The last seven days have proven that English football still has plenty of baggage – ugly and despicable baggage at that.
Saturday’s North London Derby was preceded by violent clashes on the streets of Tottenham, while a group of Arsenal fans were caught on camera singing an anti-Semitic song on an underground train as they travelled towards White Hart Lane.
The offensive chanting by Arsenal fans was conducted by a small group of Gunners ‘supporters’.
But what happened at Anfield last night reminds us that football’s problem is far from small. For it was not a tiny minority of Manchester United fans, but a very significant number who taunted the Liverpool FC family with a vile chorus of “The Sun was right, you’re murderers”.
I have been at 100s of football matches over the last decade and it baffles me how badly many people behave.
‘This guy doesn’t play for the team I support, therefore he is a c*nt’, seems to be the general rule. And if someone plays for – or supports – a direct rival, they are “scum”.
The rivalries that exist between the likes of Spurs and Arsenal, and Liverpool and United, are brilliant. They make English football intense and much more interesting.
But, perspective is needed.
While it is fine that people use football as escapism – to clear their minds of all other thoughts as they focus completely on their club for 90 minutes – it is vital that they remember to behave like human beings.
How can any decent person think it is OK, let alone funny, to chant about the 96 deaths of the Hillsborough Disaster, especially in a way that seems to make fun of the wrongly inferred guilt that the Merseyside community has had to battle for over 25 years?
I was at a Spurs game a few weeks ago where a hyperactive fan, probably in his 40s, was giving Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski some outrageous levels of abuse, purely because he used to play for Arsenal. This bloke’s mouth, which was pouring out a torrent of sickening personal insults, was literally foaming.
When I politely asked the bloke if he thought he was going a bit too far, he momentarily dropped his furious facade to chirpily respond: “All’s fair in love and war, mate!”
Football is not war.
For too long idiots have used their Saturday football trips to channel excess anger, to get it out of their system. It is often romantically described as passion.
It seems those viciously-gleeful United fans confuse passion for poison. If chanting about the dead is passion, then football is well and truly toxic.
Anyway, the only way I can end this rant fairly is by attempting to add a bit of balance.
I am not a Liverpool fan, far from it. But the way Anfield responded to the vile “murderers” chants was first class.
After expressing their disgust at the behaviour of the away fans in question by booing, the Kop responded by belting out: “Fergie’s right, you’re fans are sh*te.”
This is exactly how rival football fans should taunt the opposition. Shout, swear, mock and belittle by all means, just remember to stick to the subject and, if possible, be accurate!
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