Italian Soccer Bans Stars for Blasphemy

During the week, both Francesco Magnanelli playing for Sassuolo and Matteo Scozzarella playing for Parma has been handed a one-game suspension after they were filmed using God’s name in vain on the field. This took place during Sassuolo’s game against Verona which resulted in a 1-0 victory for the team and when Parma and Inter Milan clashed in a match ending in a draw of 2-2.

Over the past decade, there have been many instances where the Italian soccer authorities took disciplinary action against players who were guilty of blasphemy on the field. Using God’s name in vain is not acceptable behaviour according to the rules and guidelines of the soccer body. Although they are very soft in their approach towards both players and crowds who are making themselves guilty of racism, the same kind of tolerance is never seen when anyone is guilty of blasphemy.

Previous incidences occurred in 2018 when Rolando Mandragora, playing for Udinese, was also suspended for one game after being found guilty of blasphemy during a match against Sampdoria. The same rules apply for coaches. During the previous season, the coach of Atalanta, Gian Piero Gasperini was suspended. This was the result when he used profane language when his team was playing SPAL.

Italian Soccer Authorities Being Criticised

This occurred amidst a current wave of criticism towards the soccer authorities and their lack of action against those who make themselves guilty of racism. During September, the Football Federation stated that they wouldn’t punish Cagliari after they were accused of making racist chants during the game. These chants were directed towards Romelu Lukaku, playing striker for Inter Milan. The fans of Cagliari walked away without consequences for their behaviour. Also, the supporters of Hellas Verona got away scot-free after they were accused of racial abuse towards the midfielder for AC Milan, Franck Kessie.

Recently the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, requested that the FIGC will take more severe action against racist action during their games. He stated that he believes that racism can be reduced when proper education, as well as condemnation and open discussion, take place. He is strongly opposed to racism within any team or society. He also stated that over time the occurrence of racism within Italy has never improved. This is deemed as a difficult situation. He said that the perpetrators need to be identified and that they need to be thrown out of the stadiums. This should set an example of what happens when supporters make themselves guilty of such an offence. Currently, the Italian soccer authorities are letting them get away. This also sets the president that it is fine to continue with such behaviour. If the action of racist won’t get stopped, it will keep on continuing forever.

Racism in Soccer Out of Control

It has been a concern for many years, but it seems that racism from the supporting crowds is currently reaching an all-time high. Recently many games had to be paused, a couple of teams have left the field mid-play and even fines and playing home games without a crowd are all steps taken to avert this kind of behaviour, but will it result in any success?

Serbia Fined

During a match in September between Serbia and Portugal in the Belgrade’s Stadion Rajko Mitic, Serbia’s supporters made themselves guilty of racist behaviour. In efforts to minimize and eventually eliminate racism within the sport, UEFA acted against the Serbian team with a $37 000 fine in addition to having to display the #EqualGame banner at their stadium and being forced to play their next two home games without a crowd. One of these games being a crucial one against Luxembourg since it is a Group B qualifying match.

Bulgaria Also Under the Spotlight

Serbia is not the only team with a crowd out of control. Merely days before the decision of UEFA, a match between Bulgaria and England had to be paused twice due to Nazi salutes, monkey noises and racists chants from the crowd. Twice the game was broken, and announcements were made to address the group on their behaviour, but with no avail. Not even the manager of Bulgaria addressing the crowds during half-time managed to make a difference.

Haringey and Yeovil

Now we had witnessed once again a repeat of such behaviour when Haringey Borough was up against Yeovil Town. Valery Douglas Pajetat, the goalkeeper to Haringey, was not only spat at, but was also hit by an object flung from the crowd. This led to the team stopping play midway their FA Cup game and walking off the field, following their manager, Tom Loizou in the 64th minute of the match with Haringey having a 1 point lead. This game has been rescheduled to be played next week and whether the supporting crowd will behave this time around still has to be seen.

The Predicament of Black Players

According to Darren Lewis, a journalist, black players have been waiting for more than five decades for authorities to step in and relieve their plight on the field. Yet, they have been left disappointed and now is the time for them to start doing something for themselves. He considers the fact that players walked off the field mid-match as a new level of protest against racism. Lewis also felt that these players couldn’t only be sent off into these kinds of situations. He stated that their emotional well-being and their mental health and the impact of being the subject of racism should be taken into account. Even though authorities have action plans in place for when such events do occur, they aren’t always followed, as with the Bulgaria game. If teams then decide to abandon play, then it should be seen as the only option they had to support their teammates.

