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No place for ‘Big Brother’ Uefa

Merely booing a few seconds of music, a symbol of an organisation Manchester City fans don’t like, is well within their rights in a democratic country, and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Merely booing a few seconds of music, a symbol of an organisation Manchester City fans don’t like, is well within their rights in a democratic country, and to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

When I heard Manchester City were being charged after their fans booed the Champions League anthem, I thought I must have fallen asleep and woken up on April 1. But sadly it isn’t some sort of lame joke – Uefa really have opened proceedings against City after their supporters voiced their displeasure with the organisation during the build-up to their match with Sevilla.

Exactly how far up its own backside is this organisation? Does it really believe it is more important than freedom of speech? What is it hoping to achieve by being so petty?

Manchester City supporters believe Uefa picks on them, a feeling accentuated by the £50 million (€70m) fine they were given for breaching financial fair play regulations.

But whether or not the fans are right – and I would suggest there is more than a hint of truth that the club is being singled out – how on earth can Uefa believe it has the right to censor their protests?

It’s not as if the fans are ripping out seats, invading the pitch or going on a rampage; they are merely booing a few seconds of music, a very obvious symbol of an organisation they don’t like or trust. That is well within their rights in a democratic country, and to suggest otherwise is simply ludicrous.

Article 16 of Uefa’s disciplinary regulations state that it is a club’s responsibility “to prevent the disruption of anthems”. And I appreciate a rule is a rule, no matter how pathetic. But just because a rule exists doesn’t mean it has to be enforced in such an infantile manner.

In fact, in this case I think taking action against City is only going to reinforce the fans’ hatred for European football’s governing body. The booing will probably go up a few decibels this week.

It’s quite obvious that the only thing on Uefa’s mind was protecting its precious brand. Well I sincerely hope it backfires dramatically. In fact, every football fan who is heading to one of this week’s Champions League ties should have only one thing on their mind – other than supporting their team, of course – which is doing exactly what the City fans did.

The hundreds of thousands of supporters attending games in Manchester, Munich, Madrid and all the other cities hosting matches on Tuesday and Wednesday should stand up and boo as the anthem is played; Not so much as a show of solidarity with Manchester City but as a way of sending out a clear message to Uefa that it dosen’t have control over them and that it never will.

In fact, we should probably boo wherever we are watching, whether from the comfort of our sofas or in bars, clubs and cafes. Uefa officials might not hear it first hand but, in the days of rampant social media, I’m pretty sure we can find a way to get the message across...

It was just decided in advance

Sepp Blatter certainly knows how to dig himself a hole. In an interview last week he admitted Fifa had decided to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia before the ‘vote’ took place.

The outgoing (and suspended) Fifa president also admitted a decision had been taken to give the 2022 World Cup to the US but a last minute change of heart by Michel Platini saw it go to Qatar.

Now I’m not entirely sure if he realises it, but by making those two claims he is effectively admitting that not only was Fifa corrupt but also that he was well aware of it. Actively involved in it, even. After all, the vote for the awarding of the tournament is supposed to be open, fair and reasonably democratic. Not decided in advance by a group of dodgy old men with personal agendas.

If the other countries bidding to host those two tournaments had known a decision had already been made, they wouldn’t have wasted time and money campaigning to be chosen as hosts. That in itself is grossly unfair, if not criminal.

To add insult to injury, Blatter then went on to blame England and the US for bringing Fifa to its knees in recent months, saying it was just a case of them being sore losers. Well, how sore would Blatter be if he spent years of work and millions of pounds bidding for a tournament that he couldn’t possibly have won because it had already been stitched up?

What a vile little man he really is, a despicable, slimy leech whose legacy will be as the man who ruined an institution and brought an entire sport into disrepute.

Enough of the winter break nonsense, Louis

I see Louis van Gaal has been up to his winter break tricks again, describing the lack of one in English football as ‘evil’.

Like a stuck record, the Manchester United manager said the fact that England doesn’t take time off in the middle of the season was the reason why English teams fail in Europe and the national team is struggling.

While he may have a point when it comes to the Three Lions (though I don’t recall his Holland team winning much, funnily enough), he is so painfully wrong when it comes to European success.

Has he forgotten that the team he just happens to manage won the Champions League in 1999 and 2008? Or that Chelsea won it in 2012? Or that Liverpool won it in 2005? Or that the Premier League has provided eight finalists in the last 11 years? And all of that was achieved without a winter break.

The reality is that I am not entirely against the idea of having a short break from football, maybe in January. But definitely not over Christmas, which is Van Gaal’s preference, probably so he can spend time perfecting his accent.

As Arsene Wenger said himself last week, he would be heartbroken if the traditional Christmas fixture list was tampered with as it is what makes English football English. “I had his ideas when I arrived here but today I would cry if you changed that because it’s part of English tradition and English football,” Wenger said.

And that’s what really winds me up about Van Gaal repeatedly expressing his opinion on things. He has only been around for a short time and probably won’t be in the Premier League for more than a couple more seasons anyway. Yet rather than respecting the existing culture and traditions he insists on moaning about them at every available opportunity.

My advice to him is to focus his efforts on managing the football team whose fortunes he was employed to turn around. Then maybe his multi-million pound team won’t lose at home to Middlesbrough at a time of the season when the winter break wouldn’t even have happened…

sportscolumnist@timesofmalta.com
Twitter: @maltablade

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