earn when players switch teams.

The new rules are set to be ratified by FIFA’s leadership at a meeting in Shanghai on Oct. 24.

The A.F.A., whose board members include the representatives of Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale and the former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, told its members that FIFA had “totally reneged” on commitments to consult the group before making a final decision. The letter sent to its agents and intermediaries included details for a bank account collecting donations toward legal fees in case the group goes to court to contest FIFA’s new rules.

“This is going to be an expensive fight and we need your moral and financial support,” read the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

FIFA’s proposed limits on agents’ fees — part of a broader set of changes to the transfer market — come amid growing public pressure to regulate the $7 billion a year player trading market. FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, expressed a desire to curb excessive behavior by some agents upon entering office in February 2016. Months later, leaked documents revealed by the hacking platform Football Leaks detailed how the Italian-Dutch agent Mino Raiola secured more than 40 million euros in payments by representing all three parties — player, buying club and selling club — in Paul Pogba’s world-record transfer to Manchester United from Juventus in August 2016.

Mel Stein, the A.F.A. chairman, said in an interview Friday that FIFA was trying to “punish” agents for deals like the one involving Pogba, which he said was “atypical.”

Under the proposed rules, the fees paid to agents representing selling teams in a player’s transfer would be capped at 10 percent. The cap would be 3 percent for those acting for buying clubs and for intermediaries acting on behalf of players. Agents also would no longer be able to work for both buying and selling clubs in the same deal, a measure designed, according to FIFA, “to protect the integrity of the system and prevent abuses.”

“There has been a consultation process with a representative group of agents so their inputs could be taken into account,” a FIFA spokesman said in response to the A.F.A. letter. “The Task Force Transfer System has kept an open dialogue with agents on all aspects of the proposed reforms.”

As well as writing to its members — a group that the A.F.A. said accounts for collective annual revenues of 500 million pounds (more than $615 million) — the group also has written to FIFA to warn it that the agents would begin legal action within seven days if the proposals were not abandoned.

“We cannot accept any regulations that provide for capping of our fees or restrict our freedom to act for any party in a transaction,” the A.F.A. wrote to FIFA. It described the regulations as “unlawful and anti-competitive.”

According to data released by FIFA, agents earned more than $2 billion in the five years from 2014 through 2018, a figure that dwarfed the amount paid to teams as part of a separate so-called solidarity mechanism designed to reward youth development programs for their roles in producing players.

Stein, the A.F.A. head, accused FIFA of “breathtaking arrogance” for failing to engage with his group before making a final decision on its new rules, and suggested the excesses of soccer leaders were worse than any found in his industry.

“Have you been to their offices?” he said of FIFA. “All that marble and gold, that’s taking money out of the game.”

Controlling agents’ growing influence in the global marketplace has been a struggle for FIFA since the value of the transfer market — and the prices for top players — began to grow exponentially amid a television revenue boom that began in the 1990s. As part of the proposals FIFA will consider next month, it will take responsibility for licensing agents, a role it gave up about a decade ago. At the time, it acknowledged that the task, on a global scale, was beyond its capabilities.

Peter Kenyon, a former chief executive of the Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea, suggested actors in the soccer industry would be able to find ways of getting around the new rules, as they have done when it comes to other forms of regulations. He noted that it was not agents who determined the fees paid for players, but clubs.

“Nobody has to pay an agent anything — that’s a club decision and they choose to pay it,” he said. “Clubs are great at wanting someone else to make a regulation that makes it easier to say no.”

New York City F.C. Routs Atlanta and Inches Closer to Top Seed

It must seem a little bit funny at New York City F.C. today, after four years of big-name signings (David Villa, Andrea Pirlo), big-name coaches (Patrick Vieira) and at least one big-time mistake (Frank Lampard), that it was a tiny Romanian who put them on the verge of the first-place finish the team has been after all along.

But it was indeed a 34-minute hat trick by Alexandru Mitrita — signed in February not from one of Europe’s big, sexy clubs but from the decidedly less glamorous Universitatea Craiova in Romania’s Liga I — that gave N.Y.C.F.C. a 4-1 victory over Atlanta United on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

The result, and either a loss by Philadelphia later Wednesday or a point in one of New York’s final two games, would clinch first place — and a first-round playoff bye — for New York in next month’s Major League Soccer playoffs.

