By Shamoon Hafez.
This is my blogging debut, I’m more used to doing match reports or features, so go easy on me with comments. As you may, or may not know, I’m a journalist for BBC Sport but also a hardcore United fan, attending home games regularly and the occasional away game as well.
Yesterday’s game was a Carling Cup affair, the three-handled trophy no-one is interested in, play the kids and give them experience, and let the backup players get a few minutes under their belts. But this wasn’t any old opposition, it was Leeds. Dirty Leeds, the Leeds that we all hate. A revenge job was on the cards after they turned us over in the FA Cup 3rd round in January 2010. And the players duly obliged, with three goals in the first half, putting the game to bed without getting out of second gear. Michael Owen; showing why he’s a useful squad player and the evergreen Giggs the scorers.
Despite the positive result though, the talking point of the game was what occurred in the stands, not the action that took place on the pitch.
It’s always a sad and shameful moment when the media decide to focus on off-field matters at a match which saw both sets of players play (for most of the match anyway) a good game. Excellent debut performances by youngsters such as Zeki Fryers and Paul Pogba will be overshadowed by the chanting of Leeds and our supporters.
Let me make one thing clear, I do not, in any way, condone the remembrance of those that died with ill-feeling and contempt. RIP the Busby Babes, and also Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, the two Leeds supporters who were stabbed and killed in Turkey.
I’ll give you an idea of what I saw and heard, some may have different views, but I’m giving it from my perspective.
Our supporters were making their way to entrance 15 in the south stand, being escorted by the police, chanting the usual “We all hate Leeds scum.” However, supporters behind the glass of the south stand were clearly see and heard to be shouting, “Munich, Munich.” Bottles came flying across the street from the Leeds supporters. An attempt was made by our fans to force their way inside, but police blocked this and led everyone towards the turnstiles.
As we went inside and took our seats, or our place standing in front of the seats, a chorus of, “We are the pride of all Europe..” began and the atmosphere was simmering nicely. Leeds sang, “Marching on together..” and the game began.
What unfolded after this was a disgrace to the reputation of Leeds United, once a great club, and Manchester United, our beloved club.
I’m all for banter, and taking the piss out of the opponents, even our own players but there’s a line between banter and spitefulness, a line which was long-jumped over Jonathan Edwards-style last night.
As the Leeds fans yelled, “Who’s that skidding on the runway..” and it was them that started it, our lot had to respond with “Always look out for Turks, with a knife..”
We need to know the right from the wrong, and what went on last night was totally wrong, from both sets of supporters. Granted, we get caught up in the moment and want to get back at the rivals for their chantings towards us.
But we keep going on about ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’, how successful the academy is, and the number of youngsters that the club bloods into the first team. Yet, what sort of environment are we bringing Fryer and Pogba into? What sort of example are the fans showing to their own players? Our set of supporters that claim to be “The pride of all Europe, the cock of the north..” whilst imitating stabbing gestures towards the opposition fans.
That’s not football, that’s not even hooliganism, it’s just abhorrent and repulsive behaviour that shouldn’t be associated with the great club that we follow. I know some will say, it’s only a minority, but when the minority react with vile responses, the rest join in without giving it a second thought. But why do it? Why, when we know full well what happened on the 6th February 1958, do we have to sing about the oppositions dead? Does it make people feel better?
We’ll be getting absolutely crucified in today’s newspapers for something which could easily have been avoided. The Anti-United brigade will be out in force, but this time the fuel for their outlook has been provided by ourselves.
Generally, the crowd banter, the chanting, the support for the team from the United fans is second to none, we sing all game, and tend to drown out the voices of the opposition. But when it comes to the games against Leeds and Liverpool, the hatred spills over into vicious, revolting detestation.
Will the “Murderers, Murderers” or “Munich, Munich” chants ever stop, or is it a case of the minority starting and the rest adhering in order to feel part of the crowd?
Sadly, I feel the mindlessness of the small group of chanters is something that will stay.
If Fergie can’t stop the crowd from singing the Arsene Wenger songs, how will anyone stop the chanting about the dead?
Then, again, “We’re Man United, we’ll do what we want!” eh? On this one, I decided to be a Gunners fan and not chant anything!
Let me know whether you agree or disagree, and if you were there, did you see anything differently?
Follow my United ramblings + other sporting views on Twitter: @ShamoonHafez
(These are all my views, not those of Stretford End Arising or the BBC)
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