The hostility between football fans is something that a lot of people don’t understand. Outside of a few hundred diehard fans, there is little aggressive behaviour noticeable in the sparsely populated grounds of League of Ireland clubs.
So it’s with, at best, puzzlement, at worst, disgust, that we read about the latest battle between Manchester United and Liverpool fans.
Although to be fair, it could be argued that the Manchester United fans, while probably not on their best Sunday afternoon behaviour, were somewhat innocent compared to their Scouse counterparts.
Normally newspapers like to ignore the sick chants at football grounds, probably because it reflects badly on the national sport. But thankfully there are some brave editors out there who want you to know that Chelsea fans make ‘gas chamber’ sounds at Spurs fans, West Ham fans shout ‘shoe bomber’ at Egyptian striker, Mido, and Liverpool fans throw plastic cups of excrement over United fans.
Yes, that’s right. Liverpool fans, according to reports, threw human waste over Manchester United fans during last week’s game at Anfield. Assuming that they didn’t enter the ground with the material, you can deduce that they produced it while sitting in their seat or, more likely, in the toilets (although I wouldn’t rule anything out).
While names generally do hurt, sticks and stones certainly do. It’s such a depraved act that it beggars belief that any human being could not see beyond the moment and take a good look at themselves.
There was a further example of degenerate behaviour in the streets of Liverpool after the game. An ambulance bringing the injured Manchester United midfielder, Alan Smith, to hospital, was attacked by Liverpool fans who threw stones and bottles at it and attempted to overturn the vehicle.
Their chants of “Munich scum” (a reference to the 1958 air crash that killed 23 people, including eight Manchester United players), are somewhat common place and unfortunately seem to be almost accepted with a shoulder-shrug these days.
“These people aren’t real fans of football,” Liverpool and Manchester United said in a joint-statement this week.
Unfortunately, they are. They buy the kits. They go to matches, usually home and away. They watch the games on TV. They bring their children up to follow their club and be just like them. They are violent, hateful, brainless lunatics. And they are football fans.
And as long as the media put their head in the sand with regard to the hooligan phenomenon, justice cannot be served.
The ‘in your face’ racism that exists across Europe has been allowed to grow over the last couple of decades and now UEFA are in a position where the only punishment that the body seem to be able to hand out is a nominal fine. Even forcing clubs to play games behind closed doors or kicking them out of Europe altogether (we’d be left with clubs from Scandinavia and Luxembourg) is not the right approach.
Once clubs are not encouraging racism and are making genuine efforts to stamp it out, then the police across Europe must take action against the people who are responsible for the behaviour.
Every single fan who offends in the above ways should be banned from football grounds. Not just the one he goes to every fortnight, but every ground. The gang-mentality of football fans is one of the most hideous developments of the last 30 years. And if there is one hooligan, or racist, in Row K before the game, there could be 2-3 hooligans leaving at the end. I reference art to underline my point – watch the excellent film, “American History X”.
And justice needs to go further. An attack on any vehicle or person, never mind an attempt to endanger the lives of a severely-injured man and the paramedics who are treating him, should be punishable in the courts with a custodial sentence.
These people aren’t worthy of freedom is what the joint statement should have said.