Sunday, 29 January 2012

On Booing at Patrice Evra

First up, I should declare an interest. All the members of the Beaker Folk leadership team are Liverpool supporters. It is not a requirement of membership for Beaker People to be Liverpool supporters - for we accept people of all faiths and Nuneaton Town - but it is a strange, statistical quirk of fate, I guess. Also I speak only for myself on the subject below. The Hnaefs can speak for themselves, if they want to.

There was much complaint yesterday about the way that Liverpool fans at Anfield booed Patrice Evra. And I'm not going to defend it. It's gormless and idiotic. Should we have been running a Beaker coach trip to Anfield, I would have dealt with any such behaviour from Beaker People severely (but not instantly, as they have a habit of confiscating cricket bats at football grounds, with good reason). But it was not merely unsurprising, it was inevitable.

Did Luis Suárez racially abuse Patrice Evra at that previous fixture? Probably. I can't say for certain, because I didn't hear it. The charge that was proven against him was on balance of probability, not the "beyond reasonable doubt" of a criminal court. Is Suarez a racist? Probably not. is he an idiot? Probably, based on a whole series of incidents. Did Liverpool over-react, defending Suárez when they should have shut up, printing T-shirts supporting him that they shouldn't have done? Yes. I can understand why they did - understand the depths of tribal loyalty and the sense so often felt by Liverpudlians that the world is against them - but understanding isn't condoning. They should have shut up, up front, and not stoked the fires.

Were Liverpool fans going to be silent at Evra yesterday? Of course not. That's not a matter of being racist - it's about loyalty, misguided as it may be. Their man - whom they believe to be innocent - was sitting in the stands, while Evra was on the pitch. they believe Evra is a cheat. They were going to boo him - in just the same way that some Man Utd fans were going to sing about Hillsborough, and Leeds fans sing about Munich. It's not funny, it's not clever, and it's shocking to the middle classes who thought football was a nice sport to watch now. Well, maybe from behind a nice big window in a hospitality box it's all changed. But the people down on the sides of the pitch are still working class, still attached passionately to one side or the other, still eating pies not prawn cocktails and still loathing the other side's guts - especially when it's Luton v Watford, Portsmouth v Southampton, Spurs v Arsenal or absolutely anyone against Man Utd.

Working class males have always been quite good at hating other people when they're of a different type. Once upon a time - and even now, occasionally - the nation is quite grateful for that, as it helps us fight wars. At home, in peace time, in a culturally diverse environment, it just takes longer for them to realise that the rules  have changed than the ruling classes would like.

But that's why a football fan isn't going to let a little thing like an FA charge being proved make them believe their man is in the wrong. Good grief, football fans will make claims that defy the laws of physics in their demands for referees' decisions to go their way - never imagining their claims are wrong, or even impossible. Balls that have clearly gone over the line will be claimed to have stayed out of the net. Offside players will be believed to have been 10 yards from where they actually were. And it will never occur to the supporters that they are anything other than right - and that the referee, the linos and the other side's supporters are all utterly deluded.

That kind of tribalism is there all the time in our society - and not just among the working classes, although they are less adept at hiding it as something else. It's been there since the Tower of Babel and it'll be there till the last trump. Stirring up the anger, as the TV and media have been doing - endless shots of  Suárez yesterday, for no better reason than reminding us he wasn't playing and why. It was cheap easy TV, especially during a fairly dull game.

Next time Liverpool play Man Utd, Evra will be booed by Liverpool fans and, if he plays,  Suárez by United ones. That's just business as usual. Foolish tribalist supporters from Man Utd and other clubs will claim Liverpool are all "racists", thus blackening a club and all its supporters. We're not, though the club have been foolish. But it's a working-class game at heart with working-class passions, and sometimes that means people will do stupid things. One day the old divisions will end. We will all realise that in Jesus there is no East or West end of the East Lancs Road. That the Runcorn bridge joins together, just as the Mersey divides. That there is no Mancunian or Scouse. Or all the fans will become middle class, and polite applause will ring out from both sets of supporters, when a goal is scored. But it's gonna be a long time coming.


  1. I agree with this sentiment but I think, especially in the last paragraph, you stray into suggesting that stupid things are a result of being working-class. Allow me to introduce you to a whole load of my stupid middle-class acquaintances. Different people express their stupidity in different ways; middle-class racism exists but is slightly more subtle.

  2. St, I totally agree that stupid things are not class-exclusive. The middle classes are better adapted to getting away with their stupidities, of course, as they have wider vocabularies and posher accents.

    And to pick up on your point and expand on one of my own a little, maybe. The working-class folk whose tribal instincts were so handy in the First World War were ordered to walk to their deaths by upper-class generals. My own relatives were among the tens of thousands sent to their deaths by an old boy of my former college, one General Douglas Haig. Crass stupidity and thoroughly upper-class.

  3. Evra booed? What did he expect? Oh Boo-hoo to him. Diddums.

    But the Kop missed a trick right at the end. they were so busy cheering (naturally) Kuyt's wonderful goal that they forgot to 'congratulate' Evra on his mistake using the old refrain
    'Nice one Evra
    Nice one son
    Nice one Evra
    Let's have another one'


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl