There is a distinct lack of interest in tonight’s match. None of the usual chit-chat about Qarabag, tough tests and certainly no ‘we’ve only got to turn up’, which is essentially all we have to do. Yes, I know, arrogance is unbecoming but as long as we’ve conjured up 18 players, surely all we’ve got to do is be there at kick-off?
More than a tad dismissive, I know. I’m also aware I’ve just cursed this as a draw where we snatch a last-gasp equaliser. Probably thanks to an own goal or a repeat of Ostersunds visit to the Emirates.
Unai Emery announced that “we are going to use some different players with also players coming from the under-23 team and also it is in our planning to start with Laurent Koscielny.”
It’s a risk worth taking in his mind; a test to see if Koscielny lasts 90 minutes. The answer dictates whether we face Southampton with three full-backs as centre-backs. Or has Emery another stroke of tactical genius to discards at half-time?
Mesut Ozil might play. He’s in the 18-man squad but “I am going to decide if he plays tomorrow from the beginning or during the match in the 90 minutes”. Is Emery waiting on his fitness? No-one asked so we don’t know.
Putting the German into the XI tests his fitness and makes not one blind bit of difference to whether he starts on Sunday. He won’t, for what it’s worth, given the defenders who are missing. Were Arsene in charge, we might go to St Mary’s and try to win 6 – 4. Unai is a different beast and will be more than happy with a 1 – 0 win. His midfield will be the ‘hard workers’ this weekend, not the ‘artistes’.
Doesn’t Make It Alright
The disturbing aspect of yesterday’s press conferences came from Ainsley Maitland-Niles. There is no surprise that the despicable evil of racism features in his life. That he highlighted an incident in youth football makes it all the more unsettling for the outsider looking in.
t was pretty much similar to what Raheem got
tobe honest. I literally went out to pick up the ball for a throw-in and there was a bit of racial abuse behind me. What can I do? I just got on with the game, as he did.
But that is not the truly disturbing part, which is not to downplay the act itself. It is Maitland-Niles next words which are equally troubling:
I did [report it], but nothing was done about it. I guess I just had to move on from it and become stronger from that.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was 12-years-old when the incident took place.
Think about that. At an age when the worries of the world should be as far away as possible, the ugliness it harbours enshrouded him.
There are no words to describe this. At a youth match, someone felt it right and proper to racially abuse a 12-year-old boy. I was going to talk about ‘right minds’ but it’s a pointless phrase. Racists do not have a ‘right mind’.
Hatred is a pointless emotion, wasted energy. If you hate someone on the basis of the colour of their race, creed or colour, take a good look at yourself. What kind of life philosophy is that? What will it achieve?
To be out of step with the rest of society is sometimes a good thing. In this instance, it is to be on the wrong side of history, no matter what your false prophets tell you.
A Message To You
The outrage which met the abuse Raheem Sterling restores some faith that football’s intentions are good in eradicating racism.
However, what message did the authorities send to a 12-year-old boy? It wasn’t one of peace, love and understanding, that’s for sure. It wasn’t one of taking the problem seriously. And it is certainly not one which confirmed a determined commitment to eradicating the problem from the game.
Things may have changed in the last six years and attitudes within the national associations altered to embrace the work of Kick It Out. Yet they reinforced the idea in a young boy that nobody cares. That can’t be right nor can it be allowed to happen again.
The responsibility isn’t just on the authorities; it is upon us all. They must do their bit, we ours. Racism is utterly unacceptable in any way, shape or form and we must do what we can to stop it.