After Theo Walcott’s decision to remind Tottenham fans of the score during the most recent North London Derby, and Wojciech Szczesny putting his thoughts about Arsenal’s rivals into song, Santi Cazorla and Robert Pires were snapped with a fan holding a piece of paper mocking Spurs.
At which point does harmless fun spill over into the unacceptable? Far from where we are now. Cazorla immediately addressed the picture on his Twitter account saying he and Pires had little knowledge about what was written, and while some may be hard pressed to believe the Spaniard’s version of events, it’s nothing that warrants anything other than a smile – from both sets of supporters.
If this latest bout in the rivalry between both clubs is deemed classless and unacceptable then where are we going with the game? Walcott’s gesture to the fans should have been dismissed as nothing but light humour. Just as with the case involving Cazorla and Pires, it’s nothing that breaks the barriers into the shocking or in need of investigation.
It’s football rivalry. If football supporters are going to go into a stadium armed with all manner of wit and insult, then surely there has to be some leeway when it comes back their way. What would have been said by Tottenham fans if the role was reversed?
Cazorla and Pires may have meant little in what they were involved in, but players who are currently long-standing members of the Arsenal team do like to direct subtle jabs in the direction of their close rivals. And it doesn’t just start with those in the team at present.
Ian Wright has been fined for language used towards opposition fans – though Tottenham aren’t the club in question – and Thierry Henry recently revealed the exchange of words he had in the past during clashes with Spurs, most notably following the 2-2 draw in 2004 which saw Arsenal capture the Premier League title.
Players may or may not admit to how much of a part they played in any one incident, if we’re calling it that, but it’s certainly a way for them to endear themselves to their own supporters. Jack Wilshere commented on Walcott’s now legendary status following the North London Derby in the FA Cup.
If we’re going to start reprimanding or accusing players of joining in with the tribalism of football, then we can’t complain if they show little to no loyalty to their club later on. It’s simply a case of one or the other. And if we’re talking about the nature of the game, the former – provided it’s harmless fun – is more than welcome.