Just What is Acceptable These Days?
Where did it all go wrong for British football? Long gone are the days of standing next to an opposition fan with a pint and sarnie in hand and appreciating fine football from both sides, regardless of who you supported. So too, we are led to believe, are the hooligan days of the 70s and 80s. In British football however now, more than ever, do we see a strata seeking to insult and to take offence at every little thing.
In the recent game between West Brom and Aston Villa we saw Albion players and fans showing respect to Petrov by wearing t-shirts and applauding pre-match. However, on the 19th minute Villa fans had organised a minutes applause. No Albion fans joined in and were then berated for being disrespectful. These are the same Villa fans who allegedly chanted “let him die” at a man in the stand who had had a cardiac arrest and earlier poked fun at a blind supporter on the tram. Taking these incidents at face value it is plain to see which is worse. Where has this layer of holier-than-thou grief monkeys come from?
In recent months we have seen the media hoo-ha over Fabrice Muamba, who we all hope has a speedy recovery, but do we all need to celebrate him walking again, talking again, or applaud at so-and-so minute because it somehow symbolises him?
We have also seen the fuss surrounding John Terry, Luis Suarez and Ched Evans. Calls to strip Evans of his award are wrong. What he did on the pitch is perfectly acceptable and must be credited if it is deserved. What he did off the pitch is awful. Why did United fans therefore seek applause in the 35th minute of a match in support for Evans? He’s done the crime, and now he must do the time.
Liverpool’s over-the-top support of Suarez and the numerous alleged racist incidents that followed treads the same path. A guy has been proven guilty by admitting his own guilt. So, why does a club plead his innocence? This is the same club that banned a fan for allegedly racially abusing an Oldham player before finding out the facts. Is this a knock-on of the Suarez affair? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? If he is guilty act, if he is innocent let it rest – don’t have one rule for a fan and another for a player.
As a sport we must all look ourselves in the mirror in terms of what we say and do in the stands, around the ground, on the pitch, and on internet forums. The so-called inbreds from down the road probably aren’t as inbred as you think and the “fan murderers” aren’t all thugs. There was a hardcore that did indeed contribute to deaths at Heysel and Hillsborough but as always it is just a small pocket. The sport as a whole must work to prevent this and we can’t do it if all fans decide to abuse their neighbours or take offence at the smallest thing - or indeed fail to recognise that there is a blot on their copybook from an incident their last generation caused.
Take racism in football. It was widespread in the 70s but once people learnt of the harm and rallied around the players who were being discriminated against, and indeed appreciated them, it was marginalized. This hasn’t taken the fun out of going to a game. It has made it more welcoming for all, both on the terraces and on the pitch.
This isn’t intended to take the fun out of football but for all fans, pundits and players to look at what they do, what they say and actually appreciate what is great about our sport, our players, and our community. We may all be rivals on the pitch, but if we can’t sit down after the game and discuss it over a pint with a rival well, what’s the point?