UEFA Still Struggling with Racism

This week saw another outcry against UEFA for being unable to curb racism in the sport. Currently, the request is that teams should be held responsible for the action of the fans, but is that even a legitimate way of dealing with racism? The outcry is the result after a game between England and Bulgaria had to be stopped twice due to the crowds showing Nazi signs and making monkey chants to the black players representing England this week in Sofia.

Racist Abuse

A UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier game took place in Sofia between England and Bulgaria on Monday. During the game, the racist abuse from the fans of Bulgaria towards the black players in the English team became so bad that the game had to be halted at the 28th minute and again later on at the 43rd minute. The abuse was in the form of fascist salutes, and the crowds make monkey noises mocking the players. When the game was halted, the masses were told over the PA announcer that they need to stop their behaviour, but that did not affect them. During half time the coach of Bulgaria requested the crowd to stop their behaviour, but that too was without avail. Sporadically the groups could still be heard making monkey noises. England opted to complete the game, and they finished 6-0 in the end.

UEFA’s Rules Considering Racism

UEFA has a set number of rules which defines their anti-racism protocol. Announcing the PA system would be considered the first step to take against this kind of action. The second step is for the players to be taken off the pitch by the referee while another announcement is being made over the PA system. The third and final step is to stop play immediately and abandon the game. The criticism against UEFA for this lack or enforcing protocol is based on the fact that during this game, the referee never took any more steps beyond the first step, even though the racism and slurs didn’t stop afterwards.

Bulgaria’s Manager Completely Unaware

According to Krasimir Balakov, the manager of Bulgaria, he isn’t aware at all of anything that presumably happened. Yet because there were already 5 000 seats of the Levski National Stadium cordoned off before the game on Monday due to previous events where the Bulgaria fans were chanting racist slurs, it seems somewhat ignorant. During a match against Kosovo as well as one against the Czech Republic resulted in racism from the opposing team’s fans. Even before the game, the English team was asked about what action they would follow if something like this occurred. The reply was that they would probably walk off the field as a team. The Bulgarian officials were at that stage unhappy about the question even being asked to the English team since they considered it to be offensive also to suggest that it would happen.

Bastian Schweinsteiger Farewell

This week’s announcement by Bastian Schweinsteiger that he is retiring from football is probably the most significant change to happen in the future of the Chicago Fire. The 35-year-old German announced his retirement on social media about an hour before Chicago Fire’s formal announcement of their return to the Soldier Field.

During Schweinsteiger’s career, he varied in positions between the wide midfielder and central midfielder. The German signed with Bayern Munich in 1988 as a youth team player. Soccer was a career path which the youngster has chosen above ski racing, another sport in which he excelled. He managed to move up in the ranks at Bayern Munich and during his early career often managed to land up in the papers as a rebel on the field. He has grown since then, and the insurgent was no longer seen, only an excellent player with a significant influence on the team. At the age of 18, Schweinsteiger had his first opportunity to debut in the UEFA Champions League.

The team was up against RC Lens, and Schweinsteiger made a significant impact immediately when he created a goal for Markus Feulner within the first couple of minutes of play. This led to him signing his professional contract the next month. Most of his career was spent playing for Bayern Munich, and during the period of 17 seasons, he represented the team on the field for 500 matches and scored 68 goals. During this period, he also served the national team of Germany and was captaining them from 2014 onwards. Between 2004 and 2016 Schweinsteiger was involved in winning eight Bundesliga titles, a UEFA Champions League title, seven DFB-Pokal titles a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA World Cup title. During 2015 the star signed with Manchester United where he played for only 18 months before moving on to Chicago Fire.

Chicago Fire

Playing for Major League Soccer, Schweinsteiger debuted in 2017 when the club took on Montreal Impact, a game that ended in a 2-2 draw. Due to his brilliant success in assisting with guiding the club towards the top, his contract was extended for another year. Schweinsteiger is still a very successful and influential player, and it is sad to see him leave.

Schweinsteiger is the man who placed Chicago Fire on the map. He scored eight goals for the club and had 15 assists while playing in 85 MLS matches. As Don Garber, MLS Commissioner stated, he is one of the greatest players in the history of football. Garber also noted that it was an honour to have Schweinsteiger in the League. Also, Joe Mansueto, owner of the Fires, stated his appreciation for the significant contribution which Schweinsteiger made to the club. Schweinsteiger noted on Twitter that he is sad to leave but to look forward to the changes ahead in the future and always promised to remain faithful to the sport.

