Moscow’s unorthodox approach to racism cheapens Russian morals

During the summer months, a three word football cliché, otherwise understood as an emotional appeal from a manager to an unhappy or financially motivated player, was redefined. When Brendan Rogers sought to impress the message of love for club upon Luis Suarez, the term ‘repay the loyalty,’ took on a meaning of support for racism. Liverpool strongly defended their striker when he was accused of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. They were wrong to do so in the eyes of the F.A. who banned Suarez for eight games, after an independent report acknowledged the striker had used the word negro seven times in two minutes.

In the minds of opposition fans, the Merseyside club made more than an error in judgment, they stood up for a racist. When Suarez plays an away game he isn’t left wondering how the football world outside of Anfield thinks of him. “We know what you are, we know what you are, Luis Suarez we know what you are,” chant terraces from Sunderland to Swansea. In Manchester, few are as kind to sing only this. Sharing an affinity with a racist is intolerable and when Suarez plays at Old Trafford, his game with Evra has to have two outcomes. A win for United and Suarez not scoring. Sounds like a bet for a morally motivated punter to make.

With gambling, it takes monetary loss for the metaphorical light bulb to switch on and recognise the odds of winning are stacked in the favour of the bookmaker, but the moment of enlightenment that allows for a better understanding of the world has been short circuited were football and race are concerned. Without racist supporters undergoing electric shock treatment to learn that the colour of a footballers skin has no bearing on their character or talent, a move toward zero tolerance is required.

This attitude hasn’t been taken on by football’s world governing body Fifa, as their decision to award Russia the rights to stage a World Cup in 2018 have highlighted. The organisation has been under fire for selecting a country with an infamous history of racism at club level. Little cost perhaps to men who most recently associated themselves with former vice-president Jack Warner (quit his position amid corruption allegations) and two executive committee members who had their World Cup voting rights suspended (after allegations they would accept money in return for votes).

After he reported monkey chants to Champions League match referee Ovidiu Hategan, Manchester City captain Yaya Toure delivered a swift response to the issue of racism. “The Club (CSKA Moscow) will say we have to educate the fans but I think it’s enough; too much is too much.” His words were directed at a team who have since denied that their supporters were racist toward him. Manager Leonid Slutsky refused to shame those who acted out of hate and caused offence to Toure. This despite television pictures clearly focused on home fans with their arms arced and bouncing, the football racists favourite monkey stereotype. A Uefa investigation into the matter is only likely to be judged credible if it concludes that CSKA should face a punishment in line with Toure’s call for a closure of the Moscow stadium for several years.

The disqualification of CSKA would be a more welcome and appropriate approach for Uefa to take. When they make public their expected decision at the end of October, it will be looked upon as an unfortunate verdict. Unfortunate, because it will fail to establish Uefa as the progressive, hard line advocate of anti-racism that is needed in European football. The Russian club won’t be removed from the competition and their racist fans will return to abuse players of colour in years, if not months to come.

Since Toure’s disclosure, the Russian World Cup organising committee have claimed that the 2018 tournament “will act as a catalyst to positively change the mindsets and behaviour across all in Russian football.” Rational minds will wonder if work to achieve such a feat is in vain. The stubborn culture within CSKA that wishes to falsify and dismiss the disgraceful events of last night is grotesque. Their own words are a reminder of why disciplinary proceedings against them are required immediately. They said, “Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from (our) fans.” Tasked with changing this attitude alone is challenging. More worryingly for the committee are opponents of racism and players who are likely to boycott the World Cup if firm action is not taken to address the matter.

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Frampton in good humour as he attempts to plot course for world success

From the Grand Suite of the Europa hotel comes an outburst of laughter that isn’t usually associated with professional boxing. Jeremy Parodi doesn’t realise that he is being laughed at. His French translator need not gesticulate nor articulate the reason why. The moment has been lost on those who don’t identify with Belfast and its curious humour. Parodi has just been asked if he has ever fought an Irishman. His one word Gallic response, “Non.” The joke is live and opponent Carl Frampton smirks to acknowledge it. The punchline is essentially based on ignorance. Parodi has come to the wrong place looking for a fight. In this town, better to lie about your past  encounters with the Irish than speak the truth that you await your first dance.

