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Male fans get cold Turkey

Eradicating hooliganism by banning men: some of the 41,000 Turkish women and children under 12 allowed to watch the match between Fenerbahce and Manisapor last week. Photo: AFP

Eradicating hooliganism by banning men: some of the 41,000 Turkish women and children under 12 allowed to watch the match between Fenerbahce and Manisapor last week. Photo: AFP

There has been a lot of widespread praise for the Turkish football association’s new and unique attempt to fight hooliganism by banning men from watching games.

Inside the EU, lawyers would be all over the case like a particularly unpleasant rash
- James Calvert

The unusual move came following recent disturbances by Fenerbahce supporters who invaded the pitch during a pre-season ‘friendly’ match with Ukranian champions Shakhtar Donetsk.

Fearing a season of unrest, the Turkish authorities took immediate action and ordered Fenerbahce to play two matches behind closed doors.

However, in a bid to try something new, they eventually downgraded the punishment and told the club they would be allowed to admit women and children under the age of 12 into the matches.

A radical but interesting idea.

The first of those games was played last week and attracted a staggering crowd of 41,000 with not a male supporter in sight. Well, unless anyone resorted to cross dressing to beat the system.

Before kick-off, players from both teams (Fenerbahce were playing Manisapor for the record) threw flowers into the crowd. A dainty gesture that must have added to the overall surreal feeling for players more used to playing in front of passionate, partisan and vociferous male supporters.

When I first heard about this I thought it was a novel and effective way of clamping down on hooliganism and a punishment other countries should certainly try. If men can’t behave themselves at matches then let the women enjoy the football without them.

However, after a little deeper consideration, I started to wonder just how fair this actually is. In fact I wonder if it doesn’t actually count as discrimination.

Essentially, what this move by the Turkish authorities implies is that all male football supporters are hooligans. And by definition it also suggests there are no female hooligans or any young ones either.

Now, of course, we all know that men make up the vast, overwhelming majority of hooligans. It’s obvious and goes without saying.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the two implications of the ban are fundamentally flawed.

Despite this, I personally don’t have a problem with the Turkish approach. Anything that goes any distance towards eradicating hooliganism is fine by me.

However, I doubt it would take a skilled lawyer more than a couple of hours to draw up a discrimination case against the Turkish authorities. One they would almost certainly win.

Obviously I have no idea if anybody over there will decide to take this any further. After all, there is currently only one more match scheduled to be played in a male-free environment.

But if the authorities continue to apply this unique punishment to other Turkish clubs, I am sure eventually someone will wake up and smell the legal coffee.

If a similar punishment was handed out to a club based inside the EU, lawyers would be all over the case like a particularly unpleasant rash. Not to mention Brussels bureaucrats themselves.

A shame really, because I can’t think of anything more likely to annoy your average (male) hooligan than being forced to stay at home getting the dinner ready while his wife and kids are out watching the game.

Time to get on your bike, Mike

Michael Owen, boosted by his two–goal haul at Leeds United in the midweek Carling Cup game, has suggested his career is far from over and is certainly not ‘winding down’.

“I’m still only 31 and I have a good few years left in me yet,” he said. As a self-confessed Owen fan those words were a joy to hear. However, I think he now has to back them up with actions and leave Old Trafford sooner rather than later.

As it stands he is well down the pecking order at Manchester United, with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and now even Danny Wellbeck ahead of him in the striking department.

So if he is serious about wanting to play football for a few more years, then he needs to bite the bullet and move to a club that will give him regular games.

Sir Alex Ferguson himself is obviously aware that Owen can’t be happy with the amount of pitch time he is getting.

“His goal ratio is unbelievable. We are very pleased with him. But he is not getting the games he deserves and that is unfortunate,” the Scot said.

Although I may be accused of reading a bit too much between the lines, I would say the United boss himself is almost hinting that Owen should move on.

He could stay at Old Trafford and continue to play a bit part role turning out 15 to 20 times a season. But that, no matter how you dress it up, will be nothing more than winding down his career.

If he is serious about wanting to play on, then he needs to bite the bullet, pack his bags and move to another club in January. It’s a gamble, but one I would certainly take in his position.

If it works out then all well and good, and considering the lack of options in that area, an England recall might actually not be impossible.

If it doesn’t, then so be it, but at least he would have tried.

Either way, it’s got to be better than spending the rest of your career playing in the Carling Cup.

Fernan-doh!

All the talk last week has been about Fernando Torres’ miss in Chelsea’s game against Manchester United last Sunday.

And it was an absolute peach of a blooper, the sort of open goal nightmare that would have even embarrassed Andy Cole at his peak.

Yet the thing that also needs mentioning is that, miss aside, I think we are finally starting to see the Torres of old on his way back.

That match will always be remembered for the miss, but the Spaniard contributed so much more to the game than he has in the recent past.

Slowly but surely he is gaining confidence, his touch is returning, and his hunger for the ball is back to what it was when he used to terrorise defences on a weekly basis.

I don’t want to take anything away from the miss itself, of course. It was special, and put Fernando right up there with the legends of open goal hell. An error of true beauty.

But a word of warning to all those who smirked (myself included) when the ball sailed wide: he might not be quite there yet, but Torres is on his way back.

And when he is, it will be the Chelsea supporters doing all the smirking.

[email protected]
Twitter: @maltablade

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