Monday 12 June 2006

Low standards.

On the news last night, we were told how fantastic it was that only thirteen English football fans were arrested in Frankfurt on Saturday. Apparently, this is a sign of how civilised and well-behaved England fans are these days. And, sadly, that's true: this actually is an improvement, and it marks England out as better than many other nations. The German authorities are positively thrilled that violent pissheads are visiting their country:

Robert Schaefer, operational commander of the German police in Frankfurt, said there were 65,000 English fans in Frankfurt and the atmosphere was "euphoric".

He said: "There were not a great number of incidents and it was minor stuff.

"Overall, there were 80 arrests over the last few days from various nationalities and for a variety of minor offences like criminal damage, showing of unconstitutional symbols like swastikas and verbal assaults.

"But it was nothing extraordinary for a big event like a World Cup."

He said three police officers were injured — one female officer was taken to hospital after being hit by a flying bottle in historic Romerberg Square, one suffered a minor hand injury and one was hurt in an accident.

A total of 130 people of all nationalities had been banned from certain areas of the city like public squares, he said.

Nikolaus Muenster, spokesman for Frankfurt's city authority, said: "We are extremely happy and full of joy at how the past couple of days went.

"We are extremely happy with how the England fans behaved.

"It was a great party and the fans showed their bad reputation is long outdated. Their behaviour was excellent."

I cannot think of any other sport for which eighty arrests of its fans for causing "disturbances" and injuring police officers would be regarded as great news, or where the fans' behaviour would be described as "excellent" after one of them had hospitalised a female police officer by hitting her head with a bottle. If only a dozen rugby fans were arrested for violence, it would be seen as a stain on the sport's reputation. Can you imagine British fans starting fights with strangers after Henman had been knocked out of Wimbledon — or after he'd won? The very idea of a skirmishing athletics crowd is absurd on its face. Even cricket, a sport that is wildly popular in parts of the world where large-scale rioting can be rather popular, never leads to any trouble. For any other sport than football, thirteen arrests would still have made the news — but as bad news, not good.

What is it about football than brings out such awful behaviour in its fans that our society has adopted an especially low standard just for them?

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