19 August 2015
So goes legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly’s most famous quote. It’s a sentiment, adopted freely by many, which troubles me about our relationship with sport.
Some of the most deep-seated, poisonous problems which infect our society are exposed by the beautiful game. The most obvious example is sectarianism. The Scottish Government’s Offensive Behaviour At Football Matches Act is much maligned but the very fact ministers felt something needed to be done shows the extent of the problems.
We’ve all seen it – the disgusting chanting which emerges from a vocal minority of “fans” of certain teams – the anti-social behaviour that breeds outside of stadia and the violence which can unfurl in pubs, streets and, most depressingly, against partners behind the closed doors of home.
However, things are improving, we must remember that. We must be positive when possible. Condemn the actions of the bigots and their brainless sheep who imitate them unquestioningly, then show off the good things about our game. It is our game, after all.
So what can we do? Well, the charity Nil By Mouth is running a campaign which should be applauded by all of us. It is looking for fans to come forward
on the internet and show off what it is that makes football special to them.
The campaign is being supported by football writers Daniel Gray and Ron Ferguson, national fans group Supporters Direct Scotland, junior side Rossvale FC and Partick Thistle mascot and social media phenomenon, the fantastically creepy-looking Kingsley.
It’s called KissBigotryGoodbye and it is inspiring.
Nil by Mouth was founded by teenager Cara Henderson following the brutal sectarian murder of her school friend and Celtic fan Mark Scott, 16, in 1995 as he made his way home from a game at Parkhead.
Campaign director Dave Scott wants to highlight the people who run supporters buses, wash kits, drive kids to matches, coach teams free of charge and work behind the scenes.
He said: “We all have our different teams and differing opinions but we’re all united by this love of the game and its eccentricities. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget the joy and forget that football isn’t always the problem – it can be part of the solution.”
My favourite moments of recent times involve watching Dundee United thrash Dundee 6-2 on New Year’s Day before going to meet my Dee supporting mate for a couple of pints. Then making sure I showed face when we got gubbed 3-1 in April. Obviously, my favourite moment ever was meeting the man, the legend, Maurice Malpas.
The point is there is much to celebrate about the good things football, and sport in general, can bring to our culture without it always requiring government clampdowns – welcome as they are in some circumstances.
Back to that Shankly quote. Did you know he actually said it on a chat show while talking about the strain on his family from his being at work so much?
Asked if he regretted that absence he said: “I regret it very much. Somebody said ‘Football’s a matter of life and death to you.’ I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that.’ And my family’s suffered. They’ve been neglected.”
Let’s highlight the positives as we keep things in perspective.