Life circumstances have prevented me from blog contributions of any kind for several months now. The hot streak would likely have continued for another several had events of this coming weekend not proved to be an overwhelming motivation to act.
A while ago, I wrote quite a controversial piece on the 10/11 champions league final between Manchester United and Barcelona. As a Utd ‘supporter’ (I, like you, often question how big a stretch ‘Utd supporter’ really is) for over 20 years, the gist of the article was basically that I was considering supporting Barca for the final on the grounds of their contrasting shirt sponsors. Utd, adorned Aon, a notoriously unethical finance corporation, and Barca, Unicef, a children’s charity. That was enough to call in question my support for that game. Support in this case basically meant shouting the exact same words at my TV except when a different team had the ball. Hardly earth shattering.
This was not a popular stance.
The general response was that you should support your team ”no matter what”. I found this very interesting, and it got me thinking. Clearly there is a type of football fan that would support their club to further lengths then others; But is there a limit? And what is it?
I started to think in extremes, REAL extremes. What could a club do which would make even the most ‘die-hard’ fan turn on them.
Well the obvious place to start is kidnapping.
What if a club publicly sanctioned the kidnapping of a wife or child (or husband) of a supporter? I reasoned that might be enough.
Let’s step back a bit.
What if a club lent a huge sum of money to a supporter, then hiked up the interest to slowly bankrupt them. I think that might do it, but honestly I’m not sure for some.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that supporting a club is tribalism, a way of being in community which is seldom found these days. It’s so essential to the life and existence of people that who knows what it would take for some to jeopardize that.
What about Racism?
Saturday sees the quite terrifying prospect of Utd and Evra returning to Anfield. Who knows how the supporters will respond, and it’s not fair to prejudge them, but it is certainly hard to imagine it will be forgotten about and hatchets will be buried.
The situation is very easy for me. As a Utd fan, I can sit very comfortably on my high horse and condemn both Luis Suarez and the attitude of Liverpool FC. I firmly believe they were both in the wrong and both comments and attitudes have been disgraceful. However, would I feel that way if the situations were reversed?
It’s hard to say, and I don’t especially want to think about it. Issues like Racism (and homophobia) are so important both historically and globally and in football right now, that I would have to seriously reevaluate my allegiance to any club which is not absolutely clear on the issue.
Someone once said
”Football is not a matter of life and death, it’s more important than that”
That clearly isn’t true, and a club will never sanction a kidnapping or bankrupt a fan (knowingly). But slide back down the scale a little and things start to become real and tangible. Ticket prices, corrupt owners, racism, identification with political parties.
It is the responsibility of every fan to consider regularly what really is more important than football and make the brave and unpopular choices to act accordingly.
My hope is that both sets of fans consider this, but I’m pessimistic.