Ciman was in the Standard side today and scored on his farewell appearance. Also saying goodbye was Standard’s Paul-José Mpoku. He’s joining Qatari outfit Al Arabi and the move is an example of the role that money plays in the game as Qatar embodies what’s wrong with football: a country with no history of the game has bought the World Cup purely for political reasons.
That leaves the ugly side and boy was today ugly. Before the game, the infamous Standard Ultras displayed a banner that depicted a character from the film ‘Friday the 13th’ holding the decapitated head of Steven Defour. He was a true legend for Standard a few years ago. Defour captained the side to their first title for 25 years, moved to Porto and after a tough time, returned to play for Standard’s main rivals Anderlecht.
Before the game, I had written that Defour – returning to Sclessin for the first time in an Anderlecht shirt – would not be too worried by abuse. I had not counted on the banner stating ‘RED or DEAD’. After looked relatively unaffected in the first half, Defour had a rush of blood to the head and belted the ball into the crowd to earn a second booking.
Forgetting about the rights and wrongs of the sending off, this led to Anderlecht fans ripping out seats and tossing them onto the pitch. Somehow the game stumbled onto the finish with just 10 minutes of extra time.
I was tweeting throughout the match and was surprised by the number of people – a minority – who were defending the banner in the name of free speech. I am as much in favour that freedom as the next man or woman but there has to be a limit, there has to be a line over which you can’t cross.
Displaying the decapitation of a living person cannot be acceptable. If that’s Ok, then what is wrong – would a scene showing Defour’s family members being raped be fine too?
You could even argue that game should have been stopped as the banner was unfurled before the kick-off but then the ‘there would be a riot’ argument would come into play.
Sadly the reactions of Standard Liege and of the Belgian FA have been muted. The Communications Officer of Standard Liege said they had requested a control of the banners that would be on display a few days before the game as it was a high risk match. The Ultras simply showed then a different banner – clever!
The Belgian FA spokesperson said it was not acceptable to display a banner like that but there was nothing in the rules to stop it. They would be looking into the situation. That’s OK then.
In my piece on Wednesday, I said that football was no longer the ‘beautiful game’ for a number of reasons. Today increased my distaste. Imagine taking children to a match and having to explain that type of banner. A ‘beautiful game’ indeed.