I like soccer. No, I love soccer. Top quality soccer, that is. EPL soccer. Champions League, World Cup, and so on. MLS simply doesn’t entertain me. Watching some Fulham reject missing an easy opportunity to head-in a cross is grossly unsatisfying.
I am not a Revolution fan. If they win, fine. If they lose, then whatever. I want them to make the playoffs and advance so I can get more shifts in, and pocket a few extra bucks. But the fate of the Revolution is of very little interest to me. I’m an Arsenal man, and that's more than enough of a team for me.
Most soccer games are laid back, easy events. Unless David Beckham’s in town, we’ll usually get 10,000 to 15,000 fans. Even on the high side, that’s 1/3 the crowd size at BC’s Alumni Stadium. A Pats game boasts almost 5 times as many fans. And most of the Revs fans are kids and families. Coaches bring their youth soccer teams, parents bring their children for birthday parties, and so on.
But there are a few trouble makers. And they’ll let you know how much of a trouble maker they are. The hardcore fans set-up shop in the North End Zone, stand up the entire game, sing and chant, beat drums, wave flags. The trouble makers are embedded there, about 1 out of every 20 of the hardcore fanatics is a troublemaker.
They’re not hooligans. They’re wannabes. They all saw Green Street Hooligans, identified with Elijah Wood’s character, and now they think they’re in a “hooligan firm” like the movie’s Green Street Elite (GSE).
And normally these few and far between troublemakers are fine. Occasionally they’ll do something stupid, like spit on an event staffer, or smuggle in a beer bottle, and they’ll be ejected. But when another group of wannabes comes to Foxborough, there’s potential for trouble.
In 2007, before I started working at the Stadium, a group of fans from New York ran into a group of Revs fans. The 5% troublemaking contingent from each cadre of fanatics found each other, and rolling fights erupted throughout the concourse. So now, whenever the Red Bulls come to town, it’s not a typical soccer game.
Last year, there were no problems. They were kept in the South End Zone, escorted out by us, yelling about Tom Brady being a deadbeat dad the whole time, but there were no incidents. We didn’t have the same good fortune in 2009.
How much are these Red Bulls fans wannabes? They sang their songs with an English accent. They call themselves the ESC (sounds a great deal like GSE, doesn’t it?).
They were given their own parking lot to tailgate in. Apparently, there was some drama before that, as Red Bull the corporation kicked Red Bull fans out of a lot reserved for them, with three Red Bull fans being detained by police (they would be released at the end of the game so they could go home to New York). After a few hours of drinking, they marched to the Stadium, under escort.
Who the hell films themselves walking into a stadium?
They were patted down (three were deemed too drunk to enter the Stadium), and given section 122 to sit in. They could leave that area to go to the bathroom or get food, but Revs fans weren’t allowed in. I was on the response team in charge of the area, and there was no drama whatsoever. One guy had trouble walking up the stairs, but wasn’t fall down drunk, so he was allowed to stay.
After the game, which was won 4-0 by the Revs, we wanted to get the Red Bull fans out ASAP. Their buses were waiting for them outside their gate. Of course, as people tend to do, they took their time. They sang some songs after their team got drubbed, whined and moaned about having to leave, and finally got out of the Stadium. The delay would turn out to be costly.
Why did we want them out quickly? I don’t know the official reason, but perhaps it was to prevent a parking lot run-in between the New York fans, and the Revs fans. Here are where the two groups exited from the Stadium, with the NY fans represented by a red square, and the Revs’ by blue.
I was asked to escort a family of three to the other side of the Stadium, where their car was parked. Essentially, I was to ensure nothing happened to them from one of those troublemakers from the Revolution side of things. And that was uneventful. We talked a little bit about baseball, I made a token joke about only escorting them because the dad had a Mets hat and not a Yankees hat. They thanked me and went on their way. In reality I should have thanked them.
I went out to the gate where the New York fans had exited, and didn’t really know what was going on. Their three buses stood idling as our staff tried to keep New York people from getting off. Three New York fans sat on the sidewalk, their hands behind their backs, in handcuffs. Police scurried about. Our staff were either rubbing their faces or swishing water in their mouth and spitting it out. I had no clue what was going on.
From what I’ve gathered, here are the basic facts. And again, I wasn’t there: The NY fans were getting on their buses. A passing Revolution fan said something. A NY fan struck a Revolution fan (or vice versa). Staff and police tried to apprehend the assaulting NY fan. This caused more NY fans to pour out of the buses. The police on hand, grossly outnumbered, dispensed their pepper spray.
Here’s an account from a Red Bull fan from one of their message boards: (http://www.soccerpubs.com/boards/index.php?showtopic=33711 )
“Yeah so we are walking to our buses in NE and those retards let a bunch of Revs Army supporters walk right by our buses. Words turn to shoving and shoving turns to the police jumping in and spraying multiple RBNY supporters. Some directly some got the over spray such as myself. The situation did not warrant this excessive use of force and a simple and logical use of the brain by the stewards(such as that by our own yellow shirts) would have avoided such a situation. In the 3 supporters were taken away in the paddy wagon and the reputation of Revs fans and Security is permanently tarnished in my eyes.”
Of course, in any altercation, there are typically multiple parties to blame. Certainly the passing Revs fan may have taken liberties with his/her New York counterparts surrounded by security and police. Most definitely, escalating a verbal spat into even light pushing and shoving is asking for trouble. And perhaps security around the buses could have been tighter. Then again, how does one create a barrier that keeps shouts from reaching other people? Maybe security should carry vuvuzelas to drown out shouting.
I wish I’d been there, but I’m glad I didn’t get maced. But reading some of the accounts by Red Bull fans on the internet is indicative of an overwhelmingly self-centered attitude I’ve noticed in people while I’ve had this job. People blame everyone else for everything. And if anything doesn’t go a 100% their way, it’s a terrible affront.
Try to note the reactions people have when they‘re told they can‘t bring food/water/umbrellas into an event. Just note how often the police and our security have been called “Nazi,” “SS,” or “Gestapo.” If I recall my history correctly, the SS didn’t liquidate ghettos with pepper spray, and the Gestapo didn’t let many people go after detaining them.
Just look at the Red Bull fan’s account once more. He blames our security for the Revolution fan. He then blames the Revolution fan for saying WORDS that drew PHYSICAL ASSAULT.
Sometimes, I simply hate people. It’s just a shame that three or four out of 10,000 have to be jerks.
Real hooligans don’t fight in front of security and police. They don’t fight in or near stadiums, they fight elsewhere. And they don’t bitch and moan about pepper spray on message boards.
I can’t wait for New York’s return to Gillette Stadium in 2010. They might not even be allowed to go to concession stands or drink beer. They’ll be segregated from the Revolution fans completely and utterly. In fact, I’ll consider them fortunate if they’re allowed to come back at all.