If has taken Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest to demonstrate that football fans are not a bunch of hooligans— though the press,police and even their own clubs portray them tin that light.
For years club managers have given interviews as to how they want their home ground to be like a fortress. A cacophony of noise that will terrify the opposition. The fans of theTurkish club Galatasary even display a poster at the ground aimed at the opposing team and their supporters which simply says “welcome to hell.”
This and loud abuse hurled at the opposition players leaves no one in any doubt whats required from the home team fans of all nations. A fortress yes with only the boiling oil spared the opposition.
So when Muamba collapsed on the pitch the authorities feared the worse. If lucky a chorus of boos would swirl around the head of the prone Bolton player. if things went to the other extreme racial epithets would be hurled at him. The editor’s were already sharpening their pencils with “White Hart lane Disgrace.”
But something happened. There were no boos or jeers, just cheers followed by a stony silence. Tears then appeared in the eyes of grown men as the full significance of Muamba’s collapse hit home. The tears were shed not just by the Bolton fans but the Spurs supporters as well. At the end of the day the man unconscious on the pitch was not just a footballer. He was a family man with a kid seemingly on his way to a premature death.
When the referee abandoned the game after consulting with both managers no one in the stadium demurred. The fans filed out of the stadium in an orderly fashion and suddenly football fans were in vogue. They were cuddly instead of grizzly and threatening. What had changed? In reality nothing. The crowds at our top stadiums are filled on a weekly basis by father and sons, mothers and daughters. People like you and me. In fact I go too.
The football fan did not change that day. Only the perception. No doubt like all honeymoons this one will soon be over. What good football reporting wants is a crowd worked up baying for blood. Not long now. Watch this space.