Leave it to legend Landon Donovan to lead the way again. Donovan is now the coach and part-owner of the USL’s San Diego Loyal. His team forfeited the final game of the season at halftime Wednesday, leading Phoenix Rising 3-1, after former Loons player Collin Martin, now playing for San Diego, was allegedly targeted with a homophobic slur by a Phoenix player.
Donovan’s plea to the referee and to Phoenix head coach Rick Schantz to intervene was heartfelt. “We have to get this out of our game,” he said. And Schantz was the embodiment of soccer’s usual reaction. “Don’t make a big scene,” he told Donovan disdainfully. “They’re competing. How long have you been playing soccer?”
Schantz tried to claim it was part of the game. Just as in Mexico, where stadium-wide homophobic taunts have been “part of the game” for years. Or in Italy, where racist abuse of Black players has, inconceivably, sometimes been met with support from fans of the player’s own team.
Lest you think this was a meaningless gesture, the forfeit meant San Diego couldn’t make the playoffs. Here’s hoping others will follow the lead. That when players and fans, from whichever team, abuse others, they too will have the courage to walk off the field and say: No more.
• El Clasico, the name for the heavyweight fights between Real Madrid and Barcelona, is one of the biggest recurring dates on the global soccer calendar. This weekend sees a historical milestone as the Spanish women’s league kicks off its season: the very first women’s Clasico. Real Madrid finally unearthed evidence of another gender and started a women’s team this season.
• Many predicted that the onset of the global pandemic would prove to be the death of a few minor competitions in the soccer world, but so far the soccer world seems to be plowing ahead. England is playing its second-tier cup competition. Germany held its own Super Cup, a glorified exhibition match. Tottenham Hotspur just finished a stretch of six scheduled games in 12 days (one was canceled because of a virus outbreak). Authorities have made a statement: Even in a pandemic, the show must go on.
Game of the week
MLS: New York Red Bulls at Orlando City, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 9. Traditionally, New York has been among the Eastern Conference powers, while Orlando has been a tire fire. Under Oscar Pareja this year, though, the Lions’ fortunes have been reversed. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have struggled and fired coach Chris Armas midway through the fall.