Not a beautiful game
As I write this, I feel like there is a calming lull in London. The weather is 97% chance of rain with the sun attempting to peak through the morning clouds. There is a cool breeze blowing, and it is very quiet where I am. This is a stark contrast to what it was like a mere 10 hours ago, when the Euro 2020 competition ended with Italy winning against England, thus dashing dreams at a trophy.
Football isn’t really something I am keen on. I worked within the football industry for four years when I first moved here. There was something about the game that turned me off - the fans. On days when I had to attend matches to oversee a promotion on the grounds, I was appalled at how horrible the fans acted. While there were occasional families in attendance on good behaviour, the majority of fans were drunk, belligerent, and bullying. There were several instances where my promotional staff would be heckled, spat on and harassed to the point of tears. Why? For offering a free giveaway item?
Yesterday, hours before the match started, the football fans trashed the streets of central London, broke windows in buildings around Trafalgar Square, urinated everywhere, and broke barriers around the National Gallery. This crass behaviour really has no explanation, and it doesn’t stop there. Domestic violence increases when England play by 24% and if they win, it goes to 38%. Racial abuse increases too, to both fans and players.
If this sport is called “the beautiful game”, I would like to see where the beauty is in all of this chaos and destruction. This morning on Twitter, the trending hashtags include #disgusting #embarrassing #disgraceful. The videos of violence outside the stadium are horrific. One guy tweeted that in the pub where he was watching, a woman punched the TV and a guy punched two people. Sore losers doesn’t even scratch the surface. It’s a football game, not a licence to act out The Purge.
If England had won, there was a rumour that there would be a “national holiday” the day after. The reason seems to be that this would allow fans to get as drunk as they want and not have to work the next day. Wouldn’t this perpetuate the behaviour?
On the flip side, I have enjoyed the last two weeks of tennis. The Wimbledon final, also yesterday, was a complete contrast to the football. An elegant game with some fantastic competitors, well-behaved fans, and no risk of death or property damage at any time. While I was sad to see Serena Williams get injured, or disappointed that Rafa Nadal wasn’t playing, there was nothing in me that felt the need to drink litres of alcohol and bust windows. Instead, I enjoyed several dishes of strawberries and cream, and the only thing “wild” I did was add some cake.
When you compare football to other sports, you never find the same amount of violent tendencies. Basketball, NFL, baseball, rugby, hockey… They are all supported by passionate fans who love their teams, but mayhem doesn’t reign each time they play. Ok, maybe there is a bit of craziness when a team wins at the end of the year — like a city parade with lots of trash — but the police in riot gear don’t always have to be at the ready. Yes, riot gear. They were ready to go before the game even started.
Oh, and then there’s the pandemic. The UK has endured some heavy lockdowns in the last year, and the economy has suffered because of it. The numbers have been low, until this football competition started. Recently, the infection rates have increased. It is suspected that in the following days, we might see more cases develop, as not everyone is vaccinated. When you look at the photos of crowds at the stadium and around London, it is easy to see that social distancing was not a top priority.
England lost. It’s for the best. The team played well. The fans spoilt it.
Main photo credit: Jeshoots via Pexels