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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Chaplain urges fans to help rid football of violent thugs

The Chaplain for Sport has issued a plea to football fans, urging them to assist the authorities in banning thugs who ruin “the beautiful game”.

“Genuine football fans – those who love the beautiful game – do not generate mayhem in and outside stadia,” Mgr Vladimir Felzmann told The Universe. “These fans need to help the authorities identify and ban the thugs who, yearning for the excitement of violence, infiltrate the real fans.”

The chaplain’s plea comes following reports of fan trouble – including violence, the use of fireworks and a pitch invasion – that marred last week’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches, which involved a number of British clubs.

Manchester United defeated FC Basel 3-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday 12th September in a Champions League group stage game. However, the Swiss side received a further blow as they were hit by a UEFA disciplinary charge after their fans set off fireworks. The UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary body will deal with the case on 19th October.

Meanwhile, on the same evening, Celtic welcomed Paris St Germain (PSG) to Glasgow but, in this particular Champions League group stage game, it was the hosts on the receiving end, as the French side strolled to a 5-0 victory. However, both PSG and the Scottish champions have been charged by UEFA – Celtic with a field invasion after a fan ran on to the Parkhead pitch to confront PSG forward Kylian Mbappe, and PSG with acts of damage, after their fans were accused of breaking seats at Celtic Park. Both cases will also be dealt with on 19th October.

The issue of fan trouble continued on Thursday 14th September, as Arsenal played host to FC Köln in a Europa League group stage match. The game, which was originally due to kick off at 8.05pm, did not get underway until an hour later, as there were concerns over crowd safety. These concerns partly stemmed from Arsenal fans being unable to enter the stadium following fears that the away crowd would infiltrate the home end. An estimated 15,000 FC Köln fans made the trip to London, despite the club only having an allocation of 3,000 seats. Cologne fans were clearly visible in home sections all around the stadium, and a video posted on social media appeared to show a number of supporters fighting with stewards in the stands before kick-off.

Following the game, which Arsenal won 3-1, FC Köln were charged with crowd disturbances, the setting off of fireworks, throwing of objects and acts of damage.
In response to the week of football crowd disturbances, Mgr Felzmann, who is also CEO for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, said: “CCTV identifying methodology should, in the longer term, also help to get rid of the weeds stifling the beauty of the game.”

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 23rd September

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur – 12:30pm
Burnley v Huddersfield – 3:00pm
Everton v AFC Bournemouth – 3:00pm
Manchester City v Crystal Palace – 3:00pm
Southampton v Manchester United – 3:00pm
Stoke City v Chelsea – 3:00pm
Swansea City v Watford – 3:00pm
Leicester City v Liverpool – 5:30pm

Sunday 24th September

Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United – 4:00pm

Monday 25th September

Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion – 8:00pm

Picture: A fan invades the pitch at Celtic Park, Glasgow.