Assault on Chesterfield player shows football rivalries are out of control

Ian Evatt with physio Rodger Wylde during the play-off second leg. Photo: James Williamson
Ian Evatt with physio Rodger Wylde during the play-off second leg. Photo: James Williamson
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There’s poison at the heart of English football.

It’s nothing to do with financial fair play, diving players or TV rights.

It’s not about player power, scheming agents, gambling or corruption.

It’s far more important than any of those. It’s about hate.

The hate we supporters, reporters and officials have allowed to flourish with a nod and a wink.

The hate that we sing about, the hate we reserve for our bitterest rivals, the hate that punched and kicked Chesterfield’s Ian Evatt when Preston fans invaded the pitch after they had WON, not lost, their League One play-off tie 4-0 on Sunday afternoon.

They attacked him because he used to play for their ‘rivals’ Blackpool.

And they have to let the world know that they hate him because theirs is a ‘special’ rivalry, you know, Blackpool and Preston?

Yes, a special rivalry and a ‘special’ hatred just like all the other small-minded, stunted, pathetic little hatreds that scar the game and the country.

The hatreds that feed on themselves as each side has to prove that their loathing is more genuine, their memories longer and more unforgiving, their hate more justified.

It’s all part of the game we say, part of our history and culture, part of being a football fan.

But it’s actually re-establishing the division and superstition that blinded and shackled the uneducated and ignorant for centuries. In every other area of life we know better than to hate people who come from the next village or the next town.

Most of the time most people flirt with the hate and join in to be one of the lads or lasses when the dreaded ‘banter’ starts.

But for some it’s real, for some it’s not just a bit of fun it’s who they are - sad losers with no of sense of proportion. When a 13st, 6ft 3ins centre half is attacked on a football pitch by a mob who feel justified because he once played for their rivals we need to look at ourselves.

We like to think that our all-seater, family-friendly game has moved on from the hooligan days but we all know it’s still there.

We smirk and indulgently roll our eyes at other people’s intolerance of our rivals, almost admiring their devotion to the cause.

We shouldn’t.

That’s just feeding the poison that’s an embarrassment to the game, the country and football fans everywhere.