By Tony Attwood
It is of course not just the media that constantly attack Arsenal players and seek to undermine them by suggesting that the current crop of players are no good, will soon be sold and that new players will be brought in.
For there are some people who sit near me in Arsenal stadium who constantly abuse Arsenal players throughout the match. And they do it even when we are in a match where the players need our support and are by and large in the process of getting a fairly decent result.
And I wonder why they do it.
Clearly, abusing players on the pitch by shouting out the player’s name and then describing the player or his abilities in the sort of language that I don’t care to write or say is unlikely to do anything for the players. Very, very few people respond well to extreme criticism, of the “Maitland-Niles you are a total ****” variety.
And to be clear it wasn’t just Maitland-Niles who has been getting that sort of abuse of late. In one recent game it continued all the way through the 94 minutes and at one time or another incorporated every player on the pitch – even those on the pitch who had been doing (in the Europa game at the Arsenal Stadium, for example) rather a lot to help us on our way.
Indeed if someone spoke to me in that way, I don’t think it would encourage me to redouble my efforts. I might be able to shrug the abuse off, or it might upset me, but it wouldn’t result in my working harder or trying to do better. Most likely it would distract me, or make me more tense – either or both of which would result in a worst performance on my part, whether I was playing football, writing an article, playing the piano or anything else.
So why do these people do it?
Partly I guess it is habit. It is just what they do. A sort of non-thinking, mindless response to having no power to influence events that one would like to influence.
But mostly I think it must be done because it makes the individual feel good. Disempowered people (as all spectators are at a football match) can feel that they have some power if they can get away with the abuse of others.
Of course to be in this state one has to have a fairly low level of self-satisfaction in life – at least when the abuse starts. However later it can become just a habit, and habits are notoriously difficult to stop but very easy to start.
Yet even though this habit of throwing abuse at all Arsenal players in every match can at best have no effect on the players and at worse actually make the players’ performances decline, and although though a moment’s thought by even the most moderately intelligent person will make it clear that this is so, the habit continues.
So the question then arises, is it all just a case of hearing others do it, thentrying it oneself, finding it gives a moment’s relief from feeling powerless, and then doing it again and again? Or is there something else?
I suspect there is sometthing else – there is another factor that is powering the level of abuse that I can hear around me in the ground. And I suspect that it is the constant negativity found in the media – both the mainstream media (where of course it is generally toned down to what one might call “criticism” rather than “abuse”) and in the bloggettas – the little blogs that run stories which are little more than two lines long, and which are padded out with statements of the obvious.
For example if we take the recent headline,
Watch: Unai Emery enthusiastically applauds terrible Granit Xhaka effort
Which takes us just one step on to indulging in copy-cat abuse.
Thus abuse empowers (temporarily) those without power, and those without any sort of balanced judgement or indeed balanced attitude on the world. It stops becoming an extreme emotion which apperas just in extreme circumstances, but instead becomes everyday. As a result the individual is gradually dehumanised into a constant negative state (although he or she will always deny this).
Psychologically this is not a good position for any individual to be in, but it is where we find an increasing number of people; people who feel disenfranchised from what happens around them. We see it in the increasing level of violent crime in the UK – although of course I am not suggesting in any way that football is responsible for this.
It is just the way the country seems to be moving, and I guess it is no surprise that writing about football, and watching football, becomes part of this cultural change.