In the week before the Liverpool – Juventus fixture and with memories of Heysel all around us, how disappointing it was to see the baseness of the behaviour at St. James’ Park. Although a fight between two grown men followed by an insincere apology is of minor insignificance compared with so many deaths a generation ago, it has certainly sullied the week-end. My wife told me the other day that Mr. Sanchez was reported as saying that because young footballers earn so much more than their managers then discipline can become consequently problematic.
He may have a point.
Alan Curbishley in today’s Observer argues that footballers are bigger than pop stars now – another reason, perhaps, why it is difficult for these wealthy young men to live in the real world where compromise is the stuff of life. Gareth Southgate in last week’s Sunday Times asserted that footballers are worth every penny they earn as top entertainers; but how, we might ask, can we help errant egos transform themselves into suitable role models for a younger generation brought up on a celebrity diet of hero worship.
I am not saying that restorative justice is a complete answer, but helping offenders such as the Newcastle Two see and understand the harm they have caused to peoples’ lives is not a complete irrelevance. The only way that could happen is for them to go into ordinary homes, clubs, pubs, football teams, community groups etc and listen to calm voices in structured meetings. They need to be punished for sure, but they also need to be educated – and this should be a general principle for all footballers. I know football clubs already get into community involvement in lots of laudable ways, but an atmosphere of top-down patronage and largesse can surround some of the schemes at the moment. In summary, perhaps we should not just think about how footballers can help their communities, but we should also think about how football players need to be educated by their communities, so that they, the players themselves, change their behaviour and attitudes.
It wouldn’t be an idiotic idea, for a start, if all players studied Parry’s poem about Heysel:
In Memoria e Amicizia (In Memory and Friendship)
Who will never walk alone
For those whose colours meet
In the warm hands of friendship
We will remember
Who follow with passion and pride
For those who wish to forgive
Those whose cannot forget
We must remember
Who we lost whose names
Remain in hearts on lips and brought to mind
For those of us who say: “In Memoria e Amicizia”
We will always remember Heysel and Hillsborough.
© P Maguire
Liverpool & Juventus (2nd April 2005) CLQF.
Note to Editors: i have posted 2 poems up, one in red and one in black to represent Juve and Liverpool, hope you dont mind.