The importance of supporters in football will never find itself up for debate, with expressions like ‘the 12th man’ and ‘the driving force behind the team’ becoming synonymous with a club’s loyal legion of followers. As a single entity they thrive on creating an intense and intimidating atmosphere, serving to inspire their own team whilst unsettling the opposition. However, this desire or rather lust to prevail on a match day at all costs will unfortunately see fans resort to decadent behaviour. Far too often this season we’ve witnessed obscene gestures and repulsive chanting, which has mutated the beautiful game into an ugly spectacle.
There’s a lot to be said about the battle that occurs off the pitch as well as on it, with two sets of fans vying for bragging rights. A historic rivalry or the return of a former player adds fuel to the fire and ensures a tense mood right from kick-off. Unfortunately I only have to glance at my Twitter timeline on a Saturday afternoon to become aware of the vile songs ringing out on the terraces, which seem to harbour no boundaries on what they can and will reference.
On Sunday Anton Ferdinand was again subject to an unwarranted hostile reception at the Bridge. The QPR defender has spoken out about his difficult past few months claiming,
“Some of it has been very extreme and I’m thinking ‘how can they even be giving me any stick?” (BBC)
I for one cannot understand the reasoning behind it; here is a man who has allegedly been the victim of racial abuse and is yet somehow being criticised for reporting it? Anyone who has witnessed the particularly damning video evidence will know it doesn’t look good for John Terry, but let’s not forget he’s not that ‘type’ of player. Are football fans that devoted to their club that they cannot accept when they’re in the wrong?
Liverpool fans continue to back Luis Suarez and berate Patrice Evra despite the fact the former has already been found guilty of using a racist term. It’s perfectly acceptable to uphold the belief that individuals are innocent until proven guilty, but many seem willing to support their players beyond all realms of logic and reason.
However if performances on the pitch don’t meet the required standard or match certain expectations, then players can expect to feel the heat from their own set of supporters. The situation at Blackburn is a perfect case in point, as the Rovers faithful grow increasingly tired of the reign of Steve Kean and the Venkys. Lone talisman Yakubu has publicly admitted that he is unsure whether those at Ewood Park are fully behind the team.
“I don’t know if they don’t want us to win or [they want us to] lose, but when we concede goals it’s like they keep calling out against the manager.” (Independent)
The Nigerian’s comments reveal a harsh reality that surely questions whether we can even classify these people as ‘supporters’ in such situations. The relentless chanting isn’t even confined to the 90-minutes on the pitch, as fans continue their constant barrage of abuse on social networking sites. The likes of Micah Richards, Danny Simpson and Kevin Davies have all been forced to close their Twitter accounts whilst Darron Gibson famously shut down his page after just 97 minutes after being inundated with insults.
Last year The Mirror’s Oliver Holt was mortified when he saw a photograph of Fernando Torres being taunted after his glaring miss at Old Trafford. The image (above) didn’t reveal fans enjoying the traditional “whey” or belly chuckle, but a group of individuals red in face screaming profanities at the Spaniard whilst displaying equal measures of delight and anger. Holt hits the nail firmly on the head when he suggests that football fans have adapted the ‘X Factor mentality’, seemingly finding greater pleasure from the misfortune of others rather than their own achievements.
As a dedicated and passionate fan myself, I can fully relate to the emotional experience of watching your team bounce between success and failure. I love the witty remarks fans invent to help inject a bit of humour into an otherwise tense environment, but shudder at the realisation that it always gets taken too far. For a long time I believed such unruly behaviour was only evident on foreign shores but it’s becoming more apparent that it occurs every weekend at grounds up and down the country.
What kind of example is this setting for our younger generation of football fans? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical of us to complain when our players are abused whilst away on International duty, when it happens so frequently in our domestic leagues?
The FA must act quickly as this hideous mentality of a small group of misguided ‘fans’ continues to spread and infect a growing number of individuals. Only when clubs are hit with significant fines or forced to play behind closed doors will the message hit home that this is unacceptable in modern society.
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