If Sterling isn't Player of the Year, it will be realism... not racism

So, if Virgil van Dijk is voted Footballer of the Year this season, is that because Raheem Sterling
is black?
Makes no sense, does it, this idea Sterling is deprived of praise, respect or individual honours because of the colour of his skin? Not when the last two Footballers of the Year have not been white, or the last three to win the players' award.
Being black has never kept Sterling out of the team at Manchester City. Nor did it stop his progress with Liverpool or England. He had won 47 caps before his 24th birthday and played in two World Cups.
There is no reason why Sterling will not end his international career with in excess of 100 appearances. At the same age as Sterling now, David Beckham had just 22 caps and he went on to play for England 115 times.
On a personal level, Sterling was Liverpool's young player of the year twice, became Golden Boy of 2014 — an award for young footballers judged by journalists across Europe — has twice been Premier League player of the month and made UEFA's team of the group stage for the Champions League in 2015-16. 
And if he hasn't won Player of the Year or Footballer of the Year, then neither has Sergio Aguero. Maybe other candidates were worthy of consideration, too.
For Rio Ferdinand to intimate Sterling struggles for recognition because of his ethnicity fails to acknowledge the identity of other award recipients: N'Golo Kante and Mohamed Salah, the last two winners of major individual honours in English football. 
Before them, the PFA Player of the Year for 2016 was Riyad Mahrez.
So there is another explanation. Maybe last year, Salah's contribution to Liverpool outstripped that of any one City player. 
The year before, Kante's feat in being almost ever-present across back-to-back title-winning seasons for two clubs was unparalleled. And Mahrez was the creative driving force in the most unexpected title victory in the history of English football. 
As such, being a BAME athlete had no effect on their aspirations at all. They were judged on performance, as Sterling is, within football.
When he burst on to the scene with Liverpool in 2013-14, was he more influential than Luis Suarez? No? Well, that's why Suarez won Footballer of the Year.
We know black footballers withstand the most despicable abuse. Huddersfield are taking action against one of their own fans for a tweet sent to midfielder Philip Billing. 
Yet Ferdinand was not citing the actions of individuals. He said that if Harry Kane was in the same form as Sterling this season we would be talking of him as a Ballon d'Or winner. 
He called out a collective mindset. Yet Sterling is being mentioned in plenty of dispatches regarding individual honours. Maybe not the biggest ones continent-wide just yet, but neither was Salah this time last year.
It took Liverpool to reach the Champions League final for him to achieve the level of acclaim given to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luka Modric and understandably so. 
Kane is widely admired, but no one gave him a prayer when named in a shortlist of Ballon d'Or nominees in 2018.
This is not about race but realism. Sterling is having an outstanding year, but a Ballon d'Or winner? Have a look at Ronaldo's Champions League numbers or consider Sterling might not even collect Player of the Year at his club.
Sterling has been at the centre of very important discussions about race in English football this year but to put every perceived slight down to the colour of his skin is false. 
He may miss out to Van Dijk, particularly if Liverpool win the title. And, as a third BAME footballer in succession lifts the award, that would be a racist judgment?
FA toady won't take on Infantino
Now FA chairman Greg Clarke is on FIFA's council as a vice-president, the hope is he will wade into the fight against the revamped Club World Cup, a global Nations League and an expanded 48-team World Cup in 2022.
All are the brainwaves of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, and are opposed by UEFA and the Premier League, who want Clarke to lead a challenge from within. 
No chance. Clarke has spent most of his FA tenure toadying up to the creeps at FIFA in the hope of landing England the 2030 World Cup.
Getting a council place is all part of his charm offensive and unctuous compliance is the FA's default stance.
We're good boys these days, don't you know? We do what we're told.
£100m Jadon would haunt Manchester City at Old Trafford
Losing Jadon Sancho to Borussia Dortmund was a blow to Manchester City, but not one that has caused them too much anguish.
After all, how much opportunity would he have got in this City squad? Phil Foden has been patient in waiting for his chance, but he has long-standing ties to the club.
Sancho was lured from Watford's academy. He made the same hard-nosed decision to leave City as he did to join them — or was certainly advised that way.
It is very hard, at the elite level of the Premier League, for a young player to get the game time Sancho has been afforded in Dortmund.
City will look at their achievements under Pep Guardiola and view the loss of the odd academy prospect as an occupational hazard. Unless he ends up at Manchester United. Then it's a mess.
