What can soccer learn from the NBA’s stance on racism?

15 Comments

When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life from the league on Tuesday, and fined him $2.5 million, the entire sporting world sat up and took notice.

Acts of racism are now being treated with the severity they deserve. At least in one sport.

Soccer’s governing bodies, specifically UEFA and FIFA, please stand up and take notice of the NBA’s zero tolerance approach towards racism.

The big difference here is that, of course, none of the owners of soccer have acted in the way Sterling has. Plenty of soccer fans have though. Yet the fact that so many different governing bodies hold power across the sport means that FIFA doesn’t have the kind of power the NBA does. Plus the issue we are talking about here is trying to eradicate the beliefs of a large number of people across the globe, not one NBA owner.

That said, the heavy sanctions the NBA have placed against Sterling needs to be replicated by FIFA.

In the last 10 years alleged and proven racist abuse has come from fans of Zenit St. Petersburg, the Spanish national team, Juventus, CSKA Moscow and many others. Those are just some of the high profile cases. Sadly, the list goes on and on and many of the teams involved are from similar regions and in some cases the same clubs continue to be involved.

(WATCH: Dani Alves’ perfectly-dismissive reaction to racist banana toss)

Soccer’s problems with racism seem to be more widespread and deep-rooted than in the NBA, as we could rattle off a whole list of deplorable acts of racism from clubs across the planet. Although Europe, time and again, seems to be the hub of racist abuse towards players.

Earlier this week in Spain, Barcelona’s Brazilian defender Dani Alves was taking a corner kick away at Villareal’s El Madrigal Stadium. As he lined up to whip the corner in, a banana was thrown on the pitch which landed right next to Alves. To try and diffuse the situation, Alves picked the banana up and ate it. It has been revealed that Barcelona’s Brazilian teammates Alves and Neymar have been planning this reaction for a while after yet another racist incident back in March.

Players, managers, owners and governors across the soccer world have since been pictured eating bananas in order to try and ridicule the idiotic fan who has since been banned for life by Villareal and send the message to the world. Racism in soccer must stop. Now.

source:
Earlier this week Barcelona’s Dani Alves had a banana thrown at him during a game in Spain by a racist fan.

In the past the Premier League has been plagued by allegations of racism, with both John Terry and Luis Suarez embroiled in lengthy investigations into apparent racist abuse on the pitch. In recent years England has cleaned up its act, with the ‘kick racism out of football’ campaign helping to almost eradicate it from the game. Yet in the 70s and 80s there was widespread problems with monkey chants, bananas being thrown on the pitch at black players and other awful acts of racist abuse.

Elsewhere in Europe, they’re now going through the issues England had 20-30 years ago. In 2012 Zenit’s fans posted an open letter against black and gay players playing for the club as “the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition.” There are numerous instances of racist abuse among Russian and Eastern European clubs who have been fined, had their entire, or sections of, their stadiums closed and other sanctions placed against them.

Is that enough?

I don’t think so.

My suggestion to stop the sickening racism, and discrimination of any kind for that matter:

  • Hand out instant bans, no fines, and stop teams from competing in domestic and European competitions if their fans are found guilty.

If this comes into action, the fans in question will soon halt their absurd stance of thinking racist abuse is okay if they no longer have a team to support as a consequence. If they don’t, the team is not worth having in the global soccer community. Yes, you can blame other cultural and social issues in certain parts of the world for racist attitudes, but why should behavior that is somehow deemed acceptable outside the soccer stadium suddenly become acceptable inside it? That punishment I outlined is harsh and swift, as many would prefer hefty fans before any ban is put in place. Fines have not been working. The issue continues to plague soccer.

I believe instant bans is the only way racism can truly be removed from the world’s most popular sport. What else can you do?

Hearing directors and owners waffling on about “the right steps being taken” to stop racism has gone on for years and that kind of talk got old a long time ago. Fines do not work and partial stadium closures are not useful. Lengthy bans to teams found to have racist supporters is the only way. That is where the Sterling situation differs from soccer, as that was one influential individual who will now no longer being involved in the game. The soccer authorities have to target billions of fans but there needs to be a charge from the top to stop racism in soccer. Fans of the NBA and other members of the pro basketball community in the USA now know the repercussions for being a racist. The soccer world still doesn’t know how it will be punished, although the only certainty is that the sanctions will be nowhere near as tough as the NBA’s.

