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Thursday, 2 May 2013

Ignore Saturday's Disturbances at Your Own Risk

Barry Barry writes  

After last weekend’s trouble at Urawa v Shimizu I found myself, against my better judgment but with morbid fascination, sucked in to YouTube’s comments section. While it was the inevitable car crash of bitching and name calling, I also picked up on a recurring theme of discussion. It was at once fascinating but ultimately disturbing. A number of comments sympathising with the Urawa cause, while predictably attempting to shift the blame, were at the same time suggesting Shimizu supporters not only caused the initial exchanges, but actively ensured their escalation.

To recap, shortly after S-Pulse’s traditional post game celebration, several Urawa fans arrived next to the away enclosure shouting, gesturing and demanding an end to the festivities. In response, a chorus of Kingdom Shimizu rang out. After the majority of S-Pulse fans had left the ground, 150 home fans blocked a remaining group of fifty in the stadium for over four hours. The reason given in holding these people captive, one frequently repeated online since, is that S-Pulse supporters were “unreasonably happy” in their celebrations and as such failed to respect the home team.

No, you read that correctly. Unreasonably happy and failing to respect the home team. Perhaps the home supporters are uniquely thin skinned, but the travelling support did nothing most normal people would consider as a display of disrespect. Two different chants were sung, neither mentioning Urawa. The first, the regular post win victory dance, the second Kingdom Shimizu. Kingdom Shimizu is a song which gets an airing after beating Urawa, an area traditionally rivals when claiming the heart of Japanese football, or local rivals Jubilo Iwata. 

Genuinely showing disrespect could have taken the form of obscene messages aimed at the home team (as Kashima once did against Urawa), damaging the home team’s flags (as Urawa once did at Nihondaira), or taking the singing outside the stadium. Any of these would have been an act of aggression, but none of these were the case. In approaching a jubilant away end demanding silence, was there ever going be an outcome other than heckling and a second rendition of Kingdom Shimizu? Not on this planet. The travelling hoards acted as any football fans should, and a minority of home fans had a temper tantrum.

Returning to the argument levelled at to Shimizu fans, if you follow that particular logic it leads us on to some very shaky ground. Home fans blockaded the away zone because they were unhappy, firstly with the away fans’ delight at victory, and subsequently at their refusal to be quiet. Pretty spurious grounds by which to forcibly restrict people going home you may think, and you would be right, but who was there to stop them? Nobody. For four hours the issue went unresolved. No police presence was brought in to remove the law breakers and free those trapped. 

What possible reasoning there was for not requesting police assistance I don’t even want to begin to speculate. But in not confronting the aggressors you can be certain they will repeat their actions, confidence bolstered. Next time who knows what ever-more flimsy provocation they’ll cite as justification?  “How dare the away area keep not quiet during our team announcement?” “Who do they think they are beating us is in such an important game?”

The reality is you can’t put any restrictions on any supporters’ freedom, and if you try to you can kiss all atmosphere goodbye. Violent or genuinely inciteful behaviour aside,  booing, cheering, making a row over the home fans, and most of all NOT shutting up just because your opponents may have hurt feelings are essential to any free and fair football stadium. If after victory Urawa decided to mimic S-Pulse’s victory song I’d say fair play, you’ve earned your moment, enjoy it as it’s your right, rubbing our faces in it as you see fit. There is nothing else you can say. 

The actions of those on Saturday were juvenile in the first instance, but doubly perverse has been the attempts to justify them through ambiguous and loaded, but ultimately meaningless, language such as respect and offence. That the police didn’t disperse the wrongdoers validates mob rule as a method of crowd regulation, and unless the J. League, still silent on the issue a week on, come down on the ringleaders, not only will the door be thrown wide open for repeats, but a standard will have been established: Our stadium, our rules. Do as we say or accept the consequences. That is, in effect, anarchy, and obviously not a route the J. League wants to start down.

You can't take the effect and make it the cause.


Tichmall said...

It seems the league doesn't want to take actions against the stadium they picked to host the 20th anniversary game...

By the way, Niigata, who do you think you are, beating us at our stadium ?! You don't respect our team !