Category Archives: safety

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.


Attack on Kola and Ozil – The Ripple Effect

The recent knife attack on Mesut Ozil, Sead Kolasinac and their wives was thwarted thanks to the selfless bravery of our Bosnian defender.

The long-lasting effects may well cast more harmful ripples however.

The CCTV footage showed how the assailants pulled up to Ozil’s vehicle on a moped and brandished a large knife. Kolasinac then exited the car and Ozil drove the respective partners to a position of safety while the left-back aimed to either stifle or incapacitate the criminals.

Thankfully, no harm was done. Well, at least physically.

This footage will no doubt have spread worldwide via social media. Professional footballers will have seen this and the violence on show could act as a deterrent to any prospective moves to the Premier League.

Do we see footballers in other nation’s being attacked by blades? Aside from the volatility of South America, can we say anywhere in Europe has seen similar recently?

This is not to say that knife crime is more prevalent in London or the UK as opposed to Europe, but simply that this sole act occurred in our capital rather than in Italy, Spain or Germany.

Footballers lead a lavish lifestyle and are on the highest of pedestals. The barrier between player and fan is higher than ever before. These sportsmen are now fully removed from everyday life and the fleeting moments that they take part in fan activities or social media interactions are pretty much the only times they put their feet on the same ground we walk on.

This attack could well pull that drawbridge up a little further, distancing us and them even more than before. Players have the ability to seclude themselves in their own world. Their houses are like resorts, they attend exclusive events and venues, and the streets that we share? They will be less and less frequented.

What of potential signings thinking of relocating to the UK? This potentially has a dampening effect, as perception is everything. The news stories that hype the supposed torrent of violent crime on our streets, now exacerbated by our players being nearly killed while attending a restaurant? It will do nothing for enthusiasm to sample the delights of the city.

The reason why the video made such a splash is because of the seriousness of the potential repercussions. Should Sead Kolasinac have failed in his heroic efforts? It doesn’t bear thinking of.

Sead and Ozil

With such riches to protect and these men recognised anywhere they go, it does mean that for the more nefarious of us Joe Publics, these professional players do have a target on their heads. It is easy pickings and ripe pickings at that.

The days of players liaising with fans like they did in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s? That is a thing of the past, and the moat that sees us look longingly at the greener grass of celebrity sportspeople yawns ahead of us, growing wider each year.

We can be thankful that both players and their wives were unharmed after this attack, but the threat of further incidents of the same nature potentially could ripple outward for quite some time.

Arsenal 3-1 FC Koln – Away Fans, Howlers and Alexis is Back

An hours delay is not the best start to a game in a competition most deride as superfluous. 

Someone said that to David Ospina, and the Colombian decided he would try and beat it.

Thanks to masses of Koln fans making the trip to London without a ticket and trying to cram into the Clock End – and succeeding to a degree – it meant that safety was compromised and kickoff could not take place until 2105hrs – over an hour after it was designated.

Still, when our fans did all manage to take their seats, they were treated to the sight of our goalkeeper going a little unhinged and allowing the equally crazed Koln fans the opportunity to make more noise and set off more flares.

Our Cup Keeper raced out of his box to snaffle up a ball over the top of our defence. The problem wans’t that he didn’t get to it first. Oh no, Ospina was the proverbial greyhound. No, the problem was what he did when he got the ball.

The South American goalkeeper booted it flatly and straight to the opposition, and Ospina’s fellow countryman Cordoba lifted it over our keeper who was in No Man”s Land from all of 40 yards. 

1-0, and the first half was now a chase.

We did make chances when we were not busy wasting the opportunity for a final ball, but Koln’s Timo Horn was equal to Olivier Giroud’s header, and Theo Walcott wasted a good chance when found in a good position.

The first half was frustrating, and the boos that followed our players trudging off the pitch were born from a performance that was quite flat at times.

The second half was different though. With a much changed side, we began to find our verve, and it took five minutes to get the equaliser. 

