It looks like we will not be travelling to Madrid for our away Champions League tie against Atletico.
The reason, sadly, appears to be racist abuse aimed at the Marseille fans in the last Champions League game at the Calderon Stadium two weeks ago. The Marseille team bus was also attacked partly as a result of poor Spanish policing. As a result Atletico will be required to play their next two Champions League home games, against us and PSV, at least two hundred miles away from Madrid.
Atletico received a record 150,000 Euro fine from UEFA who are triumphing the decision describing themselves as “acting with renewed strength” against racism. True the fine compares favourably to the £15,000 handed out by FIFA to Croatia for the bile their fans spat out at Emile Heskey a few weeks ago, but it is still not enough. For all UEFA’s rhetoric one still has to question the intensity of their commitment to stamping our racism in the game and also their decision to punish Atletico Madrid in the way they have.
Of course one deplores any kind of racist chants but surely UEFA should be asking themselves just who are they are punishing here. Atletico Madrid? Not really although they have to play 200 miles away this shouldn’t be too much of strain, for team and fans alike. The fine is hardly going dent their bank balance, even in these troubled times?
At first hand it seems that the real victims of the UEFA decision are those Liverpool fans who have already made travel arrangements to get to, and stay in, Madrid next week? Some less than enlightened soles on discussion sites have said a complaint of this type sounds slightly hypocritical coming from a Liverpool fan. Although we’ve thankfully never been involved in any racist incidents, supporters of other English clubs have suffered because of the Heysel ban. However, whatever one may say about that, this is just another example of how the game continues to hold fans in contempt. It is not the first time fans have suffered or been inconvenienced through no fault of their own. One only has to see the host of ridiculous, inconvenient kick off times they are expected to put up with every weekend.
I don’t know why it has taken so late in the day for UEFA to reach this decision? The match against Marseille took place two weeks ago. Further more they still haven’t decided where the game will be played heaping more uncertainty on our fans. The short sighted lack of planning and scant regard for the practicalities of the situation beggars belief but then again we should be used to such decisions from UEFA by now?
This is not the first time Spanish fans have been involved in racist abuse. It’s a cowardly, sickening trait that won’t leave their game even extending as far as the national team’s former coach. Fines and playing games away from home do not seem to deter. If UEFA are really serious about racism surely its time to consider harsher, alternative methods of punishment that really hit home such as, in the case of Atletico, docking Champions League points or even the expulsion from the competition? Or would this impact on other things that UEFA perceive as more important such as TV rights, sponsorship or other sources of revenue?
Meanwhile it seems that after close on 70 appearances and over a dozen goals for England, Steven Gerrard is having doubts about the extent of his contribution to the national cause…
“Before every England game I say to myself I want to take this game by the scruff of the neck and make things happen like I do for Liverpool, but then it does not happen and so I start to force passes, get frustrated and put too much pressure on myself.”
Gerrard isn’t he first and certainly won’t be the last player who has hasn’t fully produced club form for his country. The regularly of club football and relative scarcity of International games, together with the different players and manager surely contributes towards this perceived underachievement? It seems rather odd that with England sitting on top of their qualifying group, with a 100% record and a sack full of goals that Gerrard should choose to speak in this way? Especially when others in the squad, some of whom may even line up against Belarus today, have experienced even greater struggles than Gerrard to reconcile the club verses country form issue? However, if Stevie, feels he is need of a break from the international scene and wants to concentrate on playing for his club then you find no complaints coming from me!
Finally The Mirror suggests that Juventus will try to line up Rafa as their manager should they sack Claudio Ranieri. There is obviously a difference between the words “achievable” and “try” for example if my other half comes to her senses and decides to leave me I might “try” to line Helena Christenson as my next muse regardless if whether this is “achievable”. However, with football poorest billionaires still to sort out Rafa’s contract, which has eighteen months to go, you should never say never so if you’re reading this Helena…… !