Now I’m never, ever one to take the “I have a major opinion on something, quick, make a blog post!” action, but today, I have to make an exception.
Earlier this afternoon, I visited Anfield (as an away fan) and was overwhelmed by the occasion, and the way Liverpool fans carried themselves before the game. As our entrance was on Anfield Road, we felt obliged to pay our respects at the JFT96 memorial, simply because of the occasion, and because, like us, these fans were once away fans, but unfortunately – they never came home…
The pre-match tributes to the 96 were also brilliant, and very well done by Liverpool FC, I’m almost certain the friends and families of the victims would have been touched by the goings on, on and off the pitch before the first whistle.
I really felt a strong tension before the game, I felt like the whole world was watching us as United fans, and waiting for us to do something wrong. We didn’t. We performed impeccably (maybe not on the pitch – that’s a different story, though a win’s a win) and we were right behind our players in full voice.
Obviously the usual songs were sang by both sets of fans, “banter” if you will, about life on opposite sides of the Mersey, but that was inevitable. This is arguably the biggest rivalry in all of football, after all.
Then came the end of the game. Between 15-20 Liverpool fans stayed behind to taunt the United fans, by doing airplane gestures with their arms, and singing Munich songs. Although they were a small minority, it provoked some United fans to react by chanting “Murderers”. Now I cannot stress enough how vile I find this chant, and any chant about a human disaster (including Munich, Heysel and obviously Hillsborough), but because there are fans who retaliate with such a chant, I find it astounding that Sky Sports showed United fans singing “murderers” as well as “always the victim…” but didn’t put into context. This just adds fuel to an already ferocious fire between these two sets of fans.
“Always the victim…” was sang toward Liverpool fans who were being escorted out of the stadium by police, but were fighting against them as if they’d done nothing wrong – hence “never your fault” this was in no way aimed toward Hillsborough, and it never is – in recent months it has been sang toward Luis Suarez, but that’s another can of worms that doesn’t need to be opened here.
The Sky camera that captured such chants was from the other side of the ground, so the Liverpool fans cannot even be seen, but if you were to consult CCTV at Anfield, you would find that what I am writing is true – I’m not one to lie.
The reason I have written this blog post, isn’t to clear United’s name – the fans that sang “Murderers” were in the wrong, there is no doubt about that whatsoever, but it is to put it into context for those people that weren’t there, as the way it has been depicted on Sky Sports News this evening, it looks like United fans just randomly broke into song.
A reported 6 arrests were made this evening with regards to singing about a human tragedy – all Liverpool fans. Think of that what you will, but I was at the ground today, and hearsay from folk who weren’t present is what is going to make this situation spiral out of control, instead of blowing over, and being forgotten about.
Today was about football. It was also about 96 families finally getting justice. There is no need for anymore animosity, and I personally feel these chants should be treated the same way as racist and homophobic chants are now treated – zero tolerance. If you are racist on or off the pitch there is no question about it, you will be banned. That is how these chants need to be treated. It is the only way they’ll stop. This isn’t “banter” this is human tragedy being mocked and it needs to be put to an end.