MBM report: Follow the build-up to the 220th Merseyside derby with Rob Bagchi
Liverpool striker committed the ultimate sin when he sank his teeth into Chelsea’s defender Branislav Ivanovic
We have all at some stage forgotten to empty the bread bin when we went on holiday, or left a pear in the fruit bowl, and returned to discover a repulsive mass of mould. Fridges help to delay this process by keeping food cold and dry, but imagine instead placing your comestibles in a warm, damp place, deliberately mushing them up and then leaving them to fester. A bacterium could hardly imagine a finer breeding ground. Imagine what vile horrors would swiftly grow within. This is the mouth.
Now imagine a colourless liquid that contains the very essence of you. Not just DNA, but enough information to detect things as varied as diabetes, allergies, recreational drug use and HIV, as well as strong doses of sex hormones and between 10 and 100 million bacteria per millilitre. This is saliva.
It’s not surprising that we find mouths, handy as they are for communicating and consuming, a bit odd. Unpleasant even. Sport has a very British attitude to the mouth. It is to be used for calling the toss, and then closed. You may run and jump, throw and catch, kick and punch, you may even hit things with sticks or shoot them with arrows and bullets, but bare your teeth and you’re in trouble.
Of course greater injury can be inflicted using a booted foot than even the most savage mouth, and very frequently is. But mouth-attacks still carry a particular resonance. As Frank Rijkaard, author of football’s most notorious incident, will attest, they are remembered when the casually cracked fibula is forgotten, and punished with a vigour forgotten when more genuinely harmful assaults are committed.
This year the Irish prop Cian Healy was banned for three convenient weeks for stamping on England’s Dan Cole in the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium in an apparently deliberate attempt to cause injury; when the Stade Français halfback Jerome Fillol spat at Bath’s Peter Stringer a few weeks later no injury was possible, but his ban will last for 14 weeks.
Aim a kick or a punch at a rival and you will be criticised for your violence; aim your saliva at them and the backlash will be worse. Two examples from late2004 illustrate the point. In one, Manchester United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy attacked Arsenal’s Ashley Cole with his studs, in the other Bolton’s El Hadji Diouf spat at Portsmouth’s Arjan de Zeeuw.
Van Nistelrooy got a three-week ban but also the support of his club, and said in a statement that “there was no deliberate attempt to harm”. Diouf got a three-week ban and a two-week fine, was condemned by his manager and said in a statement that “my behaviour showed a lack of moral responsibility”. Arsène Wenger said Van Nistelrooy was “silly”; Gary Speed, who played with Diouf at Bolton at the time, described spitting as “probably the worst thing that can happen to you”.
If attempts to injure are bad and saliva is worse, attempts to injure that involve saliva are the perfect storm of evil. Biting is normally the preserve of morally confused infants, and though footballers are prone to the occasional exhibition of juvenile idiocy, this is a level to which they are normally unwilling to stoop. But no blood was drawn by Luis Suárez on Sunday; Branislav Ivanovic’s immediate reaction seemed to be astonishment, rather than agony.
Already the Uruguayan has been fined, offered anger-management counselling, condemned by his club and forced to issue a public apology, and the FA looks set to act next. When Wigan’s Callum McManaman all-but amputated Massadio Haidara’s leg in March he met none of those fates. Why is it that football’s disciplinarians only bared their teeth after a footballer did the same?
Perhaps we need to rethink where spitting and biting dispassionately deserve to be placed on sport’s crime sheet. Without wishing to exonerate him, Suárez’s actions were neither massively violent nor necessarily evil, and something about his ongoing demonisation sticks in the craw.
His biting certainly seemed extremely weird, but can the same not be said of our approach to the mouth?
Luis Suárez salvaged a point for Liverpool in the 97th minute of Rafael Benitez's return to Anfield to leave Chelsea seething and fourth in the Premier League table. It may well prove Suárez's final act of the season after he again showed his appetite for controversy by sinking his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic.