Top Premier League Scorers

Being ranked as one of the top goal scorers in the Premier League is a prestigious position which is the result of brilliant talent, absolute passion and built upon the foundation of hard work. Therefore the success of Jamie Vardy created quite a stir within the circles of Premier League when this former amateur player forced football legend, Christiano Renaldo, to move one down in the rankings.

This past Sunday saw a match between Leicester City and Newcastle United. The final score was 5-0 in Leicester City’s favour. Two of these five goals came from none other than Jamie Vardy. Vardy’s first goal came from within the box, and the second was a header. These two goals tallied his total amount of goals on 85, which is one more than Renaldo’s record of 84.

Vardy’s new personal record also placed him ahead of Carlos Tevez who was previously in action as a striker for both Manchester United and Man City. Vardy is now also in an even run with two names from Chelsea, Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard. An additional prestige to his achievement is that Vardy who only entered the Premier League at the age of 27 years old, managed his record in 183 games, while it took Renaldo 196 to achieve his career.

His Playing Career

At the age of 16, the now 32-year-old started playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels. After three years for the Steels, he moved on to the Northern Premier League Club, F.C. Halifax during 2010. Here Vardy managed a whopping 25 goals during his first season, and he was hence named the club’s Player’s Player of the Year. Then he spent some time at Fleetwood Town before Leicester took a massive gamble on him. Leicester City paid a record-breaking amount in transfer fees at the time for him totalling at £1 million. This was money which brought a high return on investment though.

Vardy scored 20 goals for the club during his first two seasons playing for them. The 2015-16 season was, however, when he showed his actual value. Vardy excelled under the guidance of the Italian, Claudio Ranieri. During this season Vardy managed 25 goals for Leicester City, moving them into promotion into Premier League. It was also during this season that Ranieri started to describe him as a priceless player and his transfer fee was increased from £2.1 million to £18.8 million. His weekly salary was also adjusted to £80 000 per week.

During 2016, Arsenal made a bid on Vardy of £22 million, a proposal that Vardy rejected. Arsenal couldn’t promise him a place in his position, and their offer was denied, and Leicester came to the table with some improvements to his contract. Vardy’s contract was set to expire in 2019, but Leicester City did the sensible thing and extended his contract once again until 2022.

Iranian Women Allowed to Soccer Matches

Only a few weeks after the death of Sahar Khodayari, FIFA now finally had success in gaining access for females to the game set against Cambodia in October. The Iranian women died after setting herself alight when she heard that she would be going to prison after being caught at a soccer match where only men are allowed.

The announcement was made this Sunday in Milan by Gianni Infantino, president to FIFA, at a FIFA conference concerned with women’s football. Infantino “assured” the audience that women will be allowed to enter and attend football games within the country starting from the next upcoming international match set to take place on the 10th of October against Cambodia. This is a breakthrough for gender equality in the country. Women haven’t been allowed in male-dominated soccer stadiums for more than 40 years. Only a few exceptions were allowed during this time. During these few occasions, men and women weren’t allowed to be seated next to each other, and a particular part of the stadium was designated for the female supporters while the remainder of the stadium was for the men attending.

Why the Ban Existed

During 1979 the country was the setting where the Islamic Revolution took place. Shortly after the revolution, women were banned from attending soccer matches because they weren’t allowed to enter the stadiums were men’s games were played.

Since June already, FIFA was involved in negotiations with Iranian officials in order to get their approval of allowing women to watch these games, especially with the international games set to take place within the country. The pressure on the Iranian government was increased after the death of Khodayari, when social media took the story of Blue Girl, as she was nicknamed after a blue wig which she wore as her disguise, went viral. She had to appear in the Tehra court after being caught out by officials within the Tehran Stadium when an altercation occurred. Upon being informed that she is facing some time in prison, the news wat too much to bear for her and she set herself alight upon the steps of the local courthouse. Through her death, she managed to focus the attention of the world on this matter. During 2018 at the Russia World Cup Group B football games, she was requesting and urging the Iranian officials to allow their female supporters into the stadiums.

The 49-year-old Infantino expressed, during the conference, the international need for sport and especially women’s sports to expand and move forward with the times. He stressed that it is vital to allow women to attend these games and that the world needs to push for this in a big, yet respectful way.

