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Friday, Oct. 17, 2003

PREMIER REPORT

English guilty of double standard regarding Turkey's Alpay


LONDON -- The lynch mob arrived with xenophobia in abundance.

Christopher Davies

England's game in Turkey was never going to pass without some sort of backlash, even if there were no visiting fans to smash up Istanbul and the target turned out to be Alpay of Aston Villa.

The treatment of the center-half this week has surely proved that when it comes to hypocrisy, few do this dubious art better than the English.

Alpay clearly said something to David Beckham after the England captain slipped and skied a penalty into row Z behind Rustu's goal. The Turkey defender then poked a finger in Beckham's face -- allegedly insulting the Real Madrid midfielder's mother -- as the players left the field at halftime.

Not exactly the Corinthian spirit, granted, but standard provocation in football 2003, unpleasant and essentially harmless.

Thankfully this type of thing does not happen in English football. There has been no recorded case of opponents goading an opponent after a penalty miss since . . . well, Sept. 21, when a posse of Arsenal players rounded on Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The media hysteria and anti-Alpay feeling generated by it forced the Villa player to inquire about 24-hour security for him and his family. His future with Villa, where admittedly he has hardly become a legend, is even more uncertain in the wake of Alpay's actions in Istanbul.

John Terry, the Chelsea and England defender, said: "If Alpay gets a load of stick he deserves it. What he did was totally unprofessional -- and people will remember that."

What Terry does not seem to have remembered was something Alpay and many others might consider an unprofessional act, when Terry and some Chelsea teammates were drunk, laughing and joking and were asked to leave an establishment full of Americans the day after the Sept. 11 tragedies. The players were fined by the club.

Terry also spoke about the pushing and shoving in the tunnel at halftime "where every single one of us was there for each other, shoulder to shoulder like brothers."

According to The Sun, this included a right-hander from Wayne Rooney delivered to Alpay.

A few days before the match The Sun had said in an editorial: "Fans are sick of overpaid players who behave both on and off the field like foul-mouthed, mindless louts. All players have a duty to set a good example to the children who worship them and the fans who copy them."

These sentiments do not appear to apply to Turks being bashed up, though.

After the game The Sun said: "England wonderkid Wayne Rooney THUMPED [note capital letter for extra emphasis] foul-mouthed Turk Alpay to protect David Beckham. Becks went after Alpay but it was Everton ace Rooney who put the yob in his place."

So that's OK then. Say something or poke someone in the face and you're sent to the Tower of London. Thump a Turk and you're a hero.

Beckham should, perhaps, reflect on the way he reveals what opponents allegedly say to him in the heat of the battle (and it is impossible to believe such sentiments are not dished out by English players).

The England captain claimed a Macedonia player said something not very nice to him in Skopje (shock horror) and now the horrible Alpay also uttered some nasty words, which the Turk denies by the way.

This correspondent remembers an incident during an England-France game a while back when Stuart Pearce was headbutted by Basile Boli.

Pearce's reaction was to simply stand there -- I swear he did not even blink -- and the message was loud and clear. Sticks and stone or words . . . nothing will ever harm me. Boli did not go anywhere near Pearce again.

In many respects the treatment of Alpay this week says more about the English than the Turks. We demean ourselves, rather than Alpay, when the lynch mob is up and running.

"I DON'T KNOW what it is with me," said Fernando Ricksen of Scottish champion Rangers. "Wherever I go there always seems to be trouble."

The Dutch defender's observation is beyond all reasonable doubt.

Last week Ricksen was fined £7,000 for an assault on a neighbor after a row about fireworks.

Ricksen originally denied charges of assault and breach of the peace but changed his plea in court where he was fined £5,000 and £2,000, respectively, for the two offenses.

The neighbor had complained about Ricksen setting off fireworks in his garden at 5 a.m. Ricksen's view that he was "surrounded by a mountain of old age pensioners who are in bed by 11:00 every night and start moaning and ringing the police" did not help his cause.

Strangely, his wife Graciela was not very understanding when Ricksen brought home a lap dancer from a club and spent the evening bouncing with her on a trampoline in the garden. As you do.

When Ricksen was in Belarus with Holland and lost his hotel key, he felt there was only one thing he could do to gain entry to his room. He broke down the door.

It was also in Belarus that he was allegedly so drunk that to prove his sobriety he consumed the entire contents of a vase of flowers in the hotel lobby.

Then there was the one-year ban for drunk-driving.

And the karate kick on Aberdeen's Darren Young ("he needed straightening out.").

Earlier this month, for a laugh, he pushed a guy into a hotel swimming pool. Ricksen then discovered that the guy was, in fact, Rangers chairman John McClelland.

Thankfully, McClelland's Cartier watch that was ruined was only worth £12,000. It is not known how much the digital camera and mobile phone that were also ruined were worth.

Ricksen's on-off stormy relationship with Graciela is now back on again after he told his wife he could not live without her.

Romantic, eh?

Well, not quite. Ricksen has "Graciela" tattooed on one arm and quite reasonably pointed out that "it would be hard to find another girl with a name like that."

Ricksen has almost recovered from a serious blow to the head after an accidental clash with teammate Henning Berg.

Whether it's knocked any sense in him remains to be seen.

Christopher Davies covers Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland for the London Daily Telegraph.


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