Clattenburg, Chelsea, and English soccer’s weekly dalliance with race

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It’s easy to make light of another race controversy in English soccer, but you can only laugh at the same joke for so long. To the extent soccer is a reflection of a nation’s broader culture, soccer is showing the boomerang effects of England’s zero tolerance, no room for discussion approach. Racism is unacceptable, but how do you enforce any standard when you can’t agree what racism is? Luis Suárez’s (albeit malicious and excessive) use of a term accepted in South America? John Terry’s terrible context for the adjective ‘black’? Or whatever Mark Clattenburg is accused of saying to John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata on Sunday? England’s need to stop and recalibrate on a case-by-case basis shows both a lack of confidence and certainty. That Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand’s attempts to further the dialog were met with derision shows the ignorant externalities that have developed. No wonder this keeps happening.

England’s latest controversy centers on Clattenburg, arbiter of Sunday’s Chelsea-Manchester United affair. Chelsea have accused the match official of using “inappropriate language” toward two of their players, widely thought to be Mikel and Mata. What did he say? Who knows, but it’s assumed to be racial in nature, and despite publicly offering their full support of Clattenburg, the Professional Game Match Officials have withheld him from the upcoming weekend’s assignments. England’s Football Association has opened an investigation, and at least one opportunistically-adorned pundit has speculated Clattenburg may have called his last game.

We shouldn’t assume Clattenburg’s done, but we can consider the more general scenario. What would it mean if a referee racially abused a player? Obviously, the official should lose their job, having shown a type of deep-seated bias that would make it impossible to trust his more superficial in-game judgments. But that’s the least interesting of the implications. More importantly, such an incident would dispel the notion that this type of ignorance is a exclusively symptomatic of a player class characterized as insular, arrogant, uneducated, and entitled. Those qualities were supposed to be precipitants to player (and, in many cultures, fan) transgressions, but if officials are also capable of these mistakes, you can’t write them off to player arrogance.

Gerneralizing beyond individuals’ stupid decisions, there seem three possibilities regarding underlying causes. First, the competitive nature of high-level soccer compels people to fall back on their most base instincts – feelings shame and neglect leave unrefined by the light of fame and fortune. The Suárez and Clattenburg instances both came in highly-charged rivalry matches after provocation (Suárez in an altercation with Patrice Evra, Clattenburg in confrontations with Chelsea players). Just as alcohol tends to being out what lies beneath, perhaps competitive intensity does the same. When my emotions are high, I’ll resort to what I perceive to be my big, must hurtful guns.

There’s also the possibility that we’re just seeing a reflection of a soccer culture that’s always existed. This is almost certainly the case. With every iteration of this controversy we’re told this happens all the time, and we’d be shocked to know all the trash that’s thrown during a 90-minute match. It’s only the attention that’s paid to the modern game that brings these incidents to the forefront, we’re told, a contention that’s impossible to deny.

It would be a mistake, however, to consider this selective enforcement. Just because we didn’t hear about these incidents in the past doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have cared. And even if we didn’t, times chance. There’s clearly no current tolerance for this type of idiocy.

The final possibility is one England needs to come to grips with before these problems go away. While, as soccer fans, we’re used to the face to English soccer being the type of liberal erudition posted by the Guardian or inferred from a commentator’s posh tones, this is only one part of the English landscape. The broader section of English life is more likely to note these controversies and move on, if not (in the case of Terry) actually forgive him. Regardless, there is no discussion. There is no attempt to find a bridge between these views. There’s no national dialog (let alone identity) attached to this issue. it’s almost trite to note, butEngland has always had trouble coming to grips with the legacy of its empire. Soccer’s oblivious response to deeper-resting race issues is a symptom of England’s problematic psychology.

Every nation deals with issues of race, and while soccer brings England’s to the forefront, it’s a mistake to assume the nation’s approach is worse than other countries’. What makes the soccer problem so interesting is the inherent hypocrisy of England’s self-appointed role as the game’s moral authority. When Luis Súarez committed an intentional handball on the goal line against Ghana in World Cup 2010, it was England that led a disproportionately large and ridiculous response. On issues of diving, it’s England’s culture that appeals to a higher, inherent morality that should be imbued in each player. The nation has only two black coaches in its top four tiers and recently had a prominent coach equate the Rooney Rule with racism. That England can’t form a coherent, progressive approach to race but seeks to serve as a moral compass is ludicrous. They know we can see them, right?

The shock, awe and bewilderment we see from England whenever race meets sport reflects a society that hasn’t come to grips with something deeper. That Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand get derided for reminding people that a stance is nothing without action serves as a perfect reflection of their state of affairs. If Roberts and Ferdinand’s stances can cause controversy, England is still too far away from conveying the day-to-day, implicit messages that will curtail these problems.

Pressure builds on Borussia Dortmund manager Peter Bosz

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Borussia Dortmund has fallen to fifth in the Bundesliga table thanks to a trio of consecutive losses in league play, and suddenly there is loads of pressure on manager Peter Bosz.

The Dutchman came to Westfalenstadion after upper management pushed Thomas Tuchel out over the summer, and while he won seven of his first eight league matches in charge by a total goal differential of 21-2, things have come crashing down. The black & yellow have lost three in a row Bundesliga matches and four of their last five across all competitions, with their only win in that span coming over third-tier Magdenburg.

