The best football writing of 2012

2012 has been a great year for football writing, quasi football writing and anti-football writing. Here are just some of the best examples I’ve read in the last 12 months. Some may have more literary merit than others, but all are great for different reasons. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Has the transfer market become self aware? by Andi Thomas for The FCF –

Muamba: underneath the sensationalism is a genuinely positive story for football, at last by Michael Moruzzi for Regista Blog

AFC Wimbledon: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart by Jamie Cutteridge for The Real FA Cup

Rafa’s Chelsea: A Journal by Rob Brown for The Carvalho Peninsula

Coming up for air by Charlie Anderson for The Carvalho Peninsula

12 ways in which Fulham are ace by Max Grieve for Magic Spongers –

The Danger of Mob Mentality by Ally Moncrieff for Balls, Boobs and Blow

Robin van POINTLESS by Magic Spongers

#34 – Emmanuel Frimpong by The 100 Worst People on Twitter

Nobody wins QPR ping-pong tournament by John Foster for Four Four Two

Gary Neville’s punditry is the best, but others need to raise their game by Michael Cox for The Guardian

Antisemitic chants are sickening – and West Ham fans must show they care by Jacob Steinberg for The Guardian –

The Trial Of John T by Greg Theoharis for Dispatches from a Football Sofa ­

Scott Murray on Cesar Luis Menotti’s Triumph by Surreal Football

An idiot’s guide to the Ballon d’Or shortlist by Tom Adams for Eurosport

New advert for the Premier League is actually a terrible ‘advert for the Premier League’by Nick Dunmore for Fisted Away

Paul Jewell and the further decline of Ipswich Town – by Gavin Barber for The Two Unfortunates

Manchester United And Liverpool, Still Suffering From Their 2009 Hangover by Callum Hamilton for SB Nation

Return of the rascal king by John McGee for Bring me the head of Keith Mincher

Soccer under the Swastika: Football’s forgotten Holocaust victims by Kieran Dodds for In Bed With Maradona

The whistleblower left out in the cold by James Horncastle for Eurosport

2016-17: The Season in Review by Rob Langham for The Two Unfortunates

My First Game for Manchester United by Robin van Persie’s inner child for Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed

Why ‘Vile’ Football Can Look Olympics In The Face by Jack Howes for The Daisy Cutter

The Last Championsby Juliet Jacques for The New Statesman


Tribalism on the terraces

In the second part of his series on racism in football, Rich Ward turns to the fans.

In ‘Leading figures setting a terrible example’, I discussed the issue of how Sepp Blatter and others are failing to show fans the (correct) way when it comes to racism.

What I didn’t cover in the article was the underlying issues on the terraces that are also hindering the path to racism-free football.

Recent allegations involving Chelsea fans chanting racist songs on the way back from Norwich further illustrates how some seem to have been inspired by the actions of players, managers and football chiefs.

In the past few months, racism has somehow become acceptable again and now seems to be rearing its ugly head on a weekly basis.

One of the fundamental problems is that football is such a tribal sport. So often down the years, fervent devotion to one team has spilt over into incidents of abuse.

Gary Neville was a favourite target for Liverpool fans, United fans will forever hate Carlos Tevez for crossing the Manchester divide and Sol Campbell experienced the same problems when he swapped Tottenham for Arsenal.

Fans work themselves into such frenzy that they even turn on their own.

This season, Blackburn supporters have repeatedly laid into manager Steve Kean and who can forget the hanging of a David Beckham effigy after his infamous World Cup red card while playing for England.

Most recently, in Saturday’s FA Cup game between Manchester United and Liverpool, Patrice Evra was abused and heckled throughout the match as the Suarez row took centre stage once again.

The Liverpool fans continue to condone Suarez’s behaviour just like his manager has done and ITV did not attempt to diffuse the situation either by insisting on showing the Uruguayan’s reaction in the stands to every on-field incident.

“Banter”, as Kenny Dalglish put it, was exchanged between the two sets of supporters, with United fans chanting “racist b******” in response to boos from the Kop.

The effect of this tribalism is that it prohibits fans from showing any common sense or rationality.

Players are jeered when wearing the colours of their clubs, yet cheered when sporting England white. Players who transfer teams are revered one week, hated the next and vice versa.

