It’s time to ask why ‘thugs’ are coming to the football
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Much has been written about the disturbances which took place at Campbelltown Stadium on Tuesday night. But for all the words laid forth, has anyone stopped to ask the question ‘why?’
It’s a simple question, but in the reams of analysis which stemmed from the crowd trouble at the friendly between Macarthur Rams and Sydney FC , there’s been little attempt to understand why it happened in the first place.
The reason for that is perhaps fairly obvious.
My Roar colleague Vince Rugari wrote about the issue on Wednesday and responses ranged from his piece being an “excellent article” to an “overblown story” to conspiracy theories about “hired thugs from rival sports” being employed in a deliberate attempt to denigrate the round-ball game.
In other words, the very act of writing about crowd trouble in football is divisive.
George Negus recognised that fact when he asked reporters “to stop and ask themselves if in the overall scheme of things the incident was as serious as some of them made out.”
But what George didn’t ask, or any of the other analysts whose pieces I read in the wake of the match, was who was ripping the flares and why were they fighting in the first place.
I read a lot about “hooligans” and “thugs” being condemned and of calls for trouble-making groups to be “obliterated,” but was left wondering about who specifically such calls were referring to.
I read one hypothesis suggesting those responsible for the trouble were former Sydney FC fans now aligned with Western Sydney Wanderers, but no evidence was put forward to substantiate the claim.
The Wanderers and their fan group the Red and Black Bloc have said the culprits did not come from within their midst, so who were they?
I’m not usually one for stereotyping but the answer, if I could take a guess, was first and foremost young males.
It may sound like a mind-numbingly obvious point, but surely it’s one worth recognising if the A-League is to genuinely set about addressing the problem of crowd trouble.
To change tack slightly, there was one aspect of this year’s Tour de France which stood out for me more than any other.
It was after the 14th stage when defending champion Cadel Evans called those who placed thumb tacks on the course part of the “me, me generation.”
What Evans was referring to, in my opinion at least, is the growing prevalence of those who believe their individual desires outweigh the collective needs of society.
To put that into a football context, certain individuals are in the habit of attending friendlies and A-League games in the belief that their individual desire to rip flares, start fights and otherwise engage in anti-social behaviour outweighs the desire of everyone else to watch the game in a safe environment.
Saying it as such implies these individuals have actually thought about their choices, but given that more often than not the words “young,” “male” and “alcohol-fuelled” are so often used to describe them, I’d suggest that’s probably not the case.
So my question is this: why are some young males turning up at A-League football games with the intention of engaging in anti-social behaviour?
Are they genuine football fans? Is it a safety in numbers thing? Are they mimicking what they think happens in Europe?
It’s all well and good to talk about stamping out anti-social behaviour at football games, but that’s purely a reactive measure which fails to try to comprehend the mindset of those who engage in it.
At the end of the day, an incident involving a small group of individuals has once again portrayed the A-League in a negative light.
And we can talk all we want about banning the culprits, but until we start asking why they’re coming to football games to begin with, we’ve missed the crucial first step in trying to solve the problem once and for all.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman