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

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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.

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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?

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Giroud is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”