The myth that soccer is a family-friendly sport
I was going to take my six-year-old boy to the soccer on Friday night, but I decided not to. After what I witnessed at the Adelaide United - Melbourne Victory game at Hindmarsh Stadium, I doubt we’ll go to a game together this season. And that should be a huge concern for Adelaide United and the A-League.
In the end, I decided to go with a couple of mates, and keep one eye on the match and one eye on the hardcore fans that are a giving the sport I love such a bad name.
I took a seat in the southern grandstand, behind the Adelaide ``ultras’‘. I deliberately chose that spot so I could keep an eye on any trouble, but there were many young families around me who just had the misfortune to be sitting near the idiots.
The first thing that hits you is the swearing. While you still occasionally hear older supporters at footy games telling young hotheads to ``mind your language’‘, that’s not the case at the soccer.
``You are f****** s***!’’ the United supporters were chanting. The travelling Melbourne fans responded with something suitably blue. And so it began.
The European soccer culture, that some A-League fans are so keen to mimic, is based on hate.
Supporter groups are segregated behind fences and need police escorts before and after matches.
Manchester United fans are goaded with songs about the 1958 Munich disaster, when half their team was wiped out in a plane crash. Liverpool fans are goaded by songs about the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 people were crushed to death. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is called a pedophile.
Classy stuff. And it’s designed to get a reaction, or start a fight.
That’s what a very small group of soccer fans want to import into the A-League.
There were over 15,000 people at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night. In the south-east corner, near the fence, there were about 150 travelling Victory fans. Maybe 50 of them were looking for trouble.
Sitting behind them, in the grandstand, were the United heroes. About 80 boys, some barely old enough to shave, having the time of their lives.
The offensive chants were one thing. But knowing they had safety in numbers, they started throwing objects. Mainly soft-drink bottles (most of these guys weren’t old enough to drink beer), but there were also reports of coins being thrown.
If you did that at AAMI Stadium or Adelaide Oval, someone in a control booth somewhere would identify you, and a policeman would have you out the door in minutes.
The poor police, forced to stand in the middle of these two sets of posturing, snarling morons, appeared unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
The strange thing about this atmosphere of hate that both sets of supporters tried so hard to create, was that I never felt intimidated by it.
It was just so comical, so staged. It was like a pantomime.
Towards the end of the match I walked along the concourse behind the Melbourne supporters. Adelaide was about to take a corner kick so I stopped and peered over the Victory fans.
The Adelaide ``ultras’’ wanted to let them know that although they may have won the game, they wouldn’t win the fight.
``You’re dead, you’re dead,’’ they chanted.
I couldn’t believe it. I turned around, and a Reds fan, leaning over the fence, stared at me, pointed at me, and snarled; ``you’re dead, c***!’‘
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Among all this baying for blood, there was very little actual violence. There was one fight between rival supporters, quickly broken up, and a few people asked to leave the ground tried to wrestle with the police.
After the match, most of the hardcore Adelaide fans were content to dance around a flare (small minds seem to be amused by bright lights), while the Victory group slipped out almost unnoticed.
As they walked down Manton St, some Melbourne fans did their best to draw the attention back, chanting the score, and reminding everyone of their record over the Reds.
As the unamused police escorted them, a group of Reds supporters followed, knowing no fight was possible with so many cops around, but wanting to look like big men anyway.
There is a song rival supporters sometimes sing at Manchester United games about Munich, with lyrics referring to flames and burning bodies.
As these two groups of idiots shadowed each other along Manton St, a Reds supported launched into the song, with lyrics changed so it referred to the Victorian bushfires.
It was the lowest act I have ever witnessed by a fan at a sporting event. And if the A-League, and United, want to continue to grow, these idiots must be identified and banned.
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