By Alice Weekes.
Booing at football matches is a contentious issue. Many fans believe it is their right to be able to voice their distaste at a lackluster performance, whilst others will point out that booing is wholly counterproductive.
For me, context is king when it comes to this issue.
When I read about a section of West Ham fans booing their team off the pitch last week, despite securing a vital three points against Hull City, I thought it a little puerile. I wasn’t at the game, but Lord knows, as a hardened Wednesdayite (Sheffield Wednesday fan) I’ve sat through more dour performances than I care to remember. But when you’re in a relegation dog-fight – which at that time, West Ham were (are?) still very much a part of – the fans should grasp three points with both hands, regardless of the substance of the shower on show. It is an ever-present fact that the teams who are able to grind out ‘ugly’ results tend to find themselves in the more favourable positions come the end of the season.
Having said that, nobody likes to pay upwards of £40 to watch the footballing equivalent of a Coldplay song on an endless loop. It’s frustrating and it is certainly not entertaining.
Whilst on the whole, I don’t condone booing, for me there is one exception to the rule, and that is when the players are visibly lacking in effort and heart.
As a (sometime) football player myself, I know from experience that I will have games when it is clearly not going to be my day – the ball develops an awkward infatuation with my shin rather than my foot, and the numerous one-on-one situations I find myself in result in something more reminiscent of Bambi on ice than Maradona in Mexico ‘86. We must remember that football players are actual living and breathing human beings. They have off-days – just as you and I sometimes do the dreaded ‘reply-all’ thing at work and inadvertently send an innuendo-laden email to a thousand corporate beings. We must forgive them of these indiscretions, as we can only hope to be forgiven of ours.
But I think it’s easy to distinguish an off-day from an ‘I really don’t want to be here’ day and for me the latter is inexcusable and ultimately boo-worthy.
I was recently at a match where I was rather tragically pining for the final whistle just so that I could voice my disgust. You see, I had hopped on a train to Yeovil that day. The glorious sunshine and welcome buzz of a few lukewarm beers had left me with a false sense of hope that we’d demolish our inferior opposition with the sort of nonchalant arrogance you display on the last day of school. Alas, we did not do that. Not one bit. We were limp. We were flaccid. We were all kinds of unfavourable innuendo. I was angry that I had paid the best part of £50 and spent half my weekend witnessing this heinous excuse for football. So when that final whistle came, I wanted the team to know I was angry. I booed with all my might. Unfortunately, it made no difference to the result. The three points were gone. Along with my voice and my money.
When the booing debate rears its ugly head, some will try to apply everyday logic in an attempt to conceptualize the issue. “How would you feel if someone walked into your office and started booing in your face?” they say. Well for starters I’d be mightily confused. More to the point, I don’t get paid £30k every time I make an appearance at my desk. Despite this hardship, I tend to put in a valiant amount of effort during the 9-5. And I don’t have thousands of ardent followers paying their hard-earned cash to come and watch me type away (well, not yet anyway). So in my humble opinion, applying it to a ‘real life’ context does not really work.
The world of football is bizarre. It is often beautiful and it is certainly unique. But the overriding point of football at a professional level is to win. Secondary to that, it should entertain. And what a glorious and rare occasion it is when your team do both. But if your team somehow manages to snatch three points having stumbled around the pitch like a group of newborn giraffes for an hour and a half, then so be it. Praise them. They’ve effectively done their job.
If they show a disregard for the shirt on their back and the badge across their chest, then for me, that is a different matter altogether.
Where do you stand on this issue? Is it ever right to boo your own team?
Find more of Alice’s work here!