If there was something in the article to back this up, anything along the lines of a study or official statement, it might be condoned as accurate, if still sensationalist. Football journalism thrives on the misleading headline more than ever, though, and at this stage, this is just them making things up early and often [Andy Bull has a frustrated but rational essay on the Guardian blogs right now on the decay of sports news culture, which ties in nicely with some of the things Brian o' The Run Of Play has been talking about recently]. The substance of the report itself is annoying.
Uefa's chief spokesman, William Gaillard, also intervened as the prospect of racist clashes threatened to return to England's terraces. "There will be zero tolerance," he said. "The referee is perfectly in his rights to interrupt the game and not start again until the problem resolves."
No mention of talks with Zenit's authorities, no sign of an official conversation, no -- what's that word? -- respect. It stands to reason that if you want an effective solution to the problem of racism among Zenit's supporters, you would go to negotiate with the Zenit officials and talk over the repercussions of continued bad behaviour, and get them to bear full responsibility for potential incidents. Instead, Gaillard does the same thing he did earlier this year before the Roma leg of the United-Roma CL quarter-final [of which Martha wrote a fine analysis], when he threatened to take next year's final away from the Olimpico if there was violence. A strange way of creating anything like a helpful or productive atmosphere.
From here, all this just looks like bullying. Some of Zenit's supporters are apparently guilty of egregious acts of hate - the Independent carries the details, as well as the low-down on what Dick Advocaat says he didn't say when he implied that Zenit could not hire black players because of fan opposition. It is right to hope that the referee will take the strongest possible action if they are repeated at tonight's game, in my opinion, but the power to take that decision depends on the referee and the situation. To be the second-in-command of UEFA and put out a statement that, if anything, seems designed to get people's backs up and increase hostility and defiance, makes no sense to me. Either I have an disproportionate perception of Gaillard's responsibility, or he does. And this is not even going into the rumblings of the police chief of the city of Manchester, and Britain's Sports Minister [Sports Minister!] all taking their turns at starting a conversation over a press conference.
If anyone has a different view of the matter I'd love to hear it.
I keep promising myself that I will pull and blog quotes by the bundle out of the book I am currently reading, which is Marcela Mora y Araujo's translation of El Diego: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Footballer, but every time I try to put the book down and start typing, something happens to take my breath away. In one of my favourite novels, Helen De Witt's The Last Samurai, the protagonist Sibylla gives up her graduate studies in German literature out of frustration with a book she is supposed to read for her thesis, A Roemer's Aristarchs Athetesen in der Homerkritik. Roemer's mode of operation is this, according to Sibylla:
Some of the third-hand notes struck Roemer as brilliant: they were clearly by Aristarchus, who was clearly a genius. Other extracts were too stupid for a genius: clearly by someone else. Whenever someone else was said to have said something brilliant he saw instantly that it was really by Aristarchus, and if any brilliant comments happened to be lying around unclaimed he instantly spotted the unnamed mastermind behind them.
Now it is patently, blatantly obvious that this is insane.
As I read El Diego Sibylla's words keep coming back to haunt me. Roemer's critical method is the way some people live their entire lives. It's a staggering work of imaginative genius. Staggering.