Thursday, December 22, 2011

Luis Suarez for Liverpool (v Queens Park Rangers), 10 December 2011

It's been a good week for racism in football. Luis Suarez has been banned by eight matches and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra whilst Chelsea and England captain John Terry faces a racially aggravated public order charge for allegedly abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in a match in October.

Both men could be guilty or both could be innocent. I suspect there are lots of people who would like to see Terry found guilty of his charge - not least because he epitomises almost everything that is wrong with paying chavs millions of pounds a year for kicking a ball about -although he is innocent until proven guilty and the courts will decide his fate.

What is extremely unpalatable is the way in which both clubs - particularly Liverpool - have reacted to these claims. Let's not forget that Suarez has already been found guilty by an independent tribunal which means (appeal pending, of course) that he has been found guilty of using racist/abusive language during a match.

Imagine you'd been found guilty of racist/abusive behaviour towards one of your colleagues at work. Do you imagine that your boss and all your colleagues would turn up for work the following day wearing t-shirts with your name on as a show of support? Do you expect your company would have made a statement condoning the decision and questioning the integrity of the person who made the allegations?

Of course they wouldn't. Let's face it - you would be lucky to keep your job at all. There are lots of companies that would march you to the front door with your belongings and sack you immediately for gross misconduct. They would also release a statement saying that racist behaviour cannot be tolerated and that these sorts of harsh measures have to be taken in order to eliminate this problem.

And that is why it's been a good week for racism in football. It's all very well for the FA and other bodies to hand down serious punishments for racist behaviour - and potentially the courts in Terry's case - but if the employers such as Liverpool continue to defend the actions of their players it shows that the clubs really don't care about taking racism seriously.

The Guardian hits the nail on the head when talking about the decision by the Liverpool team and management to wear t-shirts supporting their striker before Wednesday's match at Wigan: "This was a high-profile international found guilty of racist abuse 24 hours earlier and, raging with a sense of injustice or not, as Liverpool clearly are, they were inappropriate gestures at this stage of an already damaging saga".

In many ways Terry's case is similar in that it shows how different a footballer is treated in his situation than the rest of us. Again, say you had been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence having allegedly shouted racist abuse at someone in your office or in the streets. You'd subsequently been charged and have to appear in court next year.

Do you think your employers would jump to your defence? Do you think they'd continue to let you be the spokesperson for your organisation (or indeed your country) as Terry is as club as national captain?

Of course they wouldn't. What would happen is that you would be suspended from your job immediately the allegations were made. If found innocent you'd be reinstated immediately and if found guilty you'd be lucky to last the day before receiving your P45.

Again, Chelsea have failed to take the issue seriously and just one sentence from Andre Villas-Boas shows why: "We know exactly his human values and personality, so we will support him whatever happens."

Chelsea will support John Terry whatever happens. That means that if he is found guilty of this offence and is proved to be a horrible racist then his employers will support him. Is that taking a stance in kicking racism out of football? Of course it isn't. And this is why the FA and FIFA are wasting their time trying to kick racism out of football. If the clubs are prepared to support and defend racist behaviour, then it won't ever stop.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Karl Henry for Wolves (vs Charlton), 28th March 2008

I've received an early Christmas present.

Much to my wife's delight, our kitchen calendar next year will be the Official Wolverhampton Wanderers FC Calendar for 2012.

I don't know what it's like in your house, but in ours, the kitchen calendar is the source of all knowledge: if it's not in the calendar, then it's not happening.  For the next twelve months, we will be planning and mapping out our lives next to photos of some real Old Gold heroes.  As a sort-of closet Gooner, this will no doubt pain my wife.  Also, our strip no doubt clashes with the daffodil yellow we've apparently painted our kitchen with.....

Of course, the big risk with a calendar like this is that you could get to October and spend all month reliving your bitterness about the fact that you're going to be looking at a picture of a Kevin Doyle who actually left the club in the January transfer window.... but I suppose that's a risk you're just going to have to take.

Things already aren't looking all that great for January's poster boy: Roger Johnson was our big summer signing, but he's just been dropped from the side in favour of a 36 year old Jody Craddock (who hasn't been given a page this year at all, but as a club legend should probably get one every year, right?  Steve Bull should probably always be in there somewhere too.  Maybe John de Wolf too.  Andy Mutch, perhaps?  Robbie Dennison? Mick Stowell?  Bugger the current lot, let's stick to the classics).

Do you think that the players at clubs across the country reach nervously for their copies of the official club calendar as soon as it's printed to see if they've been included?  If you've been left out, then what does that say about your future at the club?  Or if you're desperate to leave, what if you've been put on December?  Is that the equivalent of issuing a "hands off!" statement to other clubs in Football Manager? 

Do manager's insist on copy approval?  Maybe they should.  ("Karl Henry for November?  If he's still playing for us then, then we really will be fucked!")

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sócrates for Brazil (vs USSR), 14th June 1982

Farewell then to Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira.  Better known throughout the world simply as Sócrates, captain of perhaps the best side not to win the World Cup.  60 caps and 20 goals for Brazil; drinker; smoker; political activist; humanitarian; surely one of the greatest, coolest players to grace the game.

Check out this goal from the 1982 World Cup match against the USSR.

When asked which of Pele or Maradona was the greater player, Sócrates simply replied, "who cares?"... which is of course the correct answer.

A very, very cool guy, and also the owner of what must surely be the greatest beard football has ever seen.

1954 - 2011.


His namesake had a pretty handy beard too, it must be said.  It wasn't the only thing they had in common: both died from complication arising from food poisoning.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Darren Ambrose for Crystal Palace (v Manchester United), 30 November 2011

101 Great Goals #58 - Darren Ambrose

Gary Neville called it the best goal he had ever seen an opposition player score at Old Trafford. It's a bold claim, but Darren Ambrose's strike that helped knock Manchester United out of the Carling Cup was an absolute belter.

And here at Cheer Up Alan Shearer we're delighted to bring you this superb goal with some rare Alan Partridge commentary. Truly a beautiful moment...