Any game of football between rivals will always be full of high levels of emotion, usually in the form of passion for the respective clubs, and that passion will inevitably be demonstrated vocally. But is there a line? And if so, who gets to draw it?
Most of us are passionate enough to get caught up in our dislike of rivals and given enough provocation, we’ll respond with whatever ammunition we have in our locker at the time. Take Twitter for example, have a look at most timelines and there’s usually a smattering of typed table tennis – or in other words, backwards and forwards banter. It’s easy enough to get caught up in it and end up involved in tweeted differences of opinion with rival supporters but then that’s part and parcel of social networks isn’t it?
If you likened Twitter to a real-life situation, I’d say the ‘football’ accounts would be an ‘around the table of a pub’ scenario – if you’re inclined to want to talk football over a beer with other like-minded individuals, then you’ll happily sit at the table. If, on the other hand, you feel uncomfortable with colourful language, differences of opinion, or can give it out but not take it back, then you might want to find yourself a quiet table in a corner somewhere out of earshot and sip your lemonade. Let’s face it, no Twitter account is in your face and whereas in a pub, no-one would force you to sit at their table and listen to discussions you’d rather not hear, no-one forces you to read tweets you’d rather not see either.
You see, whether it’s down the Dog and Duck or on our own timelines, we can all get a bit carried away with ourselves from time to time – I’m certainly guilty of that. In fact, my timeline can read like the Twitter Guide to 101 Expletives on a good day but it’s certainly not forced on anyone. I don’t tout for followers, so I assume anyone who follows me does so of their own free will – therefore, by the same token, they can unfollow or block me should they so choose.
Transfer that scenario to any football ground in the country though and there is no unfollow button to shut out the opinions of others. We might sit in separate areas but there’s no soundproofing – even if the Emirates gives that impression sometimes. We’re exposed to whatever’s chanted and we can’t do a lot about it – except respond. So, if we hear United chanting “John Terry, woah! John Terry, woahah! He knees you in the back, he hates you if you’re black”, I’m sure they can expect to hear the tried and tested “Van-Per-Sie- when a girl says no molest her” by way of response. Both accused and found not guilty of the respective crimes being referred to, so a simple bit of tit-for-tat banter really.
Having said that, it surprised me recently when a couple of United supporters jumped right out of their prams and all over my timeline for exactly that sort of banter. Despite the RVP chant being around for years, it seems for some, it’s far less acceptable to use it since he’s left Arsenal. To be honest though, since John Terry was found not guilty of racism in a court of law, I don’t particularly like my timeline cluttered with monotonous tweets referring to him as a racist either, but I manage to hold onto my dummy most of the time because I accept that’s part and parcel of football.
Besides, do supporters really have any moral high-ground anymore? Since we’re on the subject of United, let’s take their supporters for example – does their singing of “Murderers, Murderers, Murderers” and “We’ve won it three times, we’ve won it three times, without killing anyone” whenever they face Liverpool give them any more rights to being self-righteous about the chant of choice from other clubs? And whilst Liverpool supporters can whinge all they like when they have that directed at them (at the same time as blaming us for what happened at the Heysel Stadium of course), their “Munich” chants are probably the most shameful thing you could hear at a game of football anyway.
And whilst Saturday’s renditions of “It’s never your fault, it’s never your fault, always the victims, it’s never your fault” were poorly timed by some United supporters (not least of all given the coverage of Liverpool this week but also because the two didn’t even meet at the weekend which made it seem all the more deliberately provocative) it’s worth bearing in mind, that isn’t a chant in any way related to the 96 victims at Hillsborough – oh no, they have a much worse one for that!
Of course not all supporters will chant that sort of stuff because for some, there is a line – but when it comes to standing in judgment when the banter or chants are being thrown about, I’ll ask again, can any supporter really have the moral high-ground when they’re standing in their own glasshouse of a club?