Tottenham Hotspur's Bale scores a goal against West Ham United during their English Premier League soccer match in London

Antisemitism at White Hart Lane turns spotlight on West Ham fans

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Filling the void left when the Mark Clattenburg complaint was dismissed, English soccer has another controversy on its hands. This time, antisemitism’s focus after London Metropolitan police received a complaint about fan behavior following Sunday’s 3-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur.

Two West Ham fans were arrested during at White Hart Lane after using Nazi-style salutes. One fan, a West Ham season pass holder, has been banned by the club.

There’s more. This, from the Guardian, highlights fans’ willingness to leverage the mid-week stabbing of a Spurs’ supporter in Rome:

Spurs’ 3-1 victory on Sunday was overshadowed by West Ham supporters apparently mocking the Holocaust and chanting a song about Adolf Hitler. They were also heard singing “Viva Lazio” and “Can we stab you every week?” just three days after an attack on Tottenham fans in Rome, prior to the London club’s Europa League group match against Lazio, in which one fan, Ashley Mills, was stabbed in the head and leg.

This type of a behavior is nothing new to Spurs fans. Tottenham Hotspur has long enjoyed strong support from the Jewish community, support that has made the club target of this kind of perverse derision.

As Anna Kessel wrote for The Observer in 2007, the abuse is both ubiquitous and complicated by an artifact of fan desire to fight the problem:

Abuse has been heard at Premier League grounds from Arsenal to Wigan. A complicating factor is Tottenham’s close association with the problem – whether they are playing or not, many of the chants are directed at the club or their former players. Their fans’ self-identification as ‘Yids’ – a derogatory word for a Jew – is problematic. Last week fans and representatives of the Tottenham Supporters Trust, Maccabi GB and Kick It Out debated the issue. Supporters say the term is used as a ‘badge of honour’, which aligns Jews and non-Jews in a proud allegiance to the club, but campaigners say it provokes and legitimises abuse from rival fans. As both sets of fans often interchange ‘Yid’ for ‘Jew’, or words depicting a relationship to Israel or Palestine, the demarcation lines separating football from religion, race, politics and anti-Semitism are decidedly blurred.

That background it doesn’t condone the actions of idiots. All clubs have some sort of history. Every big team enjoys support from a variety of demographics. Unfortunately, that just gives malicious fans more to grasp at when they’re intent on saying something, anything to fulfill their poorly defined obligations.

Guardian writer Jacob Steinberg, speaking as a Jewish West Ham supporter, provided some more context for Sunday’s events, sharing his experiences in the Hammers’ stands:

Antisemitism and racism has existed at West Ham for years. Before a play-off semi-final at Ipswich in 2004, I heard a chant of “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler’s gonna gas them again”. No one did anything. There is a chant mocking Spurs fans for having no foreskins that ends with a cry of “F—— Jew”.

People call Carlton Cole a black bastard. When Jermain Defoe missed a last-minute chance during a draw with Burnley in 2003, the person in front of me lost the plot, kicking the chair in front of him and screaming racial abuse. During a match against Everton in 2010, Cole missed a late sitter, prompting one fan to bellow that he was a “f—— n—–“. He’s still there every week.

This behavior isn’t exclusive to West Ham fans. Whenever people put themselves in situations where their passions can be exposed, we see some of passions are horrible.

Today, the story again turns to soccer, and again, it’s touched on England. The issue far transcends sport, so it’s likely something as inconsequential as the English Premier League can do anything to solve the problem. All the league can do is get as far away from it as possible, erect a bubble, and hope in vain that it can pretend the issue doesn’t effect the sport.

Taking away season passes can’t hurt.

Report: Chelsea set to overhaul defense with clear out

WATFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Odion Ighalo of Watford, Gary Cahill of Chelsea and Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea battle for possession during the Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on August 20, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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At times during Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday, Antonio Conte looked like he was going to cry.

The defending was that bad.

[ MORE: Conte bemoans defending ]

Chelsea gave up three first half goals, the first in calamitous fashion as Gary Cahill was inexplicably caught on the ball to let Alexis Sanchez in to score, and Conte was seething in his post-match press conference about the level of defending and the fact that Chelsea has now conceded at least twice in each of their last four games.

The Daily Mail reports that the Italian manager has seen enough from both Cahill and struggling right back Branislav Ivanovic and he will “phase them out” in the coming weeks at Stamford Bridge.

With captain John Terry set to come back from injury, plus Kurt Zouma close to a return too, Conte has other options and it seems likely he will now use those.