That means New York City’s job is not done yet, a point Coach Domènec Torrent and his players made repeatedly after some cautious postgame celebrations.

Still, what everyone knew was that the victory over Atlanta, which entered the game in second place, all but locked up first place in the Eastern Conference for Torrent’s team. That it was delivered by Mitrita, in a burst of opportunistic scoring efficiency, seemed fitting.

A 24-year-old wing, Mitrita has been neither an everyday starter nor New York City’s scoring leader this season. (Entering Wednesday, in fact, he was third on the team in goals.) What he has provided instead, in a league filled with bigger stars, has been diligent work and a knack for finding open space — or creating it.

His first two goals on Wednesday were nearly identical, slicing runs from the left in which he cut inside for right-footed shots that beat Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. His third was a mix of good fortune and good timing, a run followed through to the back post that allowed him to pounce on a Guzan rebound and finish into an empty net for a 3-0 lead in the 34th minute.

Only a missed penalty kick by midfielder Maxi Moralez marred a dominant first half for New York City, and only a penalty surrendered by Maxime Chanot after halftime spoiled the shutout, but afterward few on the New York City side were pointing out flaws. They knew that another date with Atlanta — which played without the injured striker Josef Martínez on Wednesday — could be looming in the postseason.

“The important thing for us is to play in the playoffs,” Torrent said. “But it’s very important for us to win these kind of games because maybe you have to play again in the playoffs against this team.”

If that happens, N.Y.C.F.C. may like its chances. It has lost only five games this season, and none since Aug. 11, a 2-1 defeat at Atlanta that was avenged on Wednesday. What Torrent will take into the postseason is not a flashy roster like Atlanta’s (which won the league championship last year) or that of Los Angeles F.C. (which has run away with the Western Conference race) but a consistent and capable one with a preference for control of the ball and a dependable core of players from off the beaten path. It includes a Swedish defender (Anton Tinnerholm) who likes to bomb forward; a Finnish midfielder (Ring) who anchors the midfield; Mitrita; the Argentines Moralez and Valentin Castellanos; and the Brazilian Heber (who scored his 15th goal of the year on Wednesday to make it 4-1 against Atlanta).

The top seeded N.Y.C.F.C. covets a bigger prize than in past years. Before this season, M.L.S. introduced a new playoff format in which the top seven teams in each 12-team conference qualify for the postseason, but only the No. 1 team receives a bye in the first round. The league also did away with its traditional home-and-home format for this year; instead, the playoffs will be a single-elimination tournament, with the higher seed hosting each match.

The intent was to shorten the playoffs — the championship game will take place on Nov. 10 this year, nearly a month earlier than last season’s M.L.S. Cup — but also to raise the stakes, both for seeding going in and for each postseason match. A bye means one fewer chance to go out.

“We have to be ready because the playoffs are different this year,” Torrent said. “It’s a knockout game — that means if you make a mistake, if the referee makes a mistake, or the keeper or me makes a mistake, you’re out.”

At least New York City F.C. knows, now, that it almost certainly will get a chance to chase its next prize on its home field, even if it may have to share it with the Yankees, who have their own playoff run starting soon. But that, too, is a problem for tomorrow. On Wednesday, there were only smiles.

M.L.S. Lifts Ban on Signs Featuring the Iron Front

PORTLAND, Ore. — Major League Soccer is lifting its ban on signs and banners featuring an anti-Nazi symbol for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.

A handful of fans in Portland were prohibited from attending matches this season after challenging a ban on the Iron Front, a symbol with three arrows pointed downward and to the left that was first used by an anti-Nazi paramilitary group in the 1930s. The league had said the emblem violated a ban on political displays included in the M.L.S. fan code of conduct adopted this season.

M.L.S. maintained the symbol is political because it has been appropriated by antifa, loosely organized militant groups of anti-fascists that sometimes engage in violence. Supporters’ groups maintain the Iron Front represents opposition to fascism and persecution — a human rights issue, not a political stance.

Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders supporters’ groups, as well as the Independent Supporters’ Council, protested the ban, and some fans across the league continued to use the symbol on flags, banners and signs at games.

