There’s been a lot of big talk and high ideals mouthed since those sickening images of racist bullying in Paris went viral.
“What do you expect?” you hear people say. “Chelsea fans are arrogant and have become bloated by their team’s success, our lot would never behave like that,” goes the argument. Really?
We like to think that we would never be part of something like that and that surely we would have the courage to intervene if we had seen it happen. Do you think so? What would you have done?
If you had been on the Paris metro last week when 33-year-old Souleymane S was being racially abused, how would you have responded? Bullies are everywhere, not just on a day out from London SW6.
They’re on the football field, in the break area at work, in the pub and on the street corner where people gather for a smoke. We’ve all seen them in action and some people reading this will be being bullied - or be bullies themselves. The Paris incident makes sickening viewing and it gives those with their own bullying tendencies a chance to have a go at Chelsea.
But that’s too easy and misses the point.
The trouble with big groups of like-minded people with a cause they are allowed to support with aggression and great volume is that bullies can hide among them and feel empowered by being part of a larger group.
Every fan has felt the exhilaration, felt the power that being part of a group brings, it’s part of the attraction of being a football fan.
Most of us learn to control those feelings.
Chelsea is one of the richest clubs in the world with great players, a great manager in Jose Mourinho and every chance of being England and Europe’s top club this season. As a result they attract support from the heartlands of other, smaller clubs.
That breeds bitterness which makes them an easy target for the rest of us looking for quick answers and someone to blame.
Like a bully does.
Bullying is about power and insecurity not what colour football shirt you wear. As the psychologists say: “No one likes a bully, but no one likes a victim either”.
Don’t blame Chelsea and don’t assume their fans are any worse than anyone else’s. That’s the us and them attitude that allows bullying and racism to flourish in the first place.