Another weekend has passed, and again the degrading of football has progressed. Recently, we’ve had diving, racism and now coins being thrown and fans running on the pitch to confront players. Now, everywhere you turn you’ve got articles saying the sport is letting society down and that football fans are villainous hooligans. Give it a rest.
Of course, after all of the controversial incidents that have taken place recently, I can understand why people are concerned. The integrity of our sport is in jeopardy thanks to them, but can you generalize such incidents to make a judgement of everyone involved with football?
I’m not trying to condone the actions of those responsible for the negative media coverage here, but I am fighting the corner of football fans, we can’t all be tarnished with the same brush. Like all stereotypes, they are based on little truth and a well documented minority not representative of the entire population.
Football is the most pressurized sporting environment out there in the modern era, fact. You might not see many fans over-spilling onto a cricket pitch in drunken rage, but that’s because nobody really cares about cricket, compared to football anyway. The money that has been poured into football has increased the pressure with every Arabic or Russian playing their part. The only spectator you would have seen invading the pitch of a Manchester derby six years ago is Stuart Pearce.
The old cliché suggests that football’s a gentleman’s game, played and watched by hooligans; whilst rugby is a hooligan’s game, played and watched by gentlemen. This simply isn’t the case.
Has nobody stopped to consider the possibility that some people fall into both categories? A person can be considered a true gent, a Michael Buble, when he watches Sale Sharks on a Friday night; but then a mindless yob, a Dappy, when he watches Liverpool on a Saturday afternoon for example. It just doesn’t make sense.
I’m sure if you examined rugby crowd then you’d find the same percentage of drunken, slightly aggressive and foul mouthed ‘hooligans’ as you would in a football crowd. The fact that football attracts higher attendances means that there’s a much greater possibility you’ll find a few extremists that’ll decide to do something stupid, for instance throwing a coin or making monkey gestures.
These individuals cannot be defended, but those of us who innocently support their team at the weekend and have no interest in violence or racism have nothing to do with these people. We’re now getting suggestions that netting should be erected between the fans and the pitch to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s actions. Do me a favour.
Firstly, the netting wouldn’t serve one of its purposes, to stop coins being thrown on the pitch. Nets are good for stopping balls, which is why we have them behind the goalposts, but to stop all coins passing it would have to be extremely fine. This would inevitably prevent a clear view and would spoil the occasion of a football match for all of the innocent fans who just want to watch the game.
Anyway, you don’t get many coins thrown at your average Wigan vs Fulham type game, in fact, I can’t remember any incident of a coin being thrown at a player at the DW. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this kind of incident only occurs in the high profile games when there's plenty of hatred between the clubs. This takes me back to my point about the pressurized environment, the intense media build up and portrayal of players as villains can’t help matters either.
The disgrace appears to be specific to the English game at the minute, this is absolute rubbish too. Anyone that’s ever seen coverage of a River Plate vs Boca Juniors derby in Argentina or a Fenerbache vs Galatasaray clash in Turkey will say that in comparison, running up to Rio Ferdinand with arms wide open is rather feminine.
Correct me if something has slipped my mind here, but I can’t remember the last time an English fan stabbed an opposing fan, or an English based player killed a linesman. I’d say that us English are rather tame fans, we’re just passionate. Yes, there’s always a few that make d**k heads out of themselves when they’ve had a few too many in the pub before the game, but I’ve never attended a football match and felt threatened or unsafe. Not even when I was behind the goal when Marcus Bent was lining up a shot.
Yes, football has a lot of cleaning up to do to clear the tarnished reputation of its followers, but it’s not called the beautiful game for nothing. I’d suggest that most people in this country have at least a mild interest in football, I’d be very worried if that meant most people therefore had hooliganism tendencies.
Let’s hope we sort it out soon before those bloody nets are put up around the grounds. I thought it was an outrage when we weren’t allowed to bring bottle tops into the ground, soon we won’t be allowed to take coins in either.