Not Up To Standard
Watching Manchester United today lose against Arsenal at Old Trafford it is painfully obvious this…
I love football, or as they call it in North America, soccer.
I’ve loved this game and everything about it since I was old enough to walk and stumble around to kick a ball. I’ve been to football stadiums around the world and played it all my life even as my knees failed me.
That said there are some distasteful aspects to football culture and Sunday’s incident in which a CITY-TV reporter was heckled with what is now an all too common vulgarity by a pack of male morons Toronto FC fans is one of them.
I’m not going to repeat it but it’s now known as “FHRITP” and while it may have started as an internet prank or joke, it’s morphed into something ominously dark and misogynistic and is now on the front lines of the gender war.
My son, my father and me at a game a few years ago
While MLSE, Toronto FC’s parent company, reacted quickly with a statement vowing to ban fans and refer incidents to the police, they’re missing the point and that is, they helped create this monster.
Toronto FC loves the fact that their fans are just a little more edgy, boisterous and have set the bar high for home games with chants, songs and noise.
But there’s a line and Toronto FC has nurtured this boorish, male macho, aggressive and obsessive culture too long without restraint and as a result a segment of those fans have crossed that Rubicon.
The reality is that while TFC has distanced itself publicly from that segment, in reality they want more fans like them who will do and say anything on impulse without regard to anyone around them.
Football culture is indeed primal and tribal and that is truly part of the fun. It’s us against them our colours, their colours, life or death over 90 minutes in the squared emerald ring.
The problem with primal and tribal, as we’ve seen in Europe, is that it gets out of hand and the sight and sounds of fans making racist gestures and shouting racist epithets disgusts all thinking people. Even the dead get no rest. Moronic segments of hard core supporters have special songs they bring out for teams like Liverpool and Manchester United who have suffered through tragedies like stadium collapses or plane crashes.
Still, they are in the minority and FIFA and the English Football Association are working to stamp it out from the game with severe penalties for clubs who don’t reign in unruly fans.
I accept that sometimes things cross the line at games but I think we also know we don’t have to participate in those things and should voice our disgust at those who act out.
I bought my season tickets in Section 114 at BMO back in October 2006. We are just behind the goal, on the east side of the six yard box, and until the recent reconfiguration, were at the rail with unobstructed views.
The only issues in the first couple years were idiots who lit flares and threw them from the back onto the field where they burned holes in the artificial turf and, should their arms have failed, could have hit and burned spectators like us in the front rows or threw beer at opposing players.
Many of us shouted our disgust at such behaviour while still singing and chanting for the team.
There were also problems with under age drinking caused by of-age fans who bought beers and passed them along to under-age fans. TFC was barred from selling beer for a game and they suspended in seat sales in the south end until recently.
However, if TFC can’t put a winning team on the field the market department at least wants the stadium, especially the vociferous South End, to be packed. Sound familiar Leafs and Raptors fans?
It was mildly amusing to watch as “cheerleaders” standing in soap boxes appeared to lead chants. In Europe, for the most part, they don’t need cheerleaders instructing fans what songs to sing when, because it’s organic. Then again, in Italy and Spain, where I’ve been to games, they fence in the hardcore extremist fans to keep them separated from the regular folks. Legend has it at Lazio in Rome, the Ultras smuggled in a scooter and then hurled it flaming from the top of the stadium.
We’re starting to get a taste of such extremism in Toronto and the incident with the TV report is the result. Not all such idiots who hurl that insult are TFC fans but they are the poster boys for what happens when you nurture a culture of extremism for your own ends.
Last year our section was invaded by a new group of fans, who broke away from the main fan body in the south end, the Red Patch Boys. There were a few conflicts, especially over the flag waving which obscured views and the smoke cannons which were choking and in our faces. After some pushback from fans in 114, TFC got the newcomers to tone it down.
This year, without consultation, they’ve reconfigured 114. A breakaway fan group of extremists have packed into the new seats which TFC says they had first dibs on because they’d bought their original season tickets before we did. Strangely, though, I think 10 years ago those folks would have been in high school.
There’s now a monkey in a box in front of us leading the chants, gibbering and yabbering away with a megaphone though he doesn’t bother to actually watch the game.
When we complain about the flags and banners, we’re told: “It’s a supporters’ section, go sit somewhere else.”
And we would, if TFC would offer us comparable seats for the same price but TFC expects us to play a lot more for the privilege of being shoved out of our seats where we have a community of like-minded fans – not so much “family fans” but true fans, who know the game and understand what’s really going on.
We’re staunch supporters but we’re not moronic idiots. Which brings us back to the incident on Sunday.
The smirks on the faces of the group gathered around the reporter during the heated exchange tells the story. There’s a contingent of TFC fans who think that putting on a team jersey – and the one bloke was wearing and Arsenal FC shirt with a TFC scarf – is license to do and say anything to anyone, anywhere.
It’s not and Toronto FC needs to start sending some strong messages to the more ultra extremist factions in their fanbase. You can’t have FIFA, the world governing body of the world’s game, talking about and enforcing a policy of “respect and fair play” on the field and off the field when you’re tacitly supporting and nurturing obscene and misogynist behaviours in a targeted segment of fans.
You reap what you sow.