Friday, September 24, 2021
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Fed-up Fans’ Opinions Matter

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SPECTATORS at Wembley for England’s forthcoming European Championship matches must show evidence of either full vaccination or a negative rapid flow test. If former player turned Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville had his way, admission would be further restricted to supporters who have received racial re-education.

That would certainly be the (il)logical conclusion of Neville’s call this week for ‘everyone throughout the game’ – fans included, he emphasised – to undergo ‘compulsory education programmes’.

Grumbling Gary bewails how ‘the game doesn’t seem to want to educate or place great consequence on the offenders’. Culprits requiring conversion doubtless include the supporters scolded earlier this week for continuing to boo the England team for ‘taking the knee’ – a risible ritual, rightly ridiculed yesterday by TCW’s John Ellwood.

Alas, it is a pre-match pantomime which the players obstinately intend to continue. Speaking for the squad, team manager Gareth Southgate basically told dissenting fans to go hang: ‘We feel more than ever determined to take the knee throughout this tournament. We accept that there might be an adverse reaction and we are just going to ignore that and move forward.’ 

Pearl-clutching pundits include former internationalist Rio Ferdinand, who branded the boo-boys as ‘ignorant people . . . they haven’t got a clue . . . they don’t know what the players are kneeling for, it’s not a political stance’. 

Plus, true to form, there was a typically Tartuffian tweet handed down from Mount Lineker:

Manager Southgate can never say so, but with enough on his plate preparing the team he must rue the day the inflammatory kneeling ever began and wish he did not have to keep denying that the gesture has contentious connotations. ‘I think some people aren’t quite understanding the message,’ he sighed. 

Trouble is, the dissenting supporters understand only too well. Those fed-up fans well remember how, last summer, the game eagerly leapt aboard the Black Lives Matter bandwagon.

To commemorate the death in police custody of a career criminal on the other side of the Atlantic – for which an officer since been tried and convicted – English football adopted as a slogan the name of an existing anti-Semitic and Marxist movement; one which at the time seemed determined to destroy American civilisation. Wearing kits bearing the same nomenclature and iconography – nothing signifies racial harmony quite like a clenched black fist – players were encouraged to mimic BLM’s best-known gesture of protest.

Many fans articulated anger at the time. But while matches were being played in empty stadia, the herd heedlessly has carried on regardless, to the point where English football, and in particular the national team, has painted itself into a corner.

Contemptuous commentators demonise the nonconforming fans as a racist rabble; they are unwilling even to consider that the recent jeering is, for the foregoing reasons, a pent-up principled protest. Yet even if supporters are not entirely au fait with Marxist manifestos of Black Lives Matter in both the US and UK, they will certainly have been aware and aghast that last year BLM protesters vandalised both Churchill’s statue and the Cenotaph.

Those desecrations would have disgusted the many football supporters who are unfashionably patriotic. They would also have been repelled by the scenes of BLM violence and nauseated by police gutlessly genuflecting to the mob, including at the entrance to Downing Street.

Even if they have given up on our pathetic police, many football supporters still naively expect better from those they follow. Seeing players copying the craven constabulary, kowtowing to detestable Black Lives Matter, fed-up fans are entitled to jeer.

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Gary Oliver
Gary Oliver is an accountant who lives in East Lothian.

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