Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Anti-Linfield Witchhunt, 2008-Style

At around 3.30pm on Saturday after the conclusion of the Linfield- Cliftonville Irish Cup game, and the Rangers-Celtic Old Firm game, 2 men were injured in Belfast city centre after an altercation outside a (Nationalist) pub, one seriously after being stabbed in the neck with a bottle. It was an apparently unprovoked, premeditated assault, which I thoroughly condemn, and one from which I hope both men make a quick recovery. Photos from the scene can be viewed on Press Eye.

It didn’t take long for Sinn Fein to apportion blame on Linfield fans:

Sinn Féin said the trouble was started by a crowd of Linfield supporters.

Sinn Féin assembly member Paul Maskey said: "I urge people not to get involved in any retaliation. The people who carried this out need to be ashamed of themselves. They need to be arrested and put behind bars for a very long time." [oh the irony]



The next day, though, it turned really ugly, with the Sunday World and Sunday Life indulging in some disgracefully sensationalist journalism, leaving it in no doubt that it was rampaging bigoted Linfield fans who were responsible.

The Sunday World’s headline read:

Fenian Hating of football club Linfield, known as the Blues



In an instant undoing all the good and tireless work the club has been doing for years to try to eradicate the stigma long given to Linfield fans as intolerant, bigoted and anti-Catholic. This despite the fact that the likes of Paul McAreavey, Aidan O’Kane and Michael Gault are among the most popular players with the fans at Linfield FC.

The Guardian, a well-known nationalist rag, published the following sensationalist article:

A Celtic fan was seriously ill in hospital last night after his throat was slashed during a mass loyalist attack on a pub in central Belfast. The supporter was set upon by a mob of up to 70 Linfield fans returning from yesterday's Irish Cup semi-final clash with Cliftonville at The Oval.

Eyewitnesses in Castle Street - a mainly nationalist thoroughfare - said that at around 3.30pm the Linfield supporters alighted from a bus and rushed towards the area.

At first the mob tried to get into the Belfast Bar at the junction of Castle Street and King Street, but were repelled by up to 100 customers who had been watching the Celtic-Rangers Old Firm match on television.

'It was after the Linfield crowd were beaten back from the bar that they singled out a guy in King Street,' said one witness. 'They knew he was Catholic because of his Celtic shirt.'

A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed they had to deal with serious disturbances in central Belfast yesterday and that one man had had his throat cut. Up to eight PSNI jeeps were still patrolling the area late yesterday afternoon.

Leading Sinn Fein figures, including a former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey, and Bobby Storey, a former IRA prisoner and confidant of Gerry Adams, arrived at the scene shortly after to calm rising tensions.


The next day, Stephen Nolan couldn’t wait to stick the boot in, blaming Linfield fans and the sectarianism and violence inherent in local football for the trouble, wondering why Linfield fans didn’t have tighter ticketing restrictions placed on them before the game (a totally fatuous and irrelevant argument, seeing as the violence took place over an hour later, miles away from the game) and calling for tighter controls on Linfield fans, despite them being the most restricted and controlled in the country.

When eyewitness accounts from 1) a man in the pub on the day in question, and 2) a passing taxi driver revealed that there were NO Linfield or for that matter red/white/blue colours on the persons of the gang involved, only people wearing typical casual/ hooligan gear, ie dark colours, faces covered, Stone Island clothing etc, Sinn Fein and Stephen Nolan backtracked, making themselves look ridiculous in the process.

