Brits will moan about anything. They’ll moan about the weather, the motorways and the cost of Freddo bars. It’s true, we are partial to a good whinge.
But the latest topic of moaning, particularly in the mainstream press, is infuriating.
Last Thursday, as I’m sure everyone is aware by now, FC Koln fans descended on the Emirates in their thousands for their Europa League match against Arsenal.
So many fc koln fans with the arsenal fans at the Emirates stadium absolutely crazy pic.twitter.com/xSebS3XCDY
— Ashley Smith (@Ash9423) September 14, 2017
They took an estimated 20,000 fans for a 2,900 away end allocation. By buying up memberships and spotting Arsenal shirts to go unnoticed, they headed into the home end in droves, particularly around their away end. This was their cup final.
This article, from Andy Mitten, included an interview with a fan who was at the game on Thursday who said:
“Around 98 per cent of the fans at FC Koln matches are from Koln.”
He continued: “It’s an extension of the community. The players feel like they’re letting them down if they don’t play well.”
It also states that when they were in Germany’s second tier, they were attracting average crowds of 50,000 per game. To give you an idea, the average attendance in the English second tier so far this campaign is 31,677 from Leeds United. In the Premier League, Manchester City’s average support this season has been 51,000. Only slightly more than Koln.
If you speak to most Arsenal fans – the sensible ones that is, not the ones that argue with schoolgirls on London buses – they will tell you that the atmosphere at the Emirates is largely hopeless.
Last night, 20,000 Cologne fans reminded us of what we lost as supporters. This mornings press/media reports remind us of why we lost it.
— Ian Stirling (@Stirling061) September 15, 2017
In fact, fans of many clubs in the top tier will tell you that home support is dismal. This season alone, there have already been words from Jurgen Klopp (just yesterday, in fact) about his fans. Jose Mourinho has said on a couple of occasions that he feels the noise is lacking from Manchester United supporters at Old Trafford.
There are, of course, a multitude of reasons why this may be. All-seater stadia, high ticket prices, so-called ‘day trippers’ and a change in culture in football. If you speak to many top-flight fans, they’ll all tell you the same thing: home support is flat, and it isn’t getting any better.
So why, when a side comes to an English ground and creates a bit of a stir do we immediately vilify them? According to Mitten in his GQ piece, of the 20,000 travelling Cologne fans, there were just five arrests.
Yes, there were opposition fans in different ends of the stadium. And so what?
There is a coherent argument that segregation made hooliganism worse. It made us and them more delineated
— Tony Evans (@TonyEvans92a) September 14, 2017
They brought noise, they brought a buzz to the city and they shook up a library-like atmosphere at an English football ground. A few repeated chants of “Arse-nal” or “We hate Tottenham/We are the Tottenham haters” is never going to compete with 20,000 shouting, bouncing German fans.
If you look on social media, or read articles from fans who were actually at the game, most of them will tell you that there was little to no animosity between the two sets of fans. Of course, as with any club, you’re always going to get a small section of d*ckheads. But those shouldn’t tarnish the experience of the majority of well-behaved fans there to watch their team.
So, how exactly do we expect to improve the atmosphere of our own games when we constantly vilify football fans for supporting their clubs with passion?
One Cologne fan, summed it up when speaking to The Guardian:
“For Cologne fans it was the biggest night of our lives. Thanks for having us.”