England’s chant about Rio and Anton Ferdinand – racist or banter?

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Question: is the following chant concerning Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton racist or banter?

‘Build a bonfire, 

Build a bonfire,

Put Rio on the top,

Put Anton in the middle,

Then burn the f****** lot.

The chant – allegedly sung by England supporters during last Friday’s World Cup Qualifier against San Marino – was reported to FIFA by Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), a pan-European entity whose goal is to rid racism from football.

FARE, headed by Piara Powar, was not present at the game to hear the chant because apparently San Marino was not a ‘high risk’ match for racism. But FARE nevertheless chose to file the report based on information from people who were present at the match (in other words, it appears the group’s argument is based entirely on hearsay). The group also reported racist or xenophobic incidents at Croatia v. Serbia and Poland v. Ukraine, matches where members were present.

FIFA will now review the report and decide whether action should be taken against England. If the governing body decides that FARE’s report has merit, England will be punished with the ultimate sanction potentially requiring the Three Lions to play a World Cup qualifier behind closed doors.

Powar explained why his group believes the song to be racist. “It refers to the racist abuse Rio Ferdinand received, along with his brother Anton. We don’t make the judgement. We send a report to FIFA but in the end its their decision whether they open proceedings or not. And whether they issue a fine or not.

“It’s not really the sort of thing we are generally attuned to looking at – fans abusing players of their own country who may not have been picked. Nevertheless if it happens at a game, even if the focus of the abuse isn’t there it’s still happening.

“One of the things we want to underline straight off is that sometimes racism doesn’t only take the form of monkey chants or bananas being thrown. Sometimes there are things that are more subtle at play.

“In the end we are not responsible for making a decision on whether England fans are guilty of racism here but we do have a duty to report things that are said to us because individuals have reported them as racist or xenophobic within the context.”

Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the news. “You expect and accept banter from fans on the terraces as it’s part of what makes the game great, but racism is not banter and from your own fans. WOW.

“Always a small minority who ruin it for others.”

The Manchester United defender was careful, however, to note that the investigation still needs to run its course. “Let’s not jump to conclusions and assume though as it might just have been banter. We’ll see after the investigation.”

England fans took to Sportsmail comment boards to express views that ranged from confusion to outrage. The fans’ primary arguments are that 1) the song has been around a long time and 2) it was only directed at Rio due to his recent behavior. “‘Build a bonfire’ is an old football chant and one used by miners about Thatcher,” said a fan by the name of ‘ghanimah’. “Given Rio’s behaviour it’s no wonder they sung about him but if that’s deemed racist then we should all pack our bags, go home and give up… Absolutely ludicrous.”

‘Tone 827’ echoed these sentiments. “Dont get me wrong its a stupid chant and aimed at causing distress….but is it really racist? Are we getting to the point where just a derogatory remark to someone who is of afro-carribean descent is deemed racism? As a white British man (who is absolutely NOT racist) its starting to grate a bit now…Rio was working for a TV channel covering the game, it was inevitable he was going to get some stick, at least he is being sensible about it and accepting that banter happens, lets not get to the point where nobody can say anything without being accused of racism even if it clearly is not.”

So what do you think? Is the chant – within the context of being directed at Rio and Anton Ferdinand – racist or just banter? Help decide by voting in ProSoccerTalk’s poll and share your views in the Comments below.

London police open investigation into allegations against Mark Clattenburg

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London Metropolitan Police are getting involved in the Mark Clattenburg affair, starting an investigation after a complaint was filed by a London-based professional group. Thanks to law enforcement’s part, accusations Clattenburg racially abused multiple Chelsea players will likely follow the same course as the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand affair, not the Luis Suárez-Patrice Evra incident.

The difference could effect the length of the saga. When the criminal system got involved with the Terry accusation, England’s Football Association pulled back and waited for legal proceedings to conclude. Afterward, the FA charged and eventually suspended Terry for racial abuse of Ferdinand.

The Suárez incident was never handled by law enforcement. The FA conducted its own investigation, handing down an eight-match ban two months after the Oct. 15, 2011 incident.

Although the accusations against Terry stemmed from an incident on Nov. 2, 2011, the Chelsea defender wasn’t sentenced until Sept. 27, 2012.

Although the FA had already begun an investigation into Chelsea’s accusations, the federation will again have to demur. If charges are ever brought against Clattenburg, the evidence introduced in a potential trial will also carry weight in the FA’s proceedings.

In the Terry case, charges were brought on Dec. 21, 2011, though his criminal trial was postponed until after this summer’s European Championships.

A potentially significant detail of today’s story is the organization filing the complaint. Although the Society for Black Lawyers may have some tie to professional soccer, these charges seem to have been made by an entity that had nothing to do with Sunday’s game.

That law enforcement is investigating the complaint implies England’s game can no longer elect to police itself. When an incident like this is alleged to have occurred, any entity can ask law enforcement to become involved.