1. Sinn Fein changed their story to allege that in fact the attackers were wearing Linfield SCARVES. Aha. So, notwithstanding the fact that you had originally alleged that Linfield shirts were on display, you’re now totally disregarding the widely-known fact that football firms don’t wear colours and saying that the eyesight of the (SF) witnesses were that good that they could see the words ‘Linfield FC’ on a red/white/blue scarf? Dead on.
2. Nolan changed tack, seemingly realising that Linfield fans and Linfield FC weren’t responsible for the trouble, and went on the attack with regards to a well-known Linfield FC song apparently glorifying violence, “Hatchets and Hammers”. Obviously, having been made to look silly in his original line of attack, he’d dug and shitstirred to find anything else possibly linked to Saturday’s events, and found that Linfield fans sang the following song:

My old man, said be a Linfield fan
And don’t dilly dally on the way
We took the Oval in half a minute
We took Coleraine and all that’s in it
With hatchets and hammers, Stanley knives and spanners
We’ll show the b*stards how to fight!
If you can’t beat a Glenman in half a minute
Then you’re not a Linfield fan.


Slightly violent admittedly, but then football fans are tribal and posturing, and this song has been doing the rounds for 40+ years, during the whole course of the Troubles, without anyone insulting mine and other people’s intelligence by suggesting that it incites football fans to violence. Ban Rocky! Ban Eastenders! Ban any TV violence, otherwise I’m going to go out and stab someone! Wise up.

Nolan then revealed that a similar version of the song is available on the ‘Windsor Roar’ music CD in the club shop, and that by implication, Linfield FC are partly responsible for the violence! What a crock. The Windsor Roar initiative was established to raise funds for the club and to help create a noisy, non-sectarian atmosphere inside Windsor Park. His allegations would be taken more seriously by myself and others if it weren’t for the fact that he is a Glentoran fan. He even said on the radio that he’d be at next Monday’s Setanta game at the Oval between Glentoran and Linfield. Hopefully he’ll be welcomed with big licks of ‘Hatchets and Hammers’, and have a few suitable songs and banners aimed at him. All in the interests of non-violence, of course. They're gunning for the Forum 'Hatchets and Hammers' too. Good luck with that boys.

Strange too that Nolan hasn't got onto Manchester United about their singing of this song and claiming of it as their own:

http://www.tshirtsunited.com/sale/tshirts/hatchetsandhammers.html

What has Linfield’s response been to all this? The Chairman, Jim Kerr, at least went on the Nolan show on Monday to re-iterate what the police said, ie that Linfield FC and fans were not connected to the city centre violence, it was unconnected to the game and in amy case, Linfield FC can’t tag fans and control their every action (yet).

However, no official representative went on the show on the Tuesday to stand up for the club, it was left to a prominent fan to back us up. After Nolan’s promptings and slurs, the club released the following statement with regard to the CD, totally backing down and yet again pandering to the handwringers and anti-Linfield merchants who have no love for our club, its traditions and traditions of the fans, but only want to attack it at every turn and demonise it in accordance with their clear anti-everything-that-is-ostensibly-unionist agenda:

Withdrawl [sic] of CD

Linfield Football Club have withdrawn a CD containing twenty songs one of which contained material which could offend and may be deemed to encourage violence.

We would make it clear that this CD was produced independently by supporters.

Once we were made aware of the contents of this song, the CD was immediately withdrawn.



An embarrassing climbdown, in my eyes. They were happy to take over 8k from the person who made the CD, a diehard Linfield fan who stood in all weathers for years selling the CDs and badges to raise money for the club he loves. Hopefully now they'll return all the money, though I wouldn't hold my breath.

Their statement regarding Saturday’s violence was commendable, but still didn’t go far enough:

Statement on weekend violence

Linfield Football Club unreservedly condemns the mindless and unprovoked acts of violence that occurred in Belfast City Centre on Saturday afternoon.

Those who perpetrated the violence may or may not have been soccer fans, but in no way could they be described as true supporters of the game. They must be brought to account and face the full rigour of the law.

So far, there has been no evidence to suggest that the people involved in this attack were in any way involved with Linfield Football Club, as senior PSNI officers have confirmed.

The genuine concern of Linfield Football Club is extended to the unfortunate victim who sustained serious injury and we would hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery.

