They’ve managed to make something fun really irritating.
The World Cup fever is still very much raging. I’ve binge played Fifa, to my shame and I’m now constantly keeping track of league results I hadn’t really ever considered before. Yet, joining the club football party as an adult is much less fun than I remember it being as a child.
There is a huge amount of discussion and focus on toxic behaviour and fandoms right now. This is largely thanks to Gamergate and Comicsgate. Toxic fandoms are largely associated with being a nerd. Pretty much every nerd space is tricky to navigate for that reason. However, perhaps this behaviour actually started with football fandoms?
In the UK, annoying football fans are nothing new. I’m from a city where a pissed off football fan punched a police-horse on derby day for no reason. Almost every international tournament, there are images of drunk Brits trashing venues. This World Cup, we kept our vandalism to our streets as drunkards attacked emergency service vehicles. That’s at the extreme end of the scale, and yet is still common behaviour. In between, there are rival fans hacking footballer’s private accounts and stealing sex tapes, trolling of one another and endless bickering. Even the most seemingly dull football conversation has a layer of disempowerment. When fans go on about who is greater between Messi or Ronaldo, they won’t just settle on the idea that they are both superstars. No, one has to be worse. One has to be beaten. One has to be humiliated.
“One has to be beaten”
When England recently played Spain, fans constantly booed Ramos because he injured Mohammed Salah last season. It was an accident. He didn’t throw his football boot at Salah. Yet, fans constantly expressed their ire at one of the greatest footballers in the world simply for doing his job.
In football it just seems so easy to talk about all of the annoying things that it’s rare to hear fans talk about what they like. Look at how pundits such as Neville trash young players. It’s not constructive a lot of the time. It’s just insulting.
Rivalry should be based on respect. It should be an event of utter excitement to see rivals play against each other at their best, but Twitter is only ever dominated by insults. It’s just not fun. Football is a game – a supposedly beautiful one – but a game nonetheless. Yet, people engage in tribalism. You can’t like multiple teams, you must only like one and hate their biggest rivals. It’s spoiling football and it just doesn’t do justice to the best players in the world.