Football has experienced some forgettable moments recently as the Football League play-offs reached full flow and fans’ expectations of promotion grew higher. Peter Rosseli takes a look at the crowd trouble, and reminisces of the great night between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool fans.
The football world is still witnessing minorities dragging the reputation of many true fans through the mud. Recently at Kenilworth Road and the Galpharm Stadium we’ve observed especially ugly scenes.
What occurred at Kenilworth Road (Luton Town’s home ground) was incredibly concerning. Seeing the opposition’s (York City) fans and players taking cover in the back rows of the stand is something I never thought I’d behold in the modern day. With the extra emphasis we have today on policing, stewards and general health and safety, the thought of players and fans being penned in at one end of the stand never crossed my possibly innocent mind.
To an extent, it’s fortunate the scenes during the Conference semi final play-off are rare, but at the same time, these scenes should be inexistent. The pitch took on the role of ‘no man’s land’ where the Luton fans crossed in numbers, putting the York fans and players on the defensive.
Sympathy must be given to the clubs who are let down by those who claim to support them. In this case Luton Town (who have had their fair share of set backs in recent time) are now trying to rebuild their reputation. A good reputation is far easier to lose than it is to assemble.
A poor reputation is something that follows Millwall around like a shadow. They’re notoriously known for bad behaviour and trouble in the stands. That evening at Upton Park where West Ham fans also contributed to a night Football would rather forget will forever be used as an example against Millwall supporters.
During their League One Semi Final first leg play-off match against Huddersfield, that reputation was maintained. Although the trouble caused wasn’t on the scale of previous regrettable moments, it still required police intervention.
With these recent events adding to the thuggish reputation that football constantly seems to be battling against, I felt it necessary to let people know about a particularly positive experience I had at a game.
I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the Atletico Madrid semi final second leg at Anfield. Joined by three friends, we were soaking up the surroundings to arguably Liverpool’s and Atletico’s biggest game of their respective seasons where league form has deserted both teams. Outside the local chippy would be a mixed group of Liverpool and Atletico fans singing the infamous Fernando Torres song together. Fernando Torres being the glue between both sets of supporters.
Ateltico fans are regarded as the Spanish equivalent to Liverpool fans. This with Fernando Torres seems to explain why there is so much mutual respect between both sides.
This was my first European night at Anfield and so the brief chats with opposing fans were a rare aspect of going to the game I’d prefer to encounter more frequently. Light-hearted banter about the final score was about as far as the chats could go due to language barriers. Saying that however, Football did show itself to be the international language, something I’ve had the pleasure to experience on more than one occasion.
As kick off grew ever nearer, the excitement increased. I found my seat in the Main Stand near the corner flag by the Anfield Road end. The Anfield Road end which would house the fans who in two hours time will make a lasting impression on me.
The Atletico fans were chanting and cheering as soon as goalkeeper David De Gea took to the field to warm up. The majority of the fans had taken their place but at no point did they seem to make use of their seat. Scarves were waved in time to the chants and each chant got louder and louder as they went on.
I found myself shaking with excitement at the start of the match and the atmosphere that I would regularly hear and dream about certainly met and exceeded initial expectations. The noise and buzz created by the Liverpool fans were far different from that experienced at domestic games. This was anticipated to be a special night and it was.
The result was of course disappointing but both sets of fans certainly weren’t. The match was full of intensity and extremely absorbing. Throughout the game the Atletico fans were making more noise than any preceding opponents I had witnessed at Anfield. As fascinating and intriguing as the game was, those fans also caught my attention.
The match went in to extra time with a couple more renditions of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The tie was decided on away goals and a despondent and disappointed Anfield (Atletico fans excluded) was left applauding the efforts of the 11 men who put so much in to it.
That applause was held for Pepe Reina as he was the final Liverpool player to leave the pitch. Then, as many fans were waiting to make their way out and back to ‘normality’, the Atletico players were celebrating in front of their loyal and devoted supporters. As those players began to head towards the tunnel, the remaining Liverpool fans initiated applause out of respect to the worthy winners. The Ateltico players acknowledged this and clapped back in return, including the man Liverpool fans couldn’t wait to see the back of, Diego Forlan.
That applause was then directed to the phenomenal Atletico fans. This didn’t go unnoticed and with that, the Atletico supporters started to chant “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool”. It was possibly the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen at a Football game, opposing fans cheering, no shouting, your teams name out of respect. The Liverpool fans responded by clapping them even louder, before a Fernando Torres song was sung by the Spaniards.
Totally humbled by the experience, whilst waiting for the players to come out afterwards, I was able to congratulate some Atletico fans. I swapped my scarf with one of them and another told me how if they won (which they subsequently did at the expense of an organised and valiant Fulham) they would share the trophy with Liverpool. Technically not a plausible idea but a wonderful gesture nonetheless.
I found myself heading back on the 300-mile journey home never feeling better after a defeat. The experience truly struck a chord with me and if I’m ever to beat that experience then it’ll have to be an Istanbul repeat of some kind.
This story should be what every football fan is entitled to. No one fan should worry about going to watch a game with friends or family out of fear that trouble will arise. That Thursday evening in Liverpool showed me what true football fans really are. Right now it can only be a pipe dream that the true fans attend all matches and stand taller than the thugs that tarnish this beautiful game.
So to all football followers, ‘Stand up if you are a fan, stand up…’