Sunday, October 30, 2011

Football's Image Problem: Idiots and Arrogance

An anecdote from last week:

Sitting on a late, crowded, stiflingly hot train. Suddenly the peace of the carriage - that funny, miserable peace that descends when everyone is as pissed off as everyone else - is broken.

There's a handful of young football fans on the train. Drunk, loud, demanding attention.

The entire train is called "fucking miserable bastards," the natives of the train's final destination are abused, an off colour joke about the "Taliban blowing the fucking train up" is cracked a bit too loudly. A lady asking for quiet is given her heid in her hands to play with.

Nothing spectacular. The arrogant boorishness that we'll all recognise in sections of our support.

Getting off the train I catch a snatch of conversation. A woman saying to her friend:

"That's football. Thugs like that watching the sort of people who set fire to their own houses."

And thus a group of what we're no longer supposed to call "neds" become linked to Mario Balotelli's indoor fireworks stramash.

From the outside looking in football relies on poor idiots paying too much money so rich idiots can be paid inflated wages by even richer idiots.

A perfect circle of idiocy.

That's probably nothing new. In many cases it's also grossly unfair.

Later that evening I was at the same game as our commuter train interlopers. I was looking at wide open spaces in the stands. And I was wondering where football's image problem will lead us.

Idiots on the pitch are defended, their punishments appealed against, blind eyes turned to their cheating.

Idiots off the pitch are instantly forgiven (in the case of players) or ignored (in the case of supporters acting anti-socially away from grounds.)

Rarely does anyone apologise. Rarely does anyone take responsibility. Rarely is anything ever football's fault.

But what do we think will happen if that woman's son or daughter asks her if they can start going to the football?

A very small display of boorish arrogance. The sort that football tends to ignore with boorish arrogance of its own. (I found it jarring at the time. But only because of the context. On a Saturday afternoon I'd barely have noticed.)

And the chance that another supporter or two might be lost.

There's a risk that we're trapped in an ever decreasing circle of idiocy.

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