Mediawatch: Roberto Firmino and racism whataboutery…

Date published: Tuesday 9th January 2018 11:56

‘No lesser crime’
Racism is bad. Unprovoked violence is bad. There are no reasonable people who disagree with either of those sentiments.

Mason Holgate pushing Roberto Firmino over the advertising hoardings at Anfield was bad. If Firmino racially abused Holgate, that is bad. There are no reasonable people who disagree with either of those sentiments. And so it was with some trepidation that Mediawatch opened Martin Samuel’s column in the Daily Mail on Tuesday.

The headline – ‘Would the FA act on violence if Firmino had a broken neck?’ – hints at Samuel’s anger over Holgate’s push; Mediawatch has been doing this for far too long to believe that there wouldn’t be some whataboutery at play. Sadly, we were right.

‘So now, while an investigations team grinds into action to unravel the claim and counter-claim of what Firmino said to Holgate, an open and shut case against a player who could have caused serious physical injury to an opponent is ignored. And, yes, racism has been responsible for extremes of misery and suffering through the centuries and must be addressed. But mindless acts of violence are no lesser crime.’

There is plenty else in Samuel’s column, and much of it reasonable, but this paragraph sticks like a fish bone in Mediawatch’s throat. For anyone to suggest that Holgate’s push on Firmino on the touchline is a worse crime than racial abuse demands to be filed under ‘hot take’. 

Had Samuel written that the push was ‘also bad’ or ‘also deserves to be investigated’, we would have fewer qualms, but to say that it is ‘no lesser crime’ has connotations. Deliberately or otherwise, it shifts the focus away from the racism issue and thus demeans it. Is that not obvious?

See here’s the thing. Football is a contact sport, and pushes happen all the time. So too do bad fouls, and some break bones. Sometimes players will step over the line, and they deserve to be punished. But the principle of contact in the sport is at least established. Every match contains pushes.

Racism has no place in football, and no place in society. It therefore deserves to be separated from the ‘what about’ arguments and hypotheticals. When you say the words ‘racism has been responsible for extremes of misery and suffering’, the last thing we need afterwards is a ‘but’. And yet a ‘but’ is exactly what we get. 

Samuel does not get to decide where racism should be placed in the hierarchy of offences. Just like he didn’t get to decide that the words John Terry used to Anton Ferdinand were ‘ultimately meaningless’. That isn’t his or our right. Maybe Samuel should ask Rhian Brewster or any other victim of racist abuse whether they would prefer to be pushed? Perhaps ask Brewster if offences should be ranked and graded in this way? 

Mediawatch’s disappointment stems from the first two paragraphs in this section. Why did the focus need to be shifted away from racism? Why does anybody feel the need to bring racism into a discussion over the lack of action against physical challenges? There is literally no good reason for either.


And on the subject of racism

That’s just f**cking horrific.


Party boy
Mediawatch thinks that it was pretty dim for Alex Iwobi to be at a house party at 3am on Saturday morning when he was starting for Arsenal in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon. Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he will be fined, and going out in the 48 hours before a match is normally a no-no.

However, Mediawatch isn’t sure that the smell of weed and a few laughing gas canisters (not illegal) doth a ‘wild, drug-fuelled party’ make. Or even a ‘wild bash’, although our childish side did at least titter at that.

Mediawatch is also not sure why the smell of weed and empty canisters is important, given that The Sun themselves point out that ‘there is no suggestion that Iwobi was taking drugs’. Well, apart from your front-page splash saying that he was at a ‘3am drug party’, before making the clarification later on page nine.

Still, when one of The Sun’s main stories of the day is that Holly Willoughby keeps her ‘boobs toasty’ by using handwarmers, perhaps this is front-page news after all. Not as if there is a cabinet reshuffle, lingering Brexit issues or impending nuclear doom to focus on.


One or the other
‘With replays appearing inconclusive, on-field ref Andre Marriner upheld his decision with the video official Neil Swarbrick, holed up in a TV studio near Heathrow, presumably deciding that replays were inconclusive.

‘Either that or Swarbrick had called out for a Chinese takeaway, cracked into a four-pack of lager from the local off-licence and switched over to watch EastEnders or Corrie instead’ – Dave Kidd, The Sun.

We’re going with the first option, Dave.


Daily Express being the Daily Express
“Zinedine Zidane isn’t a player at Real Madrid anymore. That Zidane no longer exists,” Zidane told France Football in an interview. “Now it’s down to Zinedine Zidane the coach to carve out a career. I’m not protected by what I’ve done as a player at this club.

“I know that one day it will come to an end at Real Madrid, so I make the most of it and I do everything I can to be successful. I say to myself, ‘if I’ve got 10 days left here, then I’m going to live those 10 days to the max; if it’s six months, I’ll live those six months to the max’. I don’t think beyond that. I know I won’t stay in the job for 10 years.”

And the Daily Express’ headline? ‘Real Madrid news: Zinedine Zidane predicts he will be SACKED in 10 days.’


Create your fate
“I’m not sure on Keita, from what I’ve seen,” said Danny Murphy Sky Sports‘ The Debate. “What I would say is he’s obviously very athletic, got a lot of qualities – a bit like Jordan Henderson has. Professional, good athlete, does his job really, really well.

“But he isn’t creative enough if you want to challenge for the title and the Champions League. Someone like Gerrard, Souness, Alonso, Mascherano – these type of players.”

Javier Mascherano will be chuffed at being described as creative; Graeme Souness might be angry.


Star wars
The story: Barcelona have unveiled Philippe Coutinho.

The nugget of information: Luis Suarez texted his friend Coutinho to tell him to join.

The tenuous link: Suarez has been banned for biting players in the past.

The (Sun) headline: ‘Chew Barca’

Still not sure whether we’re appalled or impressed.


Half-empty or half-full?
‘Of the 15 clubs who made seven or more changes for the FA Cup third round, only four won. There are an awful lot of ordinary players in Premier League reserve teams, it seems’ – Martin Samuel, Daily Mail.

Alternative spin: Arsenal were the only Premier League club knocked out after making seven or more changes.


Straw man of the day
‘A lot of Liverpool fans wanted to drive Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £60m in the summer so £142m represents a great deal’ – Stan Collymore, Daily Mirror.

Did they really?


Sports story of the day
‘Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin wears £650 furry Gucci slippers and gold pjyamas (sic) at London Fashion week’ – Mailonline.

If The Sun really want to find an event that’s drug-fuelled…


Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on Pep Guardiola at Barcelona ‘B’.

David Squires on FA Cup third round weekend.

Ben Fisher with Bristol City.

More Related Articles