Saturday, 16 June 2012

We could all learn a lot from the Irish

It would be impossible for me to write a blog this week without referencing the Euros – seeing as watching them is about all I’ve done over the last week or so.

There have been thrills, spills and various stomach ills since the tournament kicked off, and there’s plenty more action to come.

But there have also been some pretty unwelcome contributions to the games, primarily from the fans. I was really angered last night to see the behaviour of the England and Sweden fans in Kiev before kickoff.

Riot police and members of the military were called in to keep the two sets of fans apart. The military! How disgusting. And from the footage I saw on Sky Sports News, I’m ashamed to say the English fans seemed to be the more antagonistic of the two sets of supporters.

In other news, Uefa has hit the Russian FA with a £96,000 fine and a six-point deduction in the qualification phases of the next Euros in France. The association was penalised for violence inside the Wroclaw stadium during and after their game against the Czech Republic on June 8, including the assault and battery of match stewards when the final whistle was blown.

Russian and Polish fans are also being investigated for an outbreak of violence in Warsaw on June 12. If found guilty over the fan violence that led to 15 injuries and more than 180 arrests, Russia could find the suspended six-point deduction imposed immediately. (It’s worth bearing in mind that Russia are set to host the World Cup finals in 2018…)

But that’s not all. The Croatian FA has also been fined £20,200 for its supporters' behaviour during Croatia’s game against the Republic of Ireland. Croatian fans let off flares during the 3-1 victory in Poznan on June 10. Stewards also had to tackle a supporter who ran onto the pitch to kiss coach Slaven Bilic.

Uefa is also investigating reports that a banana was thrown on to the pitch during the match between Italy and Croatia on June 14, with monkey chants reported to have been directed at Italy striker Mario Balotelli.

And we all thought Ukraine were going to be the major villains of the contest! With all the attention on the country ahead of the tournament following the BBC Panorama documentary Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate, many fans decided not to travel to Ukraine; which perhaps explains why some of the stands have looked a little sparse.

Although Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin accused fair-weather Ukraine fans of "wanting to shoot” the team when they’re not winning, there haven’t been any signs of Neo-Nazism as far as I’m aware.

There were rumours of monkey chants from Polish fans in Krakow while the Dutch team were training, but the Ukrainians seem to have kept themselves relatively under control overall. Maybe last night’s storm stole their thunder!

It is shameful, though, that violence and racism are still making headlines during football competitions (or anywhere else, for that matter). How dare people discriminate against others based on the colour of their skin or where they were born? And how dare people allow a bit of friendly football banter to bubble over into ‘patriotic’ fisticuffs.

I appreciate that people want their national teams to win and are disappointed when they don’t, but this disgusting behaviour needs to be stamped out, and hard. Let’s introduce lifetime bans for racist fans and hooligans. And let’s threaten to impose proper fines against teams who break the rules.

Maybe we could all learn something from the Irish supporters (and I’m not talking about how to drink many, many pints of beer). I really admired the way the fans in green got behind their team, even when their players underperformed.

Yes, they were the first team to be booted out of the tournament, but the fans were a pleasure to watch; in the stands as they sang their hearts out; and on the streets, where good-natured celebrations continued. They may not have won any silverware this time round, but the Ireland team should be proud of the way their fans have conducted themselves throughout. 

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

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