It sounds like a legend or a myth, told by everyone. Football fights. But they do exist! Not only in films or countries with clubs having real hooligan firms like we see in videos on youtube or on photos from Facebook or other social networks. Football fights are closer to your football seat than you think.
13 January 2012, a cold day in the transfer window. I go outside to check my mailbox. A letter from my uncle arrived. It contained a football ticket: SV Zulte Waregem Vs. KRC Genk, Belgium Pro League. The game takes place on 15 January. I’m so exited and I tell my parents about it.
Matchday. I was told to wear warm clothes and a scarf. I only found my KRC Genk scarf so I go watching the game with the blue scarf. My dad looks worried, I tell him I’ll be careful but he doesn’t trust it so he buys another ticket for himself. My ticket is located behind the goal, where the Waregem ultras (as I call them, but they don’t really look like ultras) are located. My father’s seat is further away from me, the only way we could communicate is via texts. I feel worried. What if someone notices the scarf? Or what if I want to sing football chants for Genk? (I liked KRC Genk that season, they were doing great.)
The first half was fine, nobody talked to me. They just stared at me sometimes. I text my father, he says it’s okay and that I don’t have to be scared. I’m not scared…until I lose my father. He wasn’t there. I receive a text. He is going for a drink. I feel happy again, until a finger pokes my shoulder. A guy dressed in red and green (Waregem’s colours) stands in front of me. I want to run and look for my father, but there are too many people around me. Pushing rival supporters sounds like suicide so I just smile at the man, hoping he doesn’t hurt me. A man next to him, probably a friend, notices my scarf. They ask me about it, my answers are short and careful. They shout at me to take off my scarf. I refuse, I don’t want to lose the scarf. (it was a gift from my best friend) One of them pushes me and screams he’ll burn my scarf if I don’t take it off. Stupid as I am I say: “If you want the scarf you’ll have to come and get it yourself.” Two of the guys take me my the arms. I wonder if my father can see me. The guy who poked my shoulder takes my scarf, which makes me kick him. Voices from further away call the Waregem supporters. I try to look who wants to save me. Five men in blue found their way into the stand. They support Genk and are ready to help me. What happens after that can be described as the final scene from The Football Factory, where a fight gets interrupted by the police. One of my uncles is a police chef, and lucky me, he had to take care of the safety at the game. I’m sure if it wasn’t my uncle I’d be in bigger trouble. The fight ends in a 6 month ban for all who was involved in the fight, my uncle gave me 4 months and told nothing about this to my father or someone else from the family. I never asked the Genk supporters how they’ve seen what was going on and why they wanted to help me, or how they got in the stand. But if I could meet these people, I’d probably ask them everything.
I told myself I’d never go back to Waregem…
July 2012. Waregem organises an action where people who are born in June, July or August can subscribe to win free tickets for themselves and eight friends. My mother wants me to join in as I’m born on 29 August. A few days later I receive an email, I won and I am invited to the stadium with eight friends to enjoy SV Zulte Waregem Vs. KAA Gent on 5 August 2012, I’m happy. I don’t like Waregem and I hate Gent, so I can watch this game without any worries. I don’t even care about the men who attacked me. I sit in a stand far away from them and I’m sure about it: they’ll never find me.
True or false? I have enough of these stories to tell, but this one is the only one where I actually got banned from a football stadium. Others contain smaller incidents. But whatever…think whatever you want. Football fights happen everywhere, it are only the spectacular ones or those with deaths that can reach the news.