Are abusive chants part of modern football?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

Today 11 men were charged with inappropriate chanting on September 28th during a game between Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Fratton Park.

The charge was a result of a police investigation involving alleged verbal abuse directed towards Portsmouth’s Sol Campbell.

The nature of the chants aimed at the former Spurs star were said to be of a racist and homophobic nature. Of course there is no excuse for such behaviour. No matter the age, nationality or race of the perpetrators. However, the most worrying factor in this case are the ages of three of the 11 ‘men’ involved.

Two 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old. It remains to be seen whether the youth’s fathers were also present at the time. But when did we start to stoop to such levels of vile conduct? The parents should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Tell me how a 13-year-old could possibly understand the full story behind Campbell’s various transfers and understand the different emotions evoked by each one.

So why do many Spurs fans despise Sol Campbell so much? Simple. His transfer in 2001 to arch rivals Arsenal sparked controversy. Not only had he ‘betrayed’ the Spurs fans by switching allegiances but he left on a free transfer, which left Tottenham empty handed for one of the best defenders around.

I can understand chants such as ‘Judas’ being directed at him by Spurs fans when they encounter him during a match. Banter among fans and players is common place in football. But the line between banter and abuse is extremely thin. The modern-day football fan is increasingly crossing the line from the acceptable to the unacceptable.

There have been many incidents in recent times where we have to ask ourselves if that an acceptable or unacceptable. On the October 11th of last year, after making a mistake which allowed Kazakhstan to score, Ashley Cole was booed by England fans for the remainder of the England’s qualifier. Opinion was divided over the morality of this issue.

One side of the argument was that as fans of our national team, we all have a duty to get behind them. If a player makes a mistake, then he needs our support more than ever. The flip side of the debate, is that as paying members of the public, we should be allowed to voice our sentiments of dissatisfaction towards players. Especially when the top players receive monstrous wages for what many fans would do for next to nothing.

Last night, Liverpool and Everton met in the 209th Merseyside derby. Prior to kick off the Merseyside police released a statement. They stated that the local derby was no longer a friendly affair and in the last few years there has been a nasty undertone to the event. Increasingly, players have become subject to abusive chants about both them and their personal lives.

One example is the abuse that Steven Gerrard suffers from Everton fans. Every derby day he has to endure chants that are a personal attack against him and his loved ones. Of course Liverpool fans are just as guilty as their neighbours and ultimately give as good as they get. Police pointed out that those caught verbally abusing players from the stands would be arrested and receive the appropriate punishment.

So how do the police catch those responsible for these disgusting chants? Plain clothed police officers in the crowd and CCTV cameras. The eleven men charged today were all caught on camera and this allowed the police to bring them to justice. It’s good to see the police are taking a pro-active role in reducing such rotten behaviour occurring at football matches.

The FA have promised that any fan found guilty of abusive chanting would be handed a lifetime ban from football matches. I just hope this isn’t another empty promise from the FA.

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