Frampton is being tipped for world domination at super bantamweight level. His approach certainly meets the standards of someone faced with achieving the target. “Im not going to talk tactics with my opponent next to me,” he says of the first media question coming his way. Should the fight with Parodi veer from its expected course he “will be able to change (my) plans.” These aren’t words of a fighter who speaks carelessly; he is referring to his impressive style inside the ropes, comfortable going forward as well as on the back foot. Few within Frampton’s weight division can offer single punch power and control like he can. Unlike most other boxers in his position, who usually command more interest from the public because of what they say rather than how they perform, the 26-year-old is sure of his ability without having to verbally threaten challengers with a knockout prediction.

On Saturday night, a sold out Odyssey arena will host Frampton for the second time. Only those unfamiliar with elite boxing and recent classic performances between two giants of the sport, will be unable to recall Frampton’s first appearance at the venue. On that occasion, he defeated Kiko Martinez by landing a stunning right handed punch. Unable to continue, the Spaniard suffered a stoppage loss for the first time in his career.

That moment in February has propelled Frampton to become one of the premier attractions in Irish and British boxing. Belfast billboards have prominently featured the ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ tagline for his dual with Parodi. A new appetite to support a hometown hero has found many in the city scrambling for tickets. They all want to see first-hand, how “The Jackal” manages to cope with the pressure of a world title eliminator contest. Should Parodi lose this bout, it is expected that a rematch between Frampton and Martinez will take place next year for the IBF crown. Neither corner will be considered a laughing stock whatever the outcome of that bout. If Frampton has the last laugh again, the world can finally join in with him.


Carl Frampton and Jeremy Parodi face off ahead of their super bantam-weight world eliminator fight at the Odyssey Arena.

Carl Frampton and Jeremy Parodi face off ahead of their super bantamweight world title eliminator fight at the Odyssey Arena.


Carl Frampton scribbles his signature for a fan at the Europa Hotel Belfast.

Carl Frampton scribbles his signature for a fan at the Europa hotel, Belfast.



Dyke’s vision springs childlike leak

English football fans lose their minds at the mention of 1966. Now a 66-year -old is losing his. Greg Dyke the FA chairman has announced plans for the English national team to become World Champions in 2022, 56 years after they first achieved the feat.

Beginning today, there should be a documentary series made about ‘Dyke’s vision’ as it has become known to Skysports viewers. Let it run for nine seasons (from the match at Wembley between England and Moldova) to the deciding match in Lusail. Georgie Thompson can narrate, like she did for Premier League Years. Opening with the first scene, ‘This is the story of one man’s vision for football domination on a world scale.’ Cut to Dyke on the streets of London, armed with his leather bound folder, brimming with footballs equivalent of saving Gotham City. Unless manager Roy Hodgson has hidden superheroes for the job in Qatar however, English plans for success will remain on hold.

Roy doesn’t seem the type to organise a win in Russia, let alone operate the high risk strategy of withholding Messi type talent from the media spotlight. Paid well and thought highly of at club level he stands but his coaching at national level is unremarkable. Add to that, eleven English men in the firing line of a world cup campaign, sure to wilt like hot wax and Dyke’s vision takes on an infamous guise.

