As a player, he was the gangly goal hanger whose teammates would kick the ball at his head in the hope that it would rebound into the net. But despite his playing shortfalls, Niall Quinn is perhaps the nicest man in the game. For a start, he donated all of the proceeds of his testimonial match to charity; instead of appearance fees, the players who turned up were each given a letter from a sick child. It’s thought that the game raised over £1,000,000. But this week he reiterated his benevolence by paying over £8000 on taxis to take stranded Sunderland fans back home after they were ‘ejected’ from a flight in Cardiff. One fan said: “it must have cost a fortune, but it shows again that he’s the most decent bloke in football.” It’s not as though his status as a philanthropist has gone unrewarded; he was given an honorary MBE after his testimonial (between Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland), just to show how far a bit of generosity goes in the grab-all-you-can-get world of professional football. So here’s to you, Niall, the best loved chairman in the country.
In decidedly more depressing news, this week presented further proof that the Italians have overtaken the English as football’s worst hooligans. As Roman Ultras descended upon Manchester United’s traveling fanbase before, during and after their Champion’s League game, attacking them with machetes and chains, the Brits abroad must have considered themselves innocent victims, caught up in something rather menacing. It seems that, due to the switch from terracing to seating in English stadias and the police crackdown that followed Euro 2000, games in this country are a far safer affair than they ever used to be. Fat, balding, heavily tattooed men in their 40s and 50s with a natural predilection for violence seem to now prefer to keep their frenzied, brutal beatings to within parks, rather than run the risk of being banned from grounds. But the Italians have failed to make any great changes; the reforms are supposed to be there, but have they made any difference? You would have thought that the death of Sicilian policeman Fillipo Raciti would have spurred the authorities to dole out punishing, painful vengeance on the thug elements that throw fireworks during matches and carry knives, but nothing is being done. Stadiums (including Roma’s Olimpico) still have backless seats, which allow for charges, pitched battles and away fans setting out to ‘take the home end’, which nearly always ends in tears, blood, and criminal convictions (very few of which seem to stick). Unsure of what to do, the riot police keep a low profile until, when ordered, they bolt into the fray brandishing truncheons.
I would provide a rundown of the week’s fixtures, results, goals scored etc., but to be honest I find it tedious; everything you need to know is here.
More interesting is news that Romario, 41, quasi-legendary Brazilian striker of USA ’94 fame, is currently hovering on 999 professional goals after failing to score in Vasco de Gama’s Copa Brasil tie on Wednesday. The venue had been switched to the Maracana just for ‘Shorty’ to join Pele in spectacular fashion, but it wasn’t to be; it doesn’t, however, seem likely that he’ll give up just yet.
Goal of the week – This is a feature I’d like to introduce, although the goal featured below wasn’t actually scored this week; I was merely reminded of it. Proof that there is more to AS Roma than knife-wielding delinquents.