Sport Report

Soccer fans are nuts.
I came to this conclusion recently when searching “soccer hooligans” on YouTube.
In my search, I stumbled across an eye-opening video of a few Inter Milan (Italian Premier League) fans dropping a motorized scooter from the upper deck with what appeared to be the intentions of having it hit some opposing team’s fans down below.
It took a number of people just to hoist it over the railing.
Yes, a motorized scooter, folks.
And to think I used to marvel at Detroit Red Wings’ fans who managed to smuggle in smelly octopuses to throw on opposing team’s ice surfaces. That seems pretty darn tame in comparison, don’t you think?
Of course, Inter Milan’s hooligans are not alone. It’s partly because soccer rivalries involve hot button issues like religion, prior conflicts between nations, and politics.
But blaming all of the shenanigans on those issues is a cop out. There’s a deep and tumultuous history of the sport in Europe that just seems to bring out the worst in people.
Don’t get me wrong, I do admire the passion of most soccer (or should I say, football) fans. When I went to England earlier this year, I witnessed a television program where a talking head did play-by-play of a game which was only available on pay-per-view.
Essentially, soccer fans tuned in to get this guy’s take on the game while staring at the side of his face as he watched it away from the camera’s view. Riveting television to say the least.
I admit, every sport has its share of loonies who like to use the game as an excuse to break the law (see Montreal riot after their first-round victory over Boston in this year’s NHL playoffs, for example).
It just seems soccer fans tend to make it a game day ritual that’s almost always taken to the extreme.
I won’t pretend to understand where these deeply-rooted hatreds and animosities come from because, quite frankly, soccer is barely on the radar in Canada. However, our passion for hockey rarely crosses over into the real world once the final buzzer sounds.
British soccer fans recently showed their inherent ugliness when drunken Glasgow Rangers’ fans attacked police and went rioting after the UEFA Cup final in Manchester back on May 15.
A report in the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph said one policeman was hit so hard that his earpiece became embedded in his head and had to be surgically removed.
Some 500 people needed hospital treatment for various injuries, ranging from separated shoulders to a stab wound.
For a country that either invented or popularized such dignified sports as croquet, badminton, and lawn bowling (not to mention the fact they have the monarchy), it seems to have quite the track record of thuggery when it comes to soccer.
A quick historical look reveals English fans involved in clashes at World Cups, European championships, and international friendlies, but none worse than the 1985 European Cup final where 39 people were killed after crazy Liverpool supporters chased Juventus fans around the stadium until a wall collapsed.
But a peaceful Champions League final last week between two English clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United, reported little to no bloodshed or conflict. So maybe things are looking up.
Regardless, I think I like the way soccer is played on the high school pitch here in Fort Frances—based on the principles of fair play, sportsmanship, and camaraderie.
Professional athletes, and the fans who watch them, certainly could take a page from amateurs who play simply for the recreation and to be a part of something.
Obviously winning is nice, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen—and it’s most certainly not worth someone’s life. Those 39 people had wives, husbands, children, relatives, and friends. They died at a soccer game. And for what?
Sports are supposed to be a deflection from the sometimes monotonous reality of the real world, but when people start using sports to commit crimes and ignore the societal constraints that keep us all safe, well then, we have lost the true meaning of the game.

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