Moira Gordon: ‘If you want to be considered a supporter, a true one, you don’t treat one of your own like that’
LOOK up the word supporter in the Oxford English Dictionary and there are several definitions. One is a person who gives approval, comfort, or encouragement. Another is a person actively interested in and concerned for the success of something or someone.
Maybe we should flash that round those funky advertising hoardings or start printing up leaflets and distributing them at games to remind those clicking through the turnstiles, because I think people are losing it. They have forgotten their role. They have forgotten their manners.
Poor Ian Black. The guy is waiting to come on for his international debut and the murmur goes round the ground. By the time he is running on to the pitch there is a chorus of booing accompanying him courtesy of Scotland’s so-called supporters and in the few moments of the game that remain his every touch is greeted with the same insanity.
Despicable. The Tartan Army has cultivated a reputation as one of the friendliest sets of football supporters in the world. Well, on Wednesday night, Black came under friendly fire and those responsible should be ashamed of themselves. Imagine subjecting one of your own to that? When they laid into Gary McAllister, prompting him to walk away from international football, they should have learned a lesson. Instead, some of those involved in the latest embarrassment have spent the past few days trying to justify their actions on messageboards and around water coolers.
Some cite club allegiances and the fact the match was played at Easter Road, the home of Hibs, a club he helped torment while wearing the maroon of city rivals Hearts. That would explain why Ryan McGowan – a second-half substitute for Australia – was also booed, but not why Andy Webster wasn’t. Others claim it was down to Black’s current lowly league status and the fact they believed a Third Division player should never be selected for the international team. Others have tried to suggest it wasn’t actually the player they were booing but manager Craig Levein, which does not explain why the midfielder was lambasted every time he subsequently touched the ball.
No matter club affiliations, no matter past grievances, if you want to be considered a true supporter, you don’t treat one of your own that way.
Some have said, ach, he’ll get over it, he’s used to abuse from the stands. How sad is that? The truth is players have had to develop thick skins. But now imagine he had turned round and said something to those booing him and besmirching his debut. Imagine he had been reckless enough to actually gesture.
Oh my goodness, you can bet that those on the receiving end would have been apoplectic. There would have been angry, hollering, finger-pointing. Stewards would be told to do something, police would be told to get a hold of him. The recriminations would be vociferously called for and a booking, if not a ban, would probably have been the end result. How pathetic. How sad that those who insist on dishing it out can’t take it.
There was another example of that last weekend. In the capital derby, Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas ended up virtually nose to nose with the Hibs support as momentum carried him over the advertising boards and right up to the front of the stand. He was bombarded by verbals. That was apparently OK, though. What wasn’t acceptable to the authorities was his response. He smiled at them, he grandstanded as he headed back over the hoardings and he finally raised five fingers on one hand, one finger on the other as a reminder of the cup final score. The place went nuts. Now, he wasn’t the one making obscene gestures, he wasn’t the one cursing and swearing (if he was then some form of punishment could be merited) yet he was the one punished with a yellow card. The referee stepping in probably helped him because, if those who had initially prompted the response through their own behaviour had not seen him being admonished, the chances are it would have rumbled on for days as blood was sought and TV evidence was wheeled out, etc.
It’s not an isolated instance, unfortunately. How often in recent years have players been subjected to persistent vitriol throughout a match, only to eventually crack and offer a cheeky wee wink or a sarcastic round of applause? It’s nothing really, just a bit of banter, but it induces the same symptoms as rabies as punters foam at the mouth, faces contorted in ill-concealed hatred and fury.
When exactly did football fans lose their sense of humour? It wasn’t that long ago that guys like Yogi Hughes, Ally McCoist, Roddy Grant, Owen Coyle and others would be able to offer a witty riposte to some chancer barracking from the sidelines. Usually those within earshot would acknowledge the comeback. Now they virtually self-combust when a player has the temerity to speak back.
The pitiful cry of the morons is that they pay their money so they are entitled to shout anything they want, badger the players all game long if they choose. Funny, I thought that ticket price entitled them to entry to the ground and the chance to watch a football match. Paying a few quid should not entitle them to leave common decency at the turnstiles.
It was reassuring to log on to the Tartan Army messageboards after the match against Australia on Wednesday and realise that the Scotland troops have not completely lost their way. The braying mob were condemned by the majority, while a few of those responsible, in the cold light of day, admitted they had been wrong. Fair play to them. They gave pelters and they accepted plenty in return.
Maybe they will think before they boo in future.
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