The Moment Of Truce For Liverpool and Manchester United
September 22, 2012 in Premier League
Last week’s Hillsborough revelations came as a relief to many and should come as a fresh start to all. However, the new hope for football fans amnesty may face its toughest test of the season only one week after the verdict. Manchester United and Liverpool, the two most successful clubs in English football, are also the two with perhaps some of the saddest histories. Both clubs have, disgustingly, had their suffering regularly brought up with chants about both Hillsborough and the Munich Air Disaster, respectively, but now as they prepare to face each other this weekend, hearts and minds should be focused on supporting the game rather than bringing up ghosts of years gone by.
It will, of course, be a challenge to root out this abusive and vindictive chanting - only last weekend in their 4-0 home win over Wigan, some Manchester United fans were reported to have sung about the deaths at Hillsborough. However, in the week that has followed, the Man Utd camp has made promising noises; Sir Alex Ferguson, Nemanja Vidic and the Manchester United’s Supporters Trust have all urged United fans to stop the chants, condemning singing about “Munich Air Crash, Hillsborough and indeed any other human tragedy”. Vidic added that “there is a lot of history with these two clubs. We have some history as well, we have some tragedies, just like Liverpool. We have to show an example and be on top of the bad situation and behave well and, I would say, be an example.”
People in the Liverpool camp have also admonished all fans taunting others about their histories. Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler sensibly said in an interview to the BBC this week that “The two clubs do have a rivalry, but some things are far more important than football and this is one of them.”
Of course, this is not to say that there should be no chanting against the opposition, classics such as “My garden shed is bigger than this” and “We forgot that you were here” can create as much a sense of rivalry and atmosphere as any (other much ruder, wittier and jovial chants are available – just not ones that can be printed on this site). Why is there a need for opposition fans to sing about people dying or about the colour of someone’s skin for a match to be boisterous?
In his interview, Fowler may have also inadvertently hinted at the reason why feelings of such animosity has arisen in loyal football fans. Fowler suggested that it would be good if before the match, current Liverpool striker Luis Suarez would lay a tribute to the Munich Air Disaster while Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra do the same for the victims of those that died in the Hillsborough tragedy. Both players last season were caught up in a race row, with Suarez being found guilty and subsequently suspended by the FA. Now, I do not know if these proposed tributes are going to be paid, but for me it would be a poignant reminder for fans in the ground just how seriously these tragedies should be taken. There is an example that could be set here which would prove valuable for all involved.
For evidence of this look no further than the game between Chelsea and QPR last weekend. Because of a similar incident to the Suarez and Evra issue, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand refused to shake the hand of John Terry. All this showed to the fans was that it is alright to disrespect opponents of an opposing team, as a result the match was a boisterous affair. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Ferdinand should have shaken Terry’s hand, I personally wouldn’t shake his hand either. Nor would I shake Suarez’s hand. I think it is a farce that the FA force players to shake hands before the game and they put Ferdinand into an impossible position. However, the point still stands that as a result of this moronic ritual courtesy, players are given a chance to set the mood of what is acceptable for opponents. If stupid people see this and then act in the same manner, imagine what happens when stupid people see this happening again and again over decades. The hatred can’t help but be deeply ingrained.
As I said previously, it is going to be a challenge to root out this abusive and vindictive chanting. But that is no reason for that challenge not to start this weekend and we can only hope that the noises of peace made be so many this week can be followed by everyone, and it is done to everyone, from FIFA, to the FA to fans. We shall see.