Thursday, 28 February 2013

A Step in the Right Direction

The news that Lazio will be made to play two games behind closed doors suggests that football's top table may finally be catching up with the rest of us, when it comes to dealing with racism.

Following the fourth incident this season of racism by their fans, UEFA have ordered the Italian club to play their next two competitive European games behind closed doors. (As well as a €40,000 fine, which is pretty much irrelevant in this case.) The first game will be their Europa League last-16 tie against Stuttgart on March 14.

As we know, this wasn't the first time or a solitary incident involving a handful of people. There had been three previous occasions where supporters actions had drawn negative attention to the club. There were issues both home and away against Tottenham, as well as when they hosted Maribor in the group stages. The straw that broke the camels back came against Borussia Monchengladbach when around 300 fans were observed making Nazi salutes.

I'm not going to suggest this is a racist club because many clubs - including those in England - have bigots posing as fans. But the fact that there were that many problems in such a short space of time, must raise questions for those at the helm of the club. This is not a new problem or a first offence, which suggests whatever has been tried to stop it and them hasn't worked.

So for Claudio Lotito to call the punishment 'abnormal and absured'; is frankly naive and well, absurd.

UEFA have a responsibility to all of us, not the feelings of any individual club. And for once, they appear to be acting on behalf of the 'us'.

The two lost match day's will lose the club millions, a significant amount for a top flight club in today's economic climate.

As owner/president Lotito told RaiSport: "It will seriously damage the club economically and stop the fans from participating in the event.

"We cannot as a club be penalised for the mistakes of a small minority."

But that where he's wrong, the authorities can and they have too. Because it is the only way the idiots will learn, by being restricted and prevented from doing what they want.

Of course it's unfortunate for the thousands of decent fans. But if it's the only way to ensure a club deals with the scum, then the end will justify the means.

The club already had a suspended sentence hanging over their head, so in their continual fight to regain some credibility UEFA had to act. And rightly did.

Hopefully this will be the precedent for club's being punished. It may take time, but it can only help and encourage club's to rid their stadiums of racists and racist action.

Which is why they've hit Lazio where all businesses feel it most, in their pocket.

The club had already been warned, which means their fans had already been warned. Yet the latter chose to continue with their behaviour, so rightly the club has now been punished for that.

In his interview with RaiSport, the owner adds: "Everyone knows how much we did to prevent this sort of thing from happening."

Well, whatever you did Mr Lotito, it wasn't enough. Maybe now everyone will do a little bit more.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Little Help Please

Hi guys,

I'm doing a survey on 'Females in the Sports Writing Industry' and I would really appreciated you taking two minutes to fill it out.

There's only nine questions, and of course it's completely confidential.

Just go here.

Thanks in advance,
Natasha x

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Praise the Career, Ignore the Character

Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Sir Bobby Charlton, Billy Wright, Steven Gerrard.  And tonight against Brazil; Ashley Cole will join that sacred club of players who have been capped 100 times for England.

I genuinely believe that Cole deserves to take his place in history and write his name in the record books.
As a Gooner, I may have had my issues with the Chelsea player in the past; but as a football fan it is virtually impossible to see why his ability isn't celebrated in the same way as past and current teammates such as Beckham and Gerrard.

For me, he has been the most consistent England international of the last decade and I would imagine the first name on most England boss' teamsheets.

As well as the 99 caps he's collected in an England shirt, he has made 359 league appearances for Arsenal, Chelsea and Crystal Palace; where he spent time on loan.

Since his senior d├ębut in 1998; Cole has won three Premier League titles, SEVEN FA Cups, one League Cup, three Community Shields and ol' big ears himself; the Champions League. Not many Englishmen can boast a bigger haul than that.

Admittedly, the defender has made mistakes in his life. But which one of us can say we haven't?
The point is his personal errors should not detract from what has been and continues to be an amazing career, in an age where many young players fall off the radar after a handful of games. The skill and commitment it takes to play a century of games for your country is rare and something to be heavily championed.

As part of the so-called Golden Generation that has failed time and again, the Londoner has never once been accused of not giving his all or being a shirker when the game is going against England.

So tonight when his name is called out, I hope the Wembley crowd cheer the man for what he has achieved in his career and the standard he has maintained over the last 14 years. Rather than the mistakes he has made to make him end up as this weeks tabloid fodder.