Football’s social media trolls are just a newer, even sadder brand of hooligan

Twitter trolls should save their vitriol for politicians, bankers and bigots rather than players, managers or their fellow supporters...


Football stadiums used to be dangerous places. Some of them still are. But in the modern era of the sport, few grounds are capable of generating such existential dread in supporters as the pit of despair that is Angry Football Twitter.

Social media has become the pseudo-battleground for the same frustrated halfwits who, thirty years ago, would have been running around shirtless bleating nonsensically about ‘manors’ and congregating in ‘firms’ comprised of like-minded desperadoes.

Where once the dark side of football support was boozed-up lonely hearts parading through the streets and brawling on the terraces, it now takes the form of bands of furious e-hooligans tapping away on glowing screens in darkened rooms.

It’s worth saying, of course, that social media sites and apps aren’t always bad. Far from it.

Above all, they’ve given a voice to many people who would have been previously unheard. But, unfortunately, this is as much social media’s greatest drawback as it is its greatest strength; when it comes to many of those who would have been previously ignored, the world has not really benefited from paying them attention.

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Twitter, in particular, has brought the lunatic fringe in from the cold and into the everyday lives of those who would rather have gone on believing this phalanx of rage-fuelled cyber-berserkers didn’t exist.

Of course, the good thing is that you can always just turn off your phone/computer or simply try to avoid dipping your toes into the murky waters of Internet Opinions – including this one. But every now and then, you find yourself inescapably locked in a tractor beam of righteous wrath, dragged into peril by the vengeful Star Destroyer that is Angry Twitter Man. Until, before you know it, you’ve scrolled through a heated 60-tweet exchange about who is the shitter of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan.

It’s easy to fall into this trap – I certainly have.

To those mercifully outside the heaving cesspit that is the football ecclesia, we must seem a sorry bunch of profligates. For the amused — or perhaps horrified — onlooker, hooligans of the past were little more than a collection of barely lucid dunces with as much connection to reality as David Icke on a bad acid trip. A group of silly boys whom, ultimately, the world left behind without much care.

Yet it must also seem as if we’ve merely stumbled from the era of the pitiful hoolie into one dominated by development-arrested twenty-somethings holding forth in 140 characters about “AMCs” and trilling madly: “I WON THE SPANISH LEAGUE IN 2047 WITH SPORTING GIJON IN FOOTBALL MANAGER. LISTEN TO MY WORTHWHILE OPINIONS!!!!!!!! YOU C*NTS!!”

For the purpose of rehabilitation, there are some simple questions that football support’s equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church should ask themselves, starting with: “When it all comes down to it, am I not just, you know, a bit of a dickhead?”

In reality, however, the only questions these people have ever asked themselves are:

  1. “Why does no-one else realise how right I am literally all of the time?”
  2. “Why don’t professional footballers and managers simply check my Pinned Tweets for a straightforward guide on how to win every single game?”
  3. “Why have I been blocked by every football writer on social media? Pack of elitist wankers”.

This megalomaniac, anger-centric approach is so pervasive as to have become almost representative of what we are as football fans. Yes, the stupidest tend to shout the loudest, but social media has given them a megaphone and a posse of concomitant simpletons with whom to spar.

They’re beginning to define us, in the same  —  albeit less physically harmful  —  way as did hooligans in the seventies and eighties.

This is the post-chemical peel version of the ugly face of the football nation; just as we had shaken off the image of us as brain-dead thugs, it seems we’re well on our way to being seen as little more than a collection of brain-dead internet trolls.

A lot of us need to wake up and appreciate a very straightforward and easy to grasp fact: football is a game. Nothing more than that. Save your vitriol for the politicians, bankers and bigots. Those are the people who deserve your ire; not footballers, managers or fellow supporters (yes I see the irony).

Football is for playing, watching and supporting  —  if you’re doing nothing more than spreading anger when you’re talking about this sport, you’re not doing it right.

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What do you think?