The Liverpool striker, supposedly a favourite for the PFA Player of the Year award according to his manager, Brendan Rodgers, bit the Chelsea defender on the bicep as the pair challenged for the ball in front of the Kop on 66 minutes. Suárez left Dutch football in disgrace after receiving a seven-match ban for biting Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax against PSV Eindhoven in November 2010.
Another lengthy suspension surely awaits the Uruguay international who, almost inevitably when he should have been off the pitch, headed Daniel Sturridge's cross beyond Petr Cech with the final touch of a fractious game to dent Chelsea's hopes of reclaiming third spot.
Benítez was not the only subject of an Anfield tribute. Anne Williams, the inspirational Hillsborough campaigner who died on Thursday, three days after defying doctor's orders to attend the 24th memorial service, and the victims of the Boston marathon bombing were honoured with a minute's ovation before kick off. 'RIP Anne You'll Never Walk Alone' read the banner along the front of the Kop.
Amid the shows of respect were predictable Kop jeers for Fernando Torres whenever the former Liverpool striker touched the ball or left his mark on their central defence. Daniel Agger landed awkwardly after a nudge from the Chelsea forward in the second minute, and was fortunate his left knee did not buckle, while Jamie Carragher received a flailing arm in the face when challenging for a high ball. Torres received a yellow card and, later on, a little retribution on the back of his calf.
Liverpool, despite a promising start, appeared preoccupied with the Benítez sideshow in the first half and their distribution, movement and solidity paled in comparison with that from Chelsea. The midfield contest was not worthy of the name as Ramires and Mikel John Obi intercepted and protected relentlessly while Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard bypassed Liverpool with ease. Carelessness in possession, with Jordan Henderson a frequent culprit, increased Anfield's irritation.
It was a surprise Chelsea led by only one set-piece goal by the interval. Oscar sent a glancing header beyond Pepe Reina's left hand from Mata's corner having escaped the attentions of both Agger, his initial marker, and Carragher, the defender covering the edge of the six-yard box. Reina almost compounded Liverpool's defensive brittleness when he dropped a David Luiz free-kick behind him, only to gather in front of the line.
Liverpool threatened only sporadically, Suárez forcing a routine save from Cech at the near post, and it was only after Sturridge replaced the anonymous Philippe Coutinho at the interval that Rodgers' team hauled themselves back into contention.
Sturridge was a man on a mission, creating a glorious chance for Steven Gerrard seconds after his introduction that Cech saved with his leg and then hitting the post with a venomous drive moments later. His inevitable goal arrived seven minutes after his introduction when he volleyed home from close range following a flowing Liverpool move involving Carragher, Stewart Downing and finally a wonderful chip over the Chelsea defence from Suárez.
The Uruguay international's afternoon, however, soon nose-dived. Three minutes later Suárez handled Mata's corner and denied Torres a header at the back post. The referee, Kevin Friend, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Hazard sent Reina the wrong way following a lengthy delay due to the usual arguments.
For reasons known only to himself Suárez then sank his teeth into Ivanovic as the pair tussled in front of the Kop. He may have then scored the last-gasp equaliser, but another stain on the Liverpool striker's character and a lengthy ban will surely follow.
This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the copy has not yet been received. 100
This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the copy has not yet been received. 200
This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the copy has not yet been received. 300
This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in order to ascertain an approximate length because the actual copy has not yet been received. This is appropriate dummy text that is being employed in
Minute-by-minute report: Luis Suarez scored a last-gasp equaliser after appearing to bite Branislav Ivanovic
The band inspired dissidents and musicians and, a new book claims, meant more to youth in the USSR than in the west
Crossing the famous Finland station in Leningrad one day in the early 1960s, Kolya Vasin was stopped by a policeman who had spotted his long hair. "You are not a Soviet man!" charged the officer. "And he grabbed my hair," recalls Vasin, who was then hauled across a platform while dozens of people laughed. "I was crying from the pain, but I had to keep silent. I was afraid the man would drag me off to prison."
