The story of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, the subsequent smear campaign against supporters led by The S**, and the cover-up by the police and the Tory government is all too familiar for most Liverpool FC supporters around the world. Although supporters have now been cleared of any and all wrongdoing by the courts, the damage done in the court of public opinion thanks to the work of that pathetic excuse for a newspaper and the cover-up undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the disaster is still being felt 33 years later.
Liverpool FC and their supporters have been subjected to hideous songs, chants, and taunts about the tragedy from opposing fans for three decades. Although these vile actions typically come from a tiny minority of the opposing fanbases, that doesn’t make them any less abhorrent.
In the Reds’ last two matches, an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City last Saturday and a midweek tilt against Manchester United, we’ve seen disturbingly significant portions of the opposition’s fans engage in horrifying displays of disrespect for the 97 victims of Hillsborough.
City fans chanted through a pre-kickoff moment of silence the day after the 33rd anniversary of the tragedy. Then, just three days later, there were significant groups of United fans chanting about Hillsborough while walking to the match and then singing that the Kopites were “murderers” during the match.
Two very high profile, well-publicized instances of Hillsborough disrespect just days apart have led to a huge focus on the need to remove this vileness from our game. Colin M. Damms, the editor of SBNation’s Manchester United blog, The Busby Babe, wrote a fantastic piece about why this behavior is unacceptable and urged his fellow United fans to be better.
Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, has also penned a call to stop this disgusting nonsense in his column in the matchday program for today’s Merseyside Derby. The German started by saying he believes supporters are, in general, a force for good, which makes the recent incidents so disappointing.
He then goes on to make it very clear that anyone who engages in singing or chanting about people losing their lives at a football match should not feel welcome at matches and should just stay at home.
Here is Klopp’s full statement about the recent Hillsborough-related incidents:
Throughout my career as a player and a manager, I have always tried to be as positive as I possibly can be about football supporters. Not for PR or for selfish reasons; it is because, more than anything else, I am a football supporter myself and because I know the unbelievable difference that fans do make to a sport that I absolutely love.
I never expect perfection but I always believe that in general supporters will be a force for good because that is almost always what they are. Which is why I am unbelievably disappointed that of late we have heard more and more songs being sung about the Hillsborough disaster. Really? The deaths of 97 people in a tragedy is now something that can be mocked? How did this happen?
We have staff at the club who lost loved ones in Hillsborough. there are supporters in the crowd at all of our games who lost friends or family members themselves or who survived the tragedy. They have already suffered more than enough.
No-one should think it is okay to make them suffer more because it absolutely is not.
I know there will be some who will say, “But what about this and what about that?” So I will say this very cleary; if you are going to a football match to sing about people losing their lives you really should not bother coming. Football does not want this and football does not need this.
As ever, but especially at this time of year, the Hillsborough families and survivors are in the thoughts of everyone at Liverpool FC and I want you to know that you have our total support on this and every other issue.
One very important point made by Klopp is the all too familiar deflection and whataboutism when the Hillsborough songs and chants are condemned. Instead of saying “This is disgusting, has no place in the game, and we need to put a stop to it,” when this happens, too many fans of other teams instead counter with complaints about Liverpool fans saying disgusting things about the Munich air disaster or the recent death of Cristiano Ronaldo’s newborn son.
To be clear, singing, chanting, or yelling about the Munich air disaster or Ronaldo’s son is 100% unacceptable and should be quickly and loudly condemned by anyone who hears it. However, this happening, whether it’s incredibly rare or disturbingly common, does not even remotely make it okay for other fans to use a tragedy that has cost 97 lives and counting as banter.
As football fans, we all must do better. When fans of any club are participating in songs, chants, taunts, jokes etc. about any tragedy, big or small, everyone who hears it needs to do everything in their power to put an end to it immediately. These songs about Hillsborough and Munich, and the numerous songs that engage in racism, sexism, and homophobia, will never be eradicated from our game until we, as supporters, all step up and make it clear that those who participate are not welcome.