Reader’s response: Abuse in modern football

By Online Editorial

This is a reader’s response to Kieran Beckles’ Article: Are abusive chants part of modern football?, published yesterday.

One can expect to hear abuse of all sorts at a modern football match without many fans even batting an eyelid at it, yet alone a head turn. In Spain, fans throw bananas at black players during matches but why is this allowed? With the recent arrest of fans in England for racist taunts it appears that the tide is changing but some how it is hard to see it as anything more that a false dawn.

The sad reality of it is that the abusive nature and undertones that now dominate not just English football but world football (the Ultras dominating Italian football; the fanatics who control Argentinean and Brazilian football – in one case Boca Juniors couldn’t leave their dressing room for hours due to a police barricade to prevent fans from harming the team – Julio Arca, now of Middleborough can testify to this; in Spain Luis Figo had a pig’s head thrown at him by Barcelona fans as he took a corner due to his transfer to bitter rivals Real Madrid), is borne out of ignorance and a severe lack of education and understanding of why these rivalries exist. Liverpool Football Club was formed as a result of a disagreement over football issues with the original Everton football club, similar to Inter and AC Milan.

The Real Madrid and Barcelona rivalry is due to political disputes stemming from the Franco regime – yet fans now see these as matters of life and death.

In all cases – apart from maybe the exception of the old firm clubs, where this hatred is a result of deep sectarian issues – these were originally sporting rivalries that have developed into something much worse, Nick Hornby in his witty book, “Fever Pitch”, noted this change in atmosphere as early as 1980’s. The disposition of a football match has changed in part to warring tribes, a pack mentality, as if all the constraints of modern life cause these basic humanistic, nomadic instincts to be suppressed and as such we can for 2 hours a week dispose all this pent up aggression on 22 players that we have been prevented to do so elsewhere…but at what cost to our society?

The pleasant ambiance of the pre-modern society of industrialised world has long but disappeared but are we the better of it?

Yes, a football match is expensive to attend nowadays compared to times gone by and yes, footballers do get paid exuberant amounts of money – £100 million for one player is quite simply ridiculous. And, yes (this is getting tiring) if we bought something in a shop and we deemed it to be sub-standard we would return it and complain to the shop assistant or store manager until we received a refund or replacement. Unfortunately, though we cannot return a footballer or get our money back, so we do have a right to voice our discontent but does it have to be done in such a vile and disturbing manner. We can boo to air our displeasure (although not sporting, it provides necessary outlet that can be required and this is the most sane and civil) but to insult ones family? It is just preposterous. I hardly think that if one was angered by the reaction of a store manager to a complaint or at the faultiness of a product that when we would complain, we would question his sexuality, or insult his relations.

Yet, inside a stadium it is par for the course, why is this so? Surely, the Respect campaign by the FA should look into asking the fans to have respect for themselves as well as the players, as when one acts in such a manner, the only person they are letting down or hurting is themselves, as self-respecting human beings, we should know better and air our grievances in a more civil manner…then again when your team lets in a sloppy goal a minute from time to lose the match, it is hard to think rationally.

Ultimately, this phenomenon is going to get far worse before it will get better as people have not been hurt yet, it was the same with stadia conditions until Heysel and Hillsborough, policy will always be reactionary rather than initiative based.

But, then the question remains, how can it improve when the players themselves conduct in this behaviour? Graeme Le Saux suffered years of torrid homosexual abuse from players before his marriage, Zidane and Materazzi engaged in this slurring and abuse in the pinnacle of world football, having reached the zenith in football they let themselves down.

So, if the idols act this way how can we improve? Also if grown men and women are behaving in this way at a football match surrounded by children how are the younger generation to know any better? Life imitating art, a young child will always copy consciously or subconsciously their elders, thus this hate and abusive nature is borne without them fully understanding why they hate certain individuals without knowing why they do, except that they have to hate them and this is just the way it is.

Another example is the Liverpool-Manchester united rivalry, created as friendly banter due to the port industry of Liverpool (dock workers) vs. the factory industry of Manchester (factory workers), it is now a vicious hatred, where there is no limits on the abuse hurled, the death are even mocked (Munich Air Disaster). But, the younger generations have taken on this cause and heightened the tensions without fully understanding why they hate United or Liverpool but they just do as to each sets of fans the other is ‘scum’.

It does not have to be this way, it can change and it begins with education other sports can have friendly intense rivalries without being vicious and the atmosphere still remains electric, rugby being a case in point. Some how though I feel that this is not going to occur any time soon. Sadly as some of these fans would utter this is just the way it [football] is.

by Noel Burke

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