If United prise Sancho from Dortmund this summer — and there is a suggestion the bidding could reach close to £100m with Paris Saint-Germain also involved — that is embarrassing.
The positive is that it might make City, and all elite Premier League clubs, think more deeply about pathways. 
Putting nine past Burton Albion, or even seven past Schalke, is wonderful, but might it not be preferable to settle for slightly less and ensure the best of the young talent feels wanted?
City, in their present state, should not be losing players to United — even by an indirect route.
Sala fee was just business 
As the rounds of claim and counter-claim continue over Emiliano Sala, it has been stated that the player was touted to Championship clubs last summer for only £5million.
The implication is that Sala's fee was artificially inflated so that just six months later Cardiff were paying three times this amount — and maybe more with bonuses.
There is, however, a simpler explanation. In the first half of the season, Sala was in the form of his life and had scored 12 goals for Nantes. 
He was the third-highest goalscorer in Ligue 1. Equally, clubs looking to do major deals in the January transfer window — Sala was Cardiff's record signing — are quite often in a flap.
Cardiff feared relegation, which carries a premium, too. The going rate for a 27-year-old South American striker at a mediocre French club who has scored 36 league goals over four seasons: £5m. 
The rate for a player outscoring Neymar and Edinson Cavani to a club panicking and viewing him as a potential saviour: £15m. That isn't crooked. That's business.
It's only right to ban Chelsea now 
Chelsea are in limbo over Eden Hazard, with the threat of a transfer ban looming. 
Real Madrid's interest is genuine and it is suggested Chelsea may sell for £100million — but much depends on the punishment of FIFA.
Chelsea fully expected any ban to be delayed until 2020, allowing them to get their house in order. They could sell Hazard and finance squad improvements. Losing Hazard without being able to strengthen could prove very damaging.
Chelsea's confidence that they would have the summer to manoeuvre was based on the timeline around similar bans for Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid. 
FIFA took six months to a year to process their cases, due to appeals. It was while waiting for their punishment to be enforced that Barcelona bought Luis Suarez.
Yet Chelsea's request for their two-window ban to be frozen pending appeal has been rejected by FIFA, leading to accusations of double standards. 
Not every precedent is good, however. Plainly, FIFA's previous leniency allowed clubs to play the system.
It wasn't much of a punishment or deterrent at all if a club could do three windows work in one, while making a specious appeal.
Barcelona were not allowed to buy players throughout 2015, yet won La Liga in 2014-15 and 2015-16, because they had already prepared.
Thomas Bodstrom, a former AIK Stockholm defender and once Uma Thurman's lawyer, now handles FIFA's appeal process. He joined after the Spanish clubs were punished and clearly didn't think much of the process.
Chelsea may be horrified, but Bodstrom's ruling isn't unfair. It is what happened before his arrival that was a joke.
No sympathy for Pochettino 
At first it appeared Mauricio Pochettino was hard done by over the two-game ban for his confrontation with referee Mike Dean. Other managers have got away with more. 
Yet the revelation that he repeatedly told Dean, 'You know what you are', coupled with the very public nature of the clash, has erased any sympathy. 
There is a world of difference between challenging a referee in private, and in the centre of the pitch. 
Equally, the inference in Pochettino's words, intentional or not, is that Dean cheated, and knowingly. One-match ban for the location, another for the accusation: sounds about right.
What a turn up!
One problem with writing for newspapers is that events move constantly and even the best-considered piece can look out of date overnight. 
This week, The Guardian
 challenged us all with: 'Boiler suits — the queerest piece of clothing ever invented?' 
That Zinedine Zidane press conference in Madrid must have come as a bit of a shock.
The British Horseracing Authority have come under fire for their reaction to the carnage in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday, but if one horse is dead, twice as many fell as finished and three jockeys were accused of taking their mounts to the point of dangerous exhaustion, the event is a tragic failure. 
Amateur riders have always played a part in the Festival, but times have changed. 
If a jockey doesn't know how to guide a horse safely, or adequately, around Cheltenham, it is probably best he doesn't. 
It is ironic that clubs from the lower leagues are upset at the distribution of Carabao Cup money, with Premier League sides taking more than £10m in revenue, in addition to the prize pay-outs. 
That big clubs sell the competition and merit a greater cut, and say, is exactly the argument being used against the Football League by the biggest players in the Championship. 
Why should the logic be any different for cups?

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