Foot­ball should bring people to­gether, leave the ha­tred on the pitch

Bray People - - SPORT - Daniel’s take on all things soc­cer

SOME­TIMES, I hate be­ing a foot­ball fan.

It’s noth­ing to do with years of heart­break, dozens of dis­as­trous de­feats, hat­fuls of soul-de­stroy­ing last minute goals. None of that.

It’s be­cause of fel­low foot­ball fans. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your fam­ily. Well, you can choose your foot­ball club but you can’t choose the mo­rons you share your pas­sion with.

On Mon­day morn­ing, we all woke to the news that the Liam Whelan Bridge in Cabra had been van­dalised. For those that don’t know, Liam Whelan was a ris­ing star of the game for Manch­ester United and the Repub­lic of Ire­land when, at 22, he and seven of his team-mates were trag­i­cally killed in the Mu­nich air dis­as­ter of 1958.

In his hon­our, a rail­way bridge near to Da­ly­mount Park was named af­ter him due to the fact that Whelan had grown up in nearby St. At­tracta Road. It was a sim­ple lit­tle plaque with a whole lot of mean­ing.

Well, at some stage on Sun­day night/Mon­day morn­ing, some­one de­cided to de­face the plaque which was there to pay trib­ute to a man whose life was trag­i­cally cut short. As well as cov­er­ing the plaque it­self with spray paint, the scum­bag(s) scrawled “Mu­nich Bas­tard” across the bridge, with “LFC” dancing on the top for good mea­sure.

For many people, this was an act of pure evil and was com­pletely vile. But for some, this was an op­por­tu­nity to start sling­ing mud. They opted to ig­nore the ma­jor­ity of the heinous act, and in­stead opted to fo­cus on the fact that it was ob­vi­ously the twisted work of a Liver­pool fan or fans.

Whether this was a Liver­pool fan, a Bray Wan­der­ers fan or a Harch­ester United fan is ir­rel­e­vant. The fact of the mat­ter is that some­one dis­gust­ingly dis­graced a bridge ded­i­cated to Liam Whelan, who still has sib­lings liv­ing in the area.

The grand­son of Whelan’s brother gave an in­sight into the ef­fect it had on his fam­ily as he tweeted: “The ac­tions of pure scum­bags has left my gran­dad, a man well into his 80s, distraught. A day like to­day makes me so ashamed to be Ir­ish.”

With those 27 words, he hit the nail on the head. They’re scum­bags first and fore­most but ir­rel­e­vant of what foot­ball team they cheer for at the weekend, they’re most prob­a­bly Ir­ish.

Shar­ing a love for a foot­ball team in no way makes people the same. I’m a Liver­pool fan. So are Chris de Burgh and LeBron James. Be­lieve it or not, the three of us don’t have much in com­mon.

Liam Whelan died in a tragic ac­ci­dent. Thou­sands died in an­other dis­as­ter; 9/11. I can never pic­ture any­one ever be­smirch­ing a trib­ute to a 9/11 vic­tim but, some­how, these scum­bags think that be­cause he played for a cer­tain foot­ball team and they sup­port a dif­fer­ent team, they’re en­ti­tled pour scorn on his hon­our in such a dis­gust­ing way.

Foot­ball should bring people to­gether, not pro­vide rea­sons for ha­tred. Leave the ri­valry on the pitch. On a weekend when such won­der­ful trib­utes were paid to the 96 vic­tims of the Hills­bor­ough dis­as­ter, one lowlife piece of crap (apolo­gies for the lan­guage but it is com­pletely jus­ti­fied) took some­thing like the Mu­nich dis­as­ter and used it as a rod to beat Manch­ester United fans with.

They mocked death. They used it to score points. But foot­ball doesn’t come into this. This per­son or these people are not foot­ball fans. They’re scum and they’re thugs and I pray that they are found, named and shamed, and pun­ished.

By Mon­day evening, the ma­jor­ity of the graf­fiti had been cleaned or cov­ered up. Bo­hemi­ans fans had ral­lied and pooled to­gether to re­store some pride for the Whelan fam­ily.

Noth­ing will bring Liam Whelan back but he is prob­a­bly smil­ing up in heaven know­ing that there are still some good people out there.

Foot­ball fans get a bad press but as with all walks of life, it is a tiny ma­jor­ity that earn them their poor rep­u­ta­tion.

Liam Whelan died in the Mu­nich dis­as­ter and was then used as a pawn in a point­less and vile war be­tween thugs. But foot­ball fans an­swered the call and Whelan can now once again rest in peace.

Some­times, I love be­ing a foot­ball fan.

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