|Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure express their complaints to the ref.|
It only took one comment from Manchester City's Yaya Toure after the game against CSKA Moscow to stir up the "racism in football" pot.
There's just one problem with Toure's allegation of CSKA supporters' racist remarks. The only other individual that claimed to hear such insults during the game was a sideline commentator, who mentioned that "in a couple of occasions, when Manchester City were attacking, there have been some monkey chants emanating from behind the CSKA goal...very disappointing indeed." The studio commentator continued his colleague's trail of thought, mentioning the ongoing Say No To Racism campaign. He then went on to say, "UEFA really have to take a tougher line on [the campaign] on countries where - let's, shall we say, they're less advanced in their thinking than we're used to at home". "Home", of course, must refer to England, and the English press made sure to take advantage. The Telegraph, for instance, cited numerous instances throughout the years in which fans of other Russian clubs engaged in racist behavior toward players. It should be noted that there is often a failure to distinguish between "fans"/"supporters" and "ultras", the latter of which are usually behind such atrocities.
It should also be noted that the referee has the right to stop the match at any time, especially if he hears inappropriate behavior from supporters of either side. Ovidiu Hategan, the match official who oversaw the game, failed to take any action.
CSKA wasted no time with their reply, posted on their official site the following day. According to the statement issued by the club,
Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from PFC CSKA supporters to the guests, and the match delegate confirmed it after the final whistle. In many episodes of the encounter, especially with the attacks on our goal, fans made disapproving noises, booed and whistled to put pressure on the opposite side's players regardless of their race.
The statement goes on to say that,
It is also important that in the whole history of participation in European cups our club has never been observed or punished for racist behavior of fans.
In light of their current period of consistently poor performances at home and abroad, the diversity within the team itself, and the transparency of video, I'm sure it's not in CSKA's best interests to lie about the matter.
CSKA forward Seydou Doumbia, Toure's teammate in the Ivory Coast national team, denied hearing anything of a racist nature from the stands. "Yes, [the fans] are noisy and try to put maximum pressure on the opponent, but they make no racist chants," Doumbia said. "So my fellow Cote d'Ivoire international has obviously overreacted a little bit".
That overreaction may cost the Army Men, depending on what UEFA may find. According to Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, punishments for racist behavior of a club's supporters can range from "a partial stadium closure" to "deduction of points" and even "disqualification from the competition".
What motive, claim Toure's supporters, would the English have to set this up and oust the under-achieving Russian team from the tournament? It's not like they're currently contenders. But a closer inspection would lead one to see beyond the game itself.
Mainstream media often follows a rule of thumb: if it looks like politics, it must be politics. For one thing, sport has, on occasion, been used to fuel political antagonism. It reaches a lot of people, and it's very convenient for the mainstream media to take a player's - more so a famous one's - word for it. Any opportunity to make Russian football - and therefore Russia - look bad would be taken up pretty quickly. Make no mistake: it's a mud-slinging war that extends beyond the realms of 'official' debating among the governing elites.
If UEFA finds no evidence of racist supporters, the grumbling English will be forced to retreat and try again some other time. Knowing history likes to repeat itself, they most certainly will.
The sacking of Victor Manuel Vucetich after just two games in charge of the struggling Mexican national team shocks the world, while his replacement may or may not stay on. A club in the Liga Mx may lose the best manager they've had in awhile.
Meanwhile in England, Liverpool are set to face Newcastle and Manchester United are up against Southampton, the latter having raised the bar by showcasing a brilliant defense.
The 13th Matchweek of the RPL starts with CSKA's 0:2 loss to Zenit St Petersburg. Dynamo Moscow will face Kuban, who are six points below them in the league table.
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This week: World Cup Qualifiers, the thin red line of the MLS playoffs and Supporters' Shield
The Ukraine and Russia national football teams emerge victorious, Denmark almost gets away with a win against Italy. Mexico faces Panama and must win their last games for a shot at the Intercontinental Playoff Round against New Zealand. Join us as we discuss World Cup Qualifiers in Europe and beyond. In other news, MLS playoffs are upon us, and some teams may have a shot at emerging from beneath the infamous thin red line.
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|Hooligans among the Ukraine NT's supporters. Source: RIA Novosti|
The Ukraine and Peru national football teams have been forced to play their upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifying games without the presence of supporters. FIFA's Disciplinary Committee cites reports of incidents involving pyrotechnics, plus various racist, discriminatory gestures, such as the display of neo-Nazi banners, during Ukraine's game with San Marino (9-1), and "crowd disturbance incidents" in Peru's game against Uruguay (1-2) to justify their decision. The lack of supporters in the stands will no doubt affect the run of play for both Ukraine and Peru's next qualifying games. As everyone knows, fan support is a significant factor in establishing an environment that motivates and encourages players to put on their best performance.
Even more disturbing was FIFA's decision to extend part of Ukraine's punishment (not playing any qualifiers at Lviv Arena) to the 2018 World Cup qualifying games. The FIFA committee's decision has distinct parallels with UEFA's actions against Metalist Kharkiv a few months ago, when the club was prevented from advancing to the 2013/14 Champions League play-off round due to alleged evidence of match-fixing of a 2008 Ukraine Premier League game against Karpaty Lviv. Both cases treat an isolated conflict as a whole - if supporters were unruly, why not ban all supporters? If a match was fixed, why not punish the entire club and players?
