Category Archives: equality

Walking Off Pitch In Face Of Racism

You’re sat at your desk, your monitor filled with the inane characters that you are meant to make sense of.

It’s a usual day, and you’re attempting to ignore the clock that is taunting you with its sedentary progress toward 5pm.

While you’re responding to emails and setting up meetings, all the things that don’t actually matter, you see one of your colleagues stand up.

They then start performing an impression of a monkey, complete with arm actions and noises.

They then rope in others, and all of a sudden, you have a cacophony of primate sounds – and it is directed at you.

All because of your skin colour.

Would you stand for it?

England boss Gareth Southgate and his squad have faced opposition from the Bulgarian FA after Tammy Abraham and other members of the team declared they would walk off the pitch should they be subject to racist chanting.

England Racism walkout

 

The Bulgarian FA have argued that this is “unjust branding of local spectators as people inclined to discriminatory behaviour.”

This is anything but unjust.

The game in question was played partially behind closed doors, with 5,000 of 46,000 capacity to be left empty. Why? Because Bulgarian fans were found guilty of racist behaviour against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

This isn’t just having a reputation, this is fresh conviction. Their fans are known to have a racist element and of course, our media pressed the English players into answers should they be inflicted with the same.

There has been a fresh, and needed, focus on racism in the game recently. Pushed by figureheads like Raheem Sterling, it has been welcome to hear global names talk on the subject.

Playing Bulgaria, much like when England played Montenegro recently, brings with it a chance for racism in the stands. Do the players have a duty to carry on in their roles even in the face of such hatred though?

Not a chance.

In any other workplace, this simply wouldn’t fly. What does a players earnings have to do with vilification and infringement on human rights?

If a man or woman is subject to racism, sexism etc, then the gloves are off.

For too long, the approach has not been stern enough – and that is why bodies such as ‘Kick It Out’ are still in place, existing long after they should be. Racism shouldn’t have a place in sport.

Sport has always been a leveller for all classes, and man, woman and child should be able to enjoy the action without fear of such hate.

Should the Bulgarian fans rain down abuse at any game, I for one look forward to their reaction and the attention it brings. Without this, then racism will always be a part of the game we adore.

The very fact we are going into a professional football match with an inkling of this to be expected, brings shame to the game’s governing bodies. Every week we hear new stories, especially in Italy, of players being subjected to chants based solely on their skin colour.

This must stop sooner rather than later. The very fact it exists shows that the preventative measures in place right now are simply not working.

So, walking off to end a game prematurely might just be the moment the game stands up and finally wakes up.

 

England’s Lionesses – What Next?

Mark Sampson became the England Women’s Manager in December 2013. In his four years at the helm of the Lionesses, the Welsh coach has lifted the team into a position as worthy challengers for top honours.


In only two years, Sampson engineered a Semi-Final place for England in the 2015 World Cup in Canada. It represented the best showing of an England team – male or female – since 1990. After losing to Japan at the penultimate hurdle, England’s women then defeated Germany to finish in a fantastic 3rd place.

Hopes were inevitably high for the recent Euro2017 tournament after such a wonderful run. 


Could Sampson prove that this is the level that his charges are at? The World Cup drew in amazing viewing figures – both on TV and spectators in the grounds – and the interest level was growing in female football.

Euro2017 then took it to another platform entirely. Terrestrial TV picked up the rights to the competition, giving the chance for so many people to watch events unfold, and it paid off.


England’s women played marvellously as they again made their way to the Semi-Final stage – this time falling to an impressive Netherlands team who were playing in their home country.

It was another wonderful display for Sampson and the girls, but it was again a tumble just before the biggest of all stages. Whilst the Semi-Finals twice in consecutive major tournaments represents a huge achievement – it leaves one question;


Do England have what it takes to win a big competition?




On first appearances, the answer would be an emphatic yes.


England have defeated both France and Germany recently, and both nations are powerhouses of women’s football. A win in the knockout stages of the Euro’s and a World Cup mean Steph Houghton and co are more than capable of keeping company with the best in the business.


There is a confidence within each and every one of the squad, cultivating a mentality that gives this team that surety on the pitch that all great teams have. The respect shown by each member of the squad is reciprocated unequivocally – and this has been the foundation for the improvement shown.


They have beaten the USA, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden in recent years. They have been hobnobbing with the elite for the last two years, and the strength of the WSL means that England should have enough resources to stay at the top table.


Which is of paramount importance. With Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea Ladies all recruiting top talent, it means the youth at each respective club will both benefit from training with these superb players, but they will also work harder to force their way through the enhanced competition for places.


The youth at each club will be responsible for picking up the baton left by the current pride of Lionesses, and they have one hell of a job to fulfill.


Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Alex Greenwood, Demi Stokes, Millie Bright, Isobel Christiansen, Jade Moore, Jordan Nobbs, Karen Carney, Toni Duggan, Fran Kirby, Nikita Parris and Ellen White are the players who will carry the team forward to the 2019 World Cup – with all of the above being in their 20’s. There is the small matter of attempting to replace some real quality in the squad though.


Jodie Taylor, Fara Williams, Jill Scott, Jo Potter, Casey Stoney, Alex Scott, Laura Bassett, Siobhan Chamberlain and Karen Bardsley are all 30 or older, and whilst some may still be at the pinnacle of the game, they will not represent the future of England Women.


With Steph Houghton and Karen Carney both 29 as well – how do England go about replacing the experience that 1036 caps brings?


More importantly, who will take the reins after Sampson?


England really do have some bright talent shining through. Millie Bright, Fran Kirby, Demi Stokes and Lucy Bronze will all be cornerstones of the side in years to come, and Jordan Nobbs is only going to get better, which is a scary prospect for opposing nations.


Do the WSL youth facilities and staff have what it takes to produce and replace what has already been?


Was this the ‘Golden Generation’ that should have perhaps achieved more than they did?


This is definitely the strongest squad that an England Women’s Manager has had to call upon, but in terms of achievements, it could be looked at another way.


The Euro 2009 Final and the last two Semi-Finals may not have garnered a ticker-tape parade and winners medals – but it has supplied the growth in the sport that it so badly warranted. The WSL now attracts talent such as Carli Lloyd and the cream of the Netherlands. It also can now look forward to appropriate levels of TV coverage thanks to a new deal with BT Sport, which in turn means better levels of funding for the League and its participants.


What has been engineered has meant that the England Lionesses have a fighting chance of glory in the future. The respective new manager’s charges have put the sport firmly at the eye level of a bigger audience. It means that young girls will seek a career, rather than see it as just a hobby.


The Euro2017 defeat to Netherlands may have smarted, but it is just a service station on the journey. England Women are not finished yet.

Arsenal Ladies Gunning For WSL Title

September 23rd sees the WSL begin its reimagination as a winter competition and if the recent Spring Series and Euro2017 is anything to go by, then Arsenal Ladies are well placed to return to the summit.

Pedro Martinez Losa seems to finally have grown a team that can challenge the might of Manchester City and Chelsea, with his team peppered with international class throughout. 

The Spring Series, which acted as a filler for the change in the fixture calendar, saw Chelsea and City take the top two spots, but the Gunners unbeaten record belied their bronze position in the table. As well as being undefeated, they also reminded Chelsea and City of their strength in their respective matches,  with a 1-0 win at the Academy Stadium being City’s first defeat at home in quite some time. 

It isn’t just prior form that sees Losa’s squad well placed for a title tilt. The recent Euro2017 championship was illuminated by the home side, with the Netherlands firing on all cylinders thanks to Gunners players Danielle Van De Donk, Vivianne Miedema and goalkeepr Sari Van Veenendaal all adding to the Oranje cause. There was one other Gunner in the squad too, with Dominique Janssen, so Arsenal are well stocked.

That is just one nation however. USA midfielder Heather O’Reilly adds a wealth of experience to midfield, Jodie Taylor showed her pedigree in acquiring the Euro2017 Golden Boot, Danielle Carter is more than adept at plundering goals in the WSL, Jordan Nobbs is one of the leading lights for England, and with Kim Little returning to the Arsenal shirt, Losa has a few selection headaches to deal with. 

Arsenal Ladies have not won the title since 2012, and for the sport’s most successful side, that is something that must change. By acquiring these talents, he has a great chance to bring a title back that has not graced the Arsenal Ladies trophy cabinet since 2012.

There are two big reasons why five years has passed since Arsenal lifted the title however. City and Chelsea have been bolstered by great levels of funding and have used the funds well, their squads bulging with talent too.

Chelsea can look to Fran Kirby, Katie Chapman, Eni Aluko, Crystal Dunn and Millie Bright to fire them to another championship. The Citizens have Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Carli Lloyd to name but three. City are also intent on blazing a trail through Europe which only Arsenal have ever done, so the Gunners will again need to be at their best.

This coming season though, is the first time in a while that Arsenal Ladies can confidently boast of a lineup that can match – or even better – City’s and Chelsea’s. It is players that win titles, and Losa’s team should be rightly viewed as one of the frontrunners.

Can Arsenal’s rivals boast of a player as technically brilliant as Van De Donk? Are any players in the WSL as blessed with attacking verve as Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs? 

So Arsenal have the quality they need in abundance, now it is all down to Losa to show he can rangle the  team together in such a way that optimises these women and their skills. If he can find that magic formula, then surely City and Chelsea will fall by the Gunner’s blast?