Long term targets must set a high water mark for success but Dyke’s ambitions are limited by his countries footballing culture. The problem is selling ideas of international achievement to players focused on prizes and riches at club level. A child in the street could give reasons as to why he wants to play for Manchester United or Chelsea before he has the thought of playing for England. That is because he has been caught up in favouring a club team before he knows about national sporting success. After he has watched Gareth Bale kicking a ball toward a cheering crowd at the Bernebeu, all bets for country are off. Don’t mention ‘The Giggs effect’ to the child either. It will only stub his emotional sporting development further. If you insist on talking to your son about Ryan, just say he was a bold boy for Wales. That will compute. A winger with over 1000 appearances for his club but as useful to his home nation as Gavin Henson now is. The point is not Giggs’ nationality, rather the precedent he and club managers have set, a cap is worth less than three precious Premiership points.

Think of international football as a school. Which country would you send your child to if he wanted to win a world cup? Why does England not stand out as a likely destination? Is it because, like education, those with ability will gain more from an environment that has a consistent record of high achievement? Or is it because ability of a child will be determined by the willingness of a teacher to get the best from his/her pupils? Dyke wants talented footballers identified quicker, nurtured better at youth level. Children and teenagers growing up in England presently are likely to contribute to the goal of 2022. Their development will shape the footballing fortunes of a nation bereft of worldly fame.

Yet optimists who place faith in the ability of children to one day change the prospects of England’s World Cup record are misguided. English football has hit rock bottom and during his latest address to the press, Dyke said as much. “The issue, quite simply, is this. In the future it’s quite possible we won’t have enough players qualified to play for England who are playing regularly at the highest level in this country or elsewhere in the world. As a result, it could well mean England’s teams are unable to compete seriously on the world stage.” Tonight, English children will follow Hodgson and his team as England seek qualification for Brazil next year. Good thing they know as little about Moldova as they do about the future of the beautiful game on their doorstep.

American women aren’t the crazy type

People are crazy. Women mostly. That’s the story. Miley’s mad. Amanda Bynes is unhinged. John Mayer must be to blame, a boy with a guitar, no stranger to womanising. He will eventually add Miley and Amanda to his list. Atta boy John get after the girls with Daddy issues. At least the narrative might as well be written this way. Frightening really. A nightmare.

Shameful that the image of women in America is cast in this way, a place where women are comfortable in their own skin and have the attitude to prove it. Speak to any number of female undergraduates or young professionals and their confidence will come across at first meet, it’s a form of refreshing enthusiasm the like of which can’t be found in Europe until everyone is at least three beers deep.

Yes, in certain parts of the States a ‘fake it to make it’ culture is alive and well with women happy to sell themselves like a brand. Those that make it to television and twitterfeeds, appearing in not safe for work videos are the high profile examples that show this culture on display.

Away from the limelight, a better class of women are hiding. Their time and money is spent on independence not acceptance. They have been taught to reach for the stars and are busy getting what they want and who they want. They know there is no such thing as a waiting game in America. These are women for whom money isn’t everything. Who wouldn’t dream of naming a child North West. They laughed and cringed in equal measure when Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska. Most importantly they are distrusting of men, especially their male elders.

In an era dominated by the man-made excesses of U.S. foreign policy, (the focus of which has seen bloodshed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Palestine) America’s President has become the archetypal male women despise, his lust to carve more and more of the world’s resources; akin to the frivolity of  Eros. Women would do well to see Obama as a forgotten lover, for he has cheated them of peace at home and abroad. When he said he would change, for America no less, he didn’t mention the domestic chaos that would follow the nation and its 12million unemployed. Ladies, don’t be fooled into asking for an end to conflicts either, it might sound like a reasonable thought, ‘Mr. President what about the war mongering, can’t you make it stop?’ the response won’t impress your preyed upon character, ‘That’s the price of freedom my dear.’

The latest price inflation for freedom has begun with events in Syria. An American assessment of the countries alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus has proved one thing beyond doubt, that woman no longer view their commander and chief as charming when setting forth a case for war. George W. Bush’s ill-judged decision to justify war in Iraq via inaccurate evidence has helped jog the collective memory. Distrust now follows his successor and secretary of state John Kerry. The female psyche won’t permit history repeating itself. Won’t play the part of victim in an ever increasing abusive relationship, for which the advances of power are without recourse.

