I’m a little achy this morning after our ‘summer’ Astro league season began last night at zero degrees and in a hail/sleet storm. Gotta love the summer, eh? A 2-1 win since you ask, our keeper got us out of jail after their striker had gone over like Wayne Rooney on Sol Campbell in the box, but then bottled his penalty. All good fun though.
Some good news to start the morning and that’s the fact that Jack Wilshere is penciled in to play a behind closed doors friendly against Birmingham reserves this morning. Before the Villa game the boss spoke about him needing a few weeks to get properly fit, and provided all goes well today and he suffers no reaction to his heel problem (or picks up any other kind of strain due to being out so long) he’ll take a real step forward.
Whether he plays or not this season remains to be seen. Having been out so long he’s going to be lacking fitness – although he’s a 19 year old lad who should be naturally fit – and it does take time to find your touch when you haven’t played since the end of July. I don’t know if that would be a factor in the manager’s decision making, especially as the games we have left are so crucial, but ideally you’d like him to be getting a little run out in the competitive games before you consider starting him.
Then, of course, there are the Euros this summer, and while one part of me would like Jack to be treated with kid gloves, there’s another which says that if he’s fully recovered, hasn’t he spent long enough out of football? It’s not as if he’s going to come back from Poland/Ukraine exhausted, and I do think that whoever the England manager is this summer will be twitching to pick him. Anyway, let’s hope today goes well and we can take it from there.
Speaking of summer and competitions, it’s kind of flown under the radar a bit that FIFA have insisted players under 23 selected for the Olympics must be released by their clubs. The final takes place on August 11th, just seven days before the start of the Premier League season. Frankly, I think the idea of football in the Olympics is ludicrous and the fact that clubs may have to let professional players go to take part in the tournament is just outrageous.
That said, it only really affects us in terms of ‘Team GB’ and with Stuart Pearce as manager I suspect we might see an Arsenal player or two selected, Aaron Ramsey the most likely candidate, but he could easily call on Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and even Wilshere if they don’t take part in Euro 2012. Prepare to be annoyed, that’s my motto.
And while we’re on the subject of governing bodies, UEFA’s decision to fine Porto just €20,000 for racist chanting directed at Mario Balotelli shows us exactly how seriously they take things like that. Compare and contrast to the €40,000 fine and three game touchline ban dished out to Arsene Wenger for disagreeing with a referee – in private, mostly. Not forgetting that this is Wenger’s third touchline ban in the last 12 months.
It’s very easy to see how Wenger’s punishment will affect Arsenal. It’s impossible to see what difference that paltry fine will make to Porto. The reason for that, of course, is that it won’t make any difference to them whatsoever. UEFA said:
The Uefa Control and Disciplinary Body has imposed a fine of 20,000 euros on FC Porto for racist conduct of their supporters.
It could hardly be any more explicit. Racist conduct. Yet they think the way to deal with that is to fine them the equivalent of something like half a week’s wages for one of their players. It’s absolutely ludicrous and shows no willingness on their part to address the problem. What will Porto have learned? What will their fans have learned? Only that disgusting behaviour will essentially be tolerated by UEFA who allow themselves to be paid off like a
Mexican corrupt cop.
If they had any balls at all, if they had any real desire to address the issue of racism, a club guilty of ‘racist conduct’ should, the first time it happens, be forced to play their next game behind closed doors, robbing them of the gate reciepts and the money they would earn from the game, as well as witholding any sponsorship/prize money for that game. The next time it happens, they should be kicked out of the tournament in question and banned from all European competition for another season.
You can be quite sure that even fans whose IQ is clearly in the toilet – which is where those who partake in this kind of nonsense exist – would realise very quickly that their behaviour is having a direct impact on their football club. It might not stop them being idiots who would boo somebody because of the colour of their skin but it would send a message that racism of any kind of is not tolerated.
Instead UEFA have paid lip service to the issue and have done so for years and years now. They have made it clear that they value the authority of a referee above and beyond a club whose supporters behave despicably. There is no deterrent, there is no lesson to be learned by Porto or its fans, and in the meantime our manager is punished far more severely for daring to question a match official. Not on any level does it make the smallest bit of sense.
Sadly, this is familiar ground. I can remember PSV being fined a pittance for abuse meted out to our players in a Champions League game a good few seasons ago, and clearly nothing much has changed. To me that’s an indication that UEFA’s disciplinary measures are far too lax and ought to be changed, but clearly it’s a struggle for UEFA, with all their money and power, to recruit people with common sense and basic decency.
That’s yer lot for today, back tomorrow.