Since when did football’s baying mobs occupy the moral high ground?

September 14, 2009

Many Arsenal supporters spent half of last season, and most of Saturday’s match, screaming abuse at Emmanuel Adebayor. On Saturday, he scored and dared to run the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of them.

“Outrageous” and “shocking” screamed just about everyone. Obviously he should take the blame for the visiting fans’ subsequent eruption of hatred and vitriol. It was clearly his fault that some of them threw missiles on to the pitch and he is obviously culpable for the City steward being knocked unconscious in the melee.

He got booked for his troubles – for “incitement” – and now there is talk of him being banned.

What tosh.

Crowds abusing players, whether it is the polite booing of a former member of their club or the increasingly nasty attacks of recent seasons, has always been part of the game. When a player has the temerity to reply with a “shush”, or a finger on the lips, hand cupped to ear etc those same fans appear outraged.

Look at the photographs from Saturday’s game as Adebayor slid towards the visitors’ section. The furious hatred, the hand signals, the abuse shown by some fans – ground bylaw offences by the bucketload and enough to have the perpetrators thrown out of the ground should the stewards have chosen to act.

Mitch Phillips, London


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Arsenal fans could be heard making racist chants at Adebayor and throwing bananas at him.

I find it surprising that this has not made headlines in England. When such things happen in Spain or Italy, they get blanket coverage in the English media. We hear pundits coming out to claim that such things are impossible in England because England is 20 years ahead of other European countries in terms of racism in football…

Why this hypocritical cover-up by English journalists?

Posted by African | Report as abusive

Dude, it was still a pretty daft thing to do. The reaction may not have been justified but that doesn’t mean he was right to run over there.

Posted by Kay | Report as abusive

I hadn’t heard any reports of racist chanting directed at Adebayor. I know Adebayor has been the target of abuse by some fans, and Mitch gives that a prominent mention in the blog. The Daily Telegraph did run this piece noting City’s concerns about the possbility of racist chanting ahead of the Manchester derby. l/leagues/premierleague/mancity/6127979/ Manchester-City-concerned-that-Emmanuel- Adebayor-will-be-subjected-to-racist-abu se.html

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

What all footballers need to remember is it is the fans that provide a high percentage of their salary. All fans want players to love the club as much as they do. When a player who the fans believe starts the I want to be paid as much as so and so, or I felt physically sick when I found out that I was only being offered £90,000 a week leaves, blames the fans, stamps on the old club captains leg and then stamps on an ex-colleagues face, scores when he shouldn’t be on the pitch and then runs the whole length of the pitch to goad said fans, they aren’t likely to appreciate it are they?

Posted by Arsene | Report as abusive

Mr. Fylan

What about the bananas that were thrown at him? That is documented in videos of the incident. Why is the focus on Adebayor and not possible racist incidents? Why is the banana throwing being covered up? Where is “Kick It Out” to raise the issue of racism in English football? Or does it matter only when it happens in Spain and Italy?

Adebayor deserves any punishment he gets, but that does not mean racist incidents in the EPL should be covered up. The racist chanting against Mido at Newcastle was similarly covered up despite the fact that Mido personally called out the police to investigate.

It is time for English journalists to deal with the issue of racism instead of just using it as an excuse for jingoistic point-scoring opportunity against Spain and Italy.

Posted by African | Report as abusive

I would like to say that I completely agree with the senitment of this article and am pleased to see that such a counter arguement is being published through a well-regarded news channel like Reuters.

It is all too often implied that, if a footballer player pulls a “ner-nicky-ner-ner” type gesture and blows a metaphorical rasberry at a group of fans (who have usually been hurling varying degrees of aggression and abuse at the player in question), they are therefore entitled to get so angry that they look like their heads will explode before committing what is ultimately common assault. They are then, apparently, entitled to blame subsequent outbreaks of mob violence on the player (and sometimes even the police), instead of getting in trouble themselves.

I’m sorry but many of these guys are animals and should not be sympathised with in any way whatsoever.

The point is that far too many media institutions take a stance that implies that the fans are not at fault because they were provoked – presumably because the media channels do not want to alienate or side away from a group of people they ultimately see as their ‘customer’ – but I argue that they are (1) entirely at fault and (2) human beings who should take responsibility for their actions.

These guys are ruining football almost as much as the overriding ‘general consensus’ that persistently takes their side (“the fans make the game what it is!”, “the fans pay the players’ wages!”, “the player provoked the fans!”) and ultimately only serves to support, justify and excuse their thuggery.

Posted by isi_777 | Report as abusive