The Real Green Street: West Ham United V Millwall

Kieran Beckles@@kieranbecklesCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  Fans invade the pitch during the Carling Cup second round match between West Ham United and Millwall at Upton Park on August 25, 2009 in London, England.  . Violence broke out between West Ham and Millwall supporters, prior to kick off in tonight's second round Carling Cup at Upton Park. According to reports bricks and bottles were being used as missiles as fans broke through a riot police divide  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

One could be forgiven for watching, reading or even listening to the trouble which marred last night’s Carling Cup tie and confuse it with a scene from Lexi Alexander’s blockbuster film Green Street (Green Street Hooligans).

Maybe it could be mistaken for a deleted scene from the climax of the film when rival firms from West Ham United and Millwall clash. However, there was no Elijah Wood getting his fists bloody this time. It was real life.

Before, during and after the game trouble ensued. It varied from pitch invasions, throwing of missiles such as bottles and even a stabbing. The clashes between Hammers and Lions fan marred a 3-1 victory after extra time for the home side.

The trouble started before the game even kicked off with rival ’supporters’ clashing close to Upton Park. According to eye witnesses, fighting started around 6 PM as fans made their way to the ground.

Inside the ground police and fans clashed. On both occasions when West Ham scored, home supporters invaded the pitch despite the best efforts of the stewards and officials.

Players pleaded with the intruders to vacate the pitch, with pictures showing Jack Collison begging fans to return to their seats, after a tragic week for the Welsh international.

The unrelenting violence continued after the game, with riot police on duty, to try and quell any trouble as thousands of fans left the stadium.

One thing is certain—the FA, the police, and both clubs will carrying out thorough investigations into the shocking scenes which ruined a good match for the real football fans in attendance.

Expect hefty fines, life bans and imprisonments, but will that solve the situation?

It does begs the question whether volatile derbies like West Ham United v Millwall, where there has been a history of violence and in the past the authorities have failed to cope, should be held behind closed doors.

A measure to ensure the safety of fans, players and officials.

The problem with life bans is it’s all well and good banning these thugs from attending the games, but they are still able to turn up before and after the game and initiate friction, adding fuel to a highly flammable situation.

Of course the proposal of playing highly charged games behind doors does punish the supporters to come to the stadium to enjoy football and steer clear of any trouble. But would it be for the greater good?

Having listened to the reaction of the real fans today they were understandably shaken. Local residents and shop owners were also rattled by the violence.

A 29-year-old man who runs a kebab shop in Green Street said: “All hell broke loose, it was very frightening. It’s not every day you see stuff like that.”

It could be argued that glamorous hooligan movies like ‘Green Street’ and ‘Football Factory’ portray such savagery at football games in an almost positive light. The films suggest that hooliganism is a way to earn respect of fellow thugs.

In Ireland, rival counties play each other weekly, with fierce rivalries that originated over a century ago. Croke Park can fill over 82,000 supporters. Trouble is unheard of.

Families mix together, discuss which side was better on the day, and are gracious in defeat. Maybe it is a cultural difference.

Ireland is a nation with a troubled past, and subsquently it has resulted in the Irish holding a mutual respect for each other.

A more plausible cause is the sporting difference. There is rarely trouble at rugby, rugby league game or even cricket where drinking is allowed. 

Of course it is only a very minute percentage of English football ‘fans’ that cause trouble, and it is unfair to tarnish every football supporter in Britain as a troublemaker.


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