Columnists, Sports

Indirect Kick: Fan violence is still an issue

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Fan violence has not slowed down as a trend since the Heysel incident in 1985. PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Sept. 15  marked the start of the 2015-16 edition of the UEFA Champions League, Europe’s premier club soccer competition. On Sept. 17, the UEFA Europa League got underway. A much less prestigious tournament, the Europa League pits the 48 teams who didn’t qualify for UEFA Champions League against each other.

One of the more anticipated games during the tournament’s opening week was between Dutch-side FC Groningen and French-side Olympique Marseille. The streets of Groningen, Netherlands, were bustling with excitement ahead of the match and the local pubs and cafes were filled with fans waiting to cheer on their respective teams.

Things were about to take a dark turn, however, as Marseille fans took to the streets and began to ransack various cafes. One video shows the away fans trashing a local restaurant, throwing wicker chairs and tables along with beer glasses toward patrons of the eatery. This act of violence is unacceptable, and UEFA is currently looking into disciplining Marseille.

These incidences of fan violence are becoming all too frequent. With many notable occurrences in the past, there is clearly a problem that needs solving. However, leagues and organizations seem to just push it under the rug.

Let’s take a look at the NFL’s Buffalo Bills for instance. During their opening game against the Indianapolis Colts, many Indianapolis fans tweeted and told reporters how awful the home fans treated their guests. One said that they were pushed and degraded, while countless others have said that beer was thrown on them.

This is an unacceptable way to act at a sporting event or even towards people in general. It’s childish and frankly rude.

This fan violence is not just in the stands, but on the field as well. In 2007, Mike Piazza, then a catcher for the Oakland Athletics, was hit by a water bottle thrown by a fan. Piazza had just finished trotting around the bases after a home run. He pointed out the fan who threw it, and while charges were pressed and justice was served, the incident should have never happened.

One of the more gruesome incidents of fan violence occurred at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, on May 29, 1985. It was the UEFA Champions League final between Italian-side Juventus and English-side Liverpool. Fans of both clubs were separated, with Liverpool fans in the one section, and Juventus fans in another. The neutral section nearest the Liverpool section was mostly full of Juventus fans.

What happened next was one of the most horrific events in the history of soccer. Liverpool fans breached a fence separating them from the neutral section of Juventus fans. Many fans climbed a retaining wall to safety, while others were crushed by the moshpit of fans moving away from the rioting Liverpool supporters. Eventually, the wall collapsed and 39 Juventus fans died. An additional 600 supporters were injured in the disaster.

UEFA decided to play the match in order to prevent any further violence, and Juventus came out victorious, defeating their English opponents 1-0. In the aftermath of the tragedy, criminal proceedings resulted in an indefinite ban of English clubs from all European competitions. This ban, later lifted in 1990, cost clubs the chance to play on a continental and global stage, all because of unacceptable and unruly behavior from fans.

The list of these various violent confrontations goes on and on. And why? Why can’t fans just leave players and opposing fans alone? It’s much easier than going out of the way to make a game miserable. It doesn’t just embarrass the fans, it embarrasses the team as well. I’m not saying that everyone has to become best friends, but it boils down to not being mortal and violent enemies.

Security, though also at fault, can’t be blamed for the lack of sportsmanlike behavior on the part of fans. This violence not only should cease, but it needs to immediately. It’s becoming a detriment to the game.

If I want to go watch my favorite team play on the road, I should be able to without the fear that I may have something thrown at me or somebody hurting me because of my allegiance. I should be proud to represent my local team and my city with respectful. It’s the same with traveling fans as well; there shouldn’t be an excuse to look for a fight when traveling. Just go to watch the game.

Being a fan is about cheering on your favorite team and representing them with the utmost respectability possible. By acting out with violence, the integrity of the sport is violated and the true fan experience has been damaged. So just do everyone a favor and the next time you’re at a sporting event, just be a good fan. There is no need for violence in sports. It must end now.

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Daniel Shulman is a sophomore at Boston University majoring in Journalism through the College of Communication. A native of Stoughton, Dan is a sports fanatic who loves everything Boston sports related. He is currently a Sports Hawk at the Boston Globe in the High School sports department. He is also a statistician for both Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Men’s Ice Hockey. Aside from writing, Dan has an interest in music, movies and cooking.

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