Football and Violence – Football Or Fireball?

Recently concluded Euro 2008 was widely covered in the international media, but there was another news that attracted lesser coverage and readers. Spain’s Euro 2008 football victory party turned sour when one fan died and nearly 100 suffered injuries during wild celebrations in Madrid.

The victim, a 40-year-old man, was found lying in a pool of blood by street cleaners in the centre of the capital. The initial media reports suggested that he probably suffered a head wound.

After the national team had broken a 44-year spell, Spaniards took to the streets in wild celebrations that lasted well into the following day. Wrapped in Spanish flags fans let off fireworks and honked car horns.

Police tried to stop fans from jumping into the Cibeles fountain, the traditional way to celebrate a football victory and made baton charges to break up isolated rioting in the capital. More than 50 supporters were arrested for acts of vandalism and public disorder. Luckily there was only one reported death.

The game of football has been closely associated with hundreds of death. Many times it was a result of hooliganism or football riots and many times it was an out come of accidents or stampedes or fights among the fans.

Football and violence have been moving closely since many years. In 1314 King Edward II of UK banned football to prevent football related violence. Most of the football playing nations, have witnessed football related deaths from time to time.

In 1968, over 70 people died when crowds attending a football match in Argentina, stampeded after some youths threw burning papers on each others. In 1971, a fight broke out at a match in Brazil, killing four and injuring 1,500.

In 1964, in another football accident more than 300 football fans died and another 500 were injured in Peru in a riot during an Olympic qualifying match between Argentina and Peru.

In June 2006, Germany beat Poland in a world cup finals match, a result that meant Germany qualified for the second round in the finals. The match was marred by violent clashes between German and Polish fans. The police detained over 300 people in Dortmund after clashes broke out. German fans threw chairs, bottles and fireworks at the police. Various groups of German and Polish fans fought with each other in separate clashes. In February 2007 in Saxony, all German lower league matches were cancelled after about 800 fans attacked 300 police officers after a match.

In Turkey, before Galatasaray’s semifinal UEFA cup match with Leeds United A.F.C. in 2000, many fans were stabbed to death following street fights between Turkish and British hooligans.

At the 2006 FIFA world cup in Germany, there were limited incidences of violence, with over 200 preventative arrests. During that time, Police believe that on average each rioter consumed or threw 17 litres of beer.

In more serious situation, police had to protect Libyan fans in the Egypt from missiles being thrown at them by Egypt fans in the tier above them during a match between Egypt and Morocco.

In another football accident 125 people died and hundreds were injured when football fans stampeded at a match in Ghana in 2001. In Johannesburg, South Africa, on 14 January 1991 forty people died when fans surged toward a jammed exit to escape rival brawling fans at a match south west of Johannesburg.

On April 15, 1989 in England, Ninety-five people are killed and at least 200 injured in Britain’s worst sports disaster after a crowd surge crushed packed fans against barriers at the English F.A. Cup semifinal match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough stadium.

In thousands of other cases hundreds of fans were stabbed at various places world wide. Many matches faced cancellation and many clubs paid hefty fines. Public property faced destruction in countless events. All these incidents leave the game with a tarnished image. Now most of the football playing nations, are taking extra security measures for various tournaments. Along with the governments, a lot depends on the fans as well. Only they can help curb such violence. A broader and more liberal outlook among fans is needed to make the sport a sporty affair!

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