Terraced prejudice

Mar 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: International

Leinster lost this evening; their play in the second half was so poor, they did not deserve to win. The supporters of the victorious Ospreys team were in great voice, ‘Hymns and Arias’ was sung in the second half, ‘Delilah’ had been sung during the first half.

Had it been a soccer match, insults would probably have been shouted and there would have been a risk of violence, but at a rugby match there is not that level of prejudice.

Prejudice is a strange and irrational thing.

In 1993 we took our summer holiday in September. It was much cheaper and the roads were much quieter.

We meandered down through the middle of France, staying in the Auvergne, before heading down to Argeles on the Mediterranean coast near the French-Spanish border.

Because it was such a lengthy trek, it is hard to remember precisely the details of the towns on the way. But there was one small town where we stopped for a picnic lunch. The place was quiet, the local children having all returned to school. Our son, Michael was just short of his third birthday and spied swings and a seesaw on an open patch of green near to where we were parked. He and I made for the swings.

We were there for about five minutes when a local man appeared from among the houses and started to remonstrate with us in fast, provincial French. The giste of what he seemed to be saying was that the swings were reserved for the use of the children of the town.

I did my best to apologize for my transgression at which point he exclaimed that as we were not Parisians, we were welcome to use the swings – and he turned on his heel and returned to his house.

It was an astonishing piece of prejudice; a middle-aged man coming to object to a three year old being on a swing because he thought that we might have come from Paris.

The Frenchman’s prejudice was no more logical than the sort of animosity that exists between rival groups of football fans. The visceral hatred that can characterize soccer matches rests on nothing more than the fact the opposition comes from a different town, or even a different part of the same city; it is as absurd as wishing a child would not play on the swings because he might be from Paris.

Maybe Max Boyce songs should be taught to football fans; the vocabulary would be considerably more extensive and the humour infinitely better.



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