Football Fan Shoots Player Dead


    An Iraqi football fan shot dead a player of the opposing team as he tried to score an equalizing goal in the final minutes of a match last Saturday. The shooting occured in Hilla (100 km south of Baghdad) during a match between local teams.

    According to police accounts, as soon as the player, Haider Kadhim, was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and close to scoring the equalizer, a fan in the crowd shot his gun at him. The fan arrested immediately but the player did not survive the shooting.

    While this is sad news (and prime material for dark humor; gives ‘he went down like he was shot’ a whole new meaning) and clearly no advert for football being an instrument of peace, the incident needs to be taken in context of the local situation and of the position football holds in different societies across the world.

    If there’s one thing football has taught us about social dynamics, it’s that perfectly rational individuals will turn into raving lunatics when put in an highly-charge emotional setting as a group and given a target to unite themselves against. It’s fun, it’s passion, it’s football, it’s madness, but at the end of the day as long you’ve had fun and you’ve channeled your frustrations of the day / week through the fan experience, it’s all good, right?

    Now take that dynamic and put that in the middle of a (relatively) unmonitored environment with a much higher degree of stress and a history of violence, and you’re just asking for something to go wrong.

    This isn’t specific to Iraq, or typical of the Middle East. You won’t find many incidents of fan violence (let alone shootings) in UAE or Saudi Arabia, for example. It’s part of football all over the world and it really bubbles through when extreme social / cultural / political / economic divides manifest themselves in the guise of football rivalry, even though football has nothing to do with it.

    Be it street gangs in Argentina, fighting on the pitch in the pub in South Korea, chants heard in Glasgow, fans beaten to death in Indonesia, stabbings in Rome, fans attacking players in Turkey or stadium brawls in Serbia, these conflicts are about rational people confusing the escapist illusions of football with real life, and inflicting (and suffering) harsh consequences as a result.

    [Source: Reuters]

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    1. Fighting on the pitch in South Korea? Do you have a specific example in mind? One of the criticisms of K-League football is the lack of passion and the plethora of apathy by our fans (as opposed to the national team’s countrywide and almost fanatical support). Fight on the pitch and “South Korea” are strangely juxtaposed but I just want to know if there was a specific example. Mind you, the concept of fighting is not foreign to Korea, but I’m scratching my head to think of plausible examples of all out pitch violence in recent years.

    2. No problem. I was just wondering if there was actually an instance of fan violence and was in a strange and perverted way interested to see if our K-League fans had brought the game to a new plane and dimension. Now a fight between players is nothing new and frankly, knowing our disposition to fight, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen every match. But nicely written account of this indeed tragic story from Iraq. Then again, perhaps not as surprising when you consider the amount of firearms in the Middle East and the powderkeg that is often football. You’re right. It can happen anywhere. In fact, Brazil’s torcidas resort to gun violence and that portrayed in Danny Dyer’s documentary The Real Football Factories International. So much so that the torcida group “Mancha Verde” (for Palmeiras) was bemoaning the fact that the day of standing and fighting with fists was long over not to mention the fact that the bus they were riding on from Rio back to Sao Paolo was shot at (with Dyer’s film crew inside). So yeah, gun violence can be anywhere.

    3. I’m pretty sure there are no football countries which aren’t in some way affected by football related violence. In the otherwise placid nation of Japan, during the 2002 world cup, somewhere in the region of 90 Japanese fans were detained following violence and other misdemeanours, and even in the lowly reaches of the second division of the Japanese domestic game, local derbies have, and continue to end with sporadic outbreaks of violence between opposing bands of South American and Italian inspired ‘ultras’.

      It’s funny, given the reputation the English game still suffers after the bad days of the 70s and 80s that our domestic game suffers far less in terms of fan misconduct than some of the other big footballing nations. The football worlds disdain for the English game seems to extend naturally to the sports media who would still like to paint English fans as the black-sheep of world football, when the reality is that in Italy, Spain, Germany, Brazil, and increasingly in the new football nations like China, Korea and Australia, violence is a bigger problem.

      Maybe it is a natural stage in a nations evolution as a footballing one that there will be periods of unrest, but the likes of Italy and Germany can’t hide behind those excuses, they are too long in the tooth to still be behaving like teenage boys. The Iraqi case mentioned here shouldn’t be lumped in with other incidents of violence, this is the act of a single madman, and not a group led pattern of behaviour on the part of the countries footballing public. One just hopes that the Iraqi game doesn’t suffer terminally because of it, since football has been one of the few points of positivity since the occupation.

    4. @Stuart Frisby

      The incident in Iraq is an isolated incident yet violence is increasingly on the rise in new football nations like China, Korea and Australia? Do you have specific instances of proof? Specifically for me, I am absolutely stunned to read how Korea is even mentioned in the same post as even contemporary English football when it comes to football violence.

      Like I said, fan support is sometimes rowdy, but I have yet to hear of a full blown football riot (be it pitch invasion, fans fighting in the stadia or on the street because of a football match) in Korea. The recent championship 2-leg matches between FC Seoul and Suwon Bluewings had passionate support from fans and we were simply thankful that the stadia sold out but emerging instances of football violence, I’m not sure what that is. Koreans will fight the police over imported US beef, the KORUS FTA, and other social injustices, but it has yet to happen for football. Korean fans were cleaning up their own garbage after watching World Cup matches live in big screen TVs across the country and we’re an emerging hotbed of football violence? To suggest that a couple of fisticuff incidents between fans amounts to football violence is laughable at best and a complete misrepresentation at worst. To say the Iraqi incident is the work of one madman and completely isolated but then to misportray countries like Korea as some kind of hotbed of football violence due to discontent youth is completely false. The problem with domestic football in Korea is that not enough youth give a rat’s ass about club football.

      I’m not going to comment on China or Australia since I don’t know what their domestic scene is like, but let’s keep this real.

    5. My comments about Korea might have been a little unfair, though I heard on many occasions during my time living in Japan, stories about violence involving Korean football fans. I’l see if I can dig up any sources. My point however is that emerging football nations seem to go through this stage of violence, and I doubt Korea (north or south) are exempt from that. I saw it in Japan, where yes, fans clean up the stadium, and are for the most part the loveliest of people, it didn’t stop the occasional bit of bad behaviour breaking out. I doubt Korean football is the disneyland you would like it painted as. Violence is violence, whether it happens rarely, or weekly.

    6. I hate to think what could happen there if some armed supporter doesn’t like a ref’s decision … no matter whether it was a right or a wrong one.

    7. I have lived in Indonesia for four years and I have never heard of incidents of fans being beaten to death. And as for the stabbings in Rome, when exactly did that happen?

      Please get your facts right.

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