Alan Shearer: Players and fans should be able to enjoy the struggle without fear of being attacked

Football is a strange little bubble of invented conflict. 90 minutes where only noise, anger and joy matter. We demand passion from our players, we want them to care, so we urge them to run faster, bounce back, pounce on challenges, and curse the opposition as if they were an invading army rather than elite athletes displaying their skills and spreading fun. The meaner the better.

Every now and then, something happens to shatter the imagination, to break through the barriers we put up around the game. What do we want from football? talent, goals, beautiful passing and victories, but also the element of pseudo-war; For your team to work on the edge, address seriousness, and deliver everything. In the stands we sing, chant, shout and get lost in it. None of it closely reflects real life.

The North London derby end incident was one of those moments when our bubble burst. After all that drama – drama based on glorified nonsense that none of it really matters – A Tottenham Hotspur fan sent off Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.. You can just shake your head and speculate what possesses someone to act this way.

Suddenly it stopped being fake. becomes real. You talk about safety and violence because the line has been crossed. These moments are rare, fortunately, but what’s interesting is where that streak sits in the first place, because feigning hostility is ingrained in the game, even in an era when our courts are family friendly. Nobody wants football to be sanitized – we’ve seen how we felt during the pandemic – but how do we strike a balance?

But the point of this column is not to delve into the details of what happened in it spursis the pitch but instead take a step back and ask what we expect from footballers and soccer players. I’m not sure I have the answer, but the question seems valid.

“The Tottenham fans gave me some throughout the game,” Ramsdale said afterwards Arsenal2-0 victory. “The people I gave it to receive it in mathematical terms.” There was an obvious, unsavory exception. Incidentally, Ramsdell was brilliant throughout the game, confident and cocky, and he’s not to be blamed for what happened next when he bent down to retrieve a bottle of water. So what if he accepted his badge?

And it’s okay, isn’t it, to have some and give some in return, even if it’s just a little bit? Or because players get paid so well, do we think they should just take it, suck up abuse and plow like bots? Off my head, I can think of no other environment, certainly not related to leisure or entertainment, where things like this are normalized to the extent that it is in football. Fair play for Ramsdal and Arsenal for holding back from further confrontation.

I can remember playing at Millwall’s original Upton Park and Dean, older, tougher at a different time, when the crowd was all over you and the insults made you teary eyed. These experiences stay with you. Likewise, I was just in world Cup Where besides the oddities and negatives, there was a lack of aggressive and stupid behavior in general. How does that relate to the much-publicized restrictions on alcohol sales?

Things have changed, but abuses still happen on a large scale and smaller, more personal ones. I’ve had entire courts, more or less, call me “goblins” and “sad Geordian bastard” for the heinous sin of playing for Newcastle United Or refuse transfers to other clubs. Football is tribal and you accept to go with the region. None of these things bothered me, and in some weird way they got me to. Sometimes, with funny cheers, you make me laugh.

My attitude has always been positive on this scenario. Supporters tend not to boo a bad player unless he is a bad player. The higher level you are, the bigger target you are, especially if you are playing for it England, which is weird when you think about it. If you are hated, then you are hated for the reason that you are half decent. It will make me puff out my chest a little more. As a player, you always have the chance to laugh last and the loudest.

As a fan, have I ever sung this kind of song? Perhaps as a child I stood at Gallowgate End watching Newcastle, though the truth is I don’t remember. I’m not editing whether this is right or wrong, but I do know that soccer is a tribal and emotional game that prompts all kinds of natural chemicals to circulate in your body. We’ve all been there; You support your team through the good and the bad and at certain moments you feel disappointed, angry or sad.

It’s weird too. Players grow up on the same kinds of streets in the same kind of towns and cities that people watch. They get paid to do their best for their team, just as you want your players to give everything for your team. The runner we shoot is part of the show and I’m all for the passion because that’s what creates such an atmosphere.

Individual abuse is more penetrating. I understood everything. There is the usual obscenity – “f*** off you north c***” – for insults to your mother, your children, your sister, your partner, your family. It all comes to you when you head to the touchline to take a quick throw-in. I spat several times and I can tell you it was absolutely awful. What do you do? point to hosts? Repeat Eric Cantona and take off on the podium?


Manchester United’s Eric Cantona attacks a Crystal Palace fan after being jeered after being sent off (Picture: Steve Morton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Obviously, I would never condone Eric’s extreme reaction all those years ago, but there is an element of understanding about his anger. Did you say anything to the fans? Maybe once or twice, but nothing to get excited about. Most of the time, she just stares and smiles. You are thoughtful and calm. You grow with thick skin and you’re expected to deal with it because that’s the norm. But, again, it’s simply not the norm elsewhere.

There are moments as a player – very rare – when you run into a bad tackle or someone says something in the heat of battle and the red fog comes down. I can raise my hand to that extent and I don’t think you can reasonably expect to have an entire career in a contact sport without it happening. It usually lasts for half a second and then goes away and you hope you haven’t been slammed or given a red card. Most of the time it goes unnoticed.

I have never been nipped or yelled at from the crowd. Maybe it’s easier to deal with because it’s out of your own little world and so there’s some form of separation, but close distance between fan and player. However, it should be different for goalkeepers, who are confined to the same area for 45 minutes per game without escaping. In an ideal world, it would be two-way and a bit of fun, acknowledging the rivalry but based on respect.

I’m not qualified to say whether the Ramsdale incident was a trend or a societal problem, but I do know that it was completely unacceptable. I also know that football is the best and most compelling sport in the world, not just for its own sake but because of what it means to us and how much we have invested in it. That should never change. Yet where it takes us, a tribal collective loss of sanity as we scream and sing, is fraught and fascinating. Players do not raid soldiers. They are us and you.

(Top image: Eamon Dalton Design, Images by Getty Images)

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