A friend of mine is a rugby fan and although he also likes the beautiful game he prefers going to watch the oval ball these days more than the round one. I too like rugger and played it for three seasons but although I enjoyed the playing side, I will always choose football to watch as to me it’s the greatest sport on the planet even though it has many faults.
My pal though never stops telling me about how friendly it all is with fans of both sides sitting alongside each other having banter but never ending in aggro, and having a drink together before and after a game whatever the outcome of the match. Also the police numbers are few and the stewards are relaxed and not in your face so the whole experience is laid back which leaves you wanting to return for the next game. He also says that at certain football matches he was always on edge especially with his young son with him and that it could “kick off ” at any time especially after a game, and he never gets that at rugby fixtures. I always stick up for my sport as best as I can but on his aggro analogy I do struggle as we have to admit that violence is still part of football whether we like it or not.
I remember well how bad the violence was back in the 70’s/80’s when many grounds were like battlefields with punch ups before, during and after a match. You had to be ready to fight or flee as rival fans tried to take your “end” and I witnessed some very nasty incidents which resulted in serious injuries on both sides. You would think I’m writing about some war or conflict and not a football match but as anyone who attended games in those decades would agree it was a crazy and insane time when you hoped you would make it back home in one piece. Thankfully football violence isn’t as bad these days as it was back then but has it really gone away?
I’d have to say no it hasn’t as due to social media, rival thugs can now arrange to meet up to settle scores etc and away from the stadiums fights do take place, as due to stringent safety measures inside grounds now with CCTV and police/stewards they can’t steam in to each other like they did back in the bad old days.
I’m not proud to admit but I for a time got involved in hooliganism but I just put it down to being young and didn’t want to lose “face” in front of my fellow fans. Come match day, once inside the ground you became part of the gang and I saw placid lads turn into aggressive yobs during certain encounters but once it had ended they like me returned to being a normal decent person again.
Of course violence of any kind is wrong at matches but it just seemed normal back then which shows how mad it all was. But as bad as it now seems, in the past you went to games bracing yourself for trouble at home and away. I recall an away match when we got ambushed at the railway station and bricks and bottles came raining down on us and a brick just missed my head by a whisker and smashed against the wall behind me. It was a miracle none of us got killed that day. That was a wake-up call for me and so I then went to a more peaceful area of the ground and not long after that a fan died at a match which just showed how dangerous it was and all because of the scarf he was wearing.
Getting stabbed all because he was wearing his club colours – isn’t that insane? It is still happening today but as sad as it is we just have to accept that certain individuals go to football matches with the sole intention of attacking a rival supporter and they feel justified in doing so. I got involved but I put that down to being young and immature but many are getting arrested now who are in their thirties and even older which shows some blokes and some women get their kicks from causing trouble at football matches when you’d think they’d know better. It pains me to say it but hooliganism is a deep rooted problem in football that will never be truly eradicated from our sport. My mate says why can’t football be more like rugby on and off the pitch when it’s all settled over a few beers and a handshake between fans?
He’s right of course and many of us do exchange pleasantries before and after games but some just see that as some kind of weakness and so until they change that deep rooted mindset violence will keep on rearing its ugly head for years to come.