FOOTBALL is a game so many of us love. It is, at its heart, a fine game, the beautiful game. But we saw a profoundly ugly side of it in more ways than one in Paris this week. Two incidents brought me up short. One is blindingly obvious and gravely concerning, the other is far less so but, in its own way, also unwelcome.
Who could not be disgusted by the footage that appeared to show a bunch of Chelsea fans manhandling a black man off a Metro train while chanting: “Chelsea, Chelsea” and then “we’re racist and that’s the way we like it” as they blocked his path.
Chelsea have promised to ban any involved if they turn out to be season ticket holders. Clubs often respond in this way to such incidents, but is it enough? I don’t think so and neither does the head of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, Lord Herman Ouseley. He said this: “We look at football and fans like those and they are easy to condemn, but you have to look at how the FA dealt with issues of racism: the John Terry issue, Malky Mackay, and fans in Belgium and Paris making Nazi salutes. Chelsea have made great efforts, but fans know they have to behave or they will be thrown out and banned. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, the hatred and the prejudice; it’s a reflection of football.
“If you shut Chelsea down, it wouldn’t make any difference, the same people with the same prejudices will rear up somewhere else, abusing black people, Jewish people or homosexuals.”
Yes, society has to look at itself with this one. Lord O went on to say too many park their racism on the doorstep before entering stadia, only to pick it up again on the way out.
Meanwhile, while a far less sickening issue, I was not impressed with one of the world’s highest-profile players, PSG’s ex-Chelsea defender David Luiz’s antics during the match. Did you spot his trick? He made the ref’s vanishing spray disappear.
With PSG losing 1-0, his side were awarded a free kick outside the penalty box. As Zlatan Ibrahimovic prepared to take it, the ref marked the spot with the vanishing spray, and then turned his back.
Luiz bent over, like a bowls player aiming for the jack, scooped up the foam and moved it a couple of feet to the side, giving PSG a better angle, and the ref was none the wiser.
Trivial? No. Funny? Only if you care nothing for the game. As the giants of northern hemisphere rugby steel themselves for another round of the Six Nations next week, imagine any of their players being so disrespectful to a match official. It just would not happen.
Football may be the beautiful game. But on occasions, such as in Paris this week, it has a seriously ugly personality.