Perhaps we’ve seen the end to Luis Suárez-like situations, where the league handles the investigation. If anybody can bring acts on the field into the courts, somebody will.

ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set

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Soccer birthdays: If you to went on playing style alone, you’d say Roger Espinoza was 33 years old. Opponents find it frustrating, but Espinoza’s a master of leveraging that area between where a normal player stops and the rules begin. He’s the person in the pickup game who’s compensating for a lost step with a bag of tricks picked up through years at that park.

The main difference? Espinoza’s not that old. He’s not old at all. The Honduran international turns 26 today, a birthday he shares with German soccer legend Birgit Prinz and Queens Park Rangers winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Big important soccer stories of the day: All’s quiet on the homefront as Major League Soccer gears up for its regular season finales, but in England, race is back on the front back page.

One day after Rio and Anton Ferdinand released a statement explaining their issues with the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association’s attempts to combat racism, expect the pundits and tabloid press to have their say. Based on early reactions, there’s a danger that defensiveness will lead most views to promote (rather than engage) the brothers Ferdinand. At some point, England, you’re going to have to honestly, thoughtfully talk these things out.

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day:  Carla Overbeck

Ahead on the blog today*: “You’ve been a great audience. No, you really have, but we all know why you’re here. I DON’T WANT TO WASTE YOUR TIME! So put your drinks down and your hands together for Mr. Noah Davis.”

PST background noise while blogging today: Kung Fu Panda’s quest for a fourth home run.

What we should all watch on TV: Europa League is still a real and actual thing. On Thursday, it gets realer. And actualer!

That’s when Liverpool hosts big spending Anzhi Makhachkala. You know: The team that bought former Barcelona, Inter Milan star Samuel Eto’o? They’ve also bought Christopher Samba, Yuri Zhirkov, and Lassana Diarra, as well as a handful of lesser known signings that have pushed them to the top of the Russian Premier League.

On Thursday, Anzhi visit Anfield. Check your local FOX Soccer listings.

We’ll leave you with this question: If you took the time to rank them, where would the 2012 Major League Soccer season place among the league’s previous campaigns? For quality, entertainment, drama, highlights, competition – whatever quality you want to prioritize. How good has 2012 been?

ProSoccerTalk’s daily soccer re-set

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Soccer birthdays: I have never been more excited about a daily re-set that I am today. Maybe it’s because I only do one re-set a week that (a) I can still get excited (really excited) about them, and (b) I don’t often this kind of stand-out birthday, but when I looked and saw Francesco Totti was born today, I practically jumped off my picnic table (that’s not a figure of speech; I’m really sitting at a picnic table).

Keep that excitement in mind as you read the following superlatives.

As he turns 36, it’s the perfect time to stop and reflect on how undervalued Francesco Totti’s been. Romanistas don’t undervalue him, but because he’s been a club-first man who wasn’t anywhere near as dominant for country as he has been for club, Totti’s only  been adequately appreciated in Italy – by those he’s served he’s served and those he’s burned. Over the course of his career, Totti’s been one of the world’s best players, a truly unique talent, but because he only scored nine goals for Italy, he hasn’t been fully appreciated.

Along with Juan Roman Riquelme, he is on of this era’s quintessential trequartistas, an odd grouping considering the drastic differences between the two players. Riquelme is slick, magical, his deft touches dominating with caresses. Totti is imposing in skill, movement and personality, capable of striking a fatal blow or distracting you while setting up a teammate to do the same.

I better stop now. This is supposed to be a daily re-set, not a love letter to Francesco.

Big Important Stories of the Day: John Terry’s expected to return to Wembley on Thursday to hear the verdict on The FA’s charge that he racial abused Anton Ferdinand last October. There had been speculation that a decision could be delayed until after Chelsea’s game Saturday against Arsenal, but now it looks like the Blues’ captain will miss this weekend’s derby (along with a few more games). If you need a refresher on the Terry issues, read about his abrupt international retirement and some details about The FA hearing.

Soccer Birthdays: I forgot to mention: Totti was a member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad.

RASNoD (Random American Soccer Name of the Day): Eduardo Hurtado

What you should watch on TV today: If you’re lucky enough to have beIN Sport, then you can catch one of the few live games on today: Siena vs. Bologna in Serie A action. Beyond that, it’s pretty bad. Even the repeat stuff on FOX Soccer stinks (who wants to watch Celtic-Benfica – there were only two shots on goal!).

Soccer Birthdays: Totti is also Roma’s all-time leader in appearances and goals. With his goal against Sampdoria this weekend, Totti is now up to 216 Serie A goals for Roma, 271 in all competitions.

PST background noise while blogging today: The Shins, who PST recently saw in concert as they’re touring the States’ west coast. Their performance of “Phantom Limb” was, as expected, particularly noteworthy.

We’ll leave you with this: Did you know it’s Francesco Totti’s birthday?