Paul Stainton: When the ‘beautiful game’ turns ugly

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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We all have moments in our short time on this planet when we feel threatened or even scared for our very lives.

For you it may have occurred at the school gates at Dogsthorpe Junior school, as you spied the local bully, nonchalantly cracking his knuckles, as he waited patiently to give you a good pasting.

Maybe you have been stuck in a lift on the 50th floor of a very tall building or robbed at knifepoint by a large gentleman covered in tattoos, whatever your particular situation of dread, genuine fear has visited us all at one time or another and you never forget that unique feeling that embeds itself in the pit of your stomach.

I am fortunate that I have never broken a bone or been hospitalised in any way; I haven’t been shot at or robbed, nor have I experienced first-hand the effects of fire or been involved in a major accident; in view of the places that I have been and the jobs that I have had, I consider myself fortunate.

In fact, the only time that I have genuinely felt that my life was in danger of ending sooner than I had hoped, occurred on a Lufthansa flight, on the way back from a Champions League game in Munich, between Bayern and Manchester United.

The Buddy Holly jokes between the journalists quickly wore thin as the plane constantly dropped hundreds of feet in height and veered violently left and then right; the laughter and the humour soon turned to nervous looks and then, utter silence; it was an hour and a half of relentless hell that we were all relieved to have survived - Needless to say that I didn’t join their frequent flyer programme.

But my experience was nothing compared to that of the Posh fans in Marseille last week who were cornered and then attacked by about four hundred rampaging Russians, armed with an assortment of weapons, including batons, sticks and tables.

Those that called the Big Conversation on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire told of utter carnage, as men, women and children, in abject fear, literally ran for their lives.

One minute they were sat in the sunshine enjoying a beer and a sing song, the next they were being hunted by a group of wild animals, hell bent on destruction and hurt; all in full view of the police, who it is claimed, simply looked the other way.

Of course some England fans have not helped themselves with their behavior in France, but this was different, this was, according to one Posh fan, an organised assault, designed to maim and possibly kill; one fan remains in a critical condition as I write this piece.

Football is supposed to be a family sport, a place where mum, dad and little Johnny from Werrington can go to enjoy the spectacle, safe in the knowledge that their day out will have a happy ending, not a trip to the hospital or worse.

You can point the finger at UEFA (the body that runs European football), the police and the French authorities, because all have made mistakes here, but in the end it comes down to the individual.

Pele’s “Beautiful game” has once again been tarnished and tainted by those who care nothing about the sport or its heritage and they must be found and punished.

It’s imperative that those that run football send out a clear message to the people and the countries that are 
responsible for this latest outrage, even if that country is hosting the next World Cup.

Fear is not an emotion that should be experienced at a football match. It should not be a life threatening experience or one from which your loved ones fail to return home.

Football is our game; yours, mine and our children’s and if we allow the hooligans to hijack it then we might as well pack up and take our ball home.