DAVID PYE: Football fans can stick together, wherever their allegiances lie

It must have been tough for Wanderers fans after the Madejski Massacre at Reading

It must have been tough for Wanderers fans after the Madejski Massacre at Reading

First published in Sport

LIKE all aspects of society, football has its unsavoury element – those who do not care about tarnishing the game’s name whether it be antagonistic banners, despicable chants or unruly behaviour with rival supporters.

But on the whole the football family is a strong unit where respect abounds and adversaries can put feelings aside for a common cause. And that, for me, is why I love the game so much.

You could question the sanity of a Wanderers fan who still went back to the Reebok a week after witnessing his side’s 7-1 Madejski Massacre.

But that is the life of a football fan; it is not just about cups and glory at the top level – it’s about belonging, and sharing experiences with like-minded individuals, more often than not who have had that same passion for your club that you have had since your dad first took you on to the terraces.

If anything illustrates the togetherness of fans, particularly in this country, it is the way rivalries are forgotten in times of grief or in the fight for justice.

Just look at the wide range of club scarves that were laid at the Reebok when Nat Lofthouse died or the national support when Fabrice Muamba fought for his life.

That was not just a token gesture; that was the football family closing ranks.

It was the same yesterday as Manchester United marked the 56th anniversary of the Munich air disaster. On Twitter there were messages of support from United’s arch rivals – Liverpool and Manchester City – all paying respects, from ex-players to fans and the clubs themselves.

It is a true show of the respect that is there, despite all the animosity on a matchday when the passion of the game takes hold.

Fans will also unite as one for a cause such as ticket pricing or treatment of away supporters, just like they did this past week.

Following the FA Cup fifth round draw and the pairing of Arsenal and Liverpool, the Merseysiders were rightly aggrieved at the top band of pricing they were facing after previous cup clashes at the Emirates against less illustrious opposition had discounted prices.

They fought their corner, backed by national fans groups and those from other clubs, and got those prices for next weekend’s tie reduced.

It was a victory for commonsense without a doubt, and evidence that fans can work together, wherever their allegiances lie.

Football fans are a unique breed and I do not expect “outsiders” to understand the attraction of travelling the length and breadth of the country each week at great cost.

But those of us who do it will never change, whether the team gets hit for seven or not.

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