Vasin was a diehard Beatles fan. The Beatles' music had given him, he said "all the adventures of my life", for which "I was arrested many times, accused of 'breaching social order'. They said anyone who listened to the Beatles was spreading western propaganda." More than that, in the USSR, the Fab Four "were like an integrity test. When anyone said anything against them, we knew just what that person was worth. The authorities, our teachers, even our parents, became idiots to us."
Around this time, in Britain in 1962, a young Russian speaker from Yorkshire called Leslie Woodhead joined Granada TV in Manchester as a junior researcher, whose job included "persuading … local officials or champion knitters" to appear on a programme called People and Places. One week, a show featuring a brass band needed a further item. "There are these kids making a lot of noise in a cellar in Liverpool," advised a fellow researcher. "They haven't made any records yet."
Woodhead duly met them for a drink, and shot the first film of them playing – a lunchtime gig at the Cavern – but transmission was delayed because of a problem with the brass band's union fees. Instead, Woodhead urged his producers to allow the Beatles into Granada's studio, and play on live TV for the first time. They sang Love Me Do and Some Other Guy. Four months later, they reached No 1 with Please Please Me. Despite Woodhead's part in Beatles history, it was not the band's story in north-west England – where he still lives – but in the Soviet Union that became, Woodhead says, "an essential narrative of my times", and that propels his effervescent new book, How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin.
This tells the remarkable story of precisely how and why, as Woodhead explains, "the Beatles came to mean more, and were more important, to that generation of Soviet youth than they were here, or in America – for several reasons".
The book's main character, the Russian writer and critic Art Troitsky, makes the claim that: "In the big bad west they've had whole huge institutions that spent millions of dollars trying to undermine the Soviet system. And I'm sure the impact of all those stupid cold war institutions has been much, much smaller than the impact of the Beatles."
A grand assertion, maybe – but widely shared. "Beatlemania washed away the foundations of Soviet society," explains Mikhail Safonov at the Institute of Russian History. And the Russian rocker Sasha Lipnitsky – snowflakes falling on his beret as he talks to Woodhead in a park bandstand – insists: "The Beatles brought us the idea of democracy. For many of us, it was the first hole in the iron curtain."
All this became Woodhead's story, too. Before joining Granada, Woodhead had undergone his national service by eavesdropping on radio traffic between Soviet pilots at an airbase near Berlin. He later went on to become the documentary film-maker who, more than any other, recorded – often clandestinely and at risk – the anti-Stalinist underground in eastern Europe, and its eruptions during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Since then, Woodhead has often travelled through the new Russia to explore the Fab Four's role in the unravelling of a superpower. And of course, among his first ports of call was Kolya Vasin – yellow submarine on the wall of his apartment full of Beatles memorabilia and a cat called Hey Jude.
There are so many others – rock musicians, eccentrics, writers, dissidents – of the same vintage, with different stories to tell, but all variations on the theme. "There was not a band anywhere in the Soviet Union", says Woodhead, "that did not start life as a Beatles tribute band."
The rock musician Boris Grebenshchikov was eventually allowed to cut an album, first with the official Melodiya label, then with CBS in America, after a concert in Leningrad with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. He speaks of the Beatles with a "mystical musing" that Woodhead says he could not tolerate in any other context. Andrei Makarevich formed a Beatles-inspired band called Time Machine , who became huge in Russia from the 1970s – only to be later denounced as "un-Russian", "advocates of indifference" – and who remain iconic today.