Theo Walcott was at the centre of the action, and his finishing may have been wayward, but his positioning and running could not be faulted. He was found with a superb ball from Mohamed Elneny, and his touch took him wide. His cross was deflected upwards, and the rampaging bull that is Sead Kolasinac took just one touch to lash a volley past the Koln keeper Timo Horn.

From there, it was all Arsenal, and we were looking fully intent on getting the win, as opposed to the first half when there was just vague interest. 

Then, there was a sight to behold for all Gooners to rejoice in. Something that has the potential to change our season dramatically.

It wasn’t Jack Wilshere making an appearance, although he could make a huge dent.

It was the return of Alexis.

Sure, he has made appearances this season, but the goal he scored in this game was pure Chilean spice.

Taking the ball from out wide, he drifted inside, beat two players and from 25 yards, curled an exquisite effort into the top corner, where no goalkeeper’s fingers dare to tread. It was beautiful, it was Alexis.

Whilst he may still want to leave, my love for him will be compromised. However, I say we play him until his legs fall off. Make use of him in the short space of time we have him. 

There was time for one more goal, and it was Hector Bellerin who scored it. Theo Walcott was again involved. Alexis and Big Sead interchanged well, and the Bosnian crossed in. Jack Wilshere dummied it and left it for Theo who took a shot which Horn saved well. The rebound though, fell for the onrushing Bellerin who did manage to beat the German.

A job well done, and the Europa League has been started well. We can really make a go of this competition and it was a big plus that we fought back against a team who were better than their domestic form suggested.

Not only that, our team was massively different than the one we saw last weekend – and very different to the one that will line up against Chelsea this Sunday. 

The way we deal with the short recovery time will be crucial, but we have good form against the Blues recently. Time to convert that to a performance away from home for once. 

​The Ever-Changing Football Boot

One of the current bones of contention within football as a global sport is that it trails behind other sports in regards to technology.

With rugby, tennis, cricket and other high-profile entertainment, they all currently grasp whatever high-end innovations that are to hand in order to benefit the sport and ensure that justice plays just as big a part in events as the entertainment itself.

Football though, is just about coming to terms with goalline technology, never mind utilising video references to see that huge decisions are called correctly. With the influx of exorbitant money comes the underlined necessity for these decisions to be infallible. The ramifications can be devastating otherwise.

Football is archaic in its approach, but in other areas, it is way ahead of the curve. Take the once humble football boot.

From its humble beginnings as merely an accessory worn to ensure toes were not broken when kicking the swollen and rigid leather ball, now they are alien in comparison to their dated siblings.

The never ending quest to find the sweetest of spots to strike the ball has led to some crazy calls and designs, and now to even name them ‘boots’ seems incongruent. They seem to resemble an elvish slipper, crafted from an angel’s sigh and offering zero protection whatsoever in order to maximise the ability of the player.

Where is the middle ground? Well, The Hot Stepanovs does not rest until answers are found. I delved deep and have found a man who has shunned the current trend for gaudy footwear made entirely from the skin of a butterfly. 

Yet he has also claimed it is lightweight and allows for skills, tricks and flicks to be just as optimal as ever.

Where is this heaven-sent boot? I spoke to boot designer Scott Michaels to get the info.

Hi Scott. First thing’s first. Your path did not exactly lead to designing football boots! How did you find yourself up to this point?

Scott – When I was fifteen, i used to play football five times a week. I remember all the cool brands of football boots the Premier League footballers were wearing at the time. I have always followed the different styles and brands closely. Now looking into the industry, I see most of these stylish independent boots have disappeared from the professional market.

From 18 years old, I ran my own hairdressing salon for ten years, I then started up a hairstyling brand called Hairbond. Hairbond is currently the largest British hairstyling brand in the World with over £20m retail value sold since we launched in 2010.

Through Hairbond consumer marketing, I used my passion for professional football which got me back involved in the game again and reignited my passion. With top Premier League players regularly promoting our products through social media it gave me the opportunity to create Hairbond photo shoots with Simon Mignolet and James Anderson as brand ambassadors.

