Sunday, October 17, 2010

Football fans, bloody hell

Went to the football on Saturday, as did thousands of others across the land. Now, stereotyping is lazy, but it's also easy. And in some cases, it's right on the money. Witness the behaviour of some of my fellow fans.

Let's get the partisan stuff out of the way - I was at Oakwell, Barnsley, to watch my Forest, my only Forest, who make me happy when skies are grey. Although on this occasion they made me frustrated when skies were unseasonably blue. But the game, sporadically exciting as it was, isn't what this is about.

Oakwell, surrounded as it is by Barnsley, isn't the kind of place you associate with the glitz and glamour of American-style cheerleading. It's typical of a lot of grounds in the middle tiers of English football - squeezed between narrow terraced streets, shiny, soulless flatpack stands clashing horribly with the odd relic of a gentler age. Barnsley's one-season stand with the Premiership in the 1990s is a distant memory now, but some of the prestige remains - namely, the Tykettes, Barnsley FC's cheerleaders.

Glee's Cheerios they aint, but from what I could see they held their formation and made the right moves a lot more that Forest managed. Then they walked round in front of the away stand and... sigh.

"Get your tits out, get your tits out, get your tits out for the lads," yelled men old enough to be their fathers. One guy actually ran down a few rows and bellowed it at the top of his voice, apparently in the genuine hope that they hadn't heard the rest of the fans, and that his bellowing would make them stop, do a double-take, realise what was being asked of them and... well, oblige.

But, of course, they did not oblige. And this didn't go down well. First came the booing - again, were these people genuinely disappointed? Did they really expect that, on being instructed to do so by 'the lads', these girls would get their tits out?

Then came the really deplorable bit. "SLAGS, SLAGS, SLAGS," chanted my fellow fans. Yeah, because if they weren't slags, they'd have shown their tits to a football crowd on demand. That's the kind of thing girls do if they're not slags.

Saturday was a flag day for the Kick Racism Out Of Football initiative, a noble aim anywhere but especially so in places like Barnsley and the rest of Yorkshire, where the biggest ethnic minority population, subcontinental Asians, are glaringly unrepresented both in the stands and on the pitch. The tannoy man reiterated this several times over the course of the afternoon, warning fans of the criminal status of racist abuse and chanting.

Bloody right, too. The terrace racism of the 1980s did not disappear with the terraces. I only really started going to football in the Premiership era and I've heard monkey chants and similar abuse on several occasions. So anything that reduces that kind of behaviour is to be commended.

Similarly, homophobia is still rife at football grounds but recent high-profile incidents brought the issue to the fore and fans have been told that homophobic chants - at least those directed at players - will not be accepted. Again, bloody right.

But what about sexism? What about hundreds of men chanting 'slags' - an insult which can only apply to women, and therefore a sexist one - at a dozen or so young women? It's not a perfect analogy, but imagine they'd been shouting 'poof' at Barnsley midfielder Hugo Colace. He's not gay, as far as I know, but he has long hair and was running rings round us - in the 80s, he would have been unceremoniously 'outed'.

Or imagine if, as Ryan Bertrand demonstrated his complete lack of ability or willingness to even consider touching the ball with his unfavoured right foot, or as Dexter Blackstock showed off his full range of weary shrugs when another flick-on went astray, or as Guy Moussi ran around being Guy Moussi, imagine if even one Forest fan had inserted the word 'black' between 'useless' and 'tosser'. It happens - the target of the monkey noises I mentioned earlier was Jason Lee, in a Forest shirt, from a Forest fan - but it would be met with a chorus of disapproving tuts at the very least.

But when these women were subjected to sexist abuse, no-one tutted. Even, I'm ashamed to say, me. You have to have some cojones to tut alone at several hundred beered-up idiots. Individual tutting won't kick sexism out of football - only the collective tutting of an organised campaign or the institutionalised tutting of criminal sanctions can do that. Still, I should have tutted, but my cojones were lacking.

I'm sure it's not just Forest fans, though 'we' do have a vile song about Nottingham being 'full of tits, fanny and Forest', which makes me cringe every time it strikes up. The Barnsley fans (both of them) let the Tykettes do their thing unmolested - but home crowds are always more genteel than away followings. No, this kind of thing is endemic among football fans.

Nick Hornby bemoaned the strange relief he feels when he hears a man call another man a cunt but not a black cunt - to me, it seems similarly strange that a game which is taking giant steps to eliminate the persecution of minorities can at the same time tolerate such treatment of 50% of the population.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I am a Tykette. It's intimidating enough to walk past football fans, away or home without hearing this shouted at you. They should be ashamed of themselves but they think it's ok because they are in a big crowd and it's the 'blokey' thing to do.