Whether we like it or not, it is not in the interests of newspaper owners and editors to write positive stories about football supporters. It’s why the likes of the Japanese supporters clearing up their own mess after World Cup matches has to be spread around thanks to social media, but fighting between various fans will always make front page news. Lovers of the sport will read those sorts of stories trying to pick holes in them, whilst the Daily Mail-reading members of middle England can read it whilst clutching their pearls and feeling superior. Rugby matches, horse race meetings and cricket matches are all just as likely as football games to be populated by people who like a drink, some inappropriate banter and maybe even some violence, perhaps even more likely. Yet none of them get the same level of attention from the national press for the simple reason that it won’t sell as many papers and that matters more than the truth.
Japanese football fans always clean up their stadium after their World Cup finals matches. A tradition stemming back to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. #HistoryVille pic.twitter.com/7sX9OAciVZ
— HistoryVille (@HistoryVille) January 11, 2020
The truth is that the vast majority of football attendees are great people, happy to look out for each other and keen for the day to pass without incident. If you think that even Dean Court, one of the smallest stadiums used in the Premier League, welcomes more than ten thousand people for every home game yet few of them endure any issues, you can see that most of the people that love the game just want to watch a decent match play out and then head home. Even the banter between sets of supporters is mostly good natured, with only a select few taking things too far. When Everton fans were caught on camera at the recent derby making pushing gestures, it was only a limited number of them. More often than not, football is a topic that brings people together, even if they don’t support the same team. The common interest is usually a healthy thing, which is worth remembering when the United match kicks off on Sunday…
At the time of writing, I’m on holiday in Thailand. On Wednesday night my wife Rachel and I decided to have dinner on the hotel’s pier to watch the sunset. Having only that day pondered the fact that I hadn’t heard a Scouse accent when you normally do anywhere in the world, the couple on the table next to us had a distinct Merseyside twang. Or, to be more specific, one half of them did as the other was from Wigan. Rachel and I got chatting to Connor and Lucia and before long it transpired that it was their last night and Connor was a Liverpool supporter. If Lucia had hoped for a quiet, romantic final night on the island then she was destined to be disappointed, with Connor and I chatting about the Reds almost non-stop. As he told me he was a season ticket holder in the Main Stand and we agreed that it would be nice to meet up for a pint before a match as the season went on, I marvelled at the fact that football has been such a positive in my life.
Operation ‘get blind drunk so I can sleep on the plane’ is underway pic.twitter.com/BPvGhEmXhb
— Connor (@ce93lfc) January 17, 2020
Connor also told me a story that hit home. He went to see the Charity Shield, taking Lucia’s younger brother to his first Liverpool match. During the game he heard two Scousers behind him shouting racist abuse at Raheem Sterling. Connor confronted them, telling them that it isn’t acceptable in any circumstances to do such a thing. Obviously they didn’t take kindly to such a rebuke, confronting him and telling him and Lucia’s brother to meet them in the toilet if he was ‘so hard’. Connor made attempts to laugh it off, pointing out that Lucia’s brother was just fifteen. Regardless, the pair waited for them outside the ground after the match and attempted to start a fight. Soon other fans saw what was going on, asked what was happening and when Connor told them they chased the pair away, saying that they’d never seen the pair at any other away games and that they weren’t regulars, just bad eggs.
Football Brings Out The Best In People
If a newspaper got hold of Connor’s story then the headline would be about the racist abuse of Sterling, rather than the Liverpool fans that got involved to chase the racist’s away and ensure that Connor and Lucia’s brother were safe and well. Racists should always be made an example of, of course. Yet there’s a massive amount of hypocrisy involved in the manner in which this country’s press chooses to cover it. The reality is that football as a sport brings out the best in people far more often than the worst. I was reminded of the story of Mike Kearney, who I’ve been lucky enough to become friendly with through my work with The Anfield Wrap. Mike and his cousin Ste were caught on camera once because Mike is partially blind and Ste talks him through the game, letting him know what’s happening and who has scored etc. The video of the pair went viral and they were soon invited in to meet some of the Liverpool team.
“To Michael, your support is an inspiration. Mo Salah” ❤️@MoSalah invited @MikeKearney1 for a special visit to Melwood after a video of him celebrating our decisive #UCL winner against @sscnapoli went viral… pic.twitter.com/zHo67eBdfK
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 20, 2018
The meeting with the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah also went viral, largely thanks to Mike’s way with words. People wanted to share both the original video and the video of Mike and Ste’s experience at Melwood because people are mostly good and enjoy watching such things. Football is such an incredibly emotive thing that it’s difficult not to get caught up in the situation of watch a game play out. For most people that manifests itself in a desire for others to succeed, rather than to fail. There’s an argument that the biggest problem at our neighbour’s place is that they’d rather see Liverpool fail than Everton succeed, for example. Yet just as one should always look for the heroes when watching a disaster play out, so too should you remember that there are far more pleasant people involved in football than unpleasant ones. It’s a sport that brings out the good in people, even if that doesn’t make the headlines.
Totally agree with the premise. I’m a LFC supporter in the USA and the people that I have met through my local supporter’s group have mostly been lovely. There is nothing quite like getting together for a pint at 7:30am to watch the Mighty Boys in Red play a game of footy.
Also wanted to mention that I really enjoyed your “What The Season Meant To Me” on TAW after the Champions League final last year.