A Beautiful Game?

We are very good at excusing ourselves in football.  How easily we can dismiss behaviour as “Just a bit of banter”.  If anyone questions “Offensive behaviour”, they are accused of sanitising the game.  In the past few seasons however, we have also seen a backlash of sorts.  The Sol Campbell case, the prosecution of fans for offensive chanting.  We have seen footballers coming out and talking about depression, Racism rearing its ugly head again, and with the advent of twitter, the ability to directly abuse players has become easier.  I watched the Liverpool Man Utd game from the comfort of the sofa yesterday, in my sanitised comfortable environment.  For an hour and a half, I witnessed the vast majority of the crowd booing a man who complained that he was the victim of racial abuse, a complaint which was upheld.  We saw Liverpool fans making monkey gestures, and these were widely circulated around Twitter, and seen by millions.  What staggers me, is the blanket acceptance that this is part and parcel of the game.  Why should it be?  There was a thread on NLP over the last few days with regard to Jack Wilshere’s injury.  The thread was actually more to do with hatred in football, and whether it is either acceptable, necessary or appropriate.  Is there something wrong with the game that it encourages people to actually wish permanent physical disability on someone because they are employed by a different company that the one you support?  Bullets are being sent to players in the post for daring to complain about alleged racism.  The management of QPR and Chelsea took the decision to just avoid the handshake issue yesterday, in case the media focused on it.  Are we not just avoiding dealing with an issue here?  I am not going to make a judgement on John Terry here.  He has a long list of alleged offences here, but I have not actually witnessed any evidence that he is indeed a racist.  There appears to be an acceptance however, that the kind of hatred hurled from the stands is just acceptable and part of the game.

I was brought up to support my team, not to hate the others.  The pundits after the Liverpool game talked of natural hatred.  Really?  Is it natural to hate someone because of the club they play for?  Even if they prove themselves to be loathsome individuals in terms of their own behaviour and views….Do you REALLY hate them?  Or is it just accepted as part of the game, because people are scared to actually come out and say something about it?  How many other players are now going to think twice before complaining if they know that they will be subjected to what Ferdinand and Evra experienced yesterday?  There is no real blanket condemnation, just a half hearted statement or two saying that we should concentrate on the football.

At White Hart Lane over the years, we have experienced all manner of anti-Semitic abuse, and quite rightly, we condemn it, and get frustrated at the lack of action taken against the perpetrators.  This is made even more infuriating when our fans seem to be subject to more scrutiny than most.  The “Yid” argument is one for another day, but it is, in my opinion,  a clear example of taken a negative, and turning it into a positive.  I want to see more of that.  The trouble is, for every positive in the game, there seem to be just as many, if not more negatives.  I dislike Arsene Wenger as a public figure.  I find his manner to be arrogant, truculent and deceitful.  I don’t hate the man, as I have never met him, but I doubt I would be putting my hand in my pocket to buy him a pint should I meet him.  Do I have the right though, to cough up a few quid, to go and sit in the stands and publicly accuse him of child molestation?  Because I have bought a ticket, do I have that right?  Woudl that apply to any other job, or form of entertainment?  Could I go the Theatre and scream out that I think Ian McKellen is a cunt?  Would that be appropriate?  However bad his portrayal of Lear might have been (It wasn’t), have I earned the right to do that?

I also see the word tribalism applied.  Be tribal, that’s great, support Spurs, obsess over them, scream from the stands until you can’t scream any more.  Go home and weep at the loss, weep with joy at the victory, we’ve all been there and done it.  Does it come hand in hand that you have to hate as well?  It doesn’t have to follow.

I fully anticipate a heated debate about this on the board.  I expect that I will be dismissed ad not really understanding the level of passion and feeling, and I will dispute that until the day I die.  My family have always been Spurs, and always will be.  I’ve been brought up on stories of Sir Bill, Greavesie, Blanchflower…I saw Hoddle, Ardilles, Lineker, Gazza in their prime…..I’ve seen us lift cups at Wembley, win European competitions, and do it with style and skill and flair.  Don’t tell me I don’t understand.  I just can’t bring myself to hate another man for wearing a different coloured shirt.

My youngest kids is twelve, and she is now nagging to be taken to the football.  I will do my best to get the money together, get the cover at work and take her…..but what do you all, as Spurs fans, want her abiding memory to be?  Bale flying down the wing, Parker’s crunching tackles, Modric’s midfield Wizardy, King’s majestic defending?  Or perhaps, a group of adults screaming that someone on the pitch is a rapist or a paedophile.  I know which one suggests to me that it’s a beautiful game


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