Linfield Football Club is dismayed at press and media reports, and statements by public representatives, over this incident and we would reiterate that it is always been the policy of this club to abhor violence from whatever quarter.

More than three thousand Linfield supporters attended the Irish Cup semi-final tie at the Oval on Saturday and together with the Cliftonville fans, they behaved in an exemplary manner.

Relations between Linfield and Cliftonville are excellent, as they are with all other Irish League clubs and we have cooperated closely in ensuring that all games played between our clubs are conducted in a peaceful and sporting manner.



Let’s remember, Linfield fans were described thus IN THE TITLE:

Fenian Hating of football club Linfield, known as the Blues


And to top it all off, now rumours are doing the rounds that the away game vs St. Pat’s Athletic in Dublin on May 15th is going to be moved to Windsor Park, thus screwing up the plans of many many people and making us out to be uncontrollable thugs, despite the fact that we have to jump through hoops to get tickets for any game of significance.

So who do I think was responsible? A loose ‘firm’ of Scottish, English, and N. Irish ‘hooligans’, probably affiliating themselves to Chelsea, Rangers and Linfield, taking advantage of the two Protestant-Catholic derby games in NI and Scotland that day to test themselves and show some strength. A member of the ‘Our Wee Country’ forum made the following observations: [Edit: I do not concur with this poster's following assertions , I'm merely including them here as a Point Of Information]

lets get the facts from the fiction, something that other patrons and admin should have done by sunday at the latest!!

FICTION:

There was not a bus load of Linfield fans left of at the top of castle street, the SW journo should be sacked for such crap.
There is no connection with C18/NF/BNP/Neo Nazis etc etc all that crap died away years ago.
No one involved in this attack was wearing Linfield or Rangers gear.
The time of the KO did not play any part either, however I do think it was the right call to play it early. (and yes I was at the Linfield game and support Rangers)
The IL does not suffer from secterian violence and for people to say it is has are talking crap. The IL have had problems but is mainly major conflict with the 2 main protestant clubs (blues & glens) Linfield and Glentoran have both been to DC, Cliftonville and to the Republic without any serious problems if any at all!!

FACTS:

On friday night catholic youths from the lower falls and carrick hill attacked brown square, the police had millfield closed for an hour. (for those who dont know the city, its the same area as saturdays attack)
There was english guys with this group although Im not sure where they were from.
There was a few === members involved, who considered it as pay back for the night before.
A very small section of Linfield fans (well known to everyone) were involved.
Cosgroves Bar was well aware of what was happeing, as were Sinn Fein and the IRA.
Within less than 10 minutes Bobby Storey and Eddie Copeland where on the scene!!


What I do know is that it was not anything to do with Linfield FC or any of its over 3000 fans who were at the match on Saturday, and the agenda of Sinn Fein, the Sunday World, Nolan et al to drag our name and club through the mud, to demonise our club and its fans is clear for all to see, and should be disregarded as such. But I know it won’t be by the general populace. This incident, unconnected with us, has put us back years. And our Management Committee continues to bend over backwards to appease these people, instead of defending and supporting its true loyal fans. Their priorities are ALL wrong, and they are alienating their own through their appeasement tactics. Theirs should be the motto of the fans:

No-one likes us, we don’t care.

2 comments:

Joanna said...

Your thousands of words of explanation for the behavior of Linfield followers acting out the legacy of a team that for most of its history refused to play Catholics is pathetic.

Cardiff CIty Bluebirds said...

For Heavens sake pack in the scrapping & let your city flourish. You are lucky enough tyo be the birthplace of George Best and you hardly acknowledge the great man who crossed the divide and made football such entertainment.
Oh I said hardly I forgot to mention the £5 note,and also your Flybe Plane & Ok you have one airport named after him but then you could have named them both !

Been to Belfast many times staying on both sides of the religious divides, great people on both sides.
Seriously though leave the bother for Cardiff City & Swansea and thank god your not born a Swansea Jack(Gypo)of any religion !