Enough is enough, the time has come for soccer’s governing bodies, and its global community of fans, players and administrators, to stand up to the racists with affirmative and swift action.

The NBA has led the way. Can soccer act in a similar stirring and admirable fashion?

Oxlade-Chamberlain injury update

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp does not seem confident that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will play again this season.

The Liverpool and England midfielder suffered an injury to his right knee early on in Liverpool’s 5-2 win over Roma in their UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg, as he appeared to extend his right knee under his body when making a challenge on Aleksandar Kolarov.

Speaking to the media following Liverpool’s dramatic win, Klopp was downbeat about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chances of playing again this season.

“We don’t know exactly but if the medical department are quite concerned without a scan, you can imagine it’s difficult. The season is not that long anymore. It doesn’t look good,” Klopp said. “I’m a very positive person and still hope it only feels bad, but is not that bad. We’ll see. We lost a fantastic player tonight. It’s not good news.”

This injury has come at such a bad time for The Ox.

He has been flourishing with Liverpool in a central midfield role and has delivered key goals and assists in big wins since arriving from Arsenal last summer. Most notably the Ox’s driving midfield runs have caused Manchester City all kinds of problems and he scored two screamers against them in wins at Anfield in the Premier League and UCL.

Georginio Wijnaldum stepped in admirably for Oxlade-Chamberlain against Roma and the Dutch midfielder will be used alongside James Milner and Jordan Henderson from here on out by Klopp, especially with Emre Can battling a back injury.

As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he will now be focused on trying to be fit for the UCL final on May 26 (if Liverpool get there) and on making England’s 2018 World Cup squad. That seems like a big ask given Klopp’s gloomy assessment.

Wenger: Timing of departure “not really my decision”

Leave a comment

Arsene Wenger has been speaking about his Arsenal departure and there are some intriguing details emerging.

Wenger, 68, announced last Friday that he would be leaving Arsenal at the end of the current 2017-18 campaign after almost 22 years in charge.

But when asked about the timing of his decision during his press conference ahead of the Europa League semifinal first leg against Atletico Madrid on Thursday, Wenger said it was taken out of his hands…

“The timing was not really my decision, the rest I have spoken about already,” Wenger said. “I focus on what I have to do every day. At the moment, I work like ever.”

Wenger added that he will “for sure” continue to work beyond this season but wasn’t giving anything away on where he would go. The Arsenal boss also said he had a “high opinion of Luis Enrique” but that didn’t “want to influence the next manager” of Arsenal with so many contenders mentioned.

What do we make of all this?

Wenger still had one more year left on his current deal at Arsenal and it appears he was keen to be in charge next season, but he could have simply been saying that he would have preferred an announcement at the end of the season. The growing notion that Wenger stepped down before he was sacked seems to be on point. After three Premier League titles and 10 major trophies in total in over two decades in charge, it appears Wenger didn’t get to decide when he called time on his Arsenal career.

The perfect end for Wenger at Arsenal would be to win the Europa League and then leave on a high, but these comments suggest the Frenchman may not be happy with some of the hierarchy at Arsenal.

These comments amid links to PSG and the French national team also suggest to rule out a role upstairs at Arsenal, at least for the foreseeable future, for Wenger.

Roma condemn violent scenes outside Anfield

Getty Images
2 Comments

AS Roma have condemned an attack from some of its supporters on Liverpool’s fans before the game after a 53-year-old Liverpool supporter was injured outside Anfield before the UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

The Serie A side said that a “small minority of traveling fans brought shame on the club” as two men from Rome have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after the attack on the Liverpool fan who is in a critical condition after suffering head injuries.

Below is the statement in full from the Italian club.

AS Roma condemns in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent behavior of a small minority of traveling fans who brought shame on the club and the vast majority of Roma’s well-behaved supporters at Anfield after getting involved in clashes with Liverpool supporters before last night’s fixture.

There is no place for this type of vile behavior in football and the club is now cooperating with Liverpool Football Club, UEFA and the authorities. The club’s thoughts and prayers are with the 53-year-old Liverpool fan in hospital and his family at this time.

Salah’s sensational season in context

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
1 Comment

Mohamed Salah is having a season on the same level as Lionel Messi.