What makes your boot so special?

Scott –  Our Heirship Seventeen is a premium heritage concept, built with new age technology, and getting the right product material was the most important part.

I have been working with a team comprised of sport scientists and professional footballers to design the boot.

We have sampled hundreds of materials from extremely lightweight carbon fibre (which gets damaged very easily), to old school Kangaroo leather (which is in my opinion unethical).  

The chosen material is Japanese Super Micro Fibre. This state of the art synthetic is – in my opinion – the best in the world for high performance professional football boots.

It’s more durable than premium leather and moulds better to the foot.  Our first release – the Heirship Seventeen – is also very lightweight when compared to alternatives and we have embossed ‘texture vents’ to enable a greater feel of the ball.

There will be a mixed stud boot for soft ground, and an Astro sole version, for artificial pitches launching this summer in a classic black as well as a Limited Edition white/gold edition. We are also planning a hard ground bladed technology release in both colours and a children’s edition later on in the year.

Your area of expertise seems to be marketing. How do you plan to ensure your wares reach the relevant parties – the footballers who will give your boot the platform it needs?

Scott – We already have over 100 professional players globally desperately waiting to try the boots and unlike most brands in the game we are not paying any players to wear the boots.

For professional football players, football boots are more than just a boot, they are the tool of their trade. We want footballers to choose our boots and the durability, comfort and performance of the need to be prioritised.

How much research went into making sure your offerings were the best they could be?

Scott – I have spent the last 12 months researching the very best global manufacturers and sourcing materials to make the boots innovative. All prototype samples were then sent out to a dozen active professionals to test through the rigors of training. I then worked with a premium shoe designer in Italy and the first boot Heirship Seventeen was born. We are launching them in 1 colour ways – classic black and a Matchmakers limited edition white and gold edition –  to celebrate the brands launch in 2017.

Do you think that your competitors boots are a factor in the frequency of injuries on the pitch? Was it a factor in the manufacture of yours?

Scott – Yes, injury prevention was something we have had to consider whilst designing the boots. I also believe a boot that provides more support is vital but without too much weight. Some players are playing 50 games a season and are running 12k per game. This is where our focus is regarding performance as we look at a footballers foot comfort over a marathon not a sprint. After thorough research, we believe that we have the right balance with the H17 boot which is still light weight but has the durability and comfort factor.

What is the next step for you, and what is the ultimate aim?

Scott – To position Matchmakers as the designer labelled boot brand in football. We also see Matchmakers as a premium niche alternative to mass market sports brands. I believe with the boot technology and the swagger of Matchmakers we have something different to the rest. I also think with my marketing experience dealing with the same demographic will help us in new ways to market our products. I also think our immediate success in football boots could lead us into other sports such as both codes of rugby and golf.

It will be very interesting to watch the progress of this brand, especially with the advances this boot boasts of.

Please check out in April for more information on this fantastic product.

Flares, Fighting and Fantastic Tackling – The Euro’s so far….

The build-up to the European Championship saw talk centred on the heightened police presence that would be concentrated on events in France. The atrocities that unfolded in Paris the previous year meant that the likelihood of a repeat attack was elevated, and French forces would be en masse to ensure the safety of the crowds who would be attending.

There was no talk of how the potential fighting would be in the stands – and between rival fans.

Continue reading Flares, Fighting and Fantastic Tackling – The Euro’s so far….

Football Over-Sanitized or a Need for More Safety Presence?

Originally featured on You Are My Arsenal

After Aston Villa’s progress to the F.A Cup Semi-Final and a much needed trip to Wembley for the success-starved supporters – the articles weren’t revolving around a second win for Tim Sherwood’s men over the Baggies in a week. They were concentrated on the pitch invasion which followed the final whistle.

Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion - FA Cup Quarter Final

The reaction from the majority – media experts and fans alike – was a damning verdict on not only the fans from both teams, but on the distinct lack of numbers needed to stem a tide of emotionally charged supporters. 

Continue reading Football Over-Sanitized or a Need for More Safety Presence?