UEFA Cup riots after Rangers FC 2-0 loss to Zenit

So, I’m a Rangers fan. I’m also an Arsenal; PSV Eindhoven; Paris Saint-Germain FC; Valencia CF and Bayer Leverkusen fan. These teams are some of the greatest heartbreakers in the football world – always coming close to winning something of note and then screwing up big time. Rangers lost the UEFA Cup final against Zenit recently; the Arsenal never won the European Champions League before (hell, even PSV won its precursor European Cup before!); PSV almost had a chance to beat AC Milan at home in the 2005/2006 semifinals – then we wouldn’t have heard of the magical night at Istanbul as it would have been the massacre of Istanbul; Valencia CF lost 2 vital chances to win the Champions League twice; and Bayer Leverkusen are probably the perennial bridesmaid in European football – they lost all 3 credible chances of winning the German Bundesliga, the German Pokal and the Champions League all in just one season in 2000/2001 under Klaus Toppmöller. Heartaches don’t seem to die when supporting these teams. That’s what make football fans continue to love the game.

I followed the career of Dutch leftback Arthur Numan from his days at PSV Eindhoven to the time when he signed for Glasgow Rangers by now Zenit St. Petersburg boss, Dick Advocaat. On top of that, Rangers also featured an impressive lineup of Dutch players like Michael Mols, Ronald de Boer, Fernando Ricksen (also at Zenit now!), Bert Konterman, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Frank de Boer and some other multinational players like the Australian Craig Moore; the Italians Lorenzo Amoruso and Sergio Porrini; the Romanian Daniel Prodan and the Germans Jörg Albertz and the veteran goalkeeper Stefan Klos who probably kept Rangers goal so long that he could have been called up to Tartan Army squad instead. I know these players – they were the core of the team who delighted the Blues fans (not the Chelscunts) so long that 5-0 wins against Dundee United and St. Mirren FC are near-certain rather than a probability in those days. Then there were the nights of the Champions League…

If you hadn’t already heard – Rangers fans practically made the City of Manchester a proper garbage disposal area. I’ve never been to Manchester during my studies in the UK but I’d not imagine any English city looking as filthy as a night market aftermath in Malaysia. These night markets probably lasted a few streets at the most but I’m sure that it was pandemonium at Manchester. The chaos which the Rangers fans have wrought, while no fatalities were involved, probably renewed calls for more tougher action against football hooliganism. In general, most of the dailies shared a similar story about the events which unfolded. There are also more reports about fan violence here and here.

Now, I’d not bother with all those righteous comments about behaviour and all that goody-two-shoes wisdom. Still, it’s clear that many Rangers fans were attacking the police and that won’t sit well with the English authorities in the future. You can see the use of police dogs in these pictures and there was this one where a Rangers fan had his entire lower calf grabbed by some fearsome trained K-9 who wouldn’t mind relishing it for late night supper had it not been controlled my its police masters. Then there was this lasting image of a Manchester policeman who tripped over in the street and ultimately, there were calls for UEFA, the European football-governing body to be empowered to punish Rangers FC real hard for its fans’ misbehaviour.

I don’t really believe that Rangers fans were hard done by the Zenit victory. It’s painfully obvious that the Russian team played better than their Scottish adversaries and it’s not surprising to say that Dick Advocaat probably knew a thing or two about his former charges, namely Barry Ferguson who is the Glasgow team’s lynchpin and major inspiration to succeed. Of course, neutrals would argue that this year’s UEFA Cup final is a farce played between two teams who aren’t traditionally renowned European winners. I’d say that some fans were really out there to cause mischief – the match outcome may be secondary; a victory would have helped but a loss wouldn’t be that painful either.  "UEFA Cup? What UEFA Cup? To hell with this Cup!"

While I do admit that I still support Rangers, the image of the club would have been tainted real bad. There are those knee-jerk comments by those English  and it’s quite hard to blame them. Their city was in a real mountain of trash and violence was committed against law-enforcers. Shops and commercial areas weren’t spared from violence either. If you need evidence that some aspects of the human race haven’t fully-evolved, it’s the natural tendency to be destructive. Of course I’m not looking to jump ship from this great club- this team has done spectacularly well to reach the finals and it’s really understandable that almost all travelling fans are pissed that the giant TV screen which was supposed to beam the game live meant that their costly expenses to travel down south would have been almost for nothing but for the atmosphere and the stench-filled rubbish air.

I have a hypothetical question anyway.

If Rangers have won the coveted UEFA Cup, would the fans celebrate in a more dignified manner? I gotta be shittin’ some folks here! And another one: if the TV screen had decided, for the good of Manchester to suddenly behave itself and all it takes was a proper knock at a certain somewhere to ensure that regular service can be resumed, and the fans can enjoy the game; would the fans accept the defeat gracefully and troop off home, proud of the team? That’s far too Utopian to ask.

The most convenient answer is – the police of Manchester should take most of the blame. Maybe charging the Rangers fans and bringing order with their own brand of justice would create some other political furore which may invoke some Scottish fury – still, would the effect have been lessened? I do fear for the club. Would they go round Europe and terrorizing every European city like what the Feyenoord hooligans did at Nancy in France?

Perhaps only football could generate the sort of emotion and passion which only genuine football fans could feel. It’s pleasant to learn that most Rangers fans stayed on in the City of Manchester Stadium to applaud the rightful victors but there would be someone out there who decide that a little destruction in the name of supporting a football club is exactly the right kick for a good night out. Possibly, yes – but we’re talking about a major European tournament here. You don’t see news headlines about the South Koreans rioting at their capital city after their glorious run in the 2002 World Cup was halted by the defeat to Germany in the semi-finals. There were some emotions running high, a few tears perhaps, but generally, they were bursting with pride about their team and gratitude for the team doesn’t necessarily mean that the fans should vent their frustration towards their team or to public property. That’s what dignity is all about.

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