Some* will even say it’s better.

[ MORE: LFC 2-1 Roma | Klopp reacts ]

There are few ways to overstate how well the Egyptian has performed for Liverpool this season, and few matches have been as strong as Tuesday’s destruction of AS Roma.

Make no mistake about it: Destruction is the right word. I Lupi isn’t dead thanks to the Reds right side of the defense and James Milner‘s arm, but it was fading out of consciousness when Salah departed the game.

It’s not crazy to draw the connection. Just ask Jurgen Klopp:

“If anyone wants to say it is my mistake that we concede the two goals because I change the striker, I have no problem with that,” he said. “Mo was running all the time and it would not have helped us if he gets an injury. What a player. If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it. He is in outstandingly good shape, world-class shape, but to be the best in the world you need to do it over a longer period, I think. The other two are not bad.”

No, no they are not, but Salah is on their level.

The aesthetics of his first goal were first-class, dinging off the bottom of the cross bar like a vicious swish of a Steph Curry three. When the night ended, Salah had two more goals and two more assists to bring his total to 43 goals and 15 assists in 47 matches. In three more matches, the best player on the planet has 40 and 18 (Ronaldo has 42 and 7 in 39).

[ MORE: LFC supporter in critical condition after Roma attack ]

The reason not to overreact is Luis Suarez’s 2013-14, in which he posted posted 31 goals and 24 assists in 37 games and would’ve arguably made Salah’s season look just “pretty great” if the Reds were in European football (or, one could argue, Suarez wasn’t slowed by the demands of a more congested adventure).

And we also won’t know Salah’s path next season. Take Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2007-08 season, the closest thing we have to Suarez or Salah in this generation. The then-23-year-old posted 42+8 in 49, but took a step back the next season before exploding into space upon debut with Madrid the following season (His second Real campaign, 2010-11, was the first real otherworldly CR7 campaign, with 53+18 in 54).

Salah is the Premier League Player of the Year, and he’s the front-runner for the Ballon d’Or (which is likely to be determined by this summer’s World Cup in Russia, with Argentina and Portugal possibly on a quarterfinal collision course and Egypt in an very winnable Group A with Russia, Uruguay, and Saudi Arabia).

Jurgen Klopp deserves much credit for Salah’s explosion. Even if the Egyptian began his ascent in Italy, there’s been nothing like this. And if he can do it a few more years, he has the chance to land amongst the generational names in soccer (perhaps as the best African player in Premier League history with Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba).

He’ll almost certainly become the all-time single-season Liverpool league goal scorer this season barring rest for the UCL, and he’ll be their top all-time according to Opta if he nabs four or more goals across 4-5 matches (Roma again, Stoke, Chelsea, Brighton, and probably Real Madrid or Bayern Munich).

The Reds were unbelievably good for 80 minutes on Tuesday — 75 of which were Salah-led — and the praise would’ve been flowing like a waterfall had they not switched off for 10 (in which it must be said Liverpool was fortunate to only concede twice!).

*By the way, Messi fans, you’ll be relieved to count me as not one of those who’d say Salah is having a better season. It’s closer than you think. Messi is better than Salah in league play, while Salah is having a superior UCL campaign. Given the general consensus top-to-bottom on Premier League vs. La Liga and Barca’s UCL competition vs. Liverpool’s opponents — which is drawing level now — we’d say it’s even.

Messi vs. Salah league play (per 90, Squawka)
Assists: Messi 0.4-0.31
Key passes: Messi, 2.16-1.63
Chances created: Messi, 2.56-1.94
Attack score: Messi, 73.04-54.5
Possession score: Messi, 5.6 to minus-5.12
Pass completion (%): Messi, 81-77
Shot accuracy: Even (62%)
Tackles won: Salah, 0.24-0.2
Take-ons won (%): Messi, 69.47-64.96

Messi vs. Salah league play (per 90, Squawka)
Assists: Salah, 0.45-0.23
Key passes: Salah, 2.13-1.72
Chances created: Salah, 2.58-1.95
Attack score: Salah, 70.89-55.69
Possession score: Messi, 2.71 to minus-3.34
Pass completion (%): Messi, 81-73
Shot accuracy(%): Salah, 73-69
Tackles won: Messi, 0.69-.45
Take-ons won (%): Salah, 76.4-61.4