In this world of terror, poverty, famine and drought, nobody ever gives footballers a thought. Some earn just over £35,000 per week, they are made to train most of the week, and have to play football in front of 40,000 screaming fanatics on a Saturday. On top of this they are often subjected to abuse by these very fans. So at Christmas when you’re carving your turkey, spare a thought for the lot of a modern footballer.
On any normal match day, football takes over our lives. How many of us have pulled a sickie so we can watch the match? How many of us have cancelled plans because you can get a piece of the gold-dust that is a ticket? Football is now a religion, and our stadiums are our altars. At the end of the day, if Rooney decides to betray the whole city — never mind Everton — and comes back to score at the Kop for Manchester United, I’m going to unleash every single expletive that I have in my locker at the Shrek-faced pigmy (Incidentally, I feel that this is what makes national football a little bit special because I hate Rooney and Neville with a burning passion, but as soon as they don the Three Lions they are our own). Similarly if a player is playing awfully and is on around £50k a week, its my God-given right to tell him how shit he is, and how he should f*** off back to Holland (Dirk Kuyt).
Verbal abuse is what the game is nowadays for the modern fan. Sol Campbell needs to grow a backbone, as does ‘Cashley’ Cole. You betray these clubs which are passionate about football — Tottenham and Arsenal respectively — then you have to just grow a backbone and deal with it. I agree that should it go further than that — ie death threats, borderline assault — it is unacceptable. There was an example involving Campbell actually in which I have sympathy, when he was confronted by an angry Spur in the street and was called a ‘Fat Black Queer’, which is completely unacceptable. But Gordon Taylor (PFA Chief) is talking about jeering of any kind at a football match, not on the street, but in the confines of a stadium. Does he expect us to sit in silence and watch a game? The best thing that he can do is just tell his union members they get enough for what they do, so go buy a new Mercedes and forget about it.
I say these views as someone who has been to Knowsley Road (home of St. Helens RLFC) numerous times, and the abuse that the crowd give the players their is untrue. The players though, not phased, if anything they improve, and after one match when Leon Pryce was asked about abuse that he was on the end of, he smiled and in his thick, northern accent, said ‘That’s Rugby’.
I have to admit that the picture (of a young Dirk Kuyt) above is unacceptable to the point that the kid is about 10 years old, and that’s purely down to upbringing. Without branching this article out into parenting skills, this shouldn’t be happening, and if my kid gave the finger to anyone — never mind a footballer — I would smack his arse round the house. Parents should refrain from any sort of abusive language in front of children. But as I said before, that’s a debate for Social Services, not Soccerlens.
There are subplots to this story though. What about fans who abuse fans? If the PFA and FA push ahead with their plans to give players more protection, what happens to the fans who abuse other fans? For example the religious-based chanting that still goes on in Scotland on Old Firm Derby Day or the Millwall fans which cruelly mocked Liverpool fans about Hillsborough a few years back. Obviously there are more examples and the comments section will contain anecdotes from United fans about how we (Reds) chanted about Munich which itself is unacceptable, but yet the FA doesn’t say anything about those do they? Also what about players who abuse players? Unless it’s racial, players will escape sanction from the match official for insulting their peers. Is that right? Maybe the PFA should sort out its members before dealing with the crowd…
What’s your view then? Let’s hear you…