The Great United > England Debate

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By Danny Armstrong

The recent chanting from sections of the England crowd against Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton has done little to repair the already fractured dynamic between the most part of United’s support and those they call ‘the In-gur-land mob’.

From hanging effigies of David Beckham from a noose to singing about burning Ferdinand this latest occurrence of anti-United vitriol carries with it a similarly abhorrent undercurrent.

The homogeneity of the two sets of supporters has, for the most part, never expanded past the coincidence that both of their teams hail from the same patch on the United Kingdom. This concept is emphasised by terms such as ‘The Republic of Mancunia’, a reference to the general consensus that a Manchester United fan is being more proud of the heritage of their home city than that of their country and its national side.

In recent times United fans become increasingly disillusioned with the F.A. The days of Liverpool fan Brian Barwick as chief executive did nothing to entice those of a standoffish stance into a more sympathetic attitude towards the governing body of the English game. But this view is not just exclusive to us.

The F.A. have built up a reputation of inadequacy in dealing with delicate matters such as racism though a string of weak attempts at trying to solve the problem in football.

If the FA are to make any sort of amends in the eyes of those who deem them incapable of dealing with such matters (and admittedly most of these eyes are gazing through red tinted lenses) they have to deal with this sort of thing thoroughly and absolutely. It isn’t enough to simply hush it up or isolate the event to a minority. When the same happened during the England v Spain match in 2004 or the more recent U21 game in Serbia last year the general consensus was one of outrage. Similar events but this time from their own fans have so far evoked nothing more than mild discontent. To get to the bottom of it a more stern attitude must be adopted and a full investigation conducted.

Through it all, Ferdinand has managed himself with the utmost dignity in his response.

“You expect and accept banter from fans on the terraces as its part of what makes the game great, but racism is not banter,” tweeted Ferdinand.

“[There’s] always a small minority who ruin it for others. Let’s not jump to conclusions and assume though, as it might just have been banter. We’ll see after the investigation.” He added,

From a personal point of view I can’t bring myself to get behind anyone not wearing a red shirt and therefore my interest in England players has never strayed beyond a casual curiosity in the performances of those on our books.

To me it seems illogical to actively loathe an opposition player one week and sing his name the next. It isn’t something you can just switch off or set aside to be later resumed and it is the fact England fans do exactly that why I could never warm to their culture. How could I ever come to, in any capacity, support Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, or a team led by John Terry? I couldn’t. They are the enemy and nothing less.

The same concept applies to the fans. Among them are the arm-waving, Poznan-dancing no-marks we encounter on a weekly basis. And while they are still referred to as a minority, I would much rather be in the minority of football fans who want no association with them.

Therefore, the self-exclusion of United fans from any ties with England is wholly justified.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Absolutely spot-on: echoes my own thoughts exactly. It also shows an often latent but very deep undercurrent of racism that still pervades supporters of the national team.

    I don’t feel represented by the England football team at all. I can happily will England’s cricketers on and absolutely felt a part of everything our Olympic and Paralympic athletes did and achieved last year. But football? It’s a choice: United or England. Which, if you’re a real United fan, means there’s only one outcome.

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