By Matthew O'Connor

WHEN England returned from Bratislava last October everyone and his dog rushed to spout forth regarding the amount of racist chants the Slovaks aimed at England's coloured players. The chanting, directed mainly at Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole, was disgraceful and quite correctly UEFA fined and forced the Slovaks to play their next home fixture behind closed doors. Heskey and Cole themselves spoke out about the torrent of insults they had to listen to and called for UEFA to do more to combat racism from fans.
Perhaps I am reading the wrong papers or watching the wrong television channels, but I am yet to read about or hear of any England players speaking out about the English fans racist abuse at Turkish players last week. Abuse so bad UEFA deemed it necessary to charge the FA yesterday. On top of the racism, at least 100 England fans were arrested prior to the match, while some also invaded the pitch. UEFA are likely to make England play their next home qualifier, against Slovakia at the Riverside Stadium, behind closed doors. Piara Powar, director of the excellent anti-racism in football “Kick It Out” campaign, said yesterday: “There's no point the English game grandstanding about things such as the abuse at the Slovakia v England game when we ourselves can't ensure that our fans won't be going to home games and getting involved in racial abuse. “I would stick my neck out and say that a hefty fine from UEFA, if not more, would focus the minds of the FA and some of those fans.” Racism desperately needs to be kicked out of English football. I'm not talking solely about black players getting abuse, but also players of different nationalities. Ultimately, after the FA and UEFA have done their little bits to try to combat racism, some responsibility lies with the footballers themselves. For players like Heskey and Cole to have more credence when they complain about another country's fans then they should also speak out about England fans and their behaviour.

One team bidding to beat Manchester United in the list of most arrogant football clubs is those pastmasters of German conceit Bayern Munich.
Bayern have threatened to pull out of the Bundersliga after being caught doing some dodgy dealings that ignored the rest of the league.
Fourteen points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, Bayern will know in the next few days what sanctions they face from the German Football League (DFL) over their controversial, secret marketing deal. If the DFL fine or even dock points from Bayern the club has said it will pull out of the Bundersliga and join Italy's Serie A. Obviously not thinking straight due to their dizzying smugness, what Bayern don't realise is that the Bundersliga would carry on without them, the same way the Premier League would carry on without Manchester United. Okay, the league may miss the biggest team in Germany somewhat, but at the end of the day Bayern needs the Bundersliga more than the Bundersliga needs Bayern. Bayern's threat to move to Serie A would probably never be possible, firstly because Italy will not be giving up one of the 18 spots in the top flight to let some sausage eating Germans in (oops, who's racist now) and secondly because UEFA are highly unlikely to allow them into another country's league. If the DFL has any balls at all then they should tell Bayern where to go. Unfortunately Bayern happen to have some of the most influential officials in German and world football so there is very little chance of that happening.

As the rain lashes down on one of my favourite parts of the world there remains thunderous opposition to Augusta National's all-male membership stance.
While the sporting world turns its attention to that beautiful golf course in northeast Georgia for the Masters, there is as much talk about women not being allowed to join the Augusta National as there is over Tiger Woods' chances of winning his third straight Green Jacket. It's hard to say who should and who shouldn't be allowed in a club.
Clubs by their very definition are for groups of people who share a common aim or interest. In sport it is slightly different as ability also comes into the equation. Would it be fair, for instance, to let a male join a women's synchronised swimming team even though he was unable to swim? Not really.
Unlike synchronised swimming however there is no necessity to be of a certain sex to play golf.
Women can obviously have golf as an interest and many can hold their own against men on the fairway. If you exclude the fairer sex then that allows, by the same principles, to say no to whoever you chose, such as black golfers. Had Augusta National stuck to what they believed in originally Tiger Woods would be mowing the greens not knocking in birdies on them.
With something like a golf club and an individual sport like golf it seems extremely silly to bar anyone of any sex or colour and with Augusta hosting one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world the right thing to do would be to have a mixed-sex membership. What good it would do I am unsure. Other than perhaps sending a message of equality out to the rest of the world, there are very few women who can afford to be a member at Augusta.

For want of sounding pedantic I would just like to point out how silly the comparison of Real Madrid to the Harlem Globetrotters that is being wielded around in almost every newspaper from London to Beijing. Although entertaining, the Harlem Globetrotters would not stand any chance whatsoever against any one of the NBA basketball teams nor the majority of university teams in America. There are probably quite a few High School teams in America who could also beat them. I doubt any football team in the world could beat Madrid when playing to their best, never mind a high school team.


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