Brian Glanville on a bad week for football which has seen English football mired in a child abuse scandal and Brazil lose its Cinderella story in devastating circumstances.
Football’s horrific paedophile scandal drags on with one skeleton after another falling out of the cupboards.
Neither the FA nor the PFA can be seen as what you might call proactive. Chelsea? Well, having accepted that lamentable £50,000 to keep quiet, Gary Johnson, the former youth player who was abused by the late Eddie Heath, a Chelsea scout, who has said of Chelsea’s admission that it is “too little too late.”
Not late enough however to prevent the club being threatened with a fine by the Football Association. But what would that amount to? Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich would simply pull the money out of his back pocket. The only conceivable punishment would be to deduct league points, though I cannot imagine that happening.
Now yet another coach, Bob Higgins, ex-Southampton and still alive, has come under fire. He has been accused by several Saints youth players – Hampshire police are reported to be investigating. Worryingly, he is known to have links with Crewe Alexander, who as we alas know are fully in the frame.
Eric Bristow, the semi-literate darts player, whose profitable career was sabotaged by crippling anxieties, publicly accused the players who had been so shamefully abused as juniors of failing to take revenge on their exploiters in future years. He has subsequently withdrawn such idiocies but not, it seems, in time to save a career which had somewhat shakily recovered.
Now, perhaps inevitably, other sports are embroiled in revelations about transgressions in their own fields. It does appear that in recent years soccer, at least. has put its house in order, but who knows where the grim revelations will end.
Last but not least, Dario Gradi MBE, whom I have known, liked and admired for many years. But he was in charge at Crewe during those shocking depredations, says he knows nothing, but has been placed by a club whistle blower at meetings on the subject. And now one reads that during his time as a Chelsea coach, he convinced the parents of a boy to drop charges of abuse.
The horrific disaster which has befallen the gallant little Brazilian team Chapecoense is only the latest in a grim list of such aerial disasters.
The ultimate findings of an inquest are not yet available. But it does appear that the pilot, who also owned the airline for which it was flying, may have been trying to cut corners. Notably flying with insufficient fuel in a plane, built in Britain, which had been standing for three years in a Norwich hanger, but seemed perfectly airworthy. A bigger, richer Brazilian club than this might have flown with a more established an expensive airline.
The team path to the Copa Sudamericana final, to which they were on their way, was a heartening Cinderella story. Now the players have died and the club is devastated.
Other such aerial tragedies come to mind. In 1949 it was of course the Torino tragedy which shocked football well beyond Italy. Practically the whole team and its coaches, one of them the Englishman, Leslie Lievesley, were wiped out when the plane carrying the Italian champions – and most of the Italy team – back from their friendly in Lisbon, smashed into the walls of the monastery at Superga. Conditions were poor, but you wonder if the disaster could have been avoided has the plane being headed for the larger and principal airport.
Nine years later came the horrors of Manchester United’s crash at Munich airport. So easy to be wise after the event, but I have long wondered whether Matt Busby, the team’s inspirational manager, would have been wise to abort the flight after the plane had twice failed to take off.
Not to forget the day when a Zambia team, one of outstanding promise, crashed into the sea and killed them all.
Manchester United eventually recovered splendidly from their disaster, so much so that Matt Busby, so shockingly injured in the crash, was able to win the European Cup final with them against Benfica at Wembley ten years later.
Torino, five times league champions in a row, have never been the same, though in the intervening years they did win the championship again.