The clash between Russian and Polish fans prior to the group stage match on Tuesday showed a dark side of football that has nothing to do with the universal message that this sport usually likes to promote: the ability to unite people from all over the world.
Instead, the ugly truth – that football, at the same time, can divide fans and leave them with blind hatred – was revealed, and that is unfortunate and sad.
It’s not exactly new that fans cause unrest and use violence before, during and after a football game. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat familiar to hear of arrests and massive forces of police for football tournaments and even the regular league.
In fact, Indonesia is no stranger to this either, and only earlier this month, three people died following the brawls after a Jakarta-Bandung match.
As if the rivalries between clubs and countries aren’t enough already, sometimes the media adds to the problem.
Before the Euro 2012 started, I read many articles regarding the tournament, and I also leafed through some Indonesian tabloids.
I was rather upset when I opened the page that introduced the German national team, and the headline read “Deutschland ueber alles.”
Maybe the person who wrote that article is unaware of what it actually means, that it is a part of our former national anthem that we have abandoned after the war because it was Nazi Germany language – not something that any German of a sound mind would want to be affiliated with.
Other articles I’ve read mentioned the national team and its “Blitzkrieg” tactics, and during the World Cup 2010 there was a big blow up when an English tabloid referred to the Germans as “jeering jerries.” Even the word “panzer,” that is widely used to denote the national football team, is war language.
During the Germany-Netherlands match on Wednesday night, Twitter users called our team the “Gestapo.”
I have often asked myself: is that really necessary?
In some cases, the use of these words is intentional – which I personally think is degrading. But sometimes, I believe, the person that utters those terms or uses them in an article, simply doesn’t know any better. I can’t say which I find worse. I simply find it annoying. There are thousands of words one could use to describe a football match involving any country of the world – why choose those that are connected to war?
Football is such a beautiful sport, and it doesn’t need violence, racism or anything that defeats its purpose of evoking passion and enthusiasm – and once in a while we should all remember this: football is not war. It’s a game.