January 18 2018

In this weeks’ ‘Opinion’ lifelong football fan and freelance sports writer Sean Graham gets a few things off his chest about the difference between ‘Banter’ and provocative behaviour.

When Banter Goes Too Far

I have watched football for many years now and I have seen and heard many things, not all of them nice and not all promoting the correct image of the beautiful game. From way back going to watch football in the seventies and eighties, I remember various things that have shamed the game that I and so many other people love.

  • Sectarianism and songs of hate.
  • Disgraceful songs and chants about religion, homophobia, people with disabilities.
  • The casual movement and the trouble they tried to cause before, during and after the games.
  • The evil that is racism and seeing top players like Mark Walters and Paul Elliott being abused for the colour of their skin, hearing monkey chants from sections of the crowd and bananas thrown was disgusting and disgraceful.
  • The corruption at clubs, sex scandals involving top players and the keyboard warriors and bullies who hide behind Twitter and Facebook but some of them choose to abuse players or aim hate at others such as Celtic fan Jay Beatty.

All of that made my stomach churn but the recent incidents that I have watched and read about, have made my blood boil and it goes way beyond banter. In two separate incidents, one in England and one in Scotland, we have seen two players abused for losing their son and losing an eye.

The New Year is only days old but yet, two players have been targeted in such a cruel, horrible way by so called fans. Players have to take a certain level of abuse or banter but these two incidents leave me wondering, what kind of world do we live in?

Jake Livermore, was playing for West Bromwich Albion v West Ham in London and as he left the pitch, he was abused by one, so called fan, when he made remarks about the death of his son. Quite understandably, Jake lost it with the fan and tried to speak to him face to face but he was lead away from the situation by officials of the club. It is no point trying to think what gets inside the head of these individuals, as no one in their right mind would make a comment about the death of a child. You only have to look at the outpouring of grief from the whole country, when little Bradley Lowery passed away after his brave fight with cancer, he was an inspiration to so many people, including me and we all shed a tear when he lost his battle. I know people who have lost kids, believe me, it’s not a subject to joke about, it’s heartbreaking.

Meanwhile in Scotland, it doesn’t get any better.

Derby matches are always very intense games and at times, things can get a bit heated but there is simply no excuse for what happened between Dunfermline and Falkirk. Dunfermline player Dean Shiels, has played with only one eye since 2006, after having surgery on it in 2006 after a childhood accident and it has been amazing that Dean has been able to play to level football and achieve all he has through sheer guts and determination. But on two occasions against their old rivals Falkirk, things have gone way over the top and way out of hand.

In October, two Falkirk players, Kevin O Hara and Joe McKee, were banned for abusing Dean about his missing eye and to make matters worse, the ban was challenged by Falkirk at the time when they appealed to the SFA. The bad blood between the two sides, spilled over in the recent meeting between the sides, when, so called Falkirk fans, chanted abuse at Dean before throwing false eyeball on to the park on Tuesday. This sickened Dean and those connected with him and Dunfermline Football Club. This time Falkirk released a statement saying that they apologised unreservedly for the abhorrent behaviour of a small number of individuals and the condemned the abuse and they will act to identify those responsible.

Both Dean and Jake deserve better, remember they are actually only doing their jobs in their place of work, which just so happens to be a football stadium. If this happened in your place of work, how would you feel? Both these guys and their clubs, have to be commended for the way they have conducted themselves during these quite disgraceful and disgusting incidents. I hope the individuals responsible are banned from both grounds, I know fans from Falkirk and West Ham and believe me, not all of them behave in that way and both these clubs will be embarrassed by the actions of a few idiots, who have brought shame and headlines of the wrong kind to their doorstep.

Let’s hope we see less of this in 2018 and bring the beauty back to the beautiful game again, instead of those who have no place in a football stadium or in society.

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