Fan hatred, a tragedy indeed
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Four years ago, Manchester City travelled to Old Trafford for a derby with sombre undertones — the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster that killed eight United players.
Ahead of the game, Kevin Parker, the secretary of the Manchester City supporters' club, wrote to United, worried about the proposed minute's silence before kick-off. "We think it is obvious that if there is a minute's silence some fool will interrupt it," he wrote.
On Sunday, United journeyed to Liverpool in the wake of the publication of the Hillsborough Report, which finally revealed the truth about the 1989 stadium disaster that led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. Ahead of the game, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wrote to his club's fans. "Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice," he wrote. "I know I can count on you to stand with us in the best traditions of the best fans in the game."
Parker and Ferguson were concerned that sections of supporters might sing chants mocking the tragedies. For most part, both games passed without incident. But that such chants exist, should distress football fans.
Only a small minority, no doubt, harbor enough hatred to gloat about the dead. But vitriol of a milder nature is widespread. Self-anointed 'Scousers' and 'Mancs' hate each other just as fiercely in Seoul and Mumbai as in Liverpool and Manchester.
For the men who built these clubs from the ground up, this is a tragedy. Outside Old Trafford stands a statue of Sir Matt Busby, the manager who rebuilt United twice, first in 1945 from the ruins of the War and in 1958, after Munich.
Ten years on, United, still managed by Busby, lifted the European Cup. For the first four years of Busby's tenure, when Old Trafford was being rebuilt, United played their 'home' games at Maine Road, Manchester City's ground. Before he became a coach, Busby had been a City and Liverpool player. Were Busby to apply for the United job today, the club's board would be too scared to hire him, for fear of a fan backlash.
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