I'm a huge football fan. I always have been. I grew up watching and playing football pretty much every single day as a child. Even now I will plan days/evenings around specific live games. A normal week for me will involve watching numerous live games, as well as my Sunday morning ritual of Sunday Supplement and Goals On Sunday. It can be infuriating at times, but I'm still very much in love with the game. Football, like all sports, isn't perfect. There are many negatives to it and things that annoy me. But there's one that really annoys me. The sheer hypocrisy of football fans and, to a certain extent, the governing bodies of football, when it comes to players being abused by 'fans'.
I still wince and cringe when I watch a game and see/hear some of the abuse given to players. I appreciate that as a fan you want to try to intimidate or put off the opposition so as your team can gain an advantage, but some of the stuff that comes out of grown adults mouths at times is embarrassing.
The abuse isn't the only problem or issue that I have. It's also the reaction of said 'fans' and then the likes of the FA should a player react to abuse that they receive. Banter in the stands is a good thing. Fans should be able to interact with players and be able to mock them or show their displeasure, but in pretty much every game played in front of a paying crowd there will be numerous ones that cross the lines of decency.
If you want to mock a player in order to try to put them off, that's fine. But when you start screaming expletives at them and mentioning their family and children, that's crossed the line for me. The other problem I have is that if a player then reacts by saying something back or giving them the finger, said 'fans' will often hurl more vile abuse and then even go so far as to report the player to the police. In such cases, the FA is also likely to intervene and fine the player, while the 'fans' are free to keep turning up each week and scream endless abuse at other players. I'm not saying it's right for a player to react to verbal abuse, but I know that if someone said similar things to me in a bar or on the street, they'd problem get a punch in the head. These idiots seem happy to dish out vileness, but incapable of accepting responsibility for what they're doing and saying, and accepting of any kind of retort.
The same goes for 'fans' who throw missiles at players during corners or goal celebrations. Seriously?! As a grown adult your only way to show your displeasure or dislike of someone is to hurl objects at them, which, if they struck them, could actually cause serious injury?! Again, if this happened on the street, the person would be arrested. And again, I've seen it countless times, a player has all sorts of potentially dangerous missiles launched at them, but if they dare (even gently/comically) throw something back or say something, it's them that's punished.
It was in fact this story, relating to last night's Merseyside Derby, that prompted this blog post - even though it's a view I've held for many years. The police are 'investigating', which means they're looking through TV camera and CCTV footage to try to identify the culprits. They might get lucky and manage to spot them in the video, and then may get even luckier and manage to identify them. But what will happen? Probably not a lot. They might get a banning order for a year or two (although this will unlikely stop them attending games), or maybe a small fine under a 'breach of the peace' charge, and that's pretty much it......... But imagine if Luis Suarez (or any player, for that matter) picked one of those coins up and tossed it back where it had come from - even if had done so in a lighthearted and comical manner. He'd be up on an FA charge by the end of the game, most likely resulting in a massive fine and a ban for 'bringing the game in to disrepute'.
Another recent story, which again angered me, was this one from the North London derby a few weeks back. Walcott had probably got abuse and stick throughout the game from Spurs fans. As he went off injured he decided to have a bit of banter with them by highlighting the score (Arsenal were winning, and won, 2-0). As usual, the 'fans', despite the abuse they'd probably been hurling at Arsenal players all night, couldn't handle this & pelted Walcott with coins. This could not only have injured Walcott, but also those medical professionals who were trying to carry his stretcher.
I'm not saying all Spurs fans in the above-mentioned story were abusive or throwing coins, or that every fan in a ground does this at every game. For every idiot doing such things there are thousands who aren't and are there to enjoy the game. BUT, the problem persists. It's still seen every single week, at pretty much every game. Next time you watch Match Of The Day, look at the closeups when a player is taking a corner or a throw-in in front of opposition fans. Watch if they score a goal and run past opposition fans when celebrating. These are people who I don't want to see or hear at football games. And for those going to the extremes and resorting to vile verbal abuse and throwing missiles, I'd quite happily see them banned for life!
The bottom line is, if you can't take any form of 'banter' back, don't dish it out in the first place.