WHAT is it about football which turns otherwise normal humans into wackos, and that’s before we assess abnormal ones?

There are examples throughout the soccer season and this year the madness has spread into summer, with the World Cup being staged in South Africa.

It started when the flag of St George appeared on vehicles. Now virtually every car, van or lorry is similarly decorated and a pub near my home is so fulsomely bedecked that one could be forgiven for thinking it was the headquarters of the BNP. It isn’t, and no doubt the landlord and his customers are showing support for the England team, but, unless someone gets a photo to our brave lads, they won’t know anything about the passion they have engendered in the Montserrat district of Bolton.

I was mulling over the impact that football has on people while watching the reactions of Liverpudlians to the parting of Rafa Benitez from Liverpool FC.

Emotion seeped through the screen, with crowds marching past the stadium, chanting angry opposition to the club’s American owners and visibly distressed about its current lack of success. I didn’t hear anyone mention that Senor Benitez had reportedly walked with a cheque for six million quid and that, even in a period of acute financial restrictions, he would have enough cash to keep him and his family in paella, chorizo and tapas until the next millennium. There must be loads of loyal Scousers on the Kop every home match who have elected to buy a season ticket in preference to holidays, a change of car, even food. See what I mean about football madness.

The worst example has been the warnings from organisations which deal with domestic violence. They say that wives and partners are at heightened risk during the World Cup when results go against the hopes and expectations of fans, especially those who have downed enough alcohol to refloat the Titanic. They have statistics to prove their fears are well-founded and have response units already on stand-by. That, more than anything, convinced me that I live in a parallel universe. The image of a woman, and possibly her children, shivering with fear at the thought of England being “turtled” in South Africa is enough to turn the stomach of any civilised person.

It’s a game, for God’s sake. The UK is going to hell in a handcart, with the most swingeing, hurtful but entirely necessary cuts on the way. The results in South Africa won’t alter that scenario one iota. Get real, chaps. Fly the flag by all means, but, if England lose, don’t take it out on the Mrs. Try Wayne Rooney. It could be his fault and anyway, he won’t duck a punch-up.