Why don’t English fans do this? That was the reaction of many to FC Koln’s takeover of the Emirates, and it was somewhat understandable, because on the whole what happened looked fun. Especially for those who don’t support Arsenal.
Hundreds of fans in groups marching through the city, clearly having had a few beers, loud, intimidating, throwing stuff and causing minor damage along their route. All good natured.
Charging turnstiles at the Emirates, hey, a few things may have been broken, a few rules ignored, but so what? This is what football is all about, surely, and the Arsenal fans quivering over their lattes are the opposite.
Scaring families, scaring stewards, physically pushing past them and using numbers to get to whichever part of the stadium desired? Ah, you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette.
Most of the fans were good natured, happy to share their stories of bypassing Arsenal’s security systems and getting into wherever they wanted in the stadium, it would be wrong to tar the majority because of a few.
And yet, when English fans do similar on the continent the romantic veneer somehow gets lost by onlookers. If it’s possible to use a few to label the majority then it’ll be done.
Contorted drunken faces will be picked out and used to typify a support, whether it be club or national, but especially the latter.
You see, the English habit of self loathing, a general active apathy towards the national team, and utter embarrassment at the ‘sort’ who would look more suited to Benidorm’s tackier bars, makes it all essential.
FC Koln fans, some complete with ultra group scarves, marching through London drinking and singing in German is almost seen as exotic. If it were English supporters drunk and singing something probably equally naff, it would be mocked. If those supporters had been led by a man carrying a megaphone it would be doubly naff.
Then charging the ground, and upturning the latte brigade is seen, by enough, to be showing the English fans how it’s done. If it had happened in reverse then the near inevitable baton charges would have been justified by many watching, and the images of bloodied fans, and an over the top number of arrests, used to shame the ones who got whacked.
There’d be some mumbling about harsh policing, but generally the leaning of opinion would weigh against the fans, and have some sympathy, and perhaps shared enthusiasm, with those wielding the batons.
You’re not used to a good atmosphere, that’s the problem.
The English aren’t genetically bad supporters, they’ve simply been herded to behave in a certain way over the years. When so much becomes the shame of a nation, it’s almost an education of fans from a young age, add to that the high cost of tickets, and football has inevitably left something behind.
Efforts to create an atmosphere are seen as something pushed by attention seeking nerds. Singing sections, encouragement to bring flags, rehearsed crowd behaviour… urgh, cringe.
And yet this kind of thing is behind a lot of what is seen as the great atmosphere elsewhere.
In Germany especially there’s an organisation of fans at many clubs. Ultra groups have more power, they actually exist for a start, and aren’t mocked or policed out of existence.
Well, not so far.
Germany has had a genuine problem with fan behaviour in recent years. Not people rattling barriers, but real physical attacks which sometimes target people who want nothing to do with a pre or post match kick-off.
Perhaps that’s why the reaction from many in Germany is harsher than some may imagine. Even when the situation was ongoing, there were fans, including those of the Koln persuasion, sending social media messages to their club and local media criticising those misbehaving at Arsenal.
Not real fans, etc etc
German newspaper Bild has ‘Fan shame’ on their front page, and inside they detail ‘The shame of London’. There’s the essential pictures of faces picked out as the hooligan type, causing trouble, the type used to then justify the criticism of the whole event. Online they slam the ‘Fan idiots of London’, with more, and seemingly purposely repeated, talk of shame.
Shame, shame, shame.
And back in England, fans at desks and on sofas slam Arsenal supporters for being too soft, y’know, a bit girly, whilst getting ready for the next time English fans get rowdy overseas, when they can all be dismissed as embarrassing chavs who voted Brexit.