Football hooliganism is something which plagues the sport all around the world, but in England, it is something which is hoped to be just about extinguished. Long gone are the terraces which were last seen years ago with the Hillsborough disaster being the trigger for the reform in the English footballing culture , and in their place, are only all seater safe looking stadiums. But the events last Sunday, proved that football hooliganism is long from being diminished.
The Newcastle-Sunderland derby is always a passionate and highly charged affair, as shown by Paolo Di Canio’s vibrant celebrations on the touchline on Sunday, but the behaviour of the Newcastle fans was something which hasn’t been seen in England for sometime. Whether it be throwing bottles at police, or trying in vain to pick fights with rival Sunderland supporters, they have shown that the thug culture in English football is still very much present.
In other countries though, such events wouldn’t even make local news let alone national news. Eastern European football is synonymous with right wing fan groups making trouble, but if it will ever be stamped out, is a question that is surrounded by serious doubt.
An even bigger question though, is what football would be like, without so called ‘ultras’. From their spectacular pre match shows on the stands, which include banners of a high artistic quality, aided with the typically controversial fire crackers, they certainly do add atmosphere. But it isn’t just Eastern Europe that possesses such die hard fans. Well developed footballing countries with rich histories, such as Germany and Italy, haven’t seen their footballing cultures disappear with the success and money that have came their way.
In England though, it’s somewhat a different story. The country may lay claim to having the most popular league in the world, with clubs that consistently perform excellently on the European stage, but it is the only country in Europe, where no fan culture is in existence anywhere. Ever since the Hillsborough incident in 1989, in which 96 fans tragically lost their lives following a crush in the stadium after too many fans were let into the stadium, signalled the end of the English fan movement. Liverpool for example may still have their Kop, but you would be hard-pressed to find any other English club which has anything similar to hardcore fans.
For some though, it’s only a good thing. To be able to go to the stadium with your family to watch a game, and being able to enjoy a family day out while feeling completely safe, is something which you couldn’t do in a country like Russia for example. When I went to an ice hockey in Moscow, a game that was even relatively low key, you couldn’t help by feel intimidated by the police on horses which greeted you around the stadium. It isn’t something that I wouldn’t recommend to parents wishing to take a young child to, but the opposing argument is just as strong.
So called ultras, the right wing hardcore fans, create a fantastic atmosphere at every game, an atmosphere that can seriously intimidate opponents and affect the end result of the game in a serious way. They are just completely non existent in England though, and the closest you will get to an ultra here, is a fan that quite happily join in with the somewhat monotonous and if I’m honest boring chanting, only after their team has scored. If the result isn’t quite going their way though, you shouldn’t be surprised to see the stadium already half empty with 10 minutes still to be played.
It is a problem that is shown up horribly, every time visiting European fans are visiting. Throughout the recent Tottenham-Basel Europa League game in London, you would be hard-pressed to hear any sort of noise that sounded like British and not Swiss voices. It’s hard to know who to point the blame at though, the fans themselves, or the English footballing system which you may say, is preventing any hardcore fans, from making any sort of impact whatsoever.
For me the answer is simple, English fans are too damn lazy to get off their backsides and make an effort, something which is just part of the English culture as whole. While fans in countries such as Russia – and in poorer Eastern bloc countries such as Bosnia and Serbia may be labelled as living in a timewarp with some of their beliefs and actions – no one can doubt, the amount of effort, that they put in to their team week in week out. Something which gives their club – and country as a whole – a real strong identity, an identity that England just doesn’t possess as a result of their own laziness. Any old so called fan can buy a season ticket and sit down at the stadium, but a real fan does more than the bare minimum.
Everything has its positives though, and one of the stand out positives, is that football is a real family game in Britain. Trouble is virtually never seen in the stadium or around it, excluding the odd drunkard that has a few too many. Events on Sunday have shocked everyone somewhat however. Newcastle and Sunderland may be major rivals, but no one predicted, that such behaviour from the Newcastle supporters would have been witnessed. But if you take into account how much alcohol they would have consumed preceding the incident though, and everything starts to appear more and more understandable.
While any behaviour that endangers the safety of other should always be condemned, passion is something that should only be praised. But if anyone calls what was seen on Sunday as footballing passion, then they are just a bit deluded. Young teenagers, who joined in with the incident for the fun of it, don’t deserve the right of being called football supporters.
A more appropriate title, is thugs. Some may argue it was a show of real passion for their club for the Newcastle supporters, but it’s just a shame, that English football passion is more akin to the state of being drunk, than actually being bothered to making an effort.
Eastern Europe may be a few steps behind in terms of infrastructure and commercialism, but are streets ahead with their fans – fans who may be old fashioned – would do anything for their beloved club, something which only deserves to be admired.
Written by Shaun Nicolaides
Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93
Please like O-Posts on Facebook
You can follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts