Reprehensibility and you, aka “Mommy, what are those people saying?”

So, there’s this:

We took you out of Togo/We took you from the French/All you’re doing now/Is warming City’s bench.

Now when Arsenal fans chant that toward Emmanuel Adebayor, it’s pretty funny, right? It pokes fun at him and his rather obvious greed, and his getting what many would consider to be his just deserts.

Compare that to the reprehensible chanting at Adebayor by Arsenal fans during the Spurs/Gunners match this weekend past, chants that dredged up memories of a horrifying guerrilla attack in Angola during the last African Cup of Nations, chants which were answered by Spurs fans labeling Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger a pedophile, and you wonder where the game has gone.

There is a litany of shame in this oft-beautiful game of ours that sullies it to an extent that makes many sane people wonder why they bother. So when Atletico “supporters” chant “Oh, oh, oh, Puerta’s feeling dizzy,” in an attempt to unsettle Sevilla players. You wonder if the bottom will ever be reached. What must the teammates and family of the late Antonio Puerta feel, hearing such things. Is a football match really EVER worth that much?

Depends on who you ask, right? Our club has its role in one of the most heated, hateful rivalries in professional sports. For those who have never been at the Camp Nou for a Clasic, the hatred that washes from the stands when the Evil Empire takes to the pitch for warmups, is staggering. You feel as if you could actually reach out a grab a handful of hate, perhaps to save it for later, before deciding to eschew deferred gratification. Why, when hissing at their Preening Git feels so good. So you whistle. And you boo. Some enterprising fan even threw a pig’s head onto the pitch. You can find many ways to express your hate, and try to unsettle the other team.

But as with wishing a player was shot in a bus attack, making disgusting sexual allegations or poking fun at the untimely death of an opponent’s squad member, monkey chants are off limits.

Yes, this seems obvious to us in these calm times, where we sit here reading a blog while having lunch, or coffee. But in the heat of the match, when a chant goes up, the ensuing personal study of mob mentality and one’s contribution to it becomes fascinating.

It must be noted that the chants, in all instances, weren’t universal, or even chanted by a significant percentage of the folks who were attending the match. All the teams in question were very quick to condemn the actions, Spurs even threatening to ban fans who might be caught uttering such things, a task that verges on the impossible. It takes far more time, after all, to hear a chant and get to the seating section, than it does to simply stop the chant.

The larger question, one that I raised during the Busquets/Marcelo situation, is what role does silence play in the commission of vile actions? If someone is saying something, what is our obligation? Do we shout them down? Do we make it abundantly clear that we find their actions horrific, or shake our heads, while saying nothing, as if savages can be dissuaded by a simple disapproving glance. Or do we simply say nothing. And if we say nothing, what does that silence say?

At times such as these, when such chants begin, disapproving boos should immediately arise to drown them out, something that rarely happens. Yes, we’ve seen people look aghast. A couple was ejected for having sex during the last Bayern Munich match, yet the people who began and participated in the offensive chanting got to stay in their seats, and watch the match that they paid for. You tell me which one is a bigger affront to public decency?

We can’t let mob mentality get the best of us. Sometimes, all that it takes is one person to vocally express disapproval, to give others the impetus to take a stand for decency. In the mob that we become part of as live supporters of a football club, it’s important to believe in our heart of hearts that we are an individual human being who is part of that mob. And when the mob action becomes something dreadful, we have the responsibility to be the lone voice — the one that starts a revolution, or the only one who says “That is wrong.”

Doing the right thing often takes a lot of courage. Doing the right things when there’s the strong possibility that you might be the only one engaging in such behavior requires the sort of lion heart that enables ordinary men to storm fortresses. But does it take that much courage really, to simple have a basic, human reaction?

No! That’s wrong. No!

But it’s just words, right? Words can’t really hurt anyone, as the “sticks and stones might break my bones but words can never hurt me” chant erroneously alleges. Ask Kodjova Obidale, the Togo keeper whose career was ended in the aftermath of that bus attack. Ask Samuel Eto’o, who wouldn’t bring his family to matches because of the racial chanting and abuse that goes on in the stands. Words are very powerful things, improperly used. They might not break bones, but they can break hearts and spirit. And in the race to the bottom that collective attempts to unsettle the opponent often becomes, it’s worth asking ourselves sometimes: “What is this match really worth to me, to us?”

If nothing is sadder than man’s inhumanity toward man, this past weekend has been one of the saddest that this game has witnessed in a while.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

76 Comments

  1. Vj
    October 5, 2011

    Props to Adebayor for the ice-cool reaction as opposed to his immaturity last year. He’s come a long way since, even hopping in M@drid..