If a definition of crazy can be found in America, it is the men who best live up to the title. They are on television and twitter just like women but they don’t dress or act crazy. They are war crazy.


Why Arsene Wenger rivals Michael Scott in World’s Best Boss bid

The greatest punch line in Premier League fan circles comes when Arsene Wenger is asked about his side’s chances of winning the competition (a feat Arsenal last achieved in 2005) ‘I still believe we can.’ It’s not exactly slap stick but it’s the easiest laugh on offer for journalists and football fans alike. Ask him again and Wenger still won’t see the funny side. Bound by his unending love for club and the players under his charge, humour is far from consideration at the Emirates. For the record, ask anyone else if Arsenal is being seriously considered for the top job in the division (Champions) and a single word will arrive. No. Just like the hapless Michael Scott in The Office (American version) believing he is being groomed for an executive role at corporate only to be told he hasn’t made the shortlist. Let the comparison linger and even if you don’t know who Arsene Wenger is don’t Google him. Instead think of a man who has managed a once successful football team based in London, with all the trappings of Dunder Mifflin’s most famous regional manager.

There is nothing more pressing on Wenger’s agenda at the moment than the signing of new players but his club have been hamstrung by their efforts in the transfer market, due to senior board members dithering when finalising deals. ‘They have no one who can do a deal’ said former Arsenal midfielder Charlie Nicholas on Saturday. Enter Michael Scott. Or at least pretend Scott could manage this situation. He has done it before. His two best salesmen,Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert, were once given unacceptable customer reviews. No tact when dealing with clients. The Arsenal scenario wrote large. Scott is left to take over from Schrute after a disastrous sales pitch leaves a fictitious customer, Mr. Buttlicker (Halpert) wanting to file a complaint. Scott not only saves face but secures a million dollar sale, ‘See how its done’ he says as a bewildered Schrute looks on. A sale of any kind would please Wenger presently. If only he had a man with the know-how of Scott.

On Twitter, the parody account ‘Wenger knows best’ plays to the idea of the Arsenal manager as a comic with its obvious idea that he doesn’t. Much like the world’s best boss mug that sits on Scott’s desk, which lets the Office audience in on the longest standing inside joke on the show. Updated in real-time to reveal the boss’ reaction to defeats, transfer speculation and lately fan unrest over the clubs failing transfer policy, ‘Wenger knows best’ stock has risen as Wenger has become more predictable, with the fortunes of Arsenal equally lamentable. Laughing in the face of adversity has gathered its author 84,000 followers.

Ironically Wenger could teach Scott a thing or two about business, especially when dealing with old clients. Even with hand crafted gift baskets, former customers escape Scott and he is left, embarrassingly, to ask for his chocolate turtles back. Wenger wouldn’t have it thus and has a more than credible record where re-signing players is concerned. Like Thierry Henry, Jens Lehmann and Sol Campbell before him, Mathieu Flamini (if reports are to be believed) will become part of the Arsenal squad for a second time in the coming days. Unfortunately this has served to sweeten the idea around London and beyond that the joke still rests with Wenger. Like pop acts returning for a tour after years in the wilderness, these players can’t guarantee ticket sales at stadiums across England, let alone Europe.

‘I love inside jokes. I hope to be part of one someday’ reads the Michael Scott motto, but Wenger gets the last laugh.


Facebook’s profit and loss generation

This is a once in a generation idea and the water under the Golden Gate bridge is freezing cold. High stakes have never sounded more daunting. Get rich or die. Forget the trying. That’s how we are told the success of Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of Facebook took shape. Justin Timberlake said so.

It’s difficult to define why, but those two ideas of making money and death are paraded daily on the site now famous for its $80billion valuation. From personal revelations about a new job to users reflecting on the passing of a loved one, a need to stress the most naked of emotions, greed and loss, tell of a generation comfortable with publicly acknowledging their pursuit of happiness and strife.

