by Liam McConville

The sun is setting on one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory and as relegation battles, title fights continue to simmer, football fanatics are on the edge of their seat waiting for the final action of a thrilling campaign to unfold. However for all the quality and the drama that we have seen on the pitch this season there have been many controversial moments off the pitch and at times completely outrageous and unacceptable behaviour from both supporters and players.

This Saturday evening Liverpool and Chelsea will contest the domestic season’s showpiece, the FA Cup final at Wembley. This sees the latest of matches in what is a burgeoning and – at times tedious – rivalry. However there is a very real danger that the game could be overshadowed as a backlash from the disgusting behaviour of a select few just three weeks ago at Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Tottenham.

The semi-final weekend happened to fall on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, in which ninety-six Liverpool fans died during a horrific crush in the Leppings Lane End. On the Saturday a minute’s silence was observed immaculately by both Liverpool and Everton supporters, due respect was shown followed by a full-blooded game; a fitting tribute for those who lost their lives on that terrible day in 1989.

The following day another minute’s silence was planned again in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and also as a tribute to the tragic death of Italian footballer Piermario Morosini who collapsed on the pitch during a Serie B game. The minimum expectation was that the tens of thousands gathered for the match would treat this sombre occasion with the respect that it deserved. Sadly this wasn’t the case.

For a select minority of Chelsea fans – and I emphasise minority – could clearly be heard booing as soon as the referee blew his whistle to begin the minute’s silence and some even went as far as chanting ‘murderers’ in reference to the Heysel disaster. After less than half of the scheduled minute the referee, Martin Atkinson blew his whistle again to bring a premature end to the supposed silence.

This utterly despicable behaviour was universally condemned by the vast majority of the fans packed into Wembley, both Tottenham and other Chelsea supporters booed in return to show their disgust at the conduct of those who acted so appallingly. ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley was quick to condemn the moronic chanting as it was clear to viewers at home what had happened. This brings me back to Saturday’s final between Liverpool and Chelsea where due to this moment of incredible insensitivity by a small section of fans the atmosphere could be truly poisonous. We can only hope that Liverpool fans take the higher ground and everyone can focus on what should be a cracking final.

Football is by its very nature tribal and while this invokes qualities such as passion and desire it can also bring out the worst in some. Take for example the conduct of a small section of Liverpool supporters throughout the whole Luis Suarez racism affair. Despite overwhelming evidence against Suarez, Liverpool as a club backed their man with the now infamous show of support through Suarez t-shirts worn by all players and with hindsight rather embarrassingly by manager Kenny Dalglish.

The siege mentality that resulted led to some particularly unsavoury scenes for the FA Cup third round tie against Oldham at Anfield, where Tom Adeyemi was allegedly racially abused by a Liverpool supporter. Adeyemi was clearly distressed by the incident and although a man was later arrested he was not charged because of insufficient evidence.

Just three weeks later Liverpool were in the spotlight again as a man was seen by television cameras making what appeared to be a monkey gesture. Again these incidents came from merely a handful of supporters whose sickening behaviour dragged the great institution of Liverpool F.C, and indeed football, through the gutter.

There are far too many other instances of this kind of behaviour across the country, whether its revolting chants about the Munich air disaster or a tiny section of Millwall supporters taunting the Leeds support over the stabbing of two United fans prior to a European game against Galatasaray. It is cringe worthy when these supporters try to justify their behaviour by saying ‘well they chant so and so about us so why can’t we chant so and so back to them’. The old adage two wrongs don’t make a right has never been truer than on this issue.

99.9% of football supporters wouldn’t even dream of acting in such a way as I have discussed in this piece, for all rational people can see that these actions taken by a very small minority are utterly deplorable. Hopefully the incidents we have seen over the course of this season will act as a watershed moment and these chants can finally be sent back to the dark ages where they belong.