Rock-bottom moments of 2012
Each year, the staff of FOXSoccer.com takes time to reflect on the past twelve months. This is the fourth in a series of pieces which will continue all week and culminate in our naming of the American Player of the Year. From all of us, happy holidays and best wishes for 2013. – JAMIE TRECKER
MUAMBA’S HEART ATTACK
When Fabrice Muamba collapsed during Bolton's FA Cup match against Tottenham on March 17th, the world held its breath. Everyone around the planet spent the following hours refreshing the news and hoping for the best. As it turned out, Muamba was clinically dead for more than an hour – but quick attention by a heart specialist in the stands and the medics at the ground saved his life. Heart screenings for professional players have increased since this incident, but there is still much to be done. Muamba was forced to retire, but at least he is still alive. And while there were many heart-warming and wonderful moments following his recovery – endless tributes, stadium-wide tifo, and 'Get well soon' T-shirts – the moment of his collapse was one of the worst of 2012. – Kayla Knapp
THE RIOT ON THE BRIDGE, WARSAW, JUNE 12 2012
The European Championship this summer was marvelous – at least, if you were in Poland. But the tournament nearly hit rock bottom on June 12 when a poorly-planned meeting between two arch-enemies left 183 people in jail and at least a dozen injured. Russian and Polish fans clashed on the connecting bridge between downtown Warsaw and the new national stadium in a planned attack stoked by far-right fans. I happened to be caught in the middle of it (Click here to watch) and at that moment, it seemed that all the progress soccer has made in eradicating the hooligans had evaporated. – JT
THE ONGOING BRIBERY SCANDALS
2011 wasn’t exactly a banner year for the standards of governance of FIFA and its subsidiary confederations. Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hammam, both FIFA Executive Committee members, were pushed from power for their alleged bribery campaign to get the latter elected FIFA president.
2012, sadly, brought more of the same. It was revealed that former FIFA president (and IOC member) Joao Havelange and his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, once the strongman of the Brazilian federation who also sat on the ExCo, had taken a combined $41 million or so in bribes from ISL, FIFA’s now-defunct marketing arm. Oh, and Bin Hammam’s lifetime ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport; FIFA has just tried to slap him with another one. – Leander Schaerlaeckens
PORT SAID STADIUM DISASTER
The unimaginable happened in February when 79 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Egypt after a match between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly. One player described the massacre as "a war, not football." The violence began after the match, and fans from both sides clashed on the field and in the stands – with many reportedly armed with knives. It was the biggest disaster in Egypt’s soccer history. – KK
ENDLESS RACIST INCIDENTS: ENGLAND
Take your pick from the multitude of racist incidents to have blighted English football. It is at least individuals these days rather than whole blocks of fans -- but this is a battle we thought we’d won. Sadly, as John Terry et al. have proven – we have not. – Jonathan Wilson
ENDLESS RACIST INCIDENTS: WORLD
It would be nice if this week’s unpleasantness from St. Petersburg was an isolated incident. Sadly, it’s not. While Zenit’s fan club might have been the most baldly brazen in their hatemongering, demanding that their club refuse to sign black and gay players, this type of behavior has become all too common. In fact, this week the head of FARE, Piara Power, told the New York Times with devastating understatement: "It’s been a tough year."
Eastern Europe gathers a lot of the headlines, but so too should UEFA and FIFA: their timidity and unwillingness to expel teams from tournaments or fine them into oblivion has created a climate where this sort of behavior largely goes unpunished.
One bright spot? MLS, which has come down hard and fast on intolerance. Colin Clark and Mark Burch were fined and banned for three games for homophobic language, as they should have been. – JT
THE BLOOD GUSHING DOWN RIO FERDINAND'S FACE
One grisly picture from the Manchester derby in December captured the problems that occur when supporters cross the line. Similar scenes play out over and over across the world: the vast minority acts poorly and taints the overwhelming majority. And the nasty gash on Ferdinand's brow – a result of a senseless fan throwing a coin at his face – brought all of those concerns to the fore yet again. It is well past time for those supporters who cannot behave properly to cut their fellow fans a break and stop marring the experience for everyone involved. - Kyle McCarthy
THE CLATTENBURG 'SCANDAL'
In October, Chelsea launched a formal complaint to the FA against referee Mark Clattenburg, accusing the official of “inappropriate language” (read: racist, verbal abuse) against John Obi Mikel, following a controversial 2-3 loss to Manchester United. The police investigation was later dropped and the FA cleared Clattenburg of all charges, instead handing Obi Mikel a 3-match ban for confronting the official in the dressing room. Perhaps fittingly, Chelsea have yet to recover from that self-inflicted wound. – Thomas Hautmann