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Passion Or Problem?

Friday 13th January 2012
Passion can't be reined in. It can't be limited. It can't be apologetic. Passion is what football thrives on and without it where would we be? If you don't care, why bother?

Racism, bad-tackling, abuse: these aren't issues just in football, they are issues in society which are brought to the fore simply because of passion. This piece is in no way allowing acceptance of any of these, but is designed to explore why it occurs and why it is absolutely ridiculous to attribute “blame” to the sport.

Now, granted, you can tap into passion into many different ways. Some people use it to get an extra 10% out of themselves, some “allow” (how much anyone “allows” their brain to behave is an incredibly fascinating and blurred subject) the red mist to descend. Myself? I have been known to be 5 foot away from a linesman at Griffin Park hurling all sorts of abuse – in front of a father doing exactly the same!  Does this make us terrible people – perhaps! I don't believe it had any sway over decisions, but it is because of my passion that I will do anything to help Brentford win! I can't put boots on and get out there (as much as I would love to!).

I recently had a slight altercation with the AFC Bournemouth keeper! Time-wasting was clearly on the agenda and the whole home-crowd was getting restless. The ball went out of play, the keeper made no effort to get it so I thought I would “help” him. Now, as a goalkeeper I know I chucked the ball rather than passed it, but histrionics ensued and he clutched at his face! I instantly regretted my decision, adrenaline pumping through me with stewards streaming over and several of the more veteran Bees fans advising me to “disappear, disappear up there”!

Now, I am not condoning what I did, it was never meant in harm (he is a goalkeeper, and I've taken many a ball in much worse places than the midriff!) it was more meant to speed the game up as we had a sniff. What happened next? Leon Legge climbs to head a powerful header home. Cue mass celebration and complete strangers jumping and hugging me, suggesting I had more than a part in that goal!

Why am I telling you this? Whilst not the easiest, most clear cut example – this shows what passion is all about. Would I throw a tin of soup at a pensioner if I thought she was taking too long down the aisles at Tesco's? Of course not! Would I swear blindly at someone at the tills if they overcharged me...well...I mean no of course not! Would I chant “It's all your fault, It's all your fault” to someone who has made a mistake at the tills? No.

We did, however, in our thousands chant it at the poor AFC Bournemouth goalkeeper! What is the most ridiculous aspect about it all? I time-waste at Church League level! I will pick the ball up in a jog (perfectly honed to be slower than a walk) from the far left side of the goal to then tee it up on the right hand side of the goal. I will hold my hands an inch over a football whilst a severely unfit forward visibly shakes with rage as I force him to chase me down! I must sadly admit, I do get a slight kick out of it.

None of this is polite behaviour. It shows me in a terrible light. However, I am passionate and want to win at any cost and at any level!

What I am saying is that passion brings this behaviour to the forefront. It reveals the inner-most level that a person believes in. Therefore if Suarez used a word which was racist in his country, because he felt aggrieved – then chances are it was a racist slur! There is no getting away from it. If (and this is obviously a contentious issue) it was merely meant as an insult...does this make it ok? Racism doesn't enter my head, but I'm more than happy to call a referee every other name under the sun – does this make me a better person than Suarez or Terry, or am I just insulting them to the same degree with language that I feel is “acceptable”?

Therefore, when someone says that football, rugby or cricket is “sexist/homophobic/racist” because “x” said “y” and demands that the sport take a long look in the mirror – they are missing the issue. It is firmly with society, not any individual sport or collective group of supporters. Passions running high reveal a lot about people – there is no excuse for it. Right or wrong, it makes the game the rollercoaster of emotions that it is – but it is also a telling reminder of societies' most deeply rooted issues.
Rob Tebby

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