Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good comes with the bad on this Atlético switch

While I most certainly can empathize with traveling Liverpool fans who've seen their plans suddenly changed by UEFA banning Atlético from some home matches for racist chanting and fighting with police, I'm encouraged by somebody finally doing something relatively serious about the absolute garbage that comes from the stands in certain areas of Europe.

Compare UEFA's action with FIFA's sanctimonious wrist-slapping and £15,000 fine against Croatia for the filth perpetuated in that country against Emile Heskey. You can only shake your head when FIFA delivers those crap orders for the despicable actions of racists. The fines are always miniscule, rarely more than a middling defender earns on a non-contender in the Premier League. What message does that send to the fools and troublemakers who populate those terraces in Eastern Europe or Spain or elsewhere who have the ignorant gall to shout monkey chants and throw banana peels at black players? It says nothing. The small scale of the punishment essentially condones the behavior and does nothing at all to stop it, no matter what ham-handed press statement FIFA issues.

UEFA, at least, has attempted to say, "Enough!" The fine is not insubstantial at 150,000 euros, and having the courage to move Atlético's most-anticipated homecoming in ages – the return of Torres to the Vicente Calderón – is a true punishment for the behavior of those who acted inhumanely during the meeting with Marseille.

Look, I'm just a Liverpool fan in America, and I cannot completely relate to those supporters who are looking at possibly doubling their expenses or more for the away match next week. They do not win in this situation, but I think it's possible to step back from that circumstance and say, "Well, we are put off by this, but our inconvenience comes with a move for improvement in football." It's just an unfortunate coincidence that Liverpool supporters are innocently caught in the middle of this. It could have been any team paired with Atlético in Europe that would have had their fans put off by this last-minute switch. But this action against Atlético is necessary. It is overdue, and it is, at last, a serious step against vile conduct in football.

The majesty of Torres' and Liverpool's moment in Spain against Atlético is largely diminished. But there is a greater purpose being served, and I hope it is possible for supporters to still enjoy the match while knowing UEFA showed little concern for their condition in service to sending an important message.

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