Thursday 18 April 2013

Divided we stand - do your own fans embarrass you?

The infighting between Millwall fans last week shocked football, but should we be surprised that supporters may turn on each other Alex Lawson asks.

If the news that Millwall fans had been involved in fighting at Wembley last weekend was
Millwall fans fight each other at Wembley
unsurprising given the club's history, then the fact it was amongst themselves did raise eyebrows. Despite some good work done in cleaning up its image, Millwall's reputation for continuing to cause violence and disturbance prevails. However, usually clashes with rivals including West Ham have hit the headlines rather than infighting like the kind witnessed during the showpiece game against Wigan reportedly started by two families. 

But should we have really been surprised by the internal clashes laid bare in the half empty national stadium? Fans of certain clubs, when attending games, are presented as one homogenous mass who all think and believe the same things. We're funnelled into certain areas by police to travel home, even though we might be going to different areas of the country, and we're presented with the same treatment from stewards.

When we're in the ground, particularly as away fans, we're treated as one - told to sit down, shut up or stay behind. 

But the truth is that there are plenty of fans I've seen who make me embarrassed to support Sheffield Wednesday. I've witnessed countless Owls fans intimidate children on trains for no reason, chuck beer cans at strangers, insult the disabled and sing disgusting things at players or police. They may be in blue and white but they look pathetic. The Wednesday faithful are regularly praised for (however wisely) attending home and away games en masse and in full voice, which makes being part of it frequently incredible, but this can easily spill over. 

These are the people who make you feel stupid when people who don't love football question your obsession with the beautiful game. They see a swathe of football fans charging through a town intent on getting pissed, shouting and giving abuse to anyone who tries to limit those pursuits. They don't see the moments we're united after a wonderful goal or clap off the side after a valiant defeat. And, however much it might not seem the case, their views count - fans can't expect to gain the respect the majority of supporters deserve if the few show us up to those without our beliefs. 

The death of Margaret Thatcher, as well as the ugly scenes in the Millwall end, have stirred up the issue of football hooliganism again in the last two weeks. Clearly considerable efforts have been made and continue to be made in reducing violence in football and make attending football matches nothing but pleasant. The Kick It Out initiative to anonymously tip off stewards if fellow fans are being racism has worked well in pinpointing isolated idiots. The mindless actions of the few must not undermine the thoughts of the many. 

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