People talk about the ‘Football Family’ and a special bond of respect that joins football as one, uniting clubs, players, managers and fans. We all know it is not really true currently, the football family seems more of a feel-good piece of propaganda that Sepp Blatter pumps out occasionally to keep the image of football under Fifa as positive as possible. This season has shown us that football fans can come together, but also that in general, bad feeling and negativity is the natural response within the beautiful game.
Over the weekend we saw the good, the bad and the extremely ugly as fans reacted en mass after drama again gripped football. On a positive note, a little bit of that ‘football family’ spirit reared its head as Swansea received a standing ovation from opposition fans after they put on a footballing master-class at Craven Cottage, running out 3-0 winners over Fulham. It was refreshing to hear how football fans appreciated the football that had been on display, despite their side being on the end of a defeat.
At White Hart Lane we saw the best/worst of both worlds after the football family bared witness to the tragic event that now sees Bolton player Fabrice Muamba fighting for life in hospital. Initially, fans gave the classic retorts of ‘get up’ and ‘no one even touched you’, but the truth was no one in the ground was quite sure what happened. As the situation unfolded, the reactions of the fans quickly changed to disbelief and then support in a plea to help the unconscious 23-year-old man that was fighting for his life in front of 36,000 people, instead of fighting for a cup victory, regain consciousness. Humanity and compassion spread throughout every human being at Tottenham that night, followed closely by the football world – this is the family unit that can exist – it is a pity that these feelings are now so rare.
There are always some idiots who get distasteful and lower the tone in situations where sport or rivalries no longer matter. Police detained a man who made Twitter comments generally abusing Muamba in the wake of the incident that sees him critically ill in hospital. This is one of the ugly sides to football that we unfortunately have to endure and leaves a horrible taste in the mouth after events so serious. Something needs to be done; some will say this is only a few idiots or a ‘minority’, but for me there is something more sinister growing on the streets/society that is slowly transcending in to football.
Football needs to remain an escape to the daily grind and the problems everyday life throws up, we need to try and start bringing the positivity back in to all aspects of the sport. Fans need to stand up and be counted in the face of all types of abuse, whether that is on social networks like Twitter or if it is fans dishing out abuse at grounds – we all like a laugh and a joke, whilst also enjoying revelling in as much banter as possible – but we need to stand up and say something when things overstep the mark.
Despite such negativity, there is a small uprising that defies all of this, a glimmer of light; Some fans are starting to vocally expressing themselves if they find something unacceptable be it in a stadium or whilst on a social network. We have seen it more and more on Twitter, but it is also starting to happen in the stands. Some fans are also starting to enjoy football again where they can – recently a small group of about 250 Spurs fans satirically titled the ‘Tottenham Ultra’s’ went to support Spurs’ academy side in an FA Youth Cup semi-final at Charlton. They went to the pub before the game, enjoyed some good banter, before heading on to support their team – it was back to the old school as they sang all match to support their clubs youth side for no other reason than wanting to be a fan.
Modern day football has a lot of problems; the heritage of the game is fading, history is being lost in business, real fans are being overlooked and undervalued, atmospheres at grounds are not as alive as in days gone by, banter is verging on abuse more regularly. Like any family there are always problems, but it is up to football fans to not let the problems get out of control. It is time to make this season one of change; fans need to be aware of the problems that have been highlighted this season and make that change (Copyright Michael Jackson). We shouldn’t have to wait for tragedy to bring football together, it should happen regardless. Change has to happen or football could become more soulless and negative than it recently has become. I want to go and enjoy football and a day out win, lose or draw – do you?