Disrespect for the victims of football tragedies and the clubs involved is a common, yet incredibly sad reality in English football. Opposing fans chanting and singing about the Hillsborough disaster and the Munich air disaster and showing general disrespect for the victims of those tragedies when their clubs play against Liverpool and Manchester United has been happening for decades, and yesterday was a sobering reminder that it doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon.
Just before Liverpool kicked off their FA Cup semi-final match against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium yesterday, both teams gathered around the center circle, locked arms, and held a moment’s silence in honor of the 97 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
Unfortunately, the moment of silence had to be cut short by referee Michael Oliver because of a small group of idiots in the Manchester City end of the stadium who decided to continue chanting. Soon, Liverpool fans began booing those who couldn’t keep their mouths shut for even a moment to honor the victims of a tragedy, and Oliver made the wise choice to blow his whistle and proceed to the kickoff as the moment had already been ruined.
The disrespect for the 97 was, understandably, a big talking point for Liverpool supporters during and after the match, and it was briefly addressed by Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, in his post-match press conference.
“I think Manchester City made a statement. This is not Manchester City,” said Guardiola. “We are close to Liverpool club for the tragedy that happened years ago. We are alongside them. After these guys singing (it) doesn’t represent what we are.”
While it was nice that Pep mentioned his distaste for the chanting, the classic tactic of trying to separate the club from the fans who show disrespect like this is disappointing. Whether you like it or not, these fans DO represent you. When these things happen, acknowledging that fact and making it clear these displays will not be tolerated is the only appropriate response, which makes the statement he mentioned from Manchester City even more pathetic and disappointing.
After the match, City released this toothless statement via a club spokesperson:
“Manchester City are extremely disappointed with the actions of some City supporters during the minute’s silence before today’s game. The club sincerely apologises to all those connected with Liverpool Football Club.”
There was no direct message to their own supporters that this was unacceptable. There was no message that they would try to identify those who took part. There was no attempt to try and put a stop to future displays of this nature by threatening stadium bans for those who take part. These are the basic, minimum components a club should include in a statement when their supporters do things like this, but all City gave was a generic statement of disappointment and apology.
And, to top it all off, they couldn’t even be bothered to post it on their own website or social media channels. There isn’t a single word about this to be found on any official Manchester City platform.
Maybe that’s to be expected from a club whose entire purpose is to be the sports washing arm of a human rights abusing petro-state and conveniently ignore any and all of the unsavory things their club is linked to, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.