Indeed, the repression and harassment of the music ebbed and flowed as the party controls lapsed or intensified. "It went in waves: sometimes you could be approved for an official recording, and sometimes you were banned, losing your job or education. It must have driven them insane," says Woodhead. He not only excavates the minds of the rebels but also the propaganda machine at work. He recounts how a school staged a mock trial of the Beatles – broadcast on radio – with a prosecutor and denunciations in the manner of Stalin's show trials of the 1930s. A critical bulletin shown on state TV, entitled Pop Quartet the Beatles, told the story of how "these gifted guys could be real cash earners" while, "struck down with psychosis, the fans don't hear anything any more. Hysterics, screams, people fainting!" So ran the TV commentary, accompanied by shots of dancing fans intercut with images of the Ku Klux Klan and dire poverty in the American south. "Keep on dancing, lads, don't look around," the programme taunted, "You don't really want to know what's happening. Keep going, louder and faster! You don't care about anyone else."
As Woodhead points out, to Beatles fans in 1970s Russia, "Everything west was good. The kids came to believe the exact opposite of everything they were being told all those years. Whatever the authorities said was terrible was bound to be wonderful."
Moreover, Woodhead says: "Once people heard the Beatles' wonderful music, it just didn't fit. The authorities' prognosis didn't correspond to what they were listening to. The system was built on fear and lies, and in this way the Beatles put an end to the fear, and exposed the lies."
"The more the state persecuted the Beatles," concurs Mikhail Safonov, "the more they exposed the falsehood and hypocrisy of Soviet ideology."
Looking through the other end of the telescope, it is enlightening to find what the Soviet authorities approved of. They "positively encouraged" disco music – the Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever, Abba and Boney M (though Rasputin was officially banned) – because, says Woodhead, "it was musically rigid and could be contained within the dance floor, it wasn't going to spill out on to the streets".
A concert by Santana and Joan Baez was cancelled, leading to what Russian history calls the "Rock Riot", crowds dispersed with water cannon and smoke grenades. But, writes Woodhead: "The culture commissars were untroubled by Elton John's Song Book." At Boris Grebenshchikov's concert of 1988, however, Woodhead observes how, "looking out over the kids from the best seats set above the crowd, officials and party bosses sat stiff and uneasy, spectators at a revolution they could not control".
Among Woodhead's themes is that, unlike the Beatles themselves, their insurgent followers in the USSR came from families of the cultural and even political elite: Makarevich's father was a respected architect permitted to travel to the west; Lipnitsky's grandfather interpreted meetings between Nikita Khrushchev and John F Kennedy; one rocker called Stas Namin was the grandson of a former prime minister, and friend of the great composer Dmitri Shostakovich.
The Beatles' imprint on even post-communist Russia is deep and enduring – a punk band called the Oz belts out Working Class Hero and Crippled Inside. And Woodhead's story is woven through with the ironies of "liberation" from communism; at a deeper level this is a book about all rock'n'roll – protest and pop, indeed – not just the Beatles in Russia.
At first, Soviet fans tried to cope as their home-grown but Beatles-inspired idols were tempted, argues Woodhead, by co-operation with the state – only to watch them try to assert themselves in a capitalist west that was entirely indifferent to their work. "Boris Grebenshchikov toured America, and he was a complete non-event there," says Woodhead, "after which, it took him years to recover the esteem of his Russian fans. But then, we in the west are completely unaware of this history. It doesn't help that a bunch of Soviets are singing in Russian what we think of as our music – but there's obviously a great deal of cultural arrogance on our part."
More serious was the eagerness with which capitalism devoured – and was devoured by – Russian society: Woodhead describes Paul McCartney's concert in Kiev, sponsored by an oligarch colossus, just as his famous performance in Red Square, Moscow (at which Vladimir Putin chatted with Makarevich of Time Machine) had been promoted by Alfa-Bank. "Wasn't that a perfect 21st-century deal between rock, money and politics?" writes Woodhead.
In Kiev, he sees crowds shelter from a downpour under Coca-Cola umbrellas and girls on stilt heels flocking to hear McCartney via the shopping mall "in pursuit of pink fripperies". Then, "surrounded by heavy security guards", he reflects, in our conversation, "I found myself asking, is this the Russia these kids inherited from those utopian expectations? Well, yes it is; it opened the Pandora's box."
