I’ll never forget watcing a TV3 fiasco of a documentary on hooliganism in Irish soccer last year. A series of bebo pages were presented as proof that your average Friday night League of Ireland match was on par with a dreaded Milwall/West Ham FA Cup clash.
To give you an idea of what you can find on a ‘hoolie’ bebo page, a trip back in time and over to that site leads me to stuff like “ha a bounch of runnaways srfc eire no 1″ or “ROVERS SCUM BHOS TILL I DIE”. It was hardly criminal mastermind stuff, and the programme had a number of key faults. It identified ‘ultras’ as hooligans. Ultras are the people you’re looking at above, the fans with the banners and the vocal chords that make our Friday nights what they are. The show, quite simply, was an hour of telly that said nothing.
The scenes in Richmond Park on Tuesday night were worrying, but they are rare. Likewise, it was blown out of proportion. The sight of hundreds of fans invading a pitch is normal after a key cup victory, the sight of bottles being thrown into the mainstand (where families go) and the ultras stand behind the goal is not normal. It’s far from normal. It’s completely intolerable.
I complained briefly on here recently about the policing at League of Ireland games. You’d have to ask how a few dozen young people can get from one end of a pitch to another to fling bottles at opposing supporters, and remain there for several minutes. Outside the stadium, we witnessed one young Pats fan almost lifted by police for shouting at them to “go stand outside Anglo Irish Bank, you’re good at that. You obviously can’t police football games.”. Threatening to lift young supporters outside, enraged at the sights they were seeing inside, only added to a very tense environment.
One of the more humorous aspects of the TV3 documentary was a lone soldier at a Dublin derby swinging an umbrella. He became a bit of a joke in League of Ireland circles, with most of us never having encountered these casual umbrella carrying troopers. From the camac terrace on Tuesday we witnessed a deranged man, older than many of the kids on the pitch, attempt to stir things up by waving his umbrella at the ultras stand as if he were playing golf. He was soon joined by another moron. Behind them, we spotted a Stone Island clad grown man flinging bottles too.
It’s up to the clubs to deal with this problem. The RTE news footage speaks volumes, (Around 35 minutes in) and it was good to see the Saint Patrick’s Athletic website quickly updated with a condemnation. Essentially they were saying any participation in these events was to be condemned, and that it was important to avoid the blame game.
“Strong and immediate action will be taken by St Patrick’s Athletic against any home supporters found to be involved in crowd disturbances of any kind on the night.”
The Shamrock Rovers website however has remained completely silent. The latest press release there is the team news before the match. In an interview with the extratime.ie site, Shamrock Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche gave an unimpressive account of events, saying if “20 or 30 people” are hellbent on trouble they’ll cause it. 20 or 30 people? It’s time for clubs to get real, not least if they’ve been shown to have trouble like this in the past. There is nothing normal about ambulances, mounted police or roads closed to buses and traffic. Many more than 20 or 30 people are to blame too.
We’ve removed the gun from Irish politics apparently, lets remove the umbrella from Irish football.
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