Race row overshadows Sydney FC victory
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina is disappointed allegations of racism has overshadowed his team's momentous victory over Western Sydney Wanderers.PT6M28S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-34ma4 620 349 March 12, 2014
This next sentence isn’t particularly pleasant, but it needs to be said to explain why Ali Abbas detonated as he did last Saturday night.
“You [expletive] Arab, Muslim, [expletive].”
Flashpoint: Ali Abbas confronts Brendon Santalab during Saturday's explosive Sydney derby.
That is what the Sydney FC midfielder has told officials Western Sydney Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab called him during the fiery derby at Allianz Stadium.
Santalab has denied it, but the circumstantial evidence - in other words, Abbas’ explosive reaction - is overwhelming.
When you consider, just for a second, that Abbas is a former refugee from war-torn Iraq, whose father was killed in Baghdad in a car bomb attack in 2004, it puts into firm context why he responded as he did.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in full flight. Photo: Getty Images
Those who know him intimately report he is a man of substance and not one for hysterics, but when he is rubbed the wrong way he will go to war for what he believes in.
“You [expletive] Arab, Muslim, [expletive].”
If he said it, Santalab’s alleged remark could barely be more insulting.
It’s for this reason that Abbas looms as a hero. Just like Swans champion Adam Goodes last year, he has suffered abhorrent racial abuse but instead of turning the other cheek has stared it down - and that is something that would not have been easily done in the furnace of a packed Allianz Stadium between two adversaries with little time for each other.
“I come from a different country, I respect everyone here - I should get it back,” he told Fox Sports in a post-match interview that will have a profound and lasting influence, even if it doesn’t seem that way for him right now. “If I don't get it back, I'm going to attack. That's what happened. If people attack religion, if people attack culture - I'm against that. We need to stop that.”
It is vastly different to what has often happened in other codes - in other words, rugby league - where claims of racism are made on the field before players are dissuaded or have second thoughts by the time they cross the chalk of the sideline.
That said, maybe things are changing. Brisbane fullback Ben Barba was called a “filthy abo” on social media this week, and the swift manner in which the NRL acted and facilitated an apology from the junior player involved was heartening.
Claims that Barba shouldn't have been afforded an apology, given the circumstances of his departure from the Bulldogs amid domestic violence claims, are also baffling. When Barba is called a "filthy abo" on social media, he's not the only one insulted, but an entire race.
Whether the FFA can take quick action in the matter concerning Abbas and Santalab remains to be seen.
Santalab is digging in, from all reports, although we hear there is pressure from outside the club for him to apologise.
Primo Smallgoods boss Paul Lederer heads a consortium has been circling the FFA-owned Wanderers for months, and he is said to be furious with Santalab and his reaction.
With no footage or audio of the incident, the FFA is facing an interesting stalemate. If Santalab said it, he deserves a heavy sanction. The time for a simple apology is passing, if it hasn't slipped away at all. What happens next will help define the code and where it’s headed. Ali Abbas can stand above it all, as a proud Arab and a Muslim who this time said no.
Ben Mowen says he didn't dob in his teammates because of the infamous Dublin incident last year.
But the fact he escaped sanction, having bought a round of beers before leaving the scene that ended in 15 players being sanctioned for drinking before the Irish Test, certainly rankled some of them.
There has been tension since long before the spring tour. Mowen's abrasive, matter-of-fact style is said to have divided the national side, although it's not a parting of Moses-like proportions.
For some senior players, like James Horwill and Stephen Moore, it's been tough to handle - not least from a player who has been prepared to leave behind the Wallabies captaincy and pursue lucrative deals in French rugby.
Either way, the clash between the Brumbies and Waratahs on Saturday night looms as a Super Rugby cracker. Reds-Waratahs fixtures might have a sense of history, but Waratahs-Brumbies has all the hate. This can only be a good thing.
When I interviewed Roy Higgins in October last year, Jim Cassidy was about to join him and George Moore as the only jockey to ride a hundred group ones.
"I just hope he doesn't get too many before I die," Higgins said of Cassidy, jokingly. "By the time I leave, I hope I'm still running second to the great George Moore. But it would be no shame if I wasn't."
Higgins was given a rousing farewell with a special service involving racing royalty in the mounting yard at Flemington on Thursday following his shock death this week at the age of 75.
The passing of the legendary jockey, who won two Melbourne Cups, is a deep loss because few promoted the sport like he did.
Each time I spoke to him for a story, he gave intense and colourful insights into the sport that many people do not understand.
Higgins also once told me this: “I battled with my weight so long, for so many years, that I promised myself that when I retired that I was going to become a little fat man who would drink as many beers as he wanted.”
A raised glass to you, Professor.
Oh, and for the record, Pumper sits on 101 group 1 wins, along with Damien Oliver.
Higgins goes to his grave with 108, and hopefully a happy man.
We speak to the Roosters prop ahead of the defending premiers' first home match of the season, against Parramatta, at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
How was the body after the first game of the season?
The body was all right. It was a matter of getting used to those new rule changes, because it was much faster than we are used to.
It was a long way from the United States, where you spent a month in the off-season.
I made the most of it. I ate half of America and brought it back with me. My partner and I were told which restaurants to go to. I definitely ticked all those boxes over 10 days in New York. Then we flew to Las Vegas - Sin City - and it was a dream come true. We didn't sleep for three days. I was so amazed about how well America does things.
You deserve to let your hair down, although you came back carrying a bit. I read you topped 131kgs?
You read wrong: it was 133kgs. I told Robbo I was in control. I am back to 120kgs now. I want to get to 117kgs with these new rules.
A rig like Sonny Bill by round six?
I reckon I already do have a body like Sonny Bill. I've got him covered, that's for sure. He's a perfect specimen, but I'm not far off.
See any sport in the US?
I saw the Devils and Rangers in the NHL, and the Chicago Bulls play the New York Knicks ... I've watched Carmelo Anthony play since I can remember. Madison Square Garden: it's like watching a game on a Playstation.
The food there isn't too bad, either.
You don't just get a hotdog. They are half a metre long with cheese and sauce and my gosh... I am drooling right now.
Everyone's been talking about crowds this week.
I'd be devastated if we don't get a good crowd for our first game. It helped us enormously last year. It was a big part of our success. It helped us get home in those close ones. That is something we haven't had in the last couple of years.