Norwich Showing Up Manchester City

Premier League Champions, Manchester City suffered an embarrassing defeat over the past weekend. The underdogs, Norwich City, managed to take victory over what many consider to be the most active team in the world with a 3-2 final score. To add further misery to their pain, Norwich earned their victory with eight of their first-team players, off the field. Their style of play was immaculate, and praise is streaming in from all the corners of the sporting industry.

Holding On To Their Style

The kind of game which Norwich played is nothing new in the Premier League, but what is making it so commendable is the fact that it is seldom, if ever that a team who has only recently made it into the Premier League, can execute it so flawlessly. Often the groups which have only newly been promoted into Premier will be seen performing an aggressive attack against their competitors. This is often the case when clubs like Bournemouth and Swansea are in action. Norwich decided to stick to their playing style. They never let the ball clear, regardless of the mounting pressure they were under. In the end, they managed to show the soccer league that newcomers can be able to prosper within the league.

Blackpool Almost Having Success with the Same Style

Blackpool had a limiting budget against them, which most probably meant that their success when they were the first team who tried to play this kind of game, was short-lived. They have managed to end up on the last day of the 2010-11 season, with only 1 point away from safety. More impressive though is that they stood on 55 goals, a remarkable number which was equal to what the number five on the rankings at that time, Tottenham, had.

Fulham Also Tried Their Hand at This Style of Playing

Last season we witnessed Fulham’s attempt of the same playing style in Premier League. Despite having a hefty investment into the club, they couldn’t make it happen. Slaviša Jokanović tried relentlessly to unite his team with the senior new editions to the club which was signed during the summer period. His failure to succeed, meant his end as he was fired in November last year.

Norwich is Different

Norwich is nothing like Fulham and Blackpool. They managed to achieve 94 points on the scoreboard while Blackpool and Fulham barely made it through the playoffs. Under the management of Daniel Farke, the team shows continuity in their play. For a long time, English football was hoping for the day when teams can be promoted to play in the Premier League and then manages to stay on, in it. They want these teams to play a great game and not to try and ensure their position within the league by spending money and buying great names. They want these teams to play out of the back and to play a game based on possession. It seems that Norwich might be what they were hoping for.

Iranian Women Dies in Soccer Stadium

A shock wave shook the international world of soccer recently with the death of Sahar Khodayari. The 29-year-old Khodayari, a woman of Iranian descent, dressed up as a man to sneak into a stadium to watch a soccer match. She was caught, and on receiving the news that she will have to serve six months behind bars for her offence, she set herself alight and sadly succumbed from her injuries.

Sahar Khodayari

During March, Khodayari dressed up as a man to be able to enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium. She desperately wanted to see Esteghal compete against Ai Ain. She was a great fan of Esteghal and wanted to see them compete against the team of the UAE. This wasn’t the first time that she sneaked into stadiums. As per usual, she dressed up in a long overcoat and a blue wig to get through security. Over time she even earned the nickname of “Blue Girl” based on her hair. During this match though, there was an altercation which then led to her arrest. Khodayari was detained for three nights before she was released. Upon return to the court to request the back of her cell phone which police seized during her arrest, she was told that she is facing jail time for her offence. According to her family, she suffered from bipolar disorder and stopped taking her medicine a while ago. Hence the news of spending time in prison was too much, and she set herself alight with gasoline at the courthouse in Tehran Ershad. The soccer fan got severely injured, and 90% of her body had been burned. She was relying on a respirator but succumbed of her wounds earlier in the week.

Ban on Women in Stadiums

In 1979 Iran had the Islamic Revolution, and since then there has been a ban placed in the country, prohibiting women from entering stadiums where men play games. For a while already, FIFA has been in negotiations with the leaders of the country to lift the ban. FIFA, who expressed their shock and regretted about the tragedy, is hoping to achieve the lift of the ban before the 10th of October. This is the date when Iran, who is currently at the top of the ranks of Asian teams, would be hosting a World Cup qualifier on local Iranian soil. The game is set to take place against

Cambodia.

Since the death of Blue Girl, Ali Karimi, a former midfielder for Bayern Munich, who also played 127 games for Iran, added his voice to the campaign urging the lift of the ban. He requested the boycott of soccer stadiums by Iranians on social media after the death of Khodayari. Further support for the case was also gained from Andranik Teymourian, who stated on his social media that the stadium’s name should be changed in future to be named after Khodayari.

MLS Bans Betsy Ross Flag

The Betsy Ross flag with 13 stars are for many nothing more than a symbol of American independence from British rule, yet others consider it lately as symbolic to a time of slavery since being linked to some far-right groups. This is what a Utah couple had to learn the hard way after being asked to take down their flag at an MLS game earlier this month.

