Manchester Derby Marred by Trouble

By J.J. Zucal
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What looked to be a classic ending to a Manchester Derby may be remembered for the actions of none of the 22 players on the field.

It is an unfortunate, but all-too-common, occurrence when fans — provoked by hate, drink or plain stupidity — decide to interject themselves into a match. Sunday’s derby at the Etihad Stadium returned this to light.

Moments after Robin van Persie‘s stoppage-time free kick provided what would become a Manchester United 3-2 victory over Manchester City, teammate Rio Ferdinand suddenly bent over in pain. As he celebrated with his teammates in front of Manchester United fans, a two-pence coin struck Ferdinand and formed a gash in his his eyebrow. The coin, said Manchester police officials, appeared to have been thrown from an area of City fans who sat nearby.

Adding to the mayhem, a City supporter, who was identified by police as 21-year-old Matthew Stott, came onto the field and attempted to challenge Ferdinand. City goalkeeper Joe Hart quickly defused the situation by rushing to defend his opponent.

As a result of his pitch invasion, Manchester City officials said they have banned Stott, a season-ticket holder, for the remainder of the season. He has been charged with pitch invasion, a charge that would lead to a lifetime ban if he is found guilty. Through an attorney, Stott accepted responsibility and stated he intended to write an apology to Ferdinand. She said Stott has attended City matches with his father, never been to court or been in trouble at any stadium.

Manchester police reported 13 fans were arrested during Sunday’s match. Nine of them —six City and three United supporters — were charged with various offenses.  It is a small number compared to the nearly 48,000 who attended. But knuckleheads like these people are the ones who seem to do what they can to ruin the pleasure for those around them.

These clowns will never go away, even with all the police, security and cameras at many sites. The fans, however, can help: point out a drunkard, a potential bully, someone whom the person believe might cause trouble. It is better to alert police or security than to sit and have the feared trouble ensue and ruin the enjoyment of attending.

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