FanPost

Panic, Abuse and Football Fans

Tears of ecstasy. Pangs of misery. Howls of angst. Feelings of queasy pride. Or just an over-arching sensation of helplessness. It would not be untrue to proclaim that most football fans are inherently susceptible to these most extreme of emotions when it comes to the team that they support. I would certainly consider myself in that category. Whether you are gunning for the heavyweight, or rooting for the underdog, whether your team is a behemoth, with years of winning tradition, or a straggler finding its feet amidst powerhouses, fans will shriek with enthusiasm when their legendary forward powers one in, and will grit their teeth with resentment when made to witness a gaffe by their porous defense. For the 90 minutes a match is played (and for several days before and after it), football forums, chat pages and blogs will overflow with denizens of fans, each hoping to make his opinion on the team's line-up and strategy heard above the holler. It is a testament to the enthrallment of this sport that, like a drug, it distorts reality, where footballers cease to be human, and instead, are pieces on a virtual chessboard used by fans to demonstrate their tactical superiority to the hordes of rival supporters. Football is no longer a game of two halves, it is now a stage for one-upmanship. Therein lies the weed of this beautiful game.

A football supporter is a very difficult person to define.­ At the most, football fans, mostly, only have an emotional investment in their teams. Considering that most fans of the premier football clubs of the world live several thousand miles away from the clubs they support, the importance that clubs attribute to these supporters is extraordinary and a bit surreal. The fealty that these fans proclaim towards their clubs, with whom they share little to no material connection with, seems utterly irrational; the fervor with which they defend their club's shortcomings would not be out of place in the Mafia's hierarchy. Such is the extent of our globalized world that one no longer requires to live in the vicinity of the club they support - a club in England could have entire fan clubs dedicated to them in far-off Indonesia. As we sit in front of our televisions and our computer screens, as we gaze upon our footballing heroes in games in the newspapers, and in our worlds of fantasy football, we fail to see football players as real people with real problems and fears just like the rest of us. Insulated from their troubles, we feel free to malign these men as we wish. And it is then that football denigrates into ugliness.

When the game enters stoppage time and your team still trails 2-1, we, the supporters, momentarily forget that these eleven men on the turf are just human, like you and me. Intoxicated by the infinite possibilities and our inflated expectations, we forget that sport, let alone football, is meant to be a spectacle. Instead, we turn it into an opportunity for personal attacks against the opposition, a chance to make it into a brawling mess of criticizing, derogatory and derisive remarks hurled at other fans, players and clubs. We forget that it was us who made the choice to go along for the emotional ride. We cheer opposition players when they are injured and we chastise our own when they are unable to give the performance we anticipate. We are told to keep it to the game. Yet, no time is lost vociferously berating a striker struggling for goals; no moment is unspent personally rebuking an aging midfielder who no longer seems able to dictate the game. Were it just a group of insurgents disrupting the general peace and calm, this would be irrelevant. But this problem seems to afflict most of us. We are guilty, at some point or the other, of letting our emotions, our panic at our team losing, at our desperation for us to hold on to a narrow lead, get the better of us.

Remember that these players are fathers, husbands, sons, uncles and friends too, and that they have made the choice to entertain us, to stand up to scrutiny by millions when they play poorly. And yet, we invade their privacy, belittle their achievements, and castigate them after a poor game. Respect is lost, and all that remains is a hollow, fanatical craze for triumph at all costs. Where is our humanity?

Do not mistake this as a rant against banter. Friendly banter always has a place in football, and in many cases, actually acts as an incentive for far greater achievements. For the players, jostling and challenging each other eggs them on to outperform their peers. For the supporters, bragging about the array of talent at their team's disposal allows them to forget about the troubles and mundanity of their daily lives. After a poor performance by the team they support, it is only natural that fans feel that they could have done a better job than a particular player or the manager. It is a unavoidable fact that not every player is as talented as another, nor is every manager as tactically astute as another, but using this as ammunition for slander is unacceptable and should have no place in football and society.

As these players grace our screens and our lives once or twice a week, remember that these men are not mythical creatures who must perform and act to the whim of every fan. These are people with families to sustain, limits to endure, and lives to lead. When your defender gives the ball away in the penalty box, or when your striker mishits a fairly simple volley in the 85th minute of a Cup final, complain all you want, but do not use the privacy of the Internet or the anonymity of the multitudes to lambast a player personally. Let these men do their jobs without fear of scathing admonishment or public humiliation. Keep it clean. The game is better off that way.

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This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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