The recent rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool has remained largely a healthy rivalry. Mutual respect and admiration between the managers and two groups of players, means that the matches between them were played in good spirit.
The vast majority of fans, on both sides, have also kept the right spirit, immersed in a lot of fun and online games, but they rarely stray from the line between banter and bad taste. A minority of City fans crossed that line on Saturday by cheering during the proposed minute of silence for the 97 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
There have been suggestions that the chants came from Wembley Courtyard, from supporters who were unaware of the memory of the victims of that terrible tragedy. Usually when that happens, words travel quickly from inside the grounds, and with referee Michael Oliver clipping the tribute as Liverpool fans responded with boos, it’s hard to tell if it was from the fans who were oblivious or not. City did the right thing by quickly apologizing for the behavior of a few fans.
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No matter how he cut it, it was an embarrassment to the club and to the vast majority of decent City fans who took note of the moment and paid their respects to the loyal fans who, like them, went on to cheer their side in the FA Cup half. Finally, but never made it home again. The fact that the families of these victims had to wait so long, and fight hard, for a degree of justice, in the face of a police blackout and government inattention, makes note of silence before Hillsborough 97, and many others. Those who survive but bear physical and mental scars, even more important than most silent tribute.
This is not an attack on the City fans per se, most of whom are disgusted with what happened, but it is aimed at the scourge of society, people who have no respect for anything or anyone. Every club has that minority – Liverpool and City fans had enough supporters to taint the memory of those who perished in the Munich air disaster. United “fans” – and I use the word loosely – are known to sing songs about Hillsborough and make fun of the horrific events of that day. It’s not good enough, but it does reflect a broader disease in our society.
City and Liverpool have historically had great respect for each other, City due to the mutual hatred of United and Liverpool simply because the Blues are not the Reds. Back in 2014, with the two clubs vying for the Premier League title, City fans unfurled a banner reading ‘YNWA 96’ in a tough game at Anfield – that was before Andrew Devine died from injuries sustained at Hillsborough in 2021, becoming the number one 97. Victim.
They represented the true feelings of City fans, not the few who spoiled what should have been a poignant reversal moment. Anyone intentionally cheering through the silence is a disgrace, but they reflect no more support for the Blues than the idiots who saw fit to throw rockets at the City team bus in 2018 who represent the vast majority of Liverpool fans.
Bill Shankly, one of Liverpool’s greatest coaches, was right when he opened his mouth, but when he said that football is more important than life and death matters, he was deeply wrong. The Hillsborough disaster proved the actual superficiality of these words, once and for all.
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