Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Fri 25 August 2006

Football - the game for intelligent human beings

If you run a blog site, it's only natural that every now and then you end up writing one or two negative articles for it. You know the sort of thing - 'Don't you find Neil Warnock irritating' or 'Why doesn't Robbie Savage get a proper man's haircut?' for instance.

Well this is all grist to the mill as far as I'm concerned. One of the things that a blog site allows you to do is to get things off your chest, and what better a way to do it? The danger comes when you allow negativity to consume your blog site, your opinions - even your day-to-day life.

That's why I like to maintain a healthy balance here on SPAOTP. Some people, however, aren't so fortunate, and we're not just talking about people that run blog sites either. We're talking about a considerable proportion of regular football fans.

These fans or 'bigots' as I prefer to call them, all share a particularly infantile brand of prejudice and can crop up in any number of different situations. The thing to note, however, is that some bigots are more bigoted than others, so let's assess how the big bigots begin being bigots in the beginning.

First of all, there's the Casual Bigot. He's the average sort of bloke you might find down the pub on a Friday night talking to his mates about tomorrow's big game, amongst other things. He's the one propping up the bar in his Fred Perry polo shirt, jeans and white trainers, knocking back a pint of Fosters.

Now the thing with Casual Bigot is that he isn't the most ardent of football fans, but he's happy to promote the supposed rivalry between the team he supports and its adversaries. To that end, he'll make the occasional derogatory remark about his team's rivals to show that he's a 'true fan' and a shining wit to boot. Neither of these facts is actually true.

If you're listening out for a Casual Bigot, his call goes something along the lines of "I couldn't stop laughing when City got knocked out of the Cup" or "I can't wait to see United get relegated". It's his way of showing a mild sense of hatred towards his club's natural enemies which is totally unnecessary and rather pathetic.

Casual Bigot is annoying, but essentially harmless. Far worse is Mob Bigot. He takes the job of hating anyone that doesn't support his team rather more seriously. Altogether louder and less mentally stable, Mob Bigot doesn't just follow football by reading three-line football stories in 'The Sun' every day - he visits web forums where like-minded individuals can generate a deep-felt loathing about their team's rivals, for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Mob Bigot is identifiable by the replica club shirt which regularly adorns his back and the determined but slightly aggressive expression on his face, as if he's ready for a punch-up at any minute. Mob Bigot also suffers from severe blinkeredness - that is to say an inability to see any wrong in the team he supports until things get really bad, in which case he whinges like an old woman who's just missed the bus that takes her to Bingo every Wednesday.

If you want to really irritate Mob Bigot, simply visit one of the many fan sites on the web for his team, and go to the 'Forum' section. Once there, post a message saying "Hi, I support [insert other Premiership team of your choice]". Within minutes, you can guarantee a reply to your message - not actually aimed at you, but ignoring you - saying "Who's this ****ing [Premiership team of your choice] scum?" That'll be Mob Bigot or one of his mates.

Finally there's Utter Bigot. What differentiates him from the other two Bigots is the fact that he actually goes to watch his team play. Not that this is something to be admired because Utter Bigot spends most of the time standing up out of his seat shouting a constant stream of obscenities at the opposing team's players. Even if they happen to be on the pitch some 150 yards away from where he's standing, well out of earshot.

Utter Bigot borrows characteristics from Casual Bigot and Mob Bigot - the replica shirt, aggressive expression, the prejudicial comments and so on - but extra embellishments give him away as being at the top level of bigotry. Some sport a tattoo on their arm (often featuring the name of the team they support). Others have a close-cropped hairstyle or may even be bald altogether. Many wear just a short-sleeved replica shirt during those sub-zero evening matches in deepest winter to show everyone how 'hard' they are.

However they look, you'll always see the Utter Bigot foaming at the mouth as if the slightest mention of the opposing team's name could send them into a frenzied bodily contortion. Their entire raison d'etre is to deny the existence of the opposition, and their extreme way of showing this can best be seen on any live Sky match behind the goals at either end of the pitch. He'll be the one waving his arms around and mouthing f-words to the bloke who's about to take a corner.

So there you have it - the three levels of Bigotness. Now the point I'm making is this: the modern game is full of Bigots who like nothing better than bad-mouthing other teams, their fans or their players, and they are there to be treated with contempt. That's because Bigots of this type have an unhealthy love of their team to the point where their whole life seems to revolve around it. This is about as misguided as it's possible to be.

My feelings are that football is a game to be watched and enjoyed. Naturally you have a team of your own that you follow, and that's fine, but the fact is we can all sit back and admire a fantastic goal, a wonderful bit of passing, a great tackle or an unbelievable save no matter which team does it. So why the need to behave in an unfriendly and hostile way towards other supporters and their teams? Most of the time it isn't even justified by constructive reasoning, as in "United are a bunch of ******s... because they just are."

I shall therefore be leading a one-man campaign to promote positive football supporting by example, and anyone that wants to join me is more than welcome. As for negative football supporting, it's not Bigot and it's not clever.

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