The Uglier Side of Sports



By Ong Gigi

Just after the results for the World Cup 2014 Finals were released, revealing a score of 1-0 between Germany and Argentina, a riot broke out in the streets of Argentina, injuring 20 police officers, as well as damaging shops and public infrastructure. Some fans of Argentina had turned violent in their anger towards Argentina’s loss.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique case, nor is it the worst. Of all the possible reasons to start a riot, Sports are the most common cause of riots in the United States, accompanying more than half of all championship games or series.

One of the most recent and most serious sports riots happened in Egypt on 1 February 2012 and is known as the Port Said Stadium Riot. After the Egyptian Premier League football match between clubs Al-Masry and Al-Ahly, victorious Al-Masry fans stormed the stadium, attacking rival fans. 79 people were killed and more than 1000 people were injured. In another case in USA involving Hockey, rioters in the 1993 Montreal Stanley Cup Riot broke windows, looted stores, and set fires. At the riot’s highest point, 980 officers had to be dispatched. 47 police cars were damaged and 168 people were injured, including 49 police officers. A total of USD$2.5 million (equivalent to USD$3.59 million in 2014) of damage was caused.

While not all riots are as bad, only causing some property damage or a few injuries, ever since when did it become ‘common’ to set cars on fire and attack rival fans after your favourite team’s football match? Is that a new method of celebrating? Because in my school, all we do is shout and jump for joy.

Sports are amazing in its ability to bring people together. While in Singapore, sports are mostly regarded as a hobby or a pastime, to some countries, sports is a culture, a way of life. It is a source of pride and joy, as well as loss and anger. When fans congregate together, it is amazing to see what they can accomplish, but also terrifying to witness they can destroy. Is Sports to blame for the actions of its fans? Or is it simply an excuse to wreak havoc? Why do the fans do it? Can’t they contain their joy or disappointment? Do they show such violent tendencies because they are over-emotional? Or are they simply doing it because everyone else is doing it as well? Wait a moment, why is everyone else doing it as well?

In my opinion, it all comes down to the individual person’s own moral principles, and perhaps that’s what we need to teach in school to the younger generations. Questions like, “Will I do something bad if everyone else is doing it as well?” “With strength in numbers, am I to blame even if I get caught?” In riots these, Sports may be the reason, but our own decisions and actions are the cause. Perhaps in order to stop this from continuing, countries should take a closer look at their own education systems and deal with the root of this problem, because the spirit of sportsmanship is just as important as the winning itself, and a hundred arrests won’t matter if there are 300 more crazed fans to take their place.

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