Day: March 28, 2012

European Championship Stories: 1996 – A Whole New Ball Game

It almost goes without saying that the near-death Рand very much beyond Рexperiences suffered by English football during the 1980s shaped the game that we watch today. There was a time Рa period from the middle to the end of that decade Рwhen the definite feeling that this was a game on its last legs became tangible. Crowds dwindled to somewhere beyond what might have been considered the bare bones, whilst an unhappy trinity of disasters carried both a literal and symbolic loss, with deaths that represented scores of personal tragedies alongside a wider sense of corrosion in what had been the nations number one pastime. Yet well within a decade, the hype was telling us that all was right with the world again, and the 1996 European Championships became a celebration of this rebirth, whether we liked it or not. With the benefit of almost a generations worth of hindsight, it is possible to consider that the most shocking thing about the Bradford fire, the Heysel Stadium disaster and the Hillsborough tragedy is not that they happened in the first place Рeach of this three had their roots in systematic neglect of the game from those charged with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of spectators Рbut that they happened within such a short space of time. After Bradford and Heysel, sticking plasters were...

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Bradford City vs Crawley Town, Or The Decline & Fall Of Western Civilisation

To wake up this morning and watch the sport segment from the BBC’s Breakfast programme, one might have figured that League Two had witnessed the beginning of the decline and fall of western civilisation rather than a fight at the end of a football match. Brows were furrowed and the tone of the presenters was hushed and dark. Indeed, it was almost difficult to believe that they had just watched a video of bunch of young men in polyester throwing punches at each other for thirty seconds. Just as Rome was neither built nor collapsed in a day, the world will not end because a handful of players from Bradford City and Crawley Town couldn’t rein it in at the end of last nights match at Valley Parade. Sure enough, to start pushing, shoving and throwing your fists around in a football pitch is not the smartest thing in the world to do, and even if we allow for the likelihood that the average professional football isn’t necessarily the sharpest tool in the box, the players involved last night should surely have known that, but a rush of blood to the head can do strange things to the brain of the male of our species. These things happen, and it seems unlikely that no amount of hand-wringing can prevent this. None of this means, of course, that the Football...

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