Your opponents deserve to win as much as you do


Courtesy of the Associated Press

Destructive riots broke out in Naples, Italy before a UEFA match between S.C.C. Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt, in a fiery example of fans taking sports too seriously.

Catherine Choi, Layout Designer

A civil attitude is necessary to appreciate the value of sports. Fans must respect the other teams as much as they support their favorite team rather than attacking them, which also frequently happens. Furthermore, the tendency of fans to attack the players by using derogatory terms and gestures regarding topics irrelevant to the sport—such as race, ethnicity, personal background and religion—are antithetical to the spirit of sports competition. 

An instance where the attack went beyond words occurred on March 15—two European soccer teams, S.S.C. Napoli of Italy and Eintracht Frankfurt of Germany, had their second leg of the UEFA Champions League round 16. Napoli was on a positive edge because they won the first leg by 2-0; however, Eintracht Frankfurt had to score at least three more goals than Napoli in the second leg to progress to the quarter-finals. After the first leg at the home stadium of Eintracht Frankfurt, a violent offense occurred by fans of Eintracht Frankfurt. Frankfurt fans were angry because of the defeat and attacked SSC Napoli fans congregating in local pubs. As a result, the Italian government requested permission from UEFA to ban the fans of Eintracht Frankfurt from approaching the city and purchasing tickets, which the UEFA granted. However, the ultras (fans famous for their fanatical support) of a different team, Atalanta B.C. (one of the biggest rivals of S.S.C. Napoli), escorted the Eintracht Frankfurt ultras on their way to Naples, purchasing their tickets for them and supporting them in the mass violence. On the festive day that S.S.C. Napoli made history by winning and advancing to the quarter-finals, Naples was in flames, eight people were arrested and 470 people got kicked out of Italy under the escort of the police.

In Europe, soccer leagues are incredibly popular and take a big part in life, as evidenced by the revenue the soccer industry makes. To many, soccer is like a religion. However, the tension between the rival teams tends to be so intense that it frequently leads to events that involve physical violence and criminal charges, demonstrated by the recent match. Several innocent people were injured (especially the police), and monetary damage occurred. On the international scale, diplomatic conflicts between Italy and Germany arose as the Italian government urged a meeting with the German ambassador to discuss compensation. UEFA also is likely to impose disciplinary actions on the team and the fans.

Sports in actuality are just entertainment, and learning how to separate oneself from their favorite team is necessary. Even though losing may be bitter, one must accept the results and attempt to win in the future by analyzing the cause of defeat and making modifications rather than striving to change the irreversible outcomes. Both sides played under the same conditions, and only the players’ athletic abilities were at stake. Sports is one area where one’s demographics, opinions and personal background aren’t evaluated within the match. Being overly immersed in one’s team damages the ability to remember that the opponents’ victory is well-deserved and fair, forgetting that their opponents deserve to win as much as their team does. This bad sportsmanship ruins the positive spirit of the game.

Winning is much more delightful than losing. However, it is necessary to let go of what happened and move on, and not putting too much meaning on the result is the first step. In 1994, a Colombian gang murdered a soccer player on the Colombian national team for scoring an own goal in the World Cup—an innocuous mistake in real life and not something that should be punishable by death. In this incident and other clashes between fans, the people put too much emphasis on the results and considered their favorite team’s defeat equivalent to their failure. One must remember that defeat does not make the loser inferior and vice versa. A strong team is not entitled to victory—for instance, Belgium was not entitled to victory in the 2022 World Cup, and the riot that broke out in that country cannot be justified. Focusing on reality beyond competition and not letting it define who you are and how much you are worth is the key to growth. Remember that your opponents deserve to win as much as you do.