As an ardent soccer fan, there’s one key element that passionately attaches me to the European club competitions and particularly the English Premier League.
Besides playing attractive football on the pitch, there’s practical devotion to career ethics by all the players and enviable corporate images displayed by the football clubs in Europe than anywhere else. There’s also standard behaviour expected of the club fans.
Look at how the host managers and their delegations welcome counterparts with handshakes and the visitors paying back with similar farewell handshakes after games- whether their teams have lost or won.
It’s all about fair play and protection of clubs’ corporate images. The “Fair Play” obligation is more often displayed than cosmetically talked about.
No wonder the sector is among the most lucrative, where career players and their mentors / coaches are among the highly paid, globally known and respected employees.
For any of the dear readers not quite familiar with what I’m saying, just watch out on this weekend’s clash between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield.
The skippers Steven Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic will stand together and lead an emotional tribute to the Hillsborough 96 victims before match kick off.
Even the Merseyside arch-rivals, Everton paid an emotional tribute before their League fixture against the Magpies last Monday, with a minute’s applause and a montage of the 96 being screened.
Everton defender Leighton Baines dedicated his equalizer goal to the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough and hopes the families of those who lost their lives will get justice following the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report last week.
And all the football fraternity in Britain took an awful lot of passion and resilience to play for those who died in cold blood and demand just to the aggrieved last weekend.
Twenty three yers ago, in an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground- Hillsborough, 96 Liverpool fans were hacked to death.
Later Sir Norman Bettison, then a chief inspector with the South Yorkshire force- now a Chief Constable of West Yorkshire with the help of Sheffield ex-Tory MP Sir Irvine Patnick and senior legal practitioners made concerted plot to shift the blame from police for the tragedy and discredit fans.
The saga that has taken more than two decades reached its climax last Wednesday when the two-year Hillsborough Independent Panel released a report on what really happened that day. It’s an appalling story and at the heart of it are the police’s attempts to smear Liverpool fans.
The report concluded thus: “The evidence shows conclusively that Liverpool fans neither caused nor contributed to the deaths of 96 men, women and children.
“Sir Norman was off duty; he put himself on duty and helped with operations at the ground. He later took part in an internal South Yorkshire Police inquiry that smeared the tragic incident”.
In essence, the report has since overshadowed headlines in Britain with major media houses like The Sun, Daily Mail, the police and important personalities that conspired in the tragedy tendering in apologies.
And the British Premier Cameron has subsequently made it clear these allegations were wholly untrue and the culprits MUST be brought to book to do justice to the aggrieved families, Liverpool club and supporters.
All the regrettable episodes aside, the Sunday clash at Anfield is the only major Premier game between giant clubs and will be more attractive; Arsenal and Chelsea fans – the favourate title contenders will want Man U defeated.
The Liverpool squad, management and fans are groaning, having drawn two and lost two of the last four games.
The Merseyside have not suffered any serious injuries. In fact the influential first XI regulars like iconic skipper Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Joe Allen, Glen Johnson, Daniel Adder, Jose Enrique didn’t travel to Switzerland for the EUROPA League game.
And no injury scares for United after the Champions League clash with the Turkish side last Wednesday neither.
Liverpool have revealed plans for Vidic and rival skipper Gerrard to release 96 red balloons before kickoff. The clubs are hopeful the show of unity also spreads to the stands and stops any tasteless chants from supporters.
Liverpool will also unveil three separate mosaics around the ground shortly before the match starts. Plus Luis Suarez will share hands with Patrice Evra. Remember the controversial ban of the Uruguayan for nine matches on alleged racial abuse to Evra?
After serving the ban, Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand when the Red Devil s went to Anfield in a return game, attracting more unwanted media speculations about the two stars.
But the Merseyside boss, Brendan Lodgers has of recent instructed the talisman to bury the hatchet and shake hands with the French International in the interest of the two clubs and in their own interest as professionals.
And as said earlier, Liverpool players have done all it takes to win, especially the games against Manchester City and Sunderland but drew. So they are like a wounded buffalo- it’s gonna be a do or die attitude.
I predict a 3-1 home win