Both sides met last Thursday in Las Vegas to find a resolution. An additional conference call was held Tuesday afternoon.

Mark Abbott, the M.L.S. president and deputy commissioner, said in a statement that the league would also form a working group, including representatives from the league, its clubs, and the supporters’ groups, to re-examine the code of conduct going forward.

“This working group will include representatives from the league office and clubs and work collaboratively with leaders of club supporter groups and a cross-section of diversity and inclusion experts,” Abbott said.

The supporters groups also issued a statement.

“The Independent Supporters Council and supporter groups for the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders F.C. acknowledge the league’s willingness to discuss these complex issues, as well as the league’s affirmation of its longtime opposition to racism, fascism, white supremacy, white nationalism and homophobia,” the statement said. “We appreciate Major League Soccer’s willingness to engage, listen, and learn. We look forward to continuing the dialogue, moving away from direct action in the stands on this issue, and instead focusing our energy on making progress around the table.”

The league’s fan code of conduct, introduced this season, prohibits “using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior.”

Earlier this season, a fan waving a Trump 2020 flag was removed from Portland’s Providence Park.

FIFA Set to Take On Agents With Proposed Changes to Transfer Market

A key committee at FIFA is expected to approve a series of proposals on Wednesday that would seek to reform the multibillion-dollar player transfer market by limiting the influence of the sport’s biggest agents and also prevent clubs like Chelsea, Juventus and Manchester City from stockpiling talent.

Some of the conclusions of FIFA’s player status committee, which would approve the changes, mirror those in an internal FIFA report, created last year at the behest of the organization’s president, Gianni Infantino. Infantino has pledged to try and tame a transfer industry that has turned a small group of powerful agents into some of the most influential figures in soccer, and allowed a group of wealthy clubs to hoard and profit from large stables of players who are unlikely to ever play for their parent teams.

Infantino, a former official at European soccer’s governing body who has long been frustrated by the opacity in the player trading industry, vowed to act after details of huge commissions extracted by a select group of player agents were revealed in the leak of confidential documents by the Football Leaks platform in 2015. In one case, the Italian-Dutch agent Mino Raiola reportedly earned more than 40 million euros after he was paid by all three parties in midfielder Paul Pogba’s world-record transfer from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016.

According to details of the FIFA proposals, which were explained by two people familiar with them who were not authorized to discuss the proposals publicly, individuals no longer will be able to act for the interests of buying and selling clubs in the same transaction, and agent commissions will be capped at 3 percent for buying clubs and players, and 6 percent for selling teams.

While clubs have long expressed frustration at the amount of money extracted from the game by agents — according to data released by FIFA, agents earned more than $2 billion in the five years from 2014 through 2018 — groups representing intermediaries have said that any moves to restrict their incomes would be challenged in court.

A FIFA spokesman declined to comment on the proposals ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

Details of FIFA’s proposed reforms for the transfer market first appeared in an internal report that surfaced last year. That document included plans for a central clearinghouse through which clubs would transfer the funds used to secure the registration of new signings as well as payments to the agents involved. Such a move could help shine light on an industry that has become the focus of money laundering and tax evasion investigations by the authorities in multiple countries.

Infantino had vowed to take on the transfer market — a chaotic world in which clubs and agents broker transfers with whispered rumors, secret promises and hidden fees — after he was elected in 2016 in the wake of a major corruption scandal. He convened the FIFA task force that created the report, an effort to address a series of issues, including the spiraling costs for players; concerns about the behavior of agents in the transfer process; and growing numbers of stories about dubious financial practices in a global transfer market worth about $7 billion a year.

The internal report also took aim at the growing practice of stockpiling talent. For top teams with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal, the practice of signing dozens of extra players had a dual benefit: it limited the options of potential rivals at the same time it created a steady income stream in fees through the loans of players who could not break in to the first team.

Under the reform proposal, the number of non-club-trained players above age 21 who can be sent out on loan will be limited to eight starting with the 2012-22 season and then drop to six by the 2022-23 campaign. Clubs like Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester City would be hit hardest by the new rules; each currently has at least a dozen players out on loan.