Campbell must have been so pissed off that he rang the BBC up to raise a ruckus. In the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he said: “We can all take the booing or light banter, but when it gets to the realms of verbal abuse, it’s a bridge too far. If this happened on the street, you would be arrested.”
“This is the 21st century and this is a human rights situation where sportsmen and managers are trying to do their job professionally and people are abusing them verbally.”
And Campbell has likened such abuse to racist chanting. He said: “There is no difference for me, it’s harmful. They are trying to belittle you and it is downright out of order.”
The abuse which boiled over was during last week Premier League fixture against Tottenham at Fratton Park. The Portsmouth captain, still a hate figure among some Spurs fans over his 2001 departure to their bitter rivals Arsenal, was barracked as usual. But this time round, the insults may have rubbed him the wrong way or Campbell had grown more sensitive with age.
According to the Campbell, the FA had “buried its head in the sand” on the issue. He said: “People are letting it go by, not saying anything in the papers, clubs are doing nothing about it.”
The FA has responded promptly that it is actively working to prevent abuse from supporters in the stands. “There is legislation in place to deal with abusive, threatening and racist behaviour by ejecting and arresting offending individuals. Put simply, it is against the law,” an FA spokesman said.
What does Campbell expect? At the age of 33, he should already be immune to such treatments. It means nothing to opposing fans that you are an international player (on the decline) who has given his career to club and country. Moreover, when you are being viewed as traitor, the fans are not going to give you gentle nudges and winks. Compared to the reception meted out to “traitors” in other leagues, the situation in England is not an aberration, but that is not saying that it should be encouraged either.
To eradicate bad practices on all fronts, the professional footballers should set the right examples first. Campbell is no angel when his rants against match officials is taken into consideration. I am not sure what are the exact words exchanged but judging from some of the photos, it will certainly not be light banter. One wonders what are the feelings of these match officials too?
And god knows what the clubs are going to do when half the population in the stadium are as boisterous as those who got on the nerves of Sol Campbell. Do the clubs throw all of them out, fine them, bar them, or worse, send them to jail? Soccer is a passionate game; if the fans sit back in the stands munching on prawn sandwiches and behave daintily under the watchful eyes of a battalion of police, something is not right with the atmosphere. I will be staying in the comfort of my home to watch the live telecast in this case.
The fans are the live blood of the players, clubs, EPL and the telecasters. Without the fans spending crazy amounts of money to watch 22 over-paid egos kicking a ball around for 90 minutes, any league is as good as dead and the players will be relieved of such treatment since they will be seeking employment elsewhere.
As professional footballers, they are ultimately entertainers, and they are paid as such, so they can be judged by the audience for good or bad performances. If it is bad or unpopular, the fans will let them know, so long as the unruly mood doesn’t turn violent.
There was predictable delight on some Tottenham fan websites that a raw nerve had been touched. And you can’t stop their abuse in this manner. The next time Campbell step into Spurs territory, nothing is going to change unless the fans are barred from their own home ground.
After seeing how Sol Campbell orchestrated the campaign against crowd abuse, I believe he has a promising future as a public spokesman after retiring from football. By the way, what do you guys think of the verbal abuse?
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