I was quite happy when I realised the womb I had emerged from belonged to a woman who resided in England. I could have ended up giving it large (and probably getting large) in America, being bought up as a Taliban rebel in Afghanistan or even living in an igloo in the Arctic. Living in England, Britain, the UK or whatever you want to call it isn’t too bad; there is no communist regime, occasional peace and harmony amongst the people, a little game that dictates life called football and freedom of speech.
This week has seen the latest faux-pas uttered from a ‘celebrity’ on a football related podcast that has seemingly upset a nation. Alan Davies, best known for his work on TV, his stupid hair and being an Arsenal fan, made some comments during a podcast that were in opposition to Liverpool not wanting to play games on the 15th of April because it marks the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, this countries biggest ever football tragedy when 96 people lost their lives. He was expressing his opinion in a society where freedom of speech is allowed, but not welcomed.
Please listen to Davies comments before reading further if you haven’t already.
Lets get this right, Hillsborough was a dark day for English football, I don’t think there is anyone in this country that understates what a tragedy Hillsborough was and the loss of life echoes around the echelons of football still. Residents of Liverpool, both red and blue, were deeply affected by this event having lost many loved ones and you seldom hear any banter/chanting or anything else that mocks the tragedy from Liverpool’s city rivals or any other teams supporters for that matter. Families of those affected have long campaigned for the truth to come out about Hillsborough after it was covered up. Because of this, those affected are still waiting for closure even though it was 23 years ago – the scars are still raw.
I understand why some fans are so up in arms about Davies’ comments. Unless you were there or affected by the loss of someone you don’t truly know the emotions this day stirs up. You can see why Davies comments were taken in the way they were – it is a taboo subject and he went against the mainstream view on it and it seems everyone has an opinion on this.
Davies is entitled to his opinion, the same way everyone has an opinion on his comments. People deal with grief in different ways, there is not right or wrong way and it is a personal choice. For example, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard cites the death of his cousin during the Hillsborough disaster as the main motivation for his career and all he has achieved. Gerrard was directly affected, but used the tragedy as a positive to drive him on.
This season has been shrouded in tragedy, the emotions of which have been expressed in different ways: there have been minute silences, minute applause, football matches being played in tribute, football matches not being played in tribute. What Alan Davies said is not wrong nor is he being disrespectful in the principle of what he said, although he did say it in a blasé tone using disrespectful language.
This incident for me is not about the rights and wrongs of his argument or disrespecting the Hillsborough disaster, it is simply an opinion that Davies is entitled to have and that many will agree with. The reaction of people is what worries me.
Death threats, abuse and anything else that Davies has had to put up with since the podcast is wrong. Death and tragedy unite people, but this season we have seen a lot of people who seem to be jumping on bandwagons to gain status, credibility and acceptance by having a pop at someone just because they don’t agree with the mainstream. We have already seen several cases of abuse directed towards high-profile people on Twitter that have resulted in custodial sentences. When you read about the death threats and abuse that Davies has received, you wonder if people who actually were affected by Hillsborough sent them? I would say no. You would expect those that were directly affected to not become involved in such retorts; their loss is about more than a reaction to one man’s opinion.
Hillsborough should always be remember by those affected, it is about more than football that has changed their day-to-day life. In a season that has really helped put the importance of football in to perspective, there is nothing wrong in what Davies said, it is simply an opinion, but I agree that they way in which he said it was distasteful and offensive to those affected. Davies was trying to get a point across, a point that has probably been made hundreds of times before, but because he is high-profile its impact has been greater.
Davies should not be ostracized, the death threats are ridiculous and completely undermine the memory of Hillsborough. This is another example of a cancer that is spreading within the football community where people use social networks like Twitter to abuse people for no reason. People need to get an opinion for themselves, not be afraid to disagree and stop jumping on bandwagons for the sake of it.
You can find out more about the Hillsborough disaster and also the Justice Campaign by clicking here. Please leave your comments below and make sure you follow us in Twitter and Facebook for the best of football.