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Is Mo Salah hogging up all the class or isn't there enough to go around?

Sunday 9th December 2018

Collage: Martin Palazzotto, CC by SA-3.0

We like to romanticise sport. It's reassuring to believe football and other games bring out the best in mankind. Let's face it, though. It's been more than a decade since Mick Foley retired from professional wrestling and Mr Socko still brings more out of Mankind than anyone involved in football. Two separate events over the weekend bear me out.

Copa Libertadores

The CONMEBOL showpiece's second leg finally plays out this evening. The tie is finely balanced at 2-2 between Argentina and perhaps the continent's greatest rivals, Boca Juniors and River Plate. Except the tie isn't being played in South America. The first leg at Boca's La Bombonera went off without a hitch. The second leg at River's El Stadio Monumental never had a chance. River Plate fans laid in wait to ambush the Boca Juniors bus, throwing bottles and injuring two players in the process. 

The second game was postponed more than once as CONMEBOL attempted to find an alternate venue and give the injured players time to heal. Finally, the confederation accepted Real Madrid's invitation to host the match at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That wasn't sufficient for the Boca Juniors board. They wanted the match forfeited and the title awarded to their club. Their stated rationale was River losing hosting rights to the match was too light a punishment. There's no argument there. It is too light a punishment. There should be other consequences, such as being made to pay for Boca's added expenses in travelling to Spain and back as well as compensation for the injured players.

Not to play the match is a step too far, however. It punishes fans, not the least of which Boca Junior supporters who want to see their club beat their rivals. It's bad enough CONMEBOL couldn't find an alternate venue in all of South America to play the match.

Spanish paper Marca suggested Boca is planning to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport should they lose at the Bernabeu. Such petty posturing should be beyond them. I'm not so naive to expect better behaviour from fans who are vulnerable to the mob mentality. The club hierarchy must be above that.

When Liverpool fans attacked a Manchester City bus in the Champions League this past spring, Reds manager Jurgen Klopp apologised for the fans on behalf of the club. City boss Pep Guardiola promised the same would not occur in the return leg and left it at that. You can argue City's fans don't have the passion to act out in such a manner and you're probably right. Passion shouldn't be defined by how far over the line one is willing to cross, however. There's nothing positive in that.

Petty Jealousy

Former Fulham, Seattle Sounders and United States Men's National Team striker Eddie Johnson spent Friday ranting on Instagram and Twitter about Jordan Morris' new contract with the Sounders. Morris was given a five-year deal, three guaranteed, at roughly $1 million per.

The 24-year-old is a home-grown prodigy from the Seattle area who is filled with potential. Unfortunately, he is also more prone to injury than Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere [during their Arsenal days] combined. Morris hasn't played in over a year due to an ACL issue. He was passed over for the 2014 World Cup and would have missed out on Russia had the USMNT qualified. 

Johnson took pains to point this out in a lengthy post on Instagram, asking, "What's he done?" and inferring it had something to do with being white.

The erstwhile Cottager complained he had to go overseas to earn his first million, claimed the club sold him to MLS, who then shopped him around, and that he deserved better from the club. Having produced in the Pacific Northwest as he did nowhere else, he's right. Likening the process to slavery is dead on the mark as well. Otherwise, his memory needs refreshing.

Suggesting he carried the USMNT into a World Cup is a laugh. Former Fulham teammate Clint Dempsey, who shares the USMNT all-time scoring mark of 57 with Landon Donovan, a full 38 better than Johnson's 19, might want to reach out to set the record straight. A more accurate description would be the 34-year-old was along for the ride. 

Nor does that assessment have anything to do with Johnson's skin colour. Rather, it can be put down to his poor discipline and attitude. It's evident that hasn't changed. 

Seattle may be taking a chance on Jordan Morris' health. When the forward is fit, though, his talent and attitude make him worth keeping. If Johnson wants to know why the Sounders didn't feel the same about him, he should look beyond his skin colour the next time he stands in front of a mirror.

There's still hope

After a double-dose of depressing news, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the headline stating Liverpool striker Mo Salah had refused his Man of the Match award after scoring a hattrick against Bournemouth. WTF, I thought? The Egyptian has regressed a bit this season. You'd think he'd be happy to break out of his funk.

That's clickbait for you. It turns out the appallingly humble Salah felt teammate James Milner should claim the honour after making his 500th Premier League appearance. That, my friends, is class. And you heard it from a Manchester United fan. Peace.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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