Just the one game in the Bundesliga on Monday, and though Köln gave it their best shot, they couldn’t live with Red Bull Leipzig, who bounced back into third spot with a 4-2 win. Defending. It’s not for Mondays.
Whether we learned anything is debatable — tonking their lessers is pretty much Leipzig’s thing — but we certainly had some things reinforced. Tomas Schick has excellent cheekbones. Anthony Modeste is a hero of fruitless labour. Timo Werner is going to be exceptionally, annoyingly good for Liverpool.
But enough about the football. More important than that was the frankly beautiful use of VAR that came midway through the second half. Friends, it was poetry. Took about 30 seconds, if that. Penalty given, over to the touchline. Quick look. Penalty rescinded. We’d barely had time to get up off the couch and draw an invisible rectangle in the area.
Most impressive was the fact that as far as we could tell, the referee didn’t stop moving at any point during the process. Ran over to the video screen, ran past as he looked, and ran back to the area. A perpetual motion machine of technologically-reinforced fairness. Well done to him, and to whoever was cueing up the replays. The system works.
Football takes a knee
This weekend’s Bundesliga games were dotted with tributes to George Floyd: Jadon Sancho revealed a message of solidarity after scoring, and got booked for his trouble, while Marcus Thuram took a knee. And now England’s football clubs, players, and administrators have been adding their solidarity to the protests against police killings in America.
The chairman of Kick It Out, Sanjay Bhandari, has called for all players to emulate Thuram, and has asked footballing authorities to look leniently on players that would normally incur punishments for making political statements:
They could all take a knee. Racism’s not about black players or brown fans. It’s about all of us. Racism corrodes society and we’re all hurt by it. Everyone should want to demonstrate their solidarity and disgust … I would be interested to hear what the authorities thought of that, whether it would constitute a breach of the rules.
It looks like Bhandari may get his wish, at least in Germany. The indications from the DFB are that Thuram’s protest may go unsanctioned, as “the Gladbach forward went down on his left knee and looked to the ground, which is open to interpretation, but is not against the rules and therefore requires no action from the referee.”
The idea that taking a knee is open to interpretation is of course ridiculous — we know what it means — but will be very useful for any governing body trying to balance their desire to keep politics out of football, as if such a thing were possible, and the need to avoid the massive PR nightmare that would follow any censure. If the protests are still going when the Premier League returns, we’ll see if they’re as careful as the DFB.
Odion Ighalo stays
In the big long list of things that we have lost, or might lose, to the coronavirus crisis, any given footballer’s career path will come well below almost everything else. And yet the prospect of Odion Ighalo heading back to China, his dream move to Old Trafford cut short by football’s cutting short, was a bleak one, in its own small and insignificant way.
Ighalo’s obvious glee at getting to run around in red was, by our reckoning, one of the few unarguably good and pure things going on in English football before it stopped. We wanted to see more of it. And now, lucky us, we can! Ighalo will be staying at Old Trafford until January 2021.
Indeed, this may be the rare Manchester United news story that will be pleasing for both fans and ABUs alike. The fans get to see a fan playing, and playing pretty well. Everybody else gets to chuckle at the knowledge that Ed Woodward will look at the deal and decide that’s everything sorted with the squad.
IN OTHER NEWS
You just know something good’s coming when the cameraman has to adjust to get the whole run-up in. It’ll come down. It’ll come down. It’ll come— oh well.
Over to Neil Duncanson at the Guardian for a tale of the England national team heading off to an international tournament full of confidence, even arrogance, only to find themselves humiliated in the eyes of the world. Oh, right, we’ll need to narrow that down a bit. It’s the 1950 one.
The early signals were ominous. Before flying to Brazil, the FA had deemed it too costly to leave early for the players to acclimatise to the high temperatures and humidity of South America. A kick-about in an empty Wembley Stadium was followed by three days of training at Dog Kennel Hill, the home of Dulwich Hamlet, where they were not allowed to use the first-team pitch because it was being reseeded.
Happy 58th birthday to the Battle of Santiago, a.k.a. “the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game,” a.k.a. Chile 2-0 Italy, from the 1962 World Cup. First foul? 12 seconds. First dismissal? Eight minutes.
No midweek Bundesliga this week. Turns out players need time to “rest” and “recover”. Outrageous, if you ask us.
You know who doesn’t take Wednesdays off? That’s right. Ben Snowball. He’ll be here tomorrow.