  2. Lev
    October 5, 2011

    best chant ever?
    From (I believe) Fulham fans at their own striker:

    When you stand in row Y
    and the ball hits your eye
    it’s Zamora

    LOL

    • October 5, 2011

      That. Is. Brilliant. The English fans have a great history of inventive, hilarious chants. That might be the best one ever.

    • Nav
      October 5, 2011

      The Fullham stadium is only 20 minutes walk from my house. This Sunday my neighbourhood went crazy after Fullham thrashed QPR 6-0. Damn I love being in Europe…

  3. mom4
    October 5, 2011

    The bully in the schoolyard, the bully in power over an opressed people, the bully beating his wife, the bully in the stands buoyed by the support of similarly ignorant/insecure bullies…bullies abound. Human nature being what it is, I doubt we’ll ever be rid of it, BUT is doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. I’ve got no answers only sadness about it.

    but that Fulham chant that Lev related is priceless!

  4. Miguel
    October 5, 2011

    Oleguer, solidario. Dona tu salario.

  5. Josep
    October 5, 2011

    I never thought we’d be discussing this long, boring, drawn out topic at a barcelona football blog.

    it’s been discussed to death…fans are (jerks), yeh. we get it

    Note: This post has been edited to remove a derogatory word.

    • momo
      October 5, 2011

      Apparently some followers of this blog are c**** too…
      If you don’t like the article show some respect to the writer and wait for one that you like…

    • October 5, 2011

      I never thought that we would have to. This “long, boring, drawn out topic” is in the news, thanks to the matches mentioned above and the reactions of the teams, players and other involved parties to the incidents.

      Like it or not, this blog will respond to things in the news, particularly as they pertain to the game that we all follow.

      The other point worth making is what is boring to you might not be to someone else. This space isn’t just for one person. It’s for everyone who comes. And even though this might be a trite subject (I for one don’t believe that it is), the fact that two such appalling incidents came right on the heels of each other says something about the direction that fans are going and thinking. Or not.

      Either seems, it seems too complex a situation to be dismissed with labeling fans as (insert slur of choice here). My point is that those fans might not be the kinds of people who would do that in their normal existence, that there is something about the mob mentality that enables that kind of behavior.

      And that is the interesting part that might have warranted a comment other than unbridled negativity.

  6. October 5, 2011

    I think “standing up and speaking out” is easier said than done. As foreign fans we could boycott matches played by these teams that keep “silent” and “turn the other cheek” at such things/issues, and turn off our TV, but do we? No. If anyone should speak out is the players themselves, walk off the field and hope that the other 10 men have your back and walk off with you. Won’t happen.

    • October 5, 2011

      It isn’t easy, Stephen. That’s the whole point. But perhaps one person standing up and saying “Whoa, not cool” would enable others. Revolutions start small sometimes, right?

      The TV viewer is relatively powerless in this situation, unless enough viewers who are part of the ratings measurement system decide to all shut down at the same time. Even then, nobody measures why a bunch of people shut down, only that they did.

      It’s at the match where the real difference can be made. I agree with your comment about the players. They can make all the difference. It’s one thing to stand around before the match and have photo ops for UEFA’s “Respect” campaign. It’s quite another to go on playing in the face of monkey chants.

      The other complexity is if the players stop, then it empowers the unruly mob, who have effectively shut down a football match for the majority of people at the stadium who have no part in any kind of behavior of that sort.

      To my view, clubs have to make it very clear that behavior will not be tolerated. IF that means mass ejections, so be it. But significant changes need to happen. Nobody minds heckling a player, booing or whistling them. But this recent stuff is nasty to the core.

      • blitzen
        October 5, 2011

        You can’t really put it on the players, though. Yes, they could collectively stop playing–but only if they know their clubs and the officials and the football associations would back them up. Otherwise they lay themselves open to fines, suspensions, cards, ect. They are there to play football, not deal with morons in the stands.

        No, it is the clubs themselves that need to enforce a no-tolerance policy in their stadiums, and support their own (and yes, even their opponents’) players.

        • katherine
          October 5, 2011

          I agree the responsibility shouldn’t lie with the players. It’s not technically part of their job to deal with fans and I don’t think it should be. If one of them chooses to stand up to their own fans and attempt to calm things down during a match (I believe Puyol has done it before), I obviously admire that.

          However, the responsibility to deal with nasty fans ultimately lies with the club’s board of directors (and with every individual fan who participates in a demeaning chant).

