Death of a PSG fan – Shankly’s quote gains poignancy

The man, who was been identified as Yann L, suffered the fatal injury before the league match against Marseilles. After falling in to a coma, he was later pronounced dead. The French secretary for sport said of the tragic incident: “The very worst thing possible has happened. Passion has been transformed into sordid, senseless and murderous rage. The love of the shirt has been replaced by hatred, for each other, for sport, and for life. Supporters who kill each other should be punished with the utmost severity. The very survival of the club is at stake.”

This event is a horrific indictment of the French game and in particular Paris Saint Germain, who in recent years have been making a concerted effort to eradicate the possibility of such events occurring. Unfortunately, certain fans did not work in tandem and now a man has died before watching a sport we all love, a sport we all want to enjoy without fearing for our safety. PSG themselves have a strange and alien relationship with their fan base. Similarly to much of France, the supporters’ unions and institutions have the power to influence the decisions made by the club – after the event, the club have taken the step of suspending all ties between the club and various outside entities. This measure will be of scant consolation for the family of Yann L, and neither will the decision to play their next game, against Auxerre behind closed doors in order to stem the threat of violence and potential backlash of fans.

This event, and tragedies like the deaths of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight, two Leeds fans killed in Turkey in 2000, makes the remark of former Liverpool boss and legend Bill Shankly even more poignant, and heartbreaking. Of course, when Bill Shankly said these now infamous words: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” he would not have wanted to belittle the human tragedy that has happened since that day. Shankly’s remark was a hyperbole of the most extreme degree but it is a quote that will continue to be pointed to whenever an event like this week’s happens. Essentially and rudimentarily, football is a game, it is a game that divides people (this week has shown this example in its darkest light), a game that brings people together, a game that produces emotions that are unparalleled by any other sport and a game that we should all appreciate. In the last ten years and beyond, we have seen remarkable feats achieved – a man’s talent has been bought for £80million, a sporting team has been unbeaten for a season, two Argentinean’s have dazzled us all and we have seen some of the biggest attendances in sporting history. Football is a global game like no other, it is supported all around the world and almost every professional football has a celebrity status.

Football is played on our streets, on the streets of poverty-stricken lands, on computers, on games consoles – it is spoken about in every kind of media available and it brings generations of families together. For a fan to die goes against everything football stands for, as going to see a game of football is one of the most enjoyable activities a fan can partake in and the thought of someone dying whilst doing something they love is heartbreaking. This event should be condemned and FIFA should implement an investigation into the rules to ascertain whether an incident like this can be avoided in the future. Forget the strenuous debate of goal-line technology and the stagnation the game, forget the battle for European supremacy, forget the petulant actions of Steven Gerrard in recent times and forget John Terry’s alleged series of unfortunate events. A man has lost a life and incidents like this need to be given proper coverage, unfortunately, because it happened in France, a nation that is not as enamoured with the game as Britain is, this may go relatively unnoticed worldwide, especially with the furore over Tiger Woods’ return taking complete coverage of all major sport networks. Football will continue to grow through this and develop but whilst tragedies like this occur, football’s reputation will continue to be tarnished.

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