Per the report, Conte is also looking elsewhere to bolster his defensive options with Burnley’s Michael Keane and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson both linked with a January move to the Blues with the west London said to be scouting both players closely.

It will be intriguing to see how Conte changes things up in the games to come, especially as the Blues face tough tests against Hull City, Leicester City and Manchester United in their next three Premier League games.

Chelsea played the final 35 minutes at the Emirates in a 3-5-2 formation which is one Conte mastered at Juventus and with the Italian national team in the past. That formation may well get the best out of Terry, the erratic David Luiz and perhaps Zouma alongside them. Truth be told, Ivanovic and Cahill have both struggled for the last 12 months and it is about time they were held accountable for some of the defensive mistakes they’ve made.

Whatever Conte does, it has to be something drastic because the way he sets his team’s up they won’t win games 5-0. As long as Chelsea keep things tight, they’ll do well under the Italian manager. But right now that’s a big ‘if’ for the Blues.

As I wrote from the Emirates this weekend, Conte knows he has a huge job on his hands to transform their defense.

FIFA disbands racism task force ahead of World Cup in Russia

PRATO, ITALY - APRIL 13: General view during the FIFA Futsal playoff match between Italy and Hungary on April 13, 2016 in Prato, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, declaring the work complete despite ongoing concerns about discriminatory behavior in 2018 World Cup host Russia.

FIFA wrote to members of the task force to say that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation.”

“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press on Sunday. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.

“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done – the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”

The task force was established in 2013 by then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter and headed by Jeffrey Webb, a vice president of world soccer’s governing body until he was arrested in 2015 as part of the American investigation into soccer corruption.

Webb, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, was replaced exactly a year ago as task force chairman by Congolese federation president Constant Omari, who also sits on FIFA’s ruling council.

“We never had a single meeting under his chairmanship,” Obayiuwana said. “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”

Obayiuwana, a journalist, broadcaster and qualified lawyer, received the letter from FIFA on Friday announcing the end of the task force.

“The FIFA Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination was set up with your help on a temporary basis to develop recommendations for FIFA,” wrote Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager.

“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing.”

FIFA pointed to the introduction of an anti-discrimination monitoring system at matches, the launch of a “Good Practice Guide ,” starting a team of footballing legends and a new diversity award. Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female and non-European secretary general, will present the award on Monday at the SoccerEx convention in Manchester.

FIFA also told task force members that its own initiatives “actually exceed the working group’s recommendations” – trumpeting its “Say No to Racism” campaign, women’s leadership conferences and programs in Russia. There are less than nine months until Russia stages the Confederations Cup, the warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup.

The most recent research from the Moscow-based SOVA Center and the UEFA-affiliated FARE Network reported a surge in the number of racist displays by Russian soccer fans, with most cases going unpunished. Researchers logged 92 incidents of discriminatory displays and chants by Russian fans in and around stadiums in the 2014-15 season, against a total of 83 for the previous two seasons put together.

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-0 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): It was mostly the Crew from start to finish, and Ola Kamara’s brace helped ensure Greg Berhalter’s side that the team will remain in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. While the other Kamara — Kei — and his Revolution teammates were largely limited for chances on the evening, the Crew backline did an admirable job to prevent their opposition from testing them. For the Crew, it was the team’s first shutout since the two sides last met on August 20, ironically also a 2-0 victory for Berhalter’s group.

[ MORE: David Villa discusses MLS playoffs, Guardiola and more ]

Three moments that mattered

42′ – Ola smashes one past the Revs on the stroke of halftime — The Crew attack has sputtered a lot in 2016, but Ola Kamara continues to keep the team’s bleak playoff hopes intact.

67′ — Afful’s effort smacks against the post, stays out — The Crew attacked and attacked and attacked some more. Harrison Afful was definitely a bit unlucky that this chance didn’t end up in Brad Knighton’s goal.

84′ — Questionable penalty seals the points — It looked a bit soft to be given, but Kamara makes no mistake with the finish.

 

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ola Kamara

Goalscorers: Ola Kamara (42′, 84)

Watch: Dario Benedetto scores audacious blast for Boca Juniors

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When there’s little support up the field, what should you do?

Just ask, Dario Benedetto.

The Boca Juniors man broke Sunday’s 4-1 win over Quilmes wide open after a quarter hour when Benedetto smashed a 40-yard attempt into the back of the net, leaving the opposing keeper speechless.

The 26-year-old did just about everything right on the day, as Benedetto finished off the match with a hat-trick before halftime.