The Betsy Ross Flag

This was originally the American flag, with 13 white stars placed within a circle format, which represented the 13 original colonies of the States. To many, this is a symbol of the freedom which American citizens experience in their daily lives, and it is something which they are proud of. Two such Americans are Diana and Randolf Scott. They are season ticket holders and loyal attendees to the Rio Tinto Stadium based in Utah. They attend games in their jerseys and hats supporting their team and their Betsy Ross flag, celebrating freedom. Recently, however, this flag became a controversial issue when it became associated with far-right groups. Many consider the flag now a symbol of slavery, representing oppression.

Taking Down the Flag

The couple was set in the front row, waving their flag, when stadium personnel requested that they take down their flag. The alternative if they wouldn’t do it was to leave the stadium. Diana stated that they were repeatedly told to remove their flag or leave the game. The couple packed away their flag later on, still confused why the flag which they consider a symbol of their love for their country, wasn’t welcome.

According to Real Salt Lake, they have a Code of Conduct for fans. In this Code of Conduct, fans are prohibited from displaying any signs reflecting homophobia, xenophobia, sexism or abusive behaviour or might be deemed politically threatening. Fans are also forbidden from offensive gestures and language. According to personnel, the flag has recently become such a symbol, and they acted according to the stipulations of the Code of Conduct.

Nike and Betsy Ross

The Scotts weren’t the only ones who recently had to reconsider the use of their beloved flag. Nike had to pull a newly released shoe from the market, which reflected the flag on the heel of the shoe. The first to complain about this was Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick has a proud association with Black Lives Matter and has been an advocate for them for a while already. He is also responsible for protesting against the police killing African-Americans by kneeling during NFL games. Diana Scott expressed her disappointment in Nike for pulling off the shoe. She is one of many who is proud of the flag and the independence which it symbolizes.

The Scotts mentioned that it didn’t bother them so much to take down the flag, while they still hope that when people see them with the flag that they will realize the greatness of American freedom. What does bother them, however, is the fear of threats of violence against Randolf on social media afterwards.

Racial Abuse Condemn by Man United

The 26-year old player for Manchester United, Paul Pogba, became another casualty of online racial abuse after missing a penalty during a game against the Wolves. Even though he made a penalty during the second half of the game which then resulted in a draw of 1-1, he was on the receiving end of disturbing comments from angered supporters.

A Regular Occurrence in the World of Football

Pogba is only one of many football stars who have received verbal lashings on social media platforms in the form of racial abuse. One other such an unfortunate player is Chelsea’s striker, Tammy Abrahams. Abrahams was criticized for missing a penalty against Liverpool during the UEFA Super Cup Final. Abrahams’s defence is that he will answer his critics with playing a quality game to let his abilities speak for themselves.

Reading had also had to suffer some abuse when midfielder Yakou Meite was attacked after their game against Cardiff. According to the organization which is focused on eliminating racial discrimination within the sporting world of football, Kick It Out, the occurrence of racial abuse is still happening too often, and more strict action should be taken against these perpetrators. This is a statement with which the management of Manchester United couldn’t agree more.

Manchester United Responds

Manchester United has a stringent no-tolerance policy against such behaviour. They are even committed to various campaigns advocating that such abuse should be eliminated and that those who make themselves guilty of it should be severely punished. They furthermore stated that all possible efforts will be made to determine the identity of the people who made these racial comments and that they will be punished. Since the social media stir took off, however, a number of these comments were deleted, and in some instances, entire profiles were removed. They also expressed their appreciation for those fans who condemned the remarks.

Manchester United also requested that social media companies should join them in the effort to eradicate such behaviour. It was even suggested that such companies should consider that people should verify their true identities when opening accounts, to limit such actions which can be done in anonymity.

Harry Maguire

Another teammate of Pogba, Harry Maguire, also expressed his concern in regards with angered supporters which use social media platforms to express their negative feelings in an unaccepted manner. He, as well as fellow teammates, stated that in Manchester United they always strive towards achieving unity within the team. When supporters leave remarks as they did now, they are not only disrespecting the club’s values and ethics but are also causing friction. This is disrupting the unity in the team. Criticism of one player is indeed considered as a criticism of all.

For as long as that social media offers people the opportunity to express themselves without any limitation, it will, unfortunately, be a medium which can harvest racially abusive comments.