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Show 'em the red card

Larry Neild has had enough of competitive dads and mums ruining the park life

Published on March 17th 2009.


Show 'em the red card

LIVERPOOL'S second-best ever manager, Bill Shankly, famously said “Some people think football is a matter of life and death ... it’s much more important than that”.

And as the mighty Reds celebrate their 4-1 trouncing of the Fergie Babes, on Saturday it’s hard to disagree with the Bard of Anfield.

Heroes such as Stevie G and Torres started their journeys into potential saintdom somewhere, probably kicking a ball around as tiny tots in the local park. It’s where ambitions are nurtured and dreams are made.

But zoom in on a Liverpool park on a March Saturday morning and two local teams battle it out for glory. The air is blue, rather than red, tempers are flared, as though the World Cup at stake. The effing and blinding fills the air, with insults and, indeed, possible threats are hurtled at the referee.

This was not a class between the Walton Prison Solitary Confinement XI and Strangeways United. The teams were playing in a league for under-eights.

Kids who not so long ago were tottering about sleepsuits were now sporting a football kit and this game was more important than life and death. It was war.However, the gnashing of teeth was not coming from the babes on the park, but their irate parents. It actually ended in punches being thrown and the referee being forced to abandon the game because of the violence on the touchline.

It's an increasingly common phenomenon. Is it any wonder there is so much violence linked to football when, on what should be a pleasant weekend morning in a park war is being waged. No words are learned as kids witness the verbal onslaught.

I’ve often felt professional soccer players should set an example in sportsmanship by behaving themselves. They are heroes and must set a good example. Bullies on the pitch should forfeit their pay. Why not a three-month ban, or a whole season ban in a totting up system in the way motorists can be disqualified for 12 points.

It won’t happen, because football is a mega business.

So here’s my solution. Liverpool City Council, and other councils, should send in their own “plain clothes referees” to watch teams with an evidence of touchline, or on-the-pitch violence. Then here’s the big selling point – ban them from playing on any council-owned pitch. It would be tough on the under-eights, but they should learn at such a tender age that in sport there are rules, whether you are a participant or a spectator.

Parks are used not just by footie teams and their unruly and potentially aggressive parents, but by people following other pursuits, such as play or dog-walking even. Why should those people have to tolerate such lousy behaviour? So if the football authorities won’t act, then the council will. After all, if a dog fouls a park there’s a whopper of a penalty, if a football player or spectator fouls the air, nothing.

There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm, high-spirits and a competitive edge, but when it spills over into foul language and even violence, it’s time to show the red card.

That magical quote from Shankly was uttered before football had turned nasty.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMarch 17th 2009.

I got a whopper of a fine when my little ****zu did a wopper in the bushes in Otterspool once.

Laura NorderMarch 17th 2009.

I blame the parents. They should be flogged - in public.

Eros statueMarch 17th 2009.

Wouldn't you rather they spent their energies closing somewhere like Cube than wandering around the parks bothering children's football teams?

DogWalkerMarch 17th 2009.

Walking my dogs in Allerton, I stay away from the schoolboy games. Don't want to inflict such foul language on the ears of my poodle.I don't know why the police just don't go in and dish out a few ASBOs. Laz is right, it's not sport, it's war out there.

AnonymousMarch 17th 2009.

It's not teachers and policemen we need. it's zookeepers.

ZeligMarch 17th 2009.

The filthiest place in liverpool is kirkby. The streets are befouled by animal and human faeces and on every corner there is some kind of illegal or drug related activity.This place is now a no go area for police. How can decent people walk the streets at night when these underclass thugs are immune from punishment, laughing at police and terrorising old folk.

Stanley StreetMarch 17th 2009.

The days when parents saw themselves as setting admirable examples for their children to follow seem long gone. Just as fat, bald middle-aged men refuse to face their age by listening to pop music and dressing like toddlers, so parents see themselves as slightly older, irresponsible louts alongside their amoral children.

scorpioMarch 17th 2009.

I agree with Laz,that any bit of space is being used by the little oiks and their screaming dads,abusing everyone in sight. The problem is every dad who is on the lines is playing out their fantasy of being an armchair soccor manager,hoping that their oiks with get jobs as prof football players,instead of normal jobd. I heard recently that both LFC and EFC are fed up with all the letters they get saying their little oik is the new Rooney or the New Gerrard.

Rusty SpikeMarch 17th 2009.

Bill Shankly's wife Nessie once confided to someone that I know quite well that she wasn't that much fussed aboot fitba...Ha, ha. I was at a business dinner event in Manchester recently and almost the whole table of eight, apart from two of us, suddenly erupted in furious passions about their favourite teams. They were astounded that we didn't follow any team and ignored us from the moment of our revelations. It was a truly ghastly and disturbing experience, some of them were even snarling and wide-eyed with hatred for the rival fans and squads. And thus do we engage with the Age of Aquarius.

AnonymousMarch 17th 2009.

Hey don't asterisk my little shtizu out!

ZeligMarch 17th 2009.

The filthiest place in liverpool is kirkby. The streets are befouled by animal and human faeces and on every corner there is some kind of illegal or drug related activity.This place is now a no go area for police. How can decent people walk the streets at night when these underclass thugs are immune from punishment, laughing at police and terrorising old folk.

Peter PanMarch 17th 2009.

No. In any case 'proper' crime is the business of the proper, legal police, not Storey's Brownshirts

LiveNletLiveMarch 17th 2009.

People are passionate about footie. What does Laz want, whispering well down when somebody scores, perhaps a tiny little clap. OK things occasionally spill over and feelings run high. Much better at a match than in the streets. Let's live and let live.

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