If Facebook were a classroom, the high flyers would be those announcing their creative projects and achievements to the world. Finished their work early and sure to make a big deal out of how they designed a  collage before anyone else. Substitute collage for riches and the approval of others, and reading statuses of those at an Obama address makes sense. Adoration of wealth can be no more obvious than being in the company of the most powerful person in the world. The get rich message estimated to a newsfeed measure.

It’s curious how Facebook users reflect on the death of a loved one. Paying their respects on an anniversary by posting about the event is typical. “What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebration of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light.” The better part of a married couple may disagree with this Mark Twain comment, as might the throngs of people who update their friends on the anniversary of a family member. For others, having to read about such mourning can be strange, connected to a grieving process through a friend request. That such a trend is now cultural, opens up the notion that remembrance can be greater than a photograph in a bedroom, but rather presented electronically with an online community that share common ground on loss.

My brother Nicholas died on September 13th 2010. I have no recollection of anything else that happened on that date other than his passing. He was 20 and I 24. It seems the lapse in time between then and now means there will be much less said about that day. About him. That shouldn’t be. Grieving privately and not speaking his name is almost as unfair as his not being here. Facebook changes that. You didn’t know Nicholas. Today marks his 23rd Birthday. Now you know.


Rioting and drug dealing

Look, I’ve no idea whether Michaella (McCollum Connelly) and Melissa (Reid) went to Peru voluntarily or were coerced. So says Gail Walker, feature writer at the Belfast Telegraph. Baffling then that she cites historical cases that bear resemblance to Midnight Express, and dismisses the national jurisdiction of Peru as not fit for purpose, ‘struggling to contain a lethal trade (drug dealing) which specialises in generating victims of all kinds.’ Context is everything and positioning these two women as victims of circumstance is misleading when it is not known if they are innocent or guilty.

The narrative of being a victim in Northern Ireland is an easy escape for people only too willing to characterise themselves as such. The riots in Ardoyne have shown this with rioters staging themselves as victims forced into action because of their culture being threatened; as useful a defence as pleading ignorance to ‘food packets’ containing cocaine in your luggage. Criminal records await those who riot and deal drugs. The mistake is in seeing both as entertainment. Those who feel the need to bear witness to either run a fine line in presenting their case as moral to outsiders.

These cases will continue to fall on deaf ears as perpetrators unintentionally reveal evidence contrary to their public claims. Facebook comments, Twitter posts and video recording leave lawyers and researchers the opportunity to construct a character profile at odds with the defence of the individual. This of course comes after news media fill columns with the effects of rioting on society; after their front page spread of two terrified girls standing in front of clear packaged cocaine, as it rests on scales.

Rioting looks fun. A chance to make a name for yourself in the local community. To let adrenaline run through your veins and confront police with bricks and bottles. Especially if the police force are siding with the so called enemy. The attraction of Ibiza and its drugs culture seems equally appealing. Hedonism in heat. Both are stupid. As the stories of rioters and the ‘Peru two’ unravel, their misdemeanours are given less countenance by those in authority, ready to cast verdicts on empty entertainment.

The rioters screaming sectarian abuse, injuring police, innocent bystanders, destroying the image of peace and pushing people toward immigration; are snapped up by lawyers as legal proceedings begin with increasing regularity. The links to a story on social networking sites of a missing Irish girl in Ibiza become updated to pronunciations of incredulity when its discovered she faces drugs charges in Peru.

But an uneasy sense of disappointment will feature on the fingertips and mouths of some columnists, bloggers, parents and the usual clichés will follow, ‘they don’t know any better’ or ‘maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ Let that disappointment disappear. Those thoughts have to be thought but not voiced. Rioting and drug dealing are a form of enjoyment to many, willing to take the risk of getting away with either is making a decision upon which you hope a public judgment won’t ever come your way. When it does, what looked like fun will look stupid.