The attacks in Paris rocked the world, but they were just an example of the strife that people face worldwide. It’s true that every once in a while it would be good to step out of the European bubble and show more respect for the victims of terror worldwide.
It’s worth remembering that football is global and the fan in Mali or Beirut is every bit as important as the fan in France.
However, the attacks in Paris are especially relevant to European football because of what happened outside a France-Germany friendly match. There were even reports that the terrorists wanted to attack the game itself. Other matches were cancelled. And then we have the uneasy backdrop of heightened security at the Clasico.
One hopes no one will be stupid enough to try to attack such a marvellous sporting event. And I have confidence in security guards, many of whom probably aren’t paid enough and whose deeds can go unrecognized. There are no guarantees, but I’d rather not dwell on what can go wrong.
It’s a timely reminder not to take things too seriously when it comes to football. Yes, there are political underpinnings to the Clasico but they are smaller than they used to be. They’re important but of the past, mainly. Barca fans are still more liberal while Real Madrid fans are still more right-wing, and the struggle for Catalan independence sometimes goes to the forefront. And that’s fine, really. Thankfully, most of this is peaceful if not always respectful.
Lines are crossed, unfortunately. There are still unfortunate displays of racism in football stadiums across the world, homophobia and gender discrimination can also be problems, and so on. But by and large, people just want to cheer for their team.
In the end, it’s just a game and a way, maybe, to get our tribal aggressions out in a way in which no one is hurt too badly. At least, it should be, as violence is still a problem at some stadiums, though thankfully these cases are becoming relatively rare.
When you see a team with players from all over the world, speaking different languages, having grown up in different cultures and with different religions and so on, successfully playing with each other, you start to realize that learning to respect others even when they are different is the key to winning.
So whatever your team, or religion, or nationality, or whatever - just enjoy this one. Get excited, happy, sad, angry - but keep your perspective. The evil in the world can sometimes be unafraid of death. What they truly fear is unity. They fear people remaining calm. They fear people having fun.
No matter who wins the match, as long as you’re a football fan and enjoy yourself without hurting anyone, you’re part of the solution. Take a moment and remember you share your favorite team with people in France and Lebanon and Mali and South Korea and Belize. And that even if you pick different teams, you are united by the passion of sport.
Now let’s go out there and have a bit of fun.