Liverpool's travel agents are under duress today, with the news that the Reds' Champions League date at Atletico Madrid next week is moving to a neutral venue thanks to the Spanish club's racist fans.
UEFA is ordering that their next two matches take place at a neutral venue "at least 200 miles from Madrid" after their pathetic performance when hosting Marseille: chants of "monkey" were aimed at Marseille's African players, and then Atletico fans decided to gild their own lily and attack the French side's bus as it left the stadium.
Of course, the game's next Wednesday, but UEFA still hasn't sorted out a venue. Wouldn't it be nice if they could figure out this stuff more than 10 days beforehand, and maybe sort out the neutral venue before making such an announcement?
Here at UF, we poke a lot of fun at UEFA and FIFA. They're run by two rather astounding idiots whose thoughts, soundbites and actions suggest that they should be living the rest of their days in padded rooms rather than running the big governing machines of our favourite sport.
However, they're absolutely right to punish the Spanish club for its loutish fans, perhaps a bit more expediency would have been nice? The match happened two weeks ago!
LFC chief executive Rick Parry spearheads the mass disgruntlement:
"To say the decision is a bit late in the day, is to put it mildly. We are extremely concerned for our supporters, the vast majority of whom have already made travel arrangements. If the match is played at least 300 kilometres from Madrid, it will cause major disruption, inconvenience and large additional expense for our fans. Uefa have to take their needs into account when making a final decision on the game."And he's quite right, too! After all, as if stealing and forging one round trip plane ticket wasn't hard enough, several Scousers might need to repeat the process.
Chairman of the LFC Supporters' Club, Richie Pedder, also chimed in:
"It is an utterly ridiculous decision so late in the day. We probably have three to four thousand fans going out to Madrid for the match. The flights will have been booked, the hotels will have been arranged, and now it's in tatters. What are they supposed to do now? I guess we're left with two options - change the destination of where the fans are flying in to, or to arrange coaches or some other form of transport from Madrid to wherever the new venue will be. But who does that? Uefa? The club? The fans themselves through the travel agents? It's a mess."It also robs the fixture of the obvious Disney-esque storyline of Fernando Torres returning to his old club, where he'd surely score a brace before half-time and end up being resoundingly booed off under a volley of offensive epithets. Pepe Reina's dad also played for Atletico back in the 70s, and he too is robbed of his different sort of homecoming, one that almost certainly no Atletico fan is aware of.
To recap: UEFA makes a good decision in the heavy fine and punishment of Atletico, which wasn't limited to two CL games at a neutral site:
- a fine of 150,000 euros
- a two-match ban for coach Javier Aguirre, who also joined in the "monkey" comments after the Marseille game. Aguirre is "banned from the sidelines, the tunnel, and the dressing room, and is forbidden from communicating with his team" for the LFC match and the PSV Eindhoven CL match on November 4th.
If it were me, I'd punish them more. The seething hatred between football fans from different teams seems to be spilling over a lot more as of late, as evidenced recently by the Croat fans on Heskey and the Dynamo fans on Louis Crayton -- not to mention that we've been here before with Spanish football fans in general -- and it has to stop somewhere. I'm glad UEFA is putting their foot down and punishing these clubs heavily for their fanbase. I hope Serie A is their next target (damn Lazio).
However, as with most things UEFA, they royally fuck up the implementation of their plan. After all, these matches need to be played at venues big enough in size or equal to Atletico's current stadium capacity, don't they? (Their home, Vicente Calderon Stadium, holds 54,000) Otherwise we face the hilarity of an LFC/Atletico tie at a 2nd Division Portuguese stadium, although I don't think there's anywhere in Portugal that's more than 200 miles from Madrid.
I hope LFC's fans are able to sort out their travel mess. You know Atletico's racism will make the trip, which begs the question: maybe the Liverpool fans can sort out that mess too?