Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fans Prove That Azteca Etiquette Crosses Borders

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that." -Bill Shankly

Bill Shankly, the famous Liverpool manager, said many memorable things, and the above quote may be his most oft cited adage. Many people wholeheartedly agree with that proposition and proudly live their life according to its message.

You'll notice that we here at FutbolNation have cited at the top Jorge Valdano, the Argentine nicknamed the "Philosopher of Football," who takes a slightly different perspective of the sport in relationship to our lives.

Fans of course, coming from the word fanatics, are called so for a reason. As many of you know, Tuesday was marred by fan violence at the West Ham-Millwall Carling Cup East London derby. Clashes led to at least one fan being stabbed in the chest and three pitch invasions that almost forced the match to be abandoned. West Ham in particular have a long and notorious reputation for hooliganism, as depicted in the movie Green Street Hooligans.

Clearly no one condones this type of behavior, and fans caught in such acts should be banned from stadiums. I have been involved in many a shouting match with opposing fans over the years at various sporting events, and I've used a lot of inappropriate language, but never has it occurred to me to actually respond physically and violently.

While in no way nearly as bad as the events in London, last night's DC United-Toluca match provided me with a more personal experience with classless fans, something that seems to be particularly prevalent among Mexican fans and other countries in Latin America.

These fans are notorious for the abuse they heap on American teams and fans in Latin America, which in addition to profane language includes throwing beers, bottles and cups, bags of urine, and other projectiles. Many people witnessed this on TV when Landon Donovan prepared to take corner kicks near the end of the USA-Mexico World Cup Qualifier in Mexico City.

Well, last night in RFK Stadium, Toluca fans brought that classy etiquette to Washington, DC. My friends and I, as well as the families next to us, including women and kids, were constantly showered with beer and a few objects were tossed our way, including a pair of shirts. Who throws a shirt? Honestly! You fight like a woman!

Additionally, the Mexican fans had no qualms yelling inappropriate and offensive phrases all game long. We began to wonder why is it that they have no problems doing so despite the fact that there are Hispanic children all around you who understand you! (I do want to add a note that the RFK security was a disgrace, focusing on getting us to sit down and move rather than throwing out the fans they witnessed throwing things; just giving them a warning is not good enough and throwing things shouldn't be tolerated.)

Of course I want to amend the previous statement about the yelling all game long. During the second half, which DC United dominated until Hector Mancilla scored a brilliant goal against the run of play in the 79th minute, the Toluca fans were conspicuously quieter. The DC United fans, on the other hand, never stopped standing and cheering and singing, even when Toluca was dominating possession and when they eventually pulled away at the end of the game. Furthermore, we chant for our team, rather than cursing the other team's fans. Just another reason why I believe many Mexican fans are simply a disgrace.

All this brings me back to the point that some people simply take fandom beyond what a reasonable human should. I fully admit to being more passionate and crazy about the teams I support than is often healthy. I use the pronoun 'we.' But I think there must be something wrong in someone's head that they must resort to throwing beer (hey that's $6.50 you just wasted) and projectiles or god forbid stabbing another fan because he has the audacity of being from another city or country and supporting another team. Certainly there are American fans who do such things, and though I've never seen American soccer fans act that way (the violence and throwing things, not the language), I have seen despicable behavior at other sporting events.

Am I wrong in my view here? Do you have stories of American soccer fans acting similarly? I think soccer fans' passion is what helps make the sport the greatest game on Earth, but sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder what's wrong with people.

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