Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Road to Rome

And then there were four.

After a very eventful two days of UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal go into battle to feature in the May 27 final in Rome. Of course, I could wax on and on lyrically about the greatest match ever in Champions League history i.e. the 4-4 Battle of the Bridge where it was literally a thrill a minute. I could predict that Barcelona will face Arsenal in a repeat of the 2006 final. Or even say on hindsight that I expected Ronaldo to rise to the occasion which he did with that 40-yarder in Porto.....but I will choose to discuss something more serious and that is the choice of venue for the Champions League final.

Rome is notorious for football hooligans known as the Ultras. "Stab City" is what Rome is known as in the football circles. Several newspapers and sports blog have expressed their concern about the safety for fans and have urged UEFA to consider moving the final away from Rome. Considering the dislike of the Ultras for English supporters and the very real prospect of an all-English final yet again, it is logical to feel threatened and disturbed by this sense of danger looming on May 27. Watching a football match as mentioned in my previous blog on Hillsborough is meant to be a day out of enjoyment. Stabbing and hooliganism were supposed to be a thing of the past and yet, till today, the violence is not ceasing. Even in Malaysia, during an FA Cup semifinal match between Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan, where rioting took place, firecrackers were set off and stones were pelted on the police.

Authorities should really take this seriously and impose bans and fines towards clubs and FAs whose fans step out of line. Take a tough stand such as exiling countries from European competitions much like what England had to go through. Sometimes, the view is that the English are a bunch of moaners and whingers and complainants, but truth be told, they have been dealt the short end of the stick by UEFA in most cases. Only the English seem to be admonished by UEFA over football violence in recent years, no other country has been warned. Spain's horribly racist supporters get away with monkey chants and banana skins all the time. I have not heard of any Italian team fined when fans turned unruly and torched stadiums. Its time for the itinerants to pay and UEFA together with FIFA must take stern measures to combat hooliganism in football terraces.

UEFA says that security will be stepped up in Rome for this final and that's their safety net. I don't think it will be enough and I hope it will be the football that will be most talked about on May 28 and not anything else.

Way too depressing....must cheer everyone up with this Ronaldo video special. I guess he must have read my entry about buck-toothed, fatty Ronaldo being greater than him, otherwise how do you explain this sick strike.

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