FIFA redefines and prides itself in taking the easy way out. It seems so much easier to blame an entire entity for a few hooligans who could have just as easily been escorted out of the stadium. The Disciplinary Committee is really an oxymoron. Instead of taking action against specific individuals, it creates the illusion that, with a flick of their magic wand, the larger problem - hooliganism - goes away.
In fact, this type of punishment will always have the opposite of the intended effect: it will not stop the hooligans from acting, nor will it stop them from existing. Rather, it shows that they can (and will) get away with what they set out to do, and while the national teams and disciplined supporters suffer, the perpetrators will remain untouched. It is hard to believe that there isn't photographic evidence and video footage available from both the Ukraine and Peru games that shows the exact persons involved in both incidents, just as it is hard to believe there wasn't any stadium security present that didn't witness the events.
It is against the virtue of justice itself that the many are punished for the actions of the few. Yet this notion is reinforced both in and outside of football, from grade school to adulthood, in Europe and the Americas. By making everyone but the hooligans feel shame and guilt, the people that would otherwise not have partaken in law-breaking in the first place are given a "warning". In the end it is nothing more than a "temporary fix" to keep the real law-breakers at bay.
According to FIFA, "should such incidents occur again, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee would be left with no other option than to impose harsher sanctions against these associations, which could go as far as a match forfeit, a points deduction or disqualification from a competition". But what do the federations - or, more importantly, the players - have to do with a handful of troublemakers?
If the consequences do not bring long-term results, such as minimizing or removing hooliganism from games, what, then, is the purpose of the punishment?
FIFA's committee fails to give us an answer.
Update: FIFA has suspended punishment for both Ukraine and Peru until after their respective Qualifying games. According to FIFA, "only once the FIFA Appeal Committee has had an opportunity to decide on the appeals will FIFA communicate further information on the two cases."
This week's show:
- UEFA Champions League - Group Stage
- UEFA Europa League - Group Stage
- English Premier League
- Moscow Derby Preview: CSKA vs Dynamo
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Though unlikely to be introduced soon, video replay remains promising in the world of football
If a foul occurs in the box but no one is there to see it, is it a penalty? Unlike the question of the tree that falls in the deserted forest, there are immediate witnesses to a foul: the players and the fans. Yet neither have the power to influence the referee's decision to administer a penalty. Supposing the official himself was a witness, and millions of television viewers saw him standing in front of the spectacle and failing to blow his whistle. Consider a scenario where there are six officials present, all of them equipped with headsets that make communication with the head referee possible. The episode with the foul is apparently seen by all but the officials, who refuse to acknowledge it. What should be done?
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has tried (and failed) to make a valid point for choosing not to invest in video replay since the 1990s. Skeptics such as Blatter and certain groups of fans have constructed misconceptions on video replay. They erroneously fear that drastic, technological additions to the sport would take away from "the human element" of the game. Although Blatter reopened the issue on goal-line technology being used for the World Cup after the infamous "goal that wasn't" that would have tied England's game against Germany in 2010, video replay outside of just goals is unlikely to be considered anytime soon.
There's more at stake here than loss of the human element. Goal-line technology itself is already proving to be a costly endeavor. Although FIFA has approved a list of goal-line systems, including Hawk-Eye, installing and testing the system would be a financial burden on many leagues. The English Premier League is an exception, having already made use of Hawk-Eye, equipping all 20 stadiums with the system. Few leagues have clubs whose owners can spend around £250,000 (over $404,000) at will. However, there is quite a lot of money involved in the sport already. There are multiple clubs in Europe that are certainly not short on dough and have big-name sponsors. The Russian Premier League's Zenit is owned by oil giants Gazprom, and various other clubs, such as PAOK, are owned by wealthy oligarchs. If clubs can pay insurmountable amounts for overrated players who don't live up to the hype, it seems senseless not to invest in goal-line technology. Selling the system will only earn FIFA more money, and if more leagues buy the product, economies of scale will mean its price will drop, while its accessibility soars.
Since one action inevitably leads to another, it wouldn't be long before video replay would follow suit. An extra official checking a monitor still retains the human element, and in today's world, this can be done as fast as clicking a "like" button. Besides, the EPL's Hawk-Eye system is completely automatic, and there doesn't seem to be a backlash at its use and lack of human involvement.
When one asks whether or not precious time will be taken away from the game to investigate replays, there are two questions that must be considered. Do fans of sports that have instant replay ever voice their discontent with the system? If so, they must be convening outside the realm of social media in a retro forum - a la ancient Rome - to discuss their qualms. Second, how long does it take viewers watching at home to access video highlights? The increasing availability of nearly-instant snippets of significant match events can't be overlooked. It's certainly a strange image when today's fans are the ones with more technology at their fingertips than the decision-makers on the pitch.
FIFA is so concerned with banning fans from stadiums and accepting mindless World Cup bids that no time is left for making critical decisions that will benefit the game in the long run.
In the so-called age of rationalism, isn't it rational to expect objectivity? Why leave everything up to chance when there's an option not to? No matter how many referees are added, the element of human error will forever be present, but no matter how much technology is added, the element of human reason will be just as alive.