"I used to struggle against the cops," laments Kolya Vasin, "now I struggle with these fools who do business and worship the dollar."
Then there was that realisation that the west was not the opulent land of stretch limousines it was presumed to be. Some of Woodhead's cast know this; one even has a copy of Back in the DHSS by another Liverpool band, Half Man Half Biscuit. Makarevich was surprised and appalled to find, upon finally making his pilgrimage to Merseyside, that it was so "small and poor". "We were, and still are, exponentially wealthier than they," says Woodhead. "But when did they realise that we're as fucked as they are? Not until after the end of communism."
Why the Beatles? There is no hint of the Rolling Stones or the Who in all this. In Czechoslovakia, the underground was being inspired by dark dissonance in the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa. "I think the Czechs had that recent memory of democracy, before the war," reflects Woodhead. "And their culture has roots in Kafka and the surreal. But Soviet taste was more melodic, they like tunes above all, even a little sentiment, verging on the beautiful – and there, I'm describing a McCartney song, not hypersexual rock'n'roll, or Street Fighting Man.
"It was also the right music at the right time. There had been this moment of Gagarin in space, the possibility that the Soviets may even win the cold war. Then it just fell to bits, and in the fear and disappointment, and as they said themselves: they 'needed the vitamins', and the vitamins were provided by the Beatles' music."
Minute-by-minute report: Spurs can go within two points of Man City while Liverpool can leapfrog Everton into sixth place. Follow the action with Gregg Bakowski
South Yorkshire chief constable sent email to senior staff that appeared to suggest campaign group was not telling the full truth
The police watchdog has written to a chief constable expressing concern over comments in an email about the Hillsborough disaster that were "at best ill-judged and at worst offensive and upsetting".
South Yorkshire police's chief constable, David Crompton, sent an email to his senior staff last year which appeared to suggest a campaign group representing families of those who died was not telling the full truth about the 1989 tragedy.
The email read: "One thing is certain – the Hillsborough Campaign for Justice will be doing their version … in fact their version of certain events has become 'the truth' even though it isn't!!
"I just have the feeling that the media 'machine' favours the families and not us, so we need to be a bit more innovative in our response to have a fighting chance otherwise we will just be roadkill."
The internal email, which came to light following a freedom of information request, was sent as part of South Yorkshire police's preparations for the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report last year.
It discussed how the force could use its website to respond to the findings of the panel.
When the report was published, it provoked widespread condemnation of the force's response to the disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in April 1989, which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.
It revealed how dozens of police statements had been altered to portray police in a better light.
South Yorkshire police's response to the tragedy is currently subject to a huge inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Last month, the police and crime commissioner of South Yorkshire, Shaun Wright, wrote to the IPCC when he was made aware of the emails and associated documents.
On Tuesday, IPCC commissioner Nicholas Long said the majority of the emails and documents "raised no issues".
But he said one email from the chief constable caused concern.
He said: "It referred to preparing what 'amounts to the case for the defence' and stated that the 'Hillsborough Campaign for Justice's … version of certain events had become the truth even though it isn't'.
"I consider that this is at best ill-judged, and at worst offensive and upsetting. I have written to Chief Constable Crompton to express these views.
"Families and individuals affected by the Hillsborough tragedy, along with the wider public, will rightly be concerned over the apparent attitude displayed by this communication within the highest ranks of the force which is currently under investigation in relation to the actions of its officers and staff around the disaster."
But Long said that while "these emails have serious implications for public confidence" they do not amount to recordable conduct and the IPCC does not require a formal referral.
He said it was now a matter for Wright to deal with.
Last week, Crompton said the email, sent to his assistant chief constable and head of press and communications, was not meant to cause offence.
