Monday, 24 September 2012

Persecuted

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Queens Park Rangers 1

I have positive things to say about the performance of the Rangers boys yesterday. We were excellent in so many ways: organised, creative, aggressive and a joy to watch. We haven't seen this kind of football for a long time, even in the games we won last season where we were forced to play a more defensive type of football. It's just such a shame that we didn't quite convert quite a few opportunities. I can honestly say we absolutely deserved to win this one. 

The journey to White Hart Lane was fairly miserable I suspect for most people. Apart from really being in Essex and not London, tube lines were shut in several places (bye bye Olympic spirit), we had what seemed like the coldest day so far this September AND it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. On the train there,  I was also rather amused when the poor lady sitting next to me, having noticed the rather rowdy crowd heading to Northumberland Park asked me whether this was really the Stansted 'Express.' I said 'sure it is, but for a short while it's also the 'Football Express.' But I must say, that while I take heart from a positive performance, the miserable weather and journey there set the stage for making it feel a little like something was working against us. 

I had read in the Football Ground Guide website that White Hart Lane doesn't serve beers at half time, and so when my pal and I arrived about half an hour before kick off, we queued up to grab what would be our final pint of the day. And would you believe it, by the time I got to the front, we were told 'no more beer' 15 minutes before the game. And a big sign next to the kiosk read something like 'Due to Government Regulations we cannot serve beer at half time.' Needless to say, we were none to pleased having waited 15 minutes in the first place. I couldn't help but feel like we were being persecuted for being away fans. A little like how it feels whenever we have to wait outside town for a police escort to accompany the official QPR coach (which doesn't allow alcohol anyway) to the away ground. 

I jest a little about how annoying the rule is. But with such thoughts swirling through my head would it be fair to say that we're still suffering, as football fans, from an element of discrimination that simply in this day and age, just isn't fair? The last few weeks have been important for football, and important for us as a society. The new Hillsborough Report was released, and there were several important findings, some of which we have already learned from and implemented stringent rules to control. But arguably the single biggest issue was the 'Deflection of Blame' where the findings stated: 


'It is evident from the disclosed documents that from the outset SYP sought to establish a case emphasising exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression among Liverpool fans, alleging that many arrived at the stadium late, without tickets and determined to force entry.'
I cannot speak for those poor families who have suffered for several years. It wouldn't be right or fair. But I could surmise that one of the most painful things that anyone ever has to live through is to lose a loved one under the assumption or premise that it was their loved ones fault as to why they died. 
I'd like to ask ourselves whether we are still living under some past or false legacy about what football fans do, and who we are?
I've undoubtedly touched on a complex subject. Indeed, the day we played Tottenham was also the day when we saw some touching scenes at Anfield as Liverpool played Manchester Utd. And while we were all impressed by the unity of the managers being interviewed together, the way that the Ferguson had written to all visiting Utd fans personally, and the releasing of the 96 balloons...debate still rages on  as a handful of fans decided to mimic planes (referring to the Munich air crash) which the Utd fans then responded to with 'offensive chants.' But, is chanting really something we should get persecuted for? Should we really be bothered about a handful of people to ruin the image of football fans for everyone else? Probably not. 
I must be careful not to belittle what Michael Mansfield QC has called “the biggest cover-up in British legal history" within this little blog of mine. Suffice to say, I think there is still a lot to be done to brush away some of our society's pre-conceptions about football fans. 
Interestingly, on the same day John Terry and his PR team decided to announce his retirement from football (also happening to be the day before his FA court hearing on the racial abuse case related to Anton Ferdinand). On a personal note, I tend to try not to use the argument about people not being good 'role models' for young people too much. At the end of the day, the world will always have good role models and bad role models. It's up to the rest of us adults and to parents, to help young people make the right decisions about who those role models will be. Who am I to say that someone from Celebrity Big Brother is a better role model than John Terry? That's actually what I was thinking before he announced his retirement. But he made the decision for me. His statement said: 
'I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable. 

Representing and captaining my country is what I dreamed of as a boy and it has been a truly great honour. I have always given my all and it breaks my heart to make this decision. I wish Roy and the team every success for the future.'

Here stands a man who is basically p****d off because he thinks he's going to get a charge of guilty, which will therefore make his position untenable. If playing for England is what he dreamed of as a boy and it breaks his heart so much, then why isn't he fighting for what he truly believes is right and fair? Surely, this is what a good role model should do? It seems pathetic that he should feel so persecuted given all that he has the chance to represent : the good bits about football like playing with pride, like standing up for positive things related to sport, like saying sorry? 

Here is someone who feels so personally persecuted on a day where thousands of fans paid tribute to those who were truly 'persecuted' unfairly. 

I honestly hope that this case is over and done with quickly and we can simply stop hearing about how he feels soon so that we can all move on, by focusing in the good stuff and making a much better name for football. 



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