The Ugly Side of Sport

Eric BradleyCorrespondent IJune 23, 2008

What is it that makes some people believe that committing random acts of violence against complete strangers is somehow "avenging" a loss by the team they support?

The Euro 2008 clash between Turkey and Croatia is a classic example.  During the match, many Croatian fans were aggressively unpleasant.  After the defeat, they vented their frustration on Turkish fans outside the stadium.  When police tried to calm the volatile situation, they were attacked too.

How was this shameful behavior supposed to salvage their national pride?  How was it supposed to make up for being defeated?  Surely it has the opposite effect!

Are the Turks just innocent victims?   During the 2000 UEFA Cup tournament, two young men from Britain were stabbed by Turkish fans, even though their team won (and, in fact, went on to win the Cup).  What did this achieve except to make people less likely to choose Turkey as a tourist destination?

Such incidents are rife throughout Europe, and indeed some other parts of the world.  What makes the European situation unique is that these are not "third world" countries, but major "civilized" nations, including Italy and England.

Even as recently as last year, there were major riots in Italy following a match between Lazio and Juventus.  One of the interesting aspects of this incident was that it was the second time within the space of twelve months that a policeman had shot a soccer fan to death.

The media and the general public often focus on such incidents without giving thought to the circumstances that may have caused the situation.  In Italy, the police tried to calm the reaction by downplaying the incident, calling it a "mistake."  In reality, the policeman had fired because he was in fear of his life.

The other incident occurred in France.  A week after the incident, PSG fans marched into the stadium to lay wreaths in memory of the man who was killed, some bearing the words, "May justice prevail."  Clearly the sympathy of the fans was with the "victim."

However, when the real situation is understood, it can be seen by any thinking person that justice had already prevailed.  The policeman who fired the fatal shot was in fact defending a Jewish family who had come under attack from crazed PSG supporters during a match between PSG and Hapoel Tel Aviv.

The mob had cornered the family and were chanting racist and anti-Semitic abuse, as well as being physically threatening and intimidating.  For children, visitors to the country, to be put in actual fear for their lives, is simply outrageous!  How can these idiots possibly think that "justice" would be on the side of the PSG supporting thugs?

To Americans, Australians, Canadians, and Kiwis, this bizzarre fanaticism shown by European sports fans is totally bewildering.  We live in saner parts of the world, so when we go to a sports event we do not expect to be involved in a potentially fatal clash with another spectator. 

We are also passionate about supporting our teams. We love to go to an event and cheer for our favorite team or athlete.  We don't go nuts when our team loses, however.  We don't attack innocent people just because their team happened to beat ours.

We find it amazing that you can decide to callously, cold-bloodedly stick a knife into the stomach of a person you don't even know, for no other reason than the color of his shirt, or perhaps his skin.

Don't you watch how the players behave after the match?  Don't you notice that they shake hands, sometimes even hug?  Maybe they will exchange shirts along with their congratulations.   Perhaps you could learn from that, and follow the example being set for you.

Nobody likes a sore loser!