After extensive coverage of the Ashley Cole and Javier Mascherano fallout regarding the public plea to respect officials during football matches, the issue of respect has reared its ugly head again--this time through the boisterous voice of football fans in Britain.
Rafa Benitez has blasted Everton supporters for 'stepping across the line' as he insisted that club captain Steven Gerrard received more than hostile treatment from the Everton supporters at Anfield during the Merseyside Derby encounter Sunday afternoon.
“I do not like to hear some of the things I heard. [The Everton supporters] showed a lack of respect," said the victorious Spainard during a post-game interview.
Abusive songs and taunts from both sets of fans were heard from all over the world as Everton and Liverpool fans were in full voice whenever they had an opportunity to taunt their opponents. Everton skipper Phil Neville was also a recipient of some less than encouraging words and could have used a good pair of earplugs to block out the excessive noice clogging his ears.
In fact, Everton management have asked the local police to look into an incident which involved the Everton captain being hit in the back by a Liverpool fan during the very same match. Toffee left-back Joleon Lescott was also a subject of unprecedented abuse from the Reds' supporters.
"Not only was Joleon Lescott subjected to an afternoon-long barrage of quite disgusting and quite audible abuse, Phil Neville was seemingly spat at several times and was also punched in the back by a supporter as he took a throw-in," said Everton PR man Ian Ross.
"We have asked Merseyside Police and our Safety Officer to look into the matter."
The recent spats during the Merseyside Derby come shortly after Celtic supporters were investigated by the UEFA Committee for potential 'suspect' chants during a Champions League Round Of 16 match against Barcelona on March 4th. UEFA's disciplinary body looked into video footage around the Nou Camp but were unable to confirm any punishment as they declared that the evidence was 'insubstantial'.
"[UEFA]'s had a look into [suspect chants at Nou Camp], but no disciplinary case will be opened. There was not enough evidence," said a UEFA spokesperson.
As if that wasn't enough, Middlesbrough's Egyptian striker Mido was the target of racially charged taunts from Newcastle supporters earlier in the year by referring to him as a terrorist 'bomber' after he had scored in the Tyne-Tees Derby.
Making a gesture towards the rowdy Newcastle supporters after his goal, Mido was still forced to hear tiresome chants from the Geordie fans as they continued to sing: "Mido, he's got a bomb you know; Mido's got a bomb."
And finally, who can forget about the continual abuse recieved by Chelsea manager Avram Grant?
Grant, who is of Jewish origin, has persistently found himself on the bad side of both players and fans alike after his unexpected arrival in place of the immaculate Portuguese sensation Jose Mourinho. Still needing a UEFA Pro License to keep managing in the Premier League and the Champions League, Avram Grant's questionable tactical ability has led to many questionable decisions against his Chelsea side--thus prompting Blues' supporters to voice their displeasure on a continual basis.
This displeasure has even risen to the point of Grant being on the receiving end of death threats, one case involving an unknown white powder substance. Anti-setimic threats against the Israeli manager have been a common recurring theme.
To comment on one manager's ability is one thing, but to go to such extremes for personal abuse is another thing. While Britain has done a decent job of restraining abuse from boisterous fans in the stands, there may still be a need for improvement. We've seen worse cases (case in point, Samuel Eto'o against Real Zaragoza) and perhaps a greater emphasis on the general Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign could ease the tension between players and fans.
Hopefully, there will be a day where respect can be a foregone conclusion--for everyone, from the players to the millions of supporters around the world to the match officials. People often forget that the players themselves are only trying to do their jobs and don't really need any more abuse than they are taking in.
After all, they're only human. Let's just try and remember that even if they are making making thousands and thousands of dollars more than the average bloke or of a different color or origin.