Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe Border Between Passion and Idiocy - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The Border Between Passion and Idiocy - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The Border Between Passion and Idiocy

Avid support and even tribalism have long existed in football.  Fans possess such an undying love for their club, a passion that is matched in very few other walks of life.  However, spurred on largely by the rise to prominence of social media, the views of the sport’s supporters have been thrust into the public eye and it isn’t always pleasant.  Despite being in the vast minority, individuals with a twisted sense of what’s acceptable will often have the loudest voice.  Whether it’s racism or the sickening abuse thrown at Billy Sharp this week, the border between passion and idiocy is crossed too often and represents a real danger to modern football.

It is a football supporter’s duty to stick by their club at all times.  He or she can dislike the club’s players, manager, chairman or anyone else but the love for the club itself never waivers.  For this reason, whenever the image of the club is implicated or somebody has been seen to disrespect it, the backlash is instant and unrelenting.  Unfortunately, this reaction often flies beyond what’s acceptable, as fans begin to prioritise support for a football club over the maintenance of human decency.  The case involving Billy Sharp this week was something I’ve never really witnessed or been so troubled by. 

A young Doncaster Rovers supporter, aggrieved by the striker’s decision to leave his club last month, reacted in the most sickening manner imaginable.  He tweeted a sequence of taunts at Sharp, mocking the player’s son who tragically passed away towards the end of last year at just two days old.  When you give a second’s thought to what provoked him to behave in such a reprehensible way, the concept is tough to grasp.  The youngster has sent vile messages, taunting Sharp about the most harrowing moment of his life, simply because the striker chose to leave Doncaster for high-flying Southampton.

Blind fandom has also reared its head recently over the various unwelcome racism controversies.  With the Suarez-Evra and Terry-Ferdinand issues happening almost simultaneously it has, at times, seemed more like a case of Liverpool v United and Chelsea v QPR.  In fact, most confusingly, when Chelsea faced Man United two weeks ago their fans were booing Rio Ferdinand each time he was on the ball.  His crime?  Being the brother of the man their captain allegedly racially abused. 

The fallout of Suarez-Evra has, understandably, provoked a greater reaction, thanks largely to the Uruguayan’s refusal to shake hands with Evra last weekend.  The reactions of Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalgleish were unsurprisingly polar opposites, but the extent to which these were different gives an insight into why fans are so quick to show unrelenting faith to their side.  Even the influential figures in football see issues from such different points of view, epitomized by Dalglish’s refusal to reverse his opinion on the controversial Suarez t-shirt incident or to accept that his player’s actions affected the atmosphere at Old Trafford on Sunday.

As I mentioned earlier, this outlook is prevalent on the Internet, most commonly through Twitter, as well as in the terraces.  Racial abuse on Twitter is hardly surprising given the aforementioned attitudes, but still occurs far too often.  Sammy Ameobi and Stan Collymore have both come under online assault recently, while Micah Richards has recently deleted his Twitter account, citing racial abuse as the reason.  Admittedly, some of the comments directed at him will have come from racists without a club agenda but can anyone claim that the majority of the abuse won’t have been due to rival supporters?

Numerous organizations exist to promote diversity and eradicate racism in football and, if idiots like that Doncaster fan are discovered, the community are excellent at orchestrating a witch-hunt.  However, the personal nature of tools like Twitter allows everyone access to professional players and for the thousands who use it responsibly, there will always be a few who refuse to.  A final thought on the issue worth raising is perhaps the hot topic of homosexuality in top-level football.  There are currently no openly gay professional footballers in the UK; if they were terrified of coming out before, there’s absolutely no chance of it happening now.  I won’t often speak badly of Twitter but, from that perspective, it has laid the foundation to set English football back by some distance.

Paddy von Behr @HighBalls1

For more Football Blogs and opinion from football fans around the world