Simon Boynton imagines the backlash that would be thrown at an English club if they had behaved like Koln fans did at Arsenal.
As dust settles on the appalling behaviour of Koln fans in central London and at the Emirates on Thursday, let’s close our eyes and imagine an alternative scenario.
A large English club from a big provincial city with an impressive history has been on hard times for a quarter of a century, suffering a number of relegations.
Then, unexpectedly they qualify for Europe and are drawn in a group containing a team from one of Europe’s major capital cities – it could be Rome, Madrid, Berlin or Paris, it doesn’t really matter.
Their first match is away in that great city and they are allocated the correct number of tickets. The English club are warned several times that the match will be sold out and that no away fans are allowed in the home sections – as is normal.
Fast forward to the day of the match and by 12 noon around 20,000 English fans have arrived in the foreign capital and are starting to congregate along the main commercial thoroughfare.
By 2pm, they have stopped the traffic are letting off flares and throwing bottles, there is even a suggestion that drink may be involved. By late afternoon, they are on the move, all making their way the few miles out to the stadium (remember that 17,000 have no tickets).
On arrival, some obtain tickets from whatever source they can, all of which will be in areas where they are fully aware that they are banned from sitting. Others storm the turnstiles, whilst others simply block any of the home fans getting in to watch the match.
The match is delayed for at least an hour and as fans are let in, the English away fans are all over the ground, scaring the life out of the local families that have come to watch their team.
The match goes ahead and, due to the superbly controlled behaviour of the home fans, no further incidents occur. So, who do the media blame? Anyone who has been abroad with an English club knows that you only have to cough in a foreign street to be branded an English hooligan.
The slightest supposed sleight to the locals can see you being hauled off in a local police van for a ‘bumpy’ ride to the local police station or holding pen. You are an ‘animal’ or ‘scum’, you will not only get a life ban from your club, but most likely a travel ban when any English team is playing abroad.
Your own FA derides you and your club publically, the gnomes of Nyon can’t wait to close your ground and warn you about expulsion from all competitions, whilst the government accept as gospel every unfounded slur on any English fan found to be within a 100-mile radius of the stadium.
But not when we are the victims. Oh no, not like Thursday. We get media coverage of raucous, but good-humoured Germans, and just ‘minor bad behaviour’.
You get pundits on all broadcast and online channels blaming Arsenal, Arsenal fans, ticket touts, the police, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Anyone except the 17,000 ticketless Koln fans who travelled halfway across Western Europe for reasons only known unto themselves. You literally couldn’t make it up.
We will see what punishment UEFA dolls out to FC Koln, but don’t expect it to be earth-shattering. But then when another favoured club, with 11 reported fan incidents in just six years, has yet another appalling on pitch fan incursion and is still allowed to play on as normal, what can you expect.
(Photo courtesy of @TheBock69).