If Arsenal have to wait another year for the title, with this squad, then Losa will have failed to make the most of a golden chance. Not only that, but some of the bigger names may well see the packed trophy cabinet at other clubs – even Europe may come calling after Toni Duggan left for Barca – and jump ship.

This season will need to be maximised if Arsenal are to go on and build another great era of success. This coming campaign is a precipice of where Arsenal will stand in the next five or so years.

If the title is won, then the Gunners are back where they belong. 

Arsenal Ladies Enter A New Season

The new Women’s Super League season will be kicking off this weekend, and Arsenal Ladies will be hoping to fight for the title they last won in 2012.

For the most successful women’s side in history, being in contention is the base requirement for a season.. Arsenal Ladies manager Pedro Martinez Losa will be under no illusions as to how difficult it will be this season to maintain their lofty expectations.

Not since 2003 has Arsenal Ladies suffered the ignominy of going through a campaign bereft of silverware, but with the rise of Manchester City Women and Chelsea Ladies in recent seasons, the Gunners must elevate themselves higher than before if they are to avoid a potless season.

What hasn’t helped is their exit from the FA Cup at the Quarter-Final stage at the hands of Birmingham City. The Blues triumphed with a 1-0 victory which was earned through an inspired performance from goalkeeper Ann Katrin-Berger. Danielle Van De Donk, Danielle Carter and Kim Little were all thwarted by the Birmingham stopper, and the Gunners were sucker-punched by a 77th minute Marisa Ewers goal – which was enough to dump Losa’s Gunners out of the Cup they had won four times out of the last six seasons.

Without this ever-reliable source of silverware to fall back on, the Gunners will be looking to clinch a first title since 2012, but with Manchester City Women and Chelsea Ladies being heavily backed in the transfer market, Losa and his charges will be fully aware of the need to step up a level after falling short last season.

That saw Arsenal Ladies finish in third place behind the two new powerhouses, and this new campaign looks likely to be just as difficult. 

City have continued to strengthen their side, and with USA star Carli Lloyd on their books, they look to again be the frontrunners for the title. They can also call on the talents of former Gunner Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan. City are well equipped and armed to the teeth.

Chelsea have also added to their already strong squad, with Ramona Bachmann coming in from Wolfsburg and Crystal Dunn arriving from Washington Spirit. With Karen Carney and Eniola Aluko also extending their contracts with the Blues, Chelsea will be in contention at the business end of the season.

What of Arsenal though? 

It promises to be one of two things for the Gunners – a season of transition or one of progression. Losa has been busy in this transfer window, partly due to his hand being forced thanks to two club legends leaving the club.

Firstly, Kelly Smith has retired from football. The England and Arsenal icon has been at the forefront of Womens Football and has helped move the game into the spotlight, but now she has said her goodbye’s, can the Gunners actually fill the void left by such a high-calibre departure?

It didn’t stop there either. Casey Stoney has joined Liverpool Ladies, and the defender will be a big miss at the back for Losa. Experience is vital in defence, and Stoney was unrivalled in that department. With Spaniards Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada also leaving before a ball has been kicked, as well as German Josephine Henning, it was clear Losa must act quickly if any hope of success was to be made tangible.

A huge signing has seen Kim Little return to Arsenal after a spell with Seattle Reign. The Scotland attacker was a talismanic and decisive figure for Arsenal in her first spell at the club, and if she can recreate this form this season, the Arsenal will be in the running. Another new body of note would be the return of Carla Humphrey after spending last season on loan at Doncaster Belles. Humphrey grew in stature and Losa was quick to bring her back into the fold and extend her contract. This looks to be a wise move. Alex Scott looks to have a huge responsibility on her shoulders to marshall this new look defence. 

It may look that Arsenal are a little short in defence, but with an attack that can boast of Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little and Danielle Carter, Losa’s side will be good value for entertainment. Can the Gunners compensate for their lightness at the back with goals? They will need to if they are to overthrow Chelsea and City, as well as see off the emerging threat of Birmingham City and Liverpool Ladies.

This upcoming season of the Womens Super League looks poised to be the greatest one yet. 

Hope for Equality in Football

For any comments from charisma-bereft Andy Murray to have any impact, you can pretty much guarantee that they must carry some substance. His latest monotone efforts regarding his current coach Amelie Mauresmo certainly shone a light on a problem that refuses to be quelled.

The finest tennis star from these shores in a generation revealed in an interview with BBC Sport that since hiring Mauresmo – multiple Grand Slam winner – he has found to his chagrin that fellow pro’s in the fabled ‘Locker Room’ have questioned his decision and even believed it was a hoax that Murray was playing along with!

Aussie tennis star Marinko Matosevic went so far as to declare his disregard for the woman’s game and stating that he ‘ would never hire a female coach ‘.

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