Football at its best is a game of passion, pride and partisanship. Flying tackles on the pitch, wanker signs and fans faces contorted in anger off it.
The United and Liverpool rivalry epitomises this, as a fan of neither side it’s one of the relatively few games that doesn’t involve my club that I relish. One of the few derbies in English football that remains a match of uncompromising hatred. Like Portsmouth and Southampton it is the focus of a deep rooted historical rivalry between two cities with an immense civic pride.
This is something that should be celebrated, a bastion of traditional football support as it descends further and further into banter, Sloop John B and homogenisation.
Instead the game this weekend afforded the ‘BAN THEM FOR LIFE’ brigade the opportunity to mount their collective high horse and make for the moral high ground, to froth at the mouth with outrage that someone MAY say or sing something distasteful and to trip over themselves to condemn ‘vile chants’ before they had happened. In the week where the police finally admitted to the extent of the Hillsborough cover up they used the opportunity to once more criminalise fans.
At a time when the footballing world has become obsessed with things being a ‘nice touch’ any behaviour which even showed the vaguest degree of tribalism (like the United fans singing through You’ll Never Walk Alone) was jumped upon by a media dying to be offended and underlined the chasm that still exists between those who pay to watch the game and those who are paid to write and talk about it.
No one deserves to go to a football match and not come back, whether they be a supporter at Hillsborough or a player at Munich but this shouldn’t afford those who do not understand the grass roots of a game they purport to know so much about a carte blanche to completely sterilise support, tribalism and passion.
By Callum West