          • October 6, 2011

            Players unite for other causes, money being one of those and while that is very important so is being treated like human beings. And absolutely it’s inthe clubs hands but the clubs are a business and unfortunately businesses rely on those fans. So again, players strike and like for the money issue the clubs respond in SOME way.

  7. blitzen
    October 5, 2011

    Another reason I can’t respect Mourinho. In the most recent Revista de la Liga, he is asked if he has learned anything from RM’s recent run of poor results. He says, “I learned nothing. I learned that football is football. I learned that men are men.”

    Win or lose, Guardiola learns something from every single minute of every game Barça plays. He learns, he ponders, he endeavors to improve. That is why he will be remembered forever.

  8. Víctor
    October 5, 2011

    Well, it seems a bit incongruent to complain about hate and then call Real Madrid an “Evil Empire”. Something that just inspires hate. Sure, one thing is the rivalry, other thing is to actually call them “evil”.

    • October 6, 2011

      ‘Evil’ is just an adjective word, the opposite of good, and this being a Barça blog well we are the ‘good’ I guess we could’ve used ‘bad’ empire but that’s boring. Why must we hate things that are ‘evil’? Some people like them.

  9. chaospheory
    October 5, 2011

    As something of a born again cynic, I would normally have said “well, can a club or football association really do anything against obnoxious and offensive behavior by fans in the stands?” until the Turkish association’s recent actions against violent behavior. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1norC4txlTc) It may have been heavy handed, and perhaps not applicable to the chanting behavior, but that kind of stand-up stance is to be lauded.

  10. false 9
    October 5, 2011

    Thank you for writing this article, Kxevin. You have addressed an issue that we often overlook.

    I agree with your point about mob mentality. Individually we are rational. but, while in a group, we sometimes hide our rationality behind group sentiment (especially while doing some mischievous things).

    A sad news. Steve Jobs has died. One of his quotes reflects your point –

    “I’m an optimist in the sense that I believe humans are noble and honorable, and some of them are really smart. I have a very optimistic view of individuals. As individuals, people are inherently good. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of people in groups. And I remain extremely concerned when I see what’s happening in our country, which is in many ways the luckiest place in the world. We don’t seem to be excited about making our country a better place for our kids.”

    Replace the word “country” with “world” and the quote remains so true.

    • October 6, 2011

      Thanks for reading. It’s the point of the “you” in the title. I always wonder what makes ordinary people become part of a mob, no matter the situation. I covered a Critical Mass bicycle ride, and witnessed the same thing. Meek, friendly people become intersection-clogging, swearing, car-ramming belligerents as part of a like-minded mob. And even if the mob isn’t in fact like-minded, it still provides power simply by its existence.

      I always wonder if there’s a point where it’s still possible to derail a mob, if that point comes too fact/abruptly for anyone to recognize it, much less stop.

      For instance, what if Critical Mass rides were a simpler form of civil disobedience, in which hundreds of cyclists simply rode and obeyed the law. A thousand bike riders, all stopping for a stop sign or red light, makes quite the statement for road-sharing with cyclists, far more effectively than clogging intersections and running red lights, which just angers drivers and sets back the cause. But it’s that mob mentality.

      At some point, someone has the obligation to say something. But the moment comes and goes. Fascinating.

  11. ElJefe
    October 6, 2011

    What’s the verdict on this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZPRBtfgV94

    My viewpoint is (and just watch the UK fan chant videos) the mob will go after any weakness, real, rumored, or completely false. Race is the single easiest and least creative, but the most predictable. Is it wrong and childish? Absolutely. Is it the worst possible example for children and a violation of our responsibility as adults? Of course. Should a player take it seriously? Of course not, it’s completely expected from the rabble who will literally say anything to throw you off your game.

    IMO, going after a family tragedy, etc. would be even worse.

    • ElJefe
      October 6, 2011

      One other question, as I’m very familiar with Adebayor, but have never followed him closely. He has scored pretty much a goal every two games for each of the big clubs he has played with (Arsenal, Man City, Spurs), which is pretty much the gold standard unless you are Messi or CR7. So why so much antagonism? Is he an Ibra? Inconsistent? Racism?

      • K_legit
        October 6, 2011

        An extremely bad attitude would be a possible reason!

        • K_legit
          October 6, 2011

          he doesn’t seem to have one but that is the only reason I can envisage at the moment.

