Back to the future
It was like the 1970s all over again last night. Thrilling World Cup qualifiers that actually mattered, matches rained off, Spain not winning and of course, players being racially abused by dim-witted supporters.
Yes, the ugly spectre of racism was impossible to ignore on an evening when the black members of England’s Under-21 side were crudely abused by the neanderthals purporting to support Serbia.
To compound matters, an ugly brawl broke out at the conclusion of the game, which appeared to have been provoked by Danny Rose’s – totally understandable – celebration of England’s last gasp victory.
Rose, who was verbally abused before, during and after the game, led the calls for Serbia to be banned.
“When we went out for the warm-up, behind the bench they started monkey chanting straight away,” he said.
“Half way through the warm-up I went to the assistant manager [Steve Wigley] and told him what was happening. He said I should try my best to get through it and we’ll deal with it after the game.
“The first half was no way near as bad as the second half. I had two stones hit me in the head when I went to get the ball for a throw in. Every time I touched the ball I heard monkey chants. After 60 minutes my mind wasn’t really on the game after that, I was so angry and it was just so hard to concentrate. I don’t understand how they [Serbia] can learn from it, they have to be banned.”
The British Prime Minister David Cameron was said to be “appalled” by the ugly scenes and his spokesman said: “We are determined to stamp out racism internationally and at home and we are giving our full backing to the FA’s complaint on this issue.
“Clearly it is for UEFA to investigate this issue but we would expect tough sanctions. If we are going to stamp out racism from football, then it is no good giving derisory fines, as have been handed out in the past. It is not good enough to say that people should shake hands and forget about it.”
Anti-racism campaigners also joined in the condemnation, with Lord Ouseley, the chair of Kick It Out, calling for “serial offenders” Serbia to be banned from international competition and accusing UEFA of exacerbating the problem with its “woefully weak” sanctions.
“The fact UEFA has been so woefully weak in the past in administering punishments makes it easy to re-offend,” Lord Ouseley told the Guardian. “The jury is out on UEFA’s capacity and willingness to tackle racism on the scale necessary. If they don’t do what is appropriate in this instance, everyone will lose confidence in UEFA. They can’t afford not to act.”
The only dissenting voice, you will not be surprised to learn, was Serbian. Coach Aleksandar Jankovic insisted his team had done nothing wrong and that it “takes two to fight”
“Apologise for what?” said Jankovic. “It takes two to have a fight. You should be happy that England qualified. We can discuss that (incident) tomorrow and analyse what happened. Let’s talk about football.
“We expected a great fight and so it was. We can be disappointed but we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Last year, in the wake of repeated misdemeanours by their supporters, UEFA president Michel Platini warned Serbia and Balkan neighbours, Croatia, about the future conduct of their supporters.
“I must stress… that unless UEFA sees positive and clear signs that concrete measures are being taken within this calendar year, there is the serious risk of suspension for the national and club teams of both associations from UEFA competitions.
“We must see a clear improvement, if not, we will not hesitate to take firm action. Violence in football is a core concern for us that needs to be addressed urgently. I have seen in my meetings with the heads of state of both Croatia and Serbia that they share our concerns and wishes to commit to finding solutions.”
The ball, as they say, is firmly in your court Mr Platini.
Footage of the post-match mayhem can be found here.
Singing in the rain
There is an unspoken code of conduct that all England managers are expected to adhere to. Win by any means possible, talk up England’s chances, ignore pleas for Rio Ferdinand to be recalled, always pick Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – regardless of their club form – sing the national anthem lustily, and lastly, but most importantly, never be seen sheltering under an umbrella – the McClaren mandate.
Roy Hodgson knows the folly of being caught holding a brolly while on national duty and the England coach can be seen braving the elements in wet and windy Warsaw last night.
Inevitably, questions have been asked about the decision to leave the roof open prior to last night’s washout.
Well, according to the Guardian: “To operate it in the wet, a spokesman for the stadium owner explained without irony, would invalidate the warranty.”
As soon as the game was abandoned, the game was rescheduled for Wednesday 5pm local time. The roof, unsurprisingly, was kept closed last night, though it is expected to be open for the match itself.
Out of character
Coach Erik Hamren has paid tribute to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s motivational powers after the striker inspired Sweden to overturn a four-goal deficit against Germany.
Trailing 4-0 to a buoyant Germany side with less than half an hour remaining, Sweden staged an improbable comeback to secure a 4-4 draw.
Normally regarded as – let’s be polite shall we – as a single-minded character whose pursuit of individual goals often eclipses his contribution to the team ethic, Ibrahimovic was deemed a “great captain” by Hamren.
“He is our captain and our best player”, said Hamren of Ibrahimovic. ”His goal was fantastic, but the pass that provided it was too.
