Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously uttered the phrase "football isn't a matter of life and death, it's much more important than that." His comments might have been laced with a dose of sarcasm, yet the modern game has good reason to concern itself with the basic facets of human safety.
Politics and sports are not supposed to mix, yet they invariably do, recently evident when Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger gave European soccer a wake-up when he admitted his team had suffered terror threats. Coming just a week after an international sports team, the Sri Lankan cricket side, was targeted by terrorists while on tour in Pakistan, Wenger's remarks ignited a flurry of comments and conjecture – especially in England.
The English Premier League has more diversity than any other, with Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religions represented.
"We don't regard ourselves as terror targets but you wonder why not," Wenger said on Sunday. "It has happened to us, where we have had alerts before games that we played at home.
"We kept quiet about it. I wonder about this because in England, you don't get any police escort before games – they refuse, especially in London."
The idea of terrorism in sports is one which few administrators or fans want to contemplate. Yet it is a threat that could grow, especially after the global publicity that was generated by the Sri Lankan incident.
Soccer players, with their high profiles across all sectors of society, could be seen as prime targets and the EPL, flushed with the cash from its lucrative new television deal, should take steps to boost the safety of its players.
Weekend First XI
1. Get him an Advil
Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena would have been happy to see the back of David Beckham. Instead, Arena and his team have to tread water for months, waiting for Beckham to come back to Major League Soccer after completing his loan spell with AC Milan. Then, at the end of the season, Beckham will be off again – this time permanently. In the meantime, the salary cap space used up by Beckham's contract can not be spent on rebuilding the squad.
2. Get him a beer
Brazilian superstar Ronaldo's career has been written off more times than he's had a bag of donuts for dessert. OK, well not that many times, but the porky striker defied his critics once more by scoring his first goal since returning from knee surgery to help Corinthians to a 1-1 draw with Palmeiras.
3. Get him some earplugs
Beckham. Galaxy fans are not impressed by the way the England midfielder's Milan saga has been handled, and, quite rightly, feel short-changed. Beckham can expect a hot reception when he reappears in California.
4. Four corners
• It's not often you see Kobe Bryant in awe, is it?
• Anyone fancy being a referee in the Greek first division?
• Will the long-suffering working class of South Africa be screwed out of their chance to see the World Cup by unscrupulous ticketing practices?
• Playing with "tranquility?" Has Zlatan Ibrahimovic been reading a dictionary?
5. Catch a flight to …
Manchester. There are plenty of great Champions League options this week but the second leg clash between defending champion Manchester United and Inter Milan is the pick of the bunch.
6. A round of applause for …
Eduardo Silva. The concept of playing soccer ever again must have seemed improbable to Arsenal's brilliant forward when he suffered a horrific broken leg at Birmingham last season. His incredible flick against Burnley in the FA Cup last weekend was a deserved reward for his tenacity and bravery in making a full recovery.
7. Get them a Kleenex
Lyon. The French Ligue 1 champion was the only team still in the Champions League to lose in domestic action over the weekend, going down 2-0 to Lille in a game switched to the Stade de France to accommodate a bigger crowd
8. Get ready to say hello to …
AC Philadelphia. Multiple rumors swirling on the Internet suggest this will be the name of the new Philly MLS franchise, due to start play in 2010.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
FC Barcelona Miami. We called it a few weeks ago, now it is official. Economic factors have prompted the La Liga club to ice its plans for a Florida-based MLS team. Suddenly it is Ottawa, once the ultimate outsider, that now looks good to get in when the next round of acceptances are handed out.
10. Get excited about …
The FA Cup. This season's competition has been outstanding, with upsets and fairytale stories in the early rounds and the cream rising to the top later on. If Arsenal gets past Hull in a rescheduled quarterfinal, then the Gunners, Chelsea and Manchester United will all be in the last four.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Take a look at Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Bayern Munich and Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger.
- Arsene Wenger
- David Beckham