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Gareth McAuley

Don't give sick racists the reaction they crave after Moussa Marega incident

Gareth McCauley


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Moussa Marega suffered alleged racial abuse at Estadio D. Alfonso Henriques (Tim Goode/PA)

Moussa Marega suffered alleged racial abuse at Estadio D. Alfonso Henriques (Tim Goode/PA)

Moussa Marega suffered alleged racial abuse at Estadio D. Alfonso Henriques (Tim Goode/PA)

I was absolutely disgusted and sickened this week after a player in Portugal appeared to be racially abused and felt compelled to leave the field of play.

Moussa Marega had just scored the winner for Porto against Vitoria de GuimarĂ£es when he decided to walk off the pitch in protest at the alleged racist chants aimed in his direction. His team-mates and coach tried to restrain him but he ignored their pleas, pushed past them and went straight to the dressing room.

While I totally understand his anger and frustration, I really wish he had stayed on the pitch and finished the game, or at the very least gone to his captain who could have asked the ref for the match to be stopped or indeed even abandoned.

There is a protocol to follow and the players are made aware of this. The England players, when they played Bulgaria last year in Euro 2020 qualifying, did exactly the right thing coming together as a collective group - putting the onus on the ref.

These ignorant people, the lowest in humanity, who scream racial abuse are just looking for a reaction. They get a kick out of Marega doing the fingers to them, or pointing to his arm to indicate the colour of his skin or walking off the pitch with his team-mates trying to restrain him.

I'm afraid he gave them what they wanted and Marega will probably get into trouble with the authorities for his actions and what they may view as inflaming the situation.

A collective group is stronger than any one individual and I really wish Marega had followed the example set by England in Bulgaria. That meant the entire focus was on the crowd, leaving the ref to be responsible for the players, their welfare and he of course took action.

The authorities would have had to act because of the ref's official report and of course we know the widespread outrage directed at Bulgaria and the ramifications that followed, including fans being punished and the head of the Bulgarian FA being forced to resign.

It's sad in this day and age that people think they have a right to abuse people just because they are professional sportsmen.

Over the years I have been subjected to shocking sectarian abuse. I've been called an Orange b**tard, a hun, a loyalist sympathiser and much, much worse. It's been screamed at me in the street, people coming right up to me and feeling they have a right to abuse me because I played football.

The natural reaction would be to strike back, but I stay silent, which believe me can be the hardest thing to do. I honestly believe I am the better person for not reacting. I don't want to give these idiots what they want which is a reaction, for me to lose my cool and to justify their disgusting actions.

I'm proud of my heritage, would never want to change where I come from but these people don't deserve any of my attention.

These issues, though, are not primarily a football problem, it is simply a reflection of society in general.

Unless teams come together, form a united front along with the refs making sure they protect the players on the pitch from this mindless verbal thuggery, then sadly this type of abuse will continue and Marega will feel the need to take the matter into his own hands.

Marega's team-mates came in for criticism for trying to restrain him rather than just allowing him to leave the pitch or going down the tunnel with him, but I have sympathy with them because they would have been aware of the protocol, just like the England players in Bulgaria, and this was giving the abusers exactly what they wanted.

Football lost this week and as someone who can't fathom why you would want to openly denigrate another human being, it's sad that these monsters are being allowed to win.

We aren't a VAR way off nailing it

When the guardians of football (IFAB) meet in Belfast next week to discuss the laws of the game, I truly hope they give the referee all the power with VAR.

I know VAR has come in for a lot of criticism, a lot of it fair, but I truly believe in the long run it can be beneficial.

It seems to be working a great deal better in Europe than in the Premier League.

And one way of improving it would be to give the ref on the pitch full control over VAR. He should be the only man in charge - not someone in a studio miles away.

All the stadiums in the Premier League have VAR monitors, so use them. They are the ones who have a feel for the game and can adjudicate. It would also stop anything other than clear and obvious.

A ref should only use VAR if they are unsure - it shouldn't be used every time the ball goes in the box.

Linesmen can also notify the ref if they feel an offside is debatable and it should be up to the ref to decide if he uses VAR.

Obviously with VAR now in the top Leagues throughout the world, it should really be uniform down the divisions, but sadly that is where financial constraints come in.

Generally the rules of football are alright and I wouldn't want them tinkered with. I know in the local Leagues around me in the West Midlands, they are trialling the sin bin for two yellow cards rather than an automatic sending off. It's for things like dissent to the ref and a bit like rugby or ice hockey - you go off for 10 minutes, cool down and then are allowed back on.

In the pro game, dissent isn't too big an issue but sometimes you do lose your top over a ridiculous decision. A sending off for that offence always seemed harsh, so maybe there is merit to the sin bin.

Chiefs should allow referees to have their say

I was delighted that my old club Coleraine won the BetMcLean League Cup Final last week, but read with interest Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter's damning comments on the referee's performance.

Baxter was fuming at ref Ian McNabb for awarding Coleraine a controversial penalty which levelled matters on the night.

So why aren't the referees allowed to explain their actions following the game?

As a player I was constantly asked to do flash television interviews as soon as I came off the pitch while managers are also requested to fill their media obligations with TV before conducting interviews with the written press. Players, once showered and changed, then have to go through a mixed zone, basically an area where the media scrum together to get as many interviews as possible with players passing through.

Emotions are still high, yet players and managers are expected to fulfil their media obligations as it is a stipulation for the relevant League or association.

But the officials are able to sit in their little room after a match and have tea and biscuits without facing any scrutiny for their performances.

I say let referees conduct media interviews, especially those in the Premier League who are professional and well paid for the service they provide.

I would certainly be interested in their explanations.

I know they are constantly assessed at each game but I think it would add a new positive aspect to the football 'show' if refs answered questions from the media.

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