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Football has lost sight of the fans

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In the harmful dust particles of a summer without football, it makes the decision to move the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in the winter more puzzling.

The decision to hold it in Qatar and Russia before that is tainted with the stain of corruption and FIFA politics still lingering in the corridors of football power.

Traditionally we would be gearing up for another festival of football to accompany our long, humid summer nights.

Instead, we will be watching the games mid-way through a hectic domestic and European season while we agonise over the Christmas shopping (or pretend to, at least).

For now, we have to deal with Cyprus getting embarrassed by Kosovo in the dreadful Nations League tournament.

If Cyprus demonstrated half the grit and determination that Ukraine does on the pitch, it might show more pride and get results.

But at least Ukraine has raised the spirits by making it to the World Cup play-off final despite Russia trying to bomb them out of existence.

Their emotionally-charged masterclass against Scotland earlier in the week was an example of the game going above and beyond its sphere of influence.

To reach the finals in Qatar in late November, Ukraine must next overcome Gareth Bale’s Wales, who are looking to end a World Cup jinx on Sunday.

Hosting the biggest show on earth in the desert in a country with a debatable human rights record and staunchly against diversity will need some heavy glossing.

Hopefully, fans of all colours, creeds and gender will be accepted at the tournament without being harassed or harshly treated.

Champions League

Football needs good PR and positive stories after the Champions League debacle in Paris, where the French proved to be a disorganised shambles.

Liverpool fans were well behaved, patient and not there to cause trouble; the French police behaved like a riot was unfolding.

UEFA hid behind an official investigation but, on the whole, let the French government shamelessly blame Liverpool fans for arriving at the Stade de France with fake tickets on an industrial scale.

Authorities claimed there were around 40,000 fans with fake tickets descending on Paris.

This was a well-rehearsed face-saving excuse after millions worldwide witnessed French police indiscriminately pepper-spray women and children trying to get into the ground.

The European governing body must take responsibility for having the world’s most prestigious club game delayed due to people being unable to get in the ground.

French authorities also proved they were rank amateurs at crowd control by funnelling thousands of supporters into a tiny space where people were getting crushed because the gates weren’t opened.

Such scenes in Paris are not lost on Liverpool fans who will forever live with the scars of Hillsborough when the British police used the same failed tactics, causing the loss of 97 lives.

Again, the British police lied for no good reason and blamed the carnage on Liverpool supporters to save their own neck – the French have followed their copybook.

Liverpool called France’s version of events a disgrace, while Real Madrid has also asked UEFA why it chose Paris as the venue.

Winners Real Madrid wants answers to the “series of unfortunate events” at the Champions League final against Liverpool on 28 May.

They also want to know who is “responsible for leaving the fans abandoned and defenceless”.

Arguably, the world’s biggest club pointing the finger at UEFA will send shivers down the spineless organisation.

The match was delayed by more than half an hour.

Liverpool fans have described heavy-handed policing, organisational chaos and overcrowding at the showpiece game, which was moved to the Stade de France from St Petersburg following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Real Madrid cited “unfortunate events” which took place “in the surroundings of and at access points to the Stade de France, and even inside the stadium itself” and that their fans “were victims”.

French authorities blamed ticket fraud and accused Liverpool football club of failing to control their fans; local gangs also targeted supporters.

Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt have also raised concerns with UEFA about the treatment of fans at the Europa League final in Seville on 18 May.

Given the searing temperatures, they are unhappy over the lack of water within the stadium, which the clubs said caused “severe distress” to many supporters.

Overzealous search procedures at the stadium resulted in police removing battery packs, earphones and make-up bags — all permitted items.

Without the fans, football is nothing; they need to be respected, protected and looked after, or the game will wither and die.