SOCCER’S NIGHT OF SHAME
Pitch invasions, racist abuse and riots at West Ham
“I KNOW I’m not a monkey. I might be as strong as a gorilla but I’m not a monkey. That’s life, isn’t it?”
Those were the words of West Ham and England striker Carlton Cole after he admitted he suffered racist abuse in his home ground, Upton Park this week.
“Yeah, I heard it,” he said, “but it’s football, you know. I don’t care.
“You’ve just got to carry on and get on with it and we got the result – that was the main point.”
Millwall may have been dumped out of the Carling Cup, losing 3-1 after extra time, but football was the loser on a night of shame.
Cole described being targeted by fans – with West Ham supporters also allegedly taunting Millwall substitute Jason Price with monkey chants – as “part and parcel of football”.
“It’s about mental toughness. You just have to carry on with your game and usually you come out good,” he said.
Against this shocking backdrop, it is no wonder people near Upton Park were struggling to come to terms with what happened inside and around the stadium this week.
But they weren’t talking about Cole’s ordeal, or how on earth 20-year-old Jack Collison took to the pitch two days after losing his father in a motorcycle accident, or if Calum Davenport will ever play again after being stabbed on Saturday morning.
They didn’t even mention the three pitch invasions by Hammers fans that caused Millwall players to temporarily leave the pitch, fearing for their safety.
They were talking about the violence that spilled out on to their streets.
Words like ‘animals’ and ‘scum’ were two-a-penny. It was a throw- back to the days of hooligans, when football was a dirty word.
Minister for Sport Gerry Sutclif fe described the scenes as “a disgrace to football”.
He said: “We have made great progress in tackling hooliganism and we will not tolerate any return to the dark days when it plagued the game. We will never be complacent in the fight against violence.”
West Ham were inundated with fans coming forward with information to help catch the culprits. Thomas Patrick, 51, was next to the Tube station, when thugs started running through at 5.30pm.
“We used to have a lot of trouble, but I’ve never seen anything as bad as last night,” he said.
Ron Bolwell, 71, runs The Queens pub next door. The police asked him to stop serving at 6.30pm, so he locked the doors at 7pm and viewed the carnage from the roof.
“It was mayhem,” he said. “You could see it was all West Ham fans because a lot just came here looking for a ruck. They were like animals. You couldn’t see the road – just peo- ple, baying for the police and throwing bottles and bricks at them. It would have been murder if West Ham had lost.”
Germaine Newton, a nurse, described it as the “most frightening evening” of her life after she was called to give a patient insulin at 8pm.
“Police were running from one place to the other, people (were) fighting and crowds not giving way to cars. (It) was hell,” she said.
A nearby pub boarded up their windows in expectation of what was to come. This hasn’t been done for four years – since the last West Ham-Millwall game in April 2005.
Initially there were 500 police in and around the ground, but another 250 officers were drafted in.
The fighting continued until after 11pm and the police arrested 13 people. Hopefully, more will be caught after CCTV footage has been reviewed.
The culprits are those who travelled intent on causing trouble. The ones intent on guerrilla warfare, if you will. – Daily Mail
BELLY AWFUL: Frank Nouble of West Ham United tries to stop a plump hooligan at Upton Park this week.