So it is perhaps not surprising then, that if the colour of shirt a player is wearing, or the area of the country he comes from makes him a target, that the colour of his skin can too lead to incidents of vile abuse.

It may be a cliché, but if fans and managers alike could remember the old adage “it’s only a game”, they might be less inclined to allow their passion to turn into blind abuse.

Such a change in attitude might then prevent a repeat of the scenes at Anfield on Saturday where a player who was the victim of racism was booed because he was wearing a United jersey and not a Liverpool one.


Find Rich on Twitter @richjward

Leading figures setting a terrible example

Luis Suarez will return from his ban for racist abuse to face Manchester United

Players banned for racist abuse, fans arrested for racially abusing opposing players, politicians channeling colonialism to make racial generalisation… Rich Ward tries to make some sense of it.

The past few weeks have seen racism dominating the headlines in the world of both football and politics, with the abuse of Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi by a Liverpool fan – who has since been arrested and bailed – the latest ugly incident in a series of ugly incidents.

However, the real problems began as far back as October last year when two separate events involving notorious striker Luis Suarez and England captain John Terry, who is no stranger to controversy himself, put racism in the spotlight.

For Terry, his fate awaits him in court on February 1st, but for Suarez the FA has already meted out an eight game ban.

This, ironically, will see him play against his victim Patrice Evra’s Manchester United side in his first away game back from suspension, with Liverpool asking to hold crisis talks with their opponents beforehand.

Aside from players making racist remarks in the heat of battle on the football pitch, what has been even more disappointing as the racism row has rumbled on are the rather more calculated comments by leading figures that have set a terrible example for fans and players alike.

First, there was FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s infamous “handshake” suggestion for how on-pitch racism could be settled, followed by his cringeworthy attempt to diffuse the situation by appearing in a photo with the anti-apartheid campaigner Tokyo Sexwale.

Then came “King” Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool’s incredible t-shirt stunt, when the entire squad was seen sporting tops emblazoned with Suarez’s image.

Even in the face of the Uruguayan’s ban, which the FA explained in a detailed 115-page report, including citing inconsistencies in the striker’s evidence, the Liverpool manager and the club remained totally unrepentant.

Glen Johnson pledged his support – it would be interesting to know for certain if Suarez calls him “negro” as has been suggested – Dalglish said “let him not walk alone” and the club insisted there was no evidence (even though Suarez openly admitted using the term) and also attempted to discredit Evra – ignoring Suarez’s own extensive rap sheet in the process.

Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, these gestures seem to have been the catalyst for the abuse of Adeyemi last Friday when, after the player confronted a member of the crowd shouting racist abuse, fans began signing Suarez’s name, some wearing replica Suarez t-shirts.

Alongside this football-related incident, politicians have been inadvertently joining the discourse of racism in recent days.

Diane Abbott

First, it was the turn of shadow cabinet member Diane Abbott to hit the social media self-destruct button by posting an apparently racist tweet on Twitter – her excuse that she was referring to colonialism tempered somewhat by her use of the present tense.

Even then, referring to colonialism seems to be a very regressive way of thinking – much like the mentality of those who defended her online by saying it is somehow acceptable to be racist if you are black.

If racism is ever to be eradicated from society respect must surely work both ways and disparaging references to another person’s skin colour – whichever colour that may be – not tolerated under any circumstances.

This is where I feel the comments by Alan Hansen – the football pundit who himself ploughed into the storm of controversy with his unintelligent reference to “coloured” players – differed, as he was making a positive statement about the influence of black footballers on the Premier League.

Abbott’s leader Ed Miliband then proceeded to compound Labour’s political own goal with a gaffe of his own, unbelievably tweeting a “Blackbusters” tribute to TV personality Bob Holness.

But where does this linguistic melee, which we have seen these past months, leave us?

Well, there have been two footballers charged – one banned for eight games as we know and the other facing a trip to court – and one fan arrested, whose fate has yet to be determined.

However, a FIFA president, a Premier League manager and a leading politician have made shocking comments – all of which could be construed as racist and at the very least naive and provocative – yet not a single one of them has been punished in any way whatsoever.

If society is to progress, it is high time that these kinds of powerful figures started leading in a much more progressive and positive way when it comes to racism.

Then maybe, just maybe, we can avoid a repeat of the shameful scenes at Anfield that left Tom Adeyemi in tears.

Find Rich on Twitter at @richjward