With fans feeling helpless over the departure of the wildly successful Tuchel that came as a result of a falling out between the German and his superiors, Bosz would always be on a short leash. He inherited a flawed squad, yet one that had achieved much under his predecessor, and immediate failures would naturally be lumped on the new man.

The most recent defeat, a 2-1 falter at Stuttgart, was a microcosm of Dortmund’s recent failures. The team conceded a comically poor goal five minutes into the match, worked hard to equalize just before the halftime break, and conceded again just after returning to the pitch. They controlled much of the match, but largely failed to capitalize.

The head man summed it up pretty well. “The defeat really hurts,” Bosz proclaimed after the final whistle. “We came here to win, so we’re very disappointed. When you see the goals we conceded, it borders on the ridiculous. It hurts because we actually put in a relatively good performance in the first half. The team performed well after conceding the early goal, only the final ball was lacking. The second half wasn’t as good. We need to keep going, we won’t give up.”

So what do the Dortmund executives do? Does Bosz get the benefit of the doubt based on performances? Or does he get blamed for the sudden dropoff in results? There is plenty of pressure given the team sits not only nine points back of Borussia Dortmund in league play, but is also third in a brutal Champions League group with almost no hope of recovery, and even threatens to miss out on a drop to Europa League play if they slip behind Cypriot club Apoel Nicosia, whom they find themselves level on points with.

Even if the club sticks with the Dutchman for now, his room for error has almost completely evaporated and it’s only mid-November. The next two matches will likely tell the tale, and it’s an uphill battle. Tottenham comes to Westfalenstadion on the backs of a disappointing defeat to North London foes Arsenal, followed by the home end of the Rivierderby against a Schalke side that sits second in the Bundesliga table, three points above Bosz and Dortmund.

Antonio Conte calls Tony Pulis a “really good manager”

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West Brom, after four straight defeats, sits 17th in the Premier League table, most recently suffering a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Chelsea.

Yet Blues boss Antonio Conte has offered his counterpart an olive branch, supporting his fellow Premier League manager at a time of panic.

With reports that Pulis could be fired this coming week – some say as early as Monday – the Baggies boss is under heaps of pressure, but Conte doesn’t believe he should be. “I must be honest, I think Tony Pulis is a really good manager,” Conte said, hoping those in charge don’t make decisions based on Sunday’s result.

“He has great experience and it’s always very difficult to play against his team. This game became easy because we started very strong, with great concentration and desire to win. We showed from the start our will to win this game. But I repeat: Last season we struggled a lot against them.”

West Brom has lost four in a row in league play, and they haven’t picked up a win since August, and as The Guardian points out, they have the lowest average possession in the Premier League and have the second-lowest shots on target thus far. They registered just two shots on target against Chelsea, and held 39% possession, which is actually slightly above their average for the season.

Sergio Ramos suffers broken nose in Atletico Madrid draw

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Real Madrid trails Barcelona by 10 points in the La Liga title race just 12 matches in, and now they will have to play catch-up without their best defender.

Club captain Sergio Ramos suffered a broken nose after being accidentally kicked in the face by teammate Lucas Hernandez during the first half of Madrid’s 0-0 draw with cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid. He received treatment and remained on the field, but he was withdrawn at halftime.

Manager Zinedine Zidane was unable to give a timetable for Ramos’s return.

Ramos said via Twitter, alongside some graphic images of his bloody nose, “I would bleed a thousand times for this badge and this shirt. Thanks for your support. I’ll be back in no time.”

Up next for Madrid is Champions League group match against Cypriot club Apoel midweek before a league game against Malaga at home. Athletic Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund are also on the horizon. A masked Sergio Ramos could be in our midst soon.

Real Madrid has not lost a league match without Ramos since March of 2015, but they drew their only game this season with Ramos suspended, a 2-2 home split with Valencia.

Moyes roasts West Ham players after loss to Watford

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After his first game in charge of West Ham, David Moyes thought he had a better squad. Apparently he was mistaken.

A 2-0 loss to Watford gave Moyes a rude awakening as he looks to replace Slaven Bilic and pull the Hammers out of the relegation zone. He was not pleased with his players.

“Overall, that level of performance will not be good enough,” Moyes told reporters after the match.

He wasn’t done.

“I thought this was a big job, but there were some players with big reputations who disappointed me. There were some who I thought would show me more, and why they play for the team regularly. They need to show me, ‘If that’s your reputation, show me why you’ve got it.'”

He backtracked slightly, agreeing that the players are in a difficult position changing managers, but ultimately that excuse wasn’t enough for him. “It’s tough for the players – I could sense that – but I didn’t enjoy our performance in the end. I didn’t enjoy us giving the ball away too cheaply, too many times and I expected us to do better.”

Moyes even called out striker Andy Carroll, saying he removed the England international because he feared Carroll would pick up a second yellow card. Carroll could have been carded seven seconds into the match, leaving Marvin Zeegelaar with a bloody nose after an elbow to the face, something Carroll has been sent off for earlier this season. He was eventually given one in the 28th minute.

“I thought we defended OK,” Moyes said, “but then we gave away cheap goals by getting bundled off the ball and we didn’t really deal with it. We didn’t do well enough in all departments at different times.”

That’s about as ruthless as you’ll ever hear the mild-mannered David Moyes, and all West Ham players should beware that their places in the team are in jeopardy.