He said: "It was never intended to cause any offence and I apologise if it has done so.
"Nor was it intended to challenge the integrity and views of those who lost loved ones in the Hillsborough disaster.
"Following the publication of the panel's report, I said in the most forthright terms that I supported the findings and that is still my position."
Wright said he was disappointed with the language used and had raised his concerns with Crompton.
Last week he said: "I accept the chief constable's regret for his language in this one particular email and his apology."
This may prove the afternoon when Manchester City had a hand prised from their Premier League trophy. With 13 games remaining Manchester United's lead is now nine points though it came close to being a potentially terminal 10 before Sergio Agüero stepped up for his side.
The champions were trailing with 12 minutes remaining when Gareth Barry floated an innocuous looking pass out to the right towards the Argentinian. Pepe Reina, for some reason, decided to charge at the ball but Agüero took a touch with his knee, left the goalkeeper watching, and then turned and fired home a sublime equaliser from the tightest of angles.
This cancelled out the equally superb strike from Steven Gerrard moments earlier. José Enrique's cross from the left was cleared towards Liverpool's captain by Gaël Clichy. Gerrard chested the ball, let it bounce once, then unleashed a 30-yard arrow that beat Joe Hart to his right.
Before kick-off the prime demand on City had been to win. But by the close of the contest, Liverpool's convincing display of pacy passing and movement suggested this draw may yet be invaluable when May arrives and the title is
handed out. In August these sides drew the reverse fixture but Liverpool had arrived here with the new Daniel Sturridge-Luis Suárez axis following the forward's arrival from Chelsea in January. The pair were the brightest players of a contest that tingled from start to finish and which Liverpool enjoyed better, stringing together the more fluid moves.
After City took the lead through Edin Dzeko it was Sturridge who fired in a fine equaliser on 28 minutes that caused fury from the home crowd. They believed Anthony Taylor, the referee, should have whistled for a foul by Daniel Agger on Dzeko and then that either he or Liverpool should have stopped play when the striker lay stricken.
Instead, to a cacophony of boos Brendan Rodgers band surged forward. As Roberto Mancini harangued Andy Halliday, the assistant referee near him and Dzeko, for not flagging for the initial incident, Sturridge struck. Javi García gave away the ball away outside the City area. Stewart Downing and Gerrard each had a touch before Sturridge let fly with a left foot rocket that defeated Joe Hart from 25 yards. This caused David Platt and James Milner to join in the complaints and Sturridge, who did not celebrate at the home of his former club, to be jeered off when replaced at the end.
City's opener had arrived five minutes earlier. From a throw-in down their left, Agüero touched the ball to David Silva who turned it on to Milner. The midfielder surged towards the by-line then delivered a precise cross that took out Agger – he lost a yard by appealing that Milner was offside – and allowed Dzeko to score with ease.
Liverpool emerged for the second half and immediately dominated. A Suárez free-kick was deflected for a corner that Downing hit too long. Gerrard and Downing combined before the winger swung in a deep ball that Suárez volleyed back across goal and a corner was won. This was stuck awkwardly in front of Hart by Liverpool's captain but the keeper cleared. Downing, who was proving influential, then got behind City down the right though the quality of his ball into the area was not matched by a team-mate gambling on the right run.
Before Agüero's equaliser City had their moments – notably when Silva appeared to be clear in on Reina before Jamie Carragher stuck out a leg to concede the corner – but it was the visitors who continued to run the show.
Sturridge's ability to run and pirouette with the ball at pace was bewildering City's defence and in Downing and Suárez he had the ideal partners to match his swiftness of thought. One triangle made by Sturridge and Downing on 63 minutes allowed the striker to burst into space and, later, there was a dazzling touch and swivel before a sweeping 35-yard pass to Jordan Henderson that launched a dizzying Liverpool counter-attack.
At the end there was a chance for Maicon to win it with a header for City but Liverpool would not have deserved to lose.