      • blitzen
        October 6, 2011

        There is a reason Adebayor has been bounced from club to club. He has an attitude problem. He has been involved in several on- and off-field altercations, famously with his own teammates Bendtner (when he played for Arsenal) and Kolo Toure (@ ManCity). When he played against Arsenal, RVP accused him of deliberately kicking him in the face. You must have seen for yourself how brutal he became against Barça players when Mourinho let him off his leash. When Real Madrid declined to keep him after his loan spell, he was sent back to ManCity. Mancini left him out of the preseason and he promptly refused to train with the reserves. He is a talented player, but not so talented that he is going to be forgiven repeatedly (like Tevez).

        • October 6, 2011

          He also starts strong, then tends to taper off to sullen ordinariness. He’s also about the money, which isn’t a bad thing. Just fess up to that, as the one player did the other day, who said that he wanted to leave QPR for fiscal reasons.

  12. Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
    October 6, 2011

    Welcome to football. You seem new here.

    • false 9
      October 7, 2011

      Thanks, Triplo. I guess you are welcoming me or ElJefe. I am taking my chances :).

  13. blitzen
    October 6, 2011

    So do we think this @Cruyff_Official account is real or not? I have difficulty believing it. Could the real Cruyff ever possibly express himself in 140 characters or less?

    • October 6, 2011

      It’s been around for a bit. I’ve heard cries of real and fake. Ultimately, who knows if ANY Twitter or FB accounts are real. It’s easy enough to have your people do it for you. It’s why as an editor in real life, I don’t approve of writers doing e-mail interviews. Simple enough for the person’s publicist to type replies.

      • blitzen
        October 6, 2011

        I’m pretty sure Pique and Cesc’s accounts are real. Moc moc!

        • October 6, 2011

          I sometimes wonder if they didn’t hire a bubbly adolescent to do the work for them. 😀

    • Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
      October 6, 2011

      Wait a sec…ARE YOU SAYING GOD IS ON TWITTER?

      There is no way to respond to this..

      And his background is my favourite photo of him EVER.

      I think I’m too overwhelmed. I’m going shut up now.

      • blitzen
        October 6, 2011

        From looking at the Cruyff account, it appears that many of the tweets are posted by his staff, and anything coming from him personally is tagged with “-Johan”. Or that is what we are to believe. Again, I have my doubts. Following for now.

        • Vj
          October 6, 2011

          Ryan Babel’s official twitter has acknowledged it. As such @Cruyff_Official isn’t verified by Twitter. And its following Yolanthe Cabau. Not something Cruyff would do 😛

          • blitzen
            October 6, 2011

            Why not? They might be personal friends. She is Sneijder’s wife, after all. And half Catalan to boot.

  14. mei
    October 6, 2011

    Uefa’s adoptation of “respect” and “fair play” as a slogan instead of as a general policy & practice has contributed majorly to such events.

    • October 6, 2011

      So true. So true. UEFA and FIFA, as well as regional organizations, could resolve these complexities, but it would require actions that many would consider rather unpopular.

      The other question is would quelling the chants excise the sentiment? That’s a much more complex consideration.

      • mei
        October 6, 2011

        I dont think that would be a place to start anyway.
        Introducing regulation on the stands is a countermeasure.

        It may be necessary or not, yet before installing such there are far more important steps to follow.

        Protecting the game against violence , verbal or physical should be their concern , and this would provide the motivation to the fans to be civilized.

        Uefa should ensure that the game lives up to the “fair” and “respect” expectation on the field first and foremost.

        They havent done so and that encourages the fans to behave similarly.

        Controlling these sentiments may be out of their reach since its a cultural and educational aspect as well , but they should have ensured there is an example to follow on the field.

        Clubs are responsible as well : theres always a demand for passionate fans, but seldomly do people in charge draw a line or come out and ask for civilized fans .
        They have their merit of blending violence with passion , racism with directed frustration and dismissing them as isolated incidents.
        Lets pay the fine and move on policy is standard for any club.

  15. Vj
    October 6, 2011

    In other news, our players are continuing to drop like flies. Add Bartra and Sergi Roberto to the sick list..

    • October 6, 2011

      This is crazy. Injured or just sick. On the “good news” front, we’re about to renew Montoya, aka The Future, until 2015.

      • Vj
        October 6, 2011

        Injury while training. No details as to how long they’re out..

  16. October 6, 2011

    The Johan is answering questions on Twitter:

    Do you have a question for Johan Cruyff? He’s available untill 21:10 to answer it. Not everything will be answered.

    • Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
      October 6, 2011

      In response to:”Do you want to be a Barca coach again?”

