Friday, December 25, 2020

Edison Cavani and racism

Edison Cavani is being investigated for racism. The Manchester United striker thanked a friend on Twitter with the expression "Gracias Negrito".

Now, in most places in Latin America, including Cavani´s Uruguay, Negro is not an insult, but an endearing term. I have friends and family members that we call "El Negro", and that cultural context is a thing that is grossly missing in this accusation against Mr. Cavani, who can and should not be accused for racism for this.

All this is not to say that racism does not exist in Latin America: it certainly does, and too little is done to fight it. However, an expression as that used by Mr. Cavani is not racist (ask the friend he said it to), and must be understood in the cultural context in which he used the expression, which remains very common. The risk here is that the justified fight against racism is reduced to correcting petty cultural misunderstandings that have little or nothing to do with the real fight against the scourge of racism.

I hope that the FA will see this and not punish Edison Cavani.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Last-16 of Champions League 2020-21

 The groups stages of this season's Champions League has been weird, without spectators much of the atmosphere has been absent, and it probably has had some influence on teams that have also had cases of Corona-virus inside the club. There have nevertheless been interesting, good and surprising matches, and after the end of the group stages, these are the last-16 clashes:

  • Borussia Monchenglandbach-Manchester City: The advance of the German side is a small surprise, as they left behind Shakhtar Donetsk and a poor Inter Milan side, and were close to taking the first spot from mighty Real Madrid. They will have to play their best as they face a Manchester City side that was never in doubt when winning its group with 5 victories and one tie.
  • Lazio-Bayern Munich: The defending champions of Bayern Munich have been awesome with five victories and a tie, and an impressive score of 18-5. In my view, the German side are the strongest contenders to take the title. Lazio got through in an exciting final 2-2 match against Club Brugge, who was only centimeters from making it through. The Italians have not lost any matches, but gone through with two victories and four ties.
  • Atletico Madrid-Chelsea: Probably two teams that did not want to face one another. Despite some difficulties in losing to Red Star Salzburg, Atletico Madrid made it through behind Bayern Munich, and remain one of the most difficult sides to face in the competition. Chelsea made it through ahead of Sevilla in a group where the only competition was about which of those two sides would win the group: Chelsea made sure it was them by an impressive 0-4 victory in Seville.
  • RB Leipzig-Liverpool: Liverpool won its group ahead of Atalanta, and are looking strong despite some signs of weakness in some matches (they did not look good in any of the matches against the minnows of FC Midtjylland). But Liverpool normally rises to the occasion and will have to do it against a Leipzig side that made it through in a complicated group, behind Paris Saint Germain on goal difference, and ahead of a poor Manchester United side. RB Leipzig made it to the semifinal last season and is looking for a surprise repeat.
  • FC Porto-Juventus: Although going through behind Manchester City, FC Porto also went through with style, winning all their matches except against the English side. It may be argued that it was an easy group, so their real test will come against Juventus. The Italians won their group ahead of FC Barcelona, where a 0-3 away victory was particularly impressive, with two goals by the COVID-recovering Ronaldo. The Italian side seems increasingly to depend on the skills of the Portuguese Maestro, but probably will be expecting to get ahead of Porto.
  • FC Barcelona-Paris St. Germain: This is probably the most expected match. Despite five victories in the group stages (including an away win at Juventus) FC Barcelona is in crisis as Lionel Messi does not seem to be comfortable in the team any longer. This is a pity for any football fan, but also represents an opportunity for Paris St. Germain, where Neymar and Mbappe have been important in a team that otherwise struggled a bit to win their group ahead of Leipzig. This match will be hugely important for both clubs.
  • Sevilla-Borussia Dortmund: Two very exciting teams face one another. Borussia Dortmund won their group ahead of Lazio, and their young Norwegian goal machine Erling Haaland has continued pouring in goals. Sevilla made it through behind Chelsea in a group where Krasnodar and Rennes did not represent the strongest opposition, and did lose 0-4 at home to Chelsea, so they will have to prove they are better against the Germans.
  • Atalanta-Real Madrid: Real Madrid won their group despite struggling; they lost twice to Shakhtar Donetsk (who did not make it through) and only a last minute 2-2 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach put them in first place. But Real Madrid are Real Madrid and probably still favourites against Atalanta. The Italian side made it through behind Liverpool and against Mayern Munich, and their continued attacking but open style makes them vulnerable to better attacking sides, as their 0-5 home defeat to Liverpool is proof of.

 The last sixteen are are dominated by the big European leagues: four German teams, four Spanish, three Italian, three English, and one each for France and Portugal. The most noteworthy eliminations were probably that of an insecure and disorganized Manchester United side, and a poor Inter Milan side where Antonio Conte has not managed to get the best out of some marvelous players.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

RIP Paolo Rossi

Another footballing legend has passed away in this horrible year. Paolo Rossi, one of the most prolific Italian strikers and the most scoring player of the 1982 Italian World Cup winners has passed away. He played for Vicenza, Perugia, Juventus, AC Milan and Hellas Verona, and 48 times for the Italian national team. He is remembered internationally for the 1982 World Cup, and most notably his three goals against one of the best Brazil sides that saw Italy take their biggest step towards the World Cup triumph.


Wednesday, December 09, 2020

A racism incident in the Champions League

 I was enjoying the Leipzig-Manchester United match when I heard that the Champions League match between Paris St. Germain and Istambul Basaksehir was suspended due to an incident where the 4th referee, Romanian Sebastian Colestcu, had racially abused a player. Due to this, both teams had walked off the pitch. It was indeed a curious incident that I don't think has ever happened in top flight football.

Firstly, it is admirable that both teams, together, decide to stand up against the scourge of racism that still haunts football, and society at large for that matter. However, at the same time one has to be careful about not seeing the ghost of racism in every instance, and specially in those situations where language and culture enter the equation. A case in point for me is the incident where Luis Suarez was sentenced for being a racist in the Premier League: Luis Suarez may be a lot of negative things, but I still do not think he is a racist; the whole thing was a language dispute blown out of proportions. That said, Luis Suarez should have been wiser (but is that to be expected...?), and giving him the benefit of the doubt, I would say the same about Mr. Coltescu: he acted without thinking in an incident where he used a Romanian expression that can easily be misinterpreted. I therefore tend to agree with Mr. John Barnes about the Romanian's intentions, but at the same time I think that Mr. Coltescu should be banned from ever officiating international matches as he will always be tarnished, and that is something that must not happen in football.

Not enough is done to fight racism, xenophobia and misogyny in football. That is certain. 

However, we must also be careful that we do not denigrate this important fight by accusing someone of racism when it may be a possible misunderstanding or simply ignorance. Better  instead to engage in a dialogue: "you know that what you said can be hurtful?"; "No I did not; it is common usage in my language", etc.


The Mexican Guardianes Apertura tournament is entering its final phase. In the two-legged semifinals the favourites for Cruz Azul were to face the Pumas of UNAM; I watched the first match, which Cruz Azul comfortably won 4-0, and thus had one leg in the final and nearer the title that they have been craving for 23 years.

But I then heard that in the second leg Cruz Azul had messed it up and lost 4-0, which due to the league positions, put Pumas in the final!  This is a truly astonishing result, and the jokes about Cruz Azul never seem to end. This seems to go beyond the curse that some say Cruz Azul suffers, and in Mexico people are talking about a "cruzazulada", as an adjective to describe being close to victory, but then messing it up horribly.

The Pumas will face Leon in the two-legged final!