On Friday, at an FA Cup match between Everton and Liverpool, English center back Mason Holgate, shoved Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino out of bounds at a sideline, in frustration because the Brazilian beat him to the ball they were contesting. Then, the Englishman pushed the Brazilian again, once they were out of bounds, only this time the push was so hard, that the striker ended up in the stands.
Somehow, despite being a few yards away from the outrageously unsportsmanlike act—that clearly visible action replayed countless times on the game’s broadcast and umpteen more times on YouTube—English referee Bobby Madley did not red card Holgate. In fact the clearly flagrant a violation went unsanctioned.
The same referee though, did manage to step in between Firmino and Holgate, and push Firmino forcibly away, when the striker confronted the defender over his assault. The same referee, incredibly, had no previous problem debating his 35th penalty call on Holgate with the selfsame defender, and then no problem when Holgate (at the 40th minute) clearly, visibly manhandled the game’s official.
In the home of the Premier League, that same referee managed to report to the FA that, allegedly, Firmino made racially abusive comments to Holgate after the Englishman’s assault. Yet, somehow, the assault itself seems to have gone unmentioned.
Fascinatingly, the British press, from the game’s broadcasting booth, to the post-match pundit round tables, to the print and internet press had but one focus.
The Sunday Express captured the aftermath of the incident today with this headline “FA release statement on Roberto Firmino and Mason Holgate incident from FA Cup clash.” The Guardian chipped in with “FA to investigate racism allegations after Firmino and Holgate flare-up.”
The articles’ titles and phraseology were wonderful to read. “The pair clashed during the first half…” reported The Sun. The Express and Guardian mentioned Firmino’s name first in their coverage as if the “clash” had begun with the Brazilian. Then, the Mirror, assured us that “Everton boss Sam Allardyce immediately called for the matter to be investigated by the authorities after the final whistle.” Finally, Metro reported that “…neither player was booked after the first half confrontation…”
Certainly, there was no equivalence between a physical assault and a verbal response to said assault. Right? Clearly, it was Holgate and not Firmino who instigated the “clash,” right? Surely a coach of Allardyce’s integrity would not want to interrupt the on-field action to ensure justice was done, or at least not until his side were officially the match losers. Then, he would of course want to complain, in hopes of changing the outcome or reaching some semblance of justice regarding the entire incident? It must be the latter right? And, he would not want to have only one aspect investigated, not just the subsequent reaction to his player’s assault of an opponent, right?
Wow, let’s keep in mind that in English Football abusive language from a foreign player against an English player is clearly worthy of an FA intervention, but an assault on a Brazilian player by an English one is not reason enough for even an FA investigation. It will be difficult for the English—players, clubs, coaches, and press—to argue for any equitable treatment for themselves in any upcoming Champions League, Euro, or World Cup play.