      “If Barcelona calls me with the information that some persons have left the club I would return. Yes. Johan”

      Also HE REPLIED TO ME!
      On the key to Ajax competing with the best:
      “@Triplo_Volanti Yes, the key is to let the (old) sportsmen lead the club. Johan”

      This feels so surreal. For so long he seemed like a distant legend, a myth you heard tales of. How do you talk with God?

      • K_legit
        October 6, 2011

        via twitter apparently!!!

        Huge congratulations bro!

        Screen shot and post it up on facebook or something!

        • October 6, 2011

          @barcastuff says it isn’t the real The Johan. Getting all philosophical and stuff, I just wonder what IS real in the world of social media and faces that we never see. It’s all in good fun, right?

          • K_legit
            October 6, 2011

            One of the reasons why i hate the virtual world is that everyone can be lying and no one can prove otherwise..sheesh

          • blitzen
            October 6, 2011

            Yeah, I mean, take me for example. I’m not really the blitzen you all think you know. I’m (ripping mask off dramatically) HLEB!!!!! And you will all pay for the terrible way you have treated me!!!! 👿

  17. K_legit
    October 6, 2011

    Cesc Pistol now known as Triplo Volanti just got himself a reply from the Johann himself! Me jealous !!!

    😀

    • Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
      October 6, 2011

      Too good to be true? Possibly.

      I wish to meet him once if only to thank him.

      • blitzen
        October 6, 2011

        The thing that makes me think it might be real is that it links to his official website. Would that be allowed if it wasn’t? It seems to be run by his media people, but they are honest about that. And if Cruyff does the odd Q&A session, all the better.

        • K_legit
          October 6, 2011

          That’s not blitzen..its the Hlebster..run!

          • October 6, 2011

            There’s debate about it. All we know is that He Who is Still Cesc Pistol To Me got questions answered by Him. Who is Him until proven to be him. In which case it isn’t Him.

            Until then ….

    • Vj
      October 6, 2011

      Relax. We don’t know if he’s official yet. @barcastuff says he 100% fake..

      • blitzen
        October 6, 2011

        Well I just emailed his official website to ask, so we will see.

  18. ooga aga
    October 6, 2011

    can anyone tell me, did AC Milan actually end up buying ibra from us? he was on loan last year and then they were supposed to buy him? what did we end up getting ($) for him? etc.

    • October 6, 2011

      Yes. It was a “loan with obligation,” for 24m, payable in 3 8m installments. It’s like Ibra on Layaway.

      • blitzen
        October 6, 2011

        LOL! Except on Layaway you don’t get the product until you make your final payment. This is more like Lease-to-Own. 😀

      • culegirl3
        October 7, 2011

        “It’s like Ibra on Layaway” Wow..can you say best line ever?! 😀

        Thank you for this Kxevin! It will be forever embedded in my memory lol.

  19. Puppet
    October 6, 2011

    Wait, people were having sex at a match?! Like, in the stands? I didn’t hear about that. But to answer the question asked in the post: as long as the couple in question was at least attempting to be somewhat discreet about it, no, it isn’t as offensive as racist/violent/perverse chanting.

    • blitzen
      October 6, 2011

      They weren’t discreet at all, actually. I’m pretty sure that was the point of it.

      (Germans really have a thing about public nudity. And I say that as a half-German person. No, I don’t know why.)

      • Puppet
        October 6, 2011

        Yeah, I can see why they would be kicked out. Still, I agree with Kevin’s sentiment that violence/intolerance is more offensive than sex.

  20. culegirl3
    October 7, 2011

    I’m really glad this topic is being given special attention on here because I feel like it’s overlooked far too often in the media or its forgotten about quickly.

    Football is an enterprise, I highly doubt FIFA, UEFA, or the clubs are truly concerned with such reprehensible behavior despite all the fair play, say no to racism PSA’s they have come out with over the years. Implementing rules and regulations that could potentially hit them where it hurts(bank accounts) is a big no no to them and would probably make them think twice before doing something.

    Players do what they can by participating in campaigns and such, but let’s be real here..their power does not go beyond the pitch. I believe its up to each individual to think twice before starting a hurtful chant or joining in with the mad mobs but I also understand there are individuals out there who lack common sense or a heart. Maybe things will change or maybe they won’t.

  21. October 7, 2011

    Sorry to be off topic but does anyone else think Messi might be a touch out of shape this year? He looks a little bulkier and seems to have lost a smidgen of acceleration. Maybe it’s deliberate and he’s trying to sacrifice speed for strength. But his body shape does look a bit different to me this year. Any thoughts?

    • blitzen
      October 7, 2011

      One of the team doctors just last week said he is one of the fittest players on the team.

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