Thu, January 20, 2022

perspective

‘Ultras’ scoring an OWN-GOAL for Thai football


Bangkok, Thailand (The Nation/ANN) - Passionate supporters must not endanger players or Fans, or scare Children away from stadiums.

It was supposed to be just an extreme form of celebration, but lighting flares at football stadiums can be dangerous and have a long-term impact on the game, especially in countries like Thailand where the sport’s development has begun rather earnestly. A group of Thai football fans, who call themselves “The Ultras”, caused quite a dramatic scene at the Rajamangala Stadium last week when they set off flares to mark the national team’s scoring against Indonesia, which earned the Kingdom a Southeast Asian championship.
The group’s action followed its vow to do so, despite strong concerns expressed before the Suzuki Cup final. When the first of the two-leg tie was played in Indonesia, pockets of local fans were said to be no less rowdy, disturbing Thai players with frequent laser beams and wild cheers that were intimidating. Before the return leg, Thai sports commentators had repeatedly urged the Ultras, known for their aggressive support for the Thai team, to refrain from trying to “pay back” the Indonesian footballers.
“We mustn’t do what others did to us that we don’t like,” a radio DJ said. “We should only copy things that are good for Thai football.”
Such calls went unheard, of course, and the Ultras’ action was met with an uproar. Strong criticism flooded both the conventional and social media. The group’s Facebook page was defiant at first but then became so overwhelmed with direct scolding and polite reprimands that it had to shut itself down. Thai football authorities also took steps to identify those responsible. Angry critics have called for a life-long stadium ban, saying the Ultras “can’t be reasoned with”. Opinion is divided on the proposed extreme punishment.
People lighting flares have been frequent nuisances at sport events, notably football. A few days ago, in England, when Liverpool scored an injury-time winner against closest rivals Everton, jubilant supporters set off flares and threw them onto the pitch. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said even he was unnerved. What he really meant, some said, was that he didn’t like it because such celebrations could harm people, be it fellow spectators or players. “Someone could get really hurt,” a Liverpool blog comment said.
Causing injuries is the potential immediate danger. A longer-term consequence could be that children get scared or concerned parents keep their kids away from attending games. For Thailand, whose football development depends heavily on the constructive passion of children for the sport, that would disrupt any progress the country has made.
The development of Thai football, buoyed by the increasing popularity of the Thai Premier League, is already facing significant threats. Corruption and nepotism remain at high levels although the situation may not be as bad as in the past. This, plus bad refereeing – whether due to sheer incompetence or graft – could eat into children’s dreams of becoming professional footballers. Fan violence is the last thing we need, but still happens despite authorities’ attempts to end it. However, the problem has a lot to do with the supporters themselves.
The Ultras, who claim to love football, must realise that their potentially dangerous theatrics can destroy the very thing they say they love. Whether it’s for revenge, or fun, or creating a big profile, lighting flares does not do anybody any good. And anything that can harm or scare the innocent is not manly. The Ultras must find a better way to show off their passion, which must not discourage others from expressing theirs.  

Published : December 25, 2016