“We needed him to regain that energy and he showed the way for the rest of the team. Momentum was gained and the players around him picked themselves up to help.
“He gave a very good speech to the players at half-time and he showed his class.
“He led his team as a great captain should do.”
It’s difficult to know which is most unlikely: Germany squandering a four-goal lead or Ibrahimovic being hailed as an inspirational team leader.
Goal of the day
Vincent Kompany twisted and turned in the Scottish penalty area before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
Villa offer home to whistleblower
Simone Farina, who was instrumental in helping to foil a match-fixing attempt in Italy last year, has joined Aston Villa as a community coach.
The former Roma defender made the news when approached and offered €200,000 to help fix a Coppa Italia match between his club Gubbio and Cesena in November 2011.
But Farina refused, reported the incident to Italian police and his evidence helped lead to the arrest of 17 people the following month.
It led to FIFA president Sepp Blatter naming 30-year-old Farina as a FIFA ambassador for fair play. Blatter recently expressed his dismay at Farina’s failure to find employment within the game following his revelations.
Farina said: “I know I did the right thing when I refused to get involved in the fixing of a football game.
“I went to the authorities because this corruption had to be brought to the surface. This level of deception has no place in football or in any walk of life.
“But it is also important to me that I continue to work in football and that I am able to pass on my knowledge because football is an inspirational game.
“A year ago I did not see my life moving in this direction but I am really delighted to be able now to contribute in this way at Villa.
“I wanted to move on with my life. Now I feel that I have real purpose again because of the support and opportunity Villa have given me.”
Interpol secretary-general Ron Noble said: “Simone Farina is a football defender both on and off the pitch.
“He showed integrity and courage by turning down and reporting to the police an attempted bribe to corrupt the outcome of a match.
“He needs to become just as important a role model for our youth like stars such as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Corruption in sport is a very complex problem for which there is no quick fix. In addition to strong enforcement efforts, all those linked to the ‘beautiful game’ must place a great emphasis on prevention.
“In this respect Simone Farina’s appointment by Aston Villa as a coach in its community outreach programme will allow him to continue to work to keep football clean.”
A tale of two keepers
Hugo Lloris produced a stunning penalty save to deny Cesc Fabregas and help France secure what prove to be a vital point in Spain.
Elsewhere, Germany’s Manuel Neuer will wonder how this tame effort from Mikael Lustig squirmed through his grasp.
Quote of the day
“I have no intention of resigning from my position, the problem of Turkish football is not whether I quit or not, we need to develop and maintain consistency. We will see how the next games go, however, we definitely will not be giving up. We haven’t reached our goals yet however, I’m a clever man, the Turkish Football Federation president Yıldırım Demirören is fully behind me and I approach every day as if I am here for the long run.”
Turkey coach Abdullah Avci may be clever but he lacks wisdom. Brushing off speculation about his future following Turkey’s 3-1 defeat to Hungary, seems to be asking for trouble.
Rubbing salt in the wound
As if the ignominy of finishing bottom of Singapore’s S.League was not bad enough, further punishment will come the unfortunate club’s way by means of a League-imposed fine
The team that finishes last in the 13-team league next season will face a 50,000 Singapore dollar (€31,000) penalty, while the 12th-placed side will be S$30,000 worse off.
“We hope these – stiff penalties, not just a slap on the wrist – will inspire clubs to do well,” S.League boss Lim Chin told the paper.
“Competitive’ and ‘interesting’ were the two key words for us in deciding on the initiatives for the league next year and, while the S.League is not ready for a promotion-relegation system, we want every team to give their best.
Lim said the change would be “better for the league than just sticking to what we’ve had before.
“We think the quantum of the penalties is painful enough to force teams to make an effort to do well, while not big enough to force clubs to sit out the league,” he added.
“Having said that, we will allow clubs to make phased payments out of their subsidies in the following year.”
Unlikely transfer speculation of the day
Real Madrid are reported to be considering offering a contract to their former defender and current Anzhi Makhachkala director, Roberto Carlos.
According to AS, Real’s coach, Jose Mourinho, considers the 39-year-old a suitable replacement for his injured left wingers, Fabio Coentrao and Marcelo.
Roberto Carlos retired from football in March this year after finishing his illustrious career in the backwaters of Dagestan, but the Madrid he can still perform at a decent level, at least until the return to fitness of Coentrao and Marcelo.
The Brazilian spent 11 seasons (1996-2007) and won the UEFA Champions League three times as well as four Spanish titles.
The 2002 World Cup winner is now working in Guus Hiddibk’s staff at Russian Premier League leaders, Anzhi Makhachkala.
Celebration of the day
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt could hardly contain himself when Sweden completed the most unlikely of comebacks. Sitting alongside him German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is unable to suppress a chuckle as the fourth goal goes in.