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07/18/24 05:28:00

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07/18 05:26 CDT Argentina tops FIFA men's rankings as government hits back at critics of team's racist France song Argentina tops FIFA men's rankings as government hits back at critics of team's racist France song By GRAHAM DUNBAR AP Sports Writer Argentina was confirmed as the world's No. 1 team in the FIFA men's rankings on Thursday, as the national government doubled down on defending the players who celebrated winning the Copa America by singing a racist song targeting No. 2-ranked France. The fallout of the chant sung late on Sunday in Miami --- which mocked the African heritage of some France players --- continued four days later, including a rebuke to Argentina's critics by the vice president in its far-right government. Argentina's government on Wednesday fired one of its leading sports officials who urged Lionel Messi and the president of the Argentine Football Association to apologize. The sports under-secretary, Julio Garro, spoke after FIFA said it was looking into the incident and English club Chelsea started a disciplinary process against its midfielder Enzo Fernandez. He broadcast the footage on social media from the Argentina team bus in Florida. Fernandez later published an apology on his Instagram account, which disappeared by Thursday, saying he was "truly sorry. That video, that moment, those words, do not reflect my beliefs or my character." However, a defiant post by the vice president of Argentina, Victoria Villarruel, on social media hit back at the country's critics. "No country with a colonial history is going to put us down for a song sung on a field nor for speaking a truth that nobody wants to admit," Villarruel wrote. "Enough of pretending to be offended, hypocrites. Enzo I am with you, Messi thanks for everything! Argentines always keep your heads high! Long live Argentina!" Villarruel said Argentina's history had been forged by people of all races: "We never forced our way of life on anyone, nor will we tolerate that someone tries to do the same to us." The song refers to France players being "all from Angola," having parents from Nigeria and Cameroon, and also includes an offensive reference to Kylian Mbapp. One of Fernandez's French teammates at Chelsea, Wesley Fofana, who is Black, described the video as "uninhibited racism." France players Jules Kound and Mike Maignan also posted critical comments about the Argentina incident. The chant was first sung by Argentina fans in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup final against France. Argentina won a penalty shootout after a thrilling 3-3 draw. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said soccer and its 211 national federations must have a zero tolerance approach to racism and in May committed to relaunching a task force to monitor incidents. Argentina has topped the FIFA rankings since April 2023 and has extended its lead over second-placed France, which lost in the European Championship semifinals to Spain. Euro 2024 winner Spain rose five places to No. 3. Beaten finalist England moved up one place, swapping with No. 5 Brazil. Copa America beaten finalist Colombia rose three places to No. 9. Morocco is at No. 14, with the 2022 World Cup semifinalist dropping two places as Africa's top-ranked men's team. The United States dropped five places to No. 16, one ahead of its CONCACAF regional rival Mexico. No. 18 Japan is the highest-ranked Asian team. ___ AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer
 
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