The Netherlands after the death of the Dutch linesman: united against violence?
The people in Netherlands were shocked when they heared that the linesmen of an amateur football match died in a hospital two weeks ago after he was molested by kids of the visiting team. People were outraged and asked how fifteen and sixteen year olds could do this. A big debate on how to avoid is in the future is going on ever since. One point of view is expressed by Geert Wilders. Since the perpetrators were Moroccans, his anti-migrant Freedom Party sees opportunities to make up for his big loss in the last elections and claim that problem is an Moroccan problem not a football problem.
The Netherlands mourned of the loss of the life of the linesman who was voluntarily assisting at his son’s match when he was molested. All the amateur matches for the week later were cancelled and clubs organized meeting where they reflected on what happened. All the professional games started with one minute of silence. Even abroad people paid their respect. The politically divided country was for once united in their aversion of what happened.
Unfortunately, there is one political party zealous in creating gaps in society and saw its opportunity to use this sad event to gain popularity. History proved that by blaming others and creating an out-group you yourself will be more popular. So, the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders announced that this was “Moroccan-problem.” By doing this Wilders is not only blaming a small minority and creating intolerance within society, he is also denying the scope of the problem.
I have played amateur football for many years. And even here, although there is virtually nothing at stake, I experience aggression. Sure, one time we faced aggressive opponent which consisted out of players from Moroccan descent. Two players of my team were beaten and we had to flee to the dressing room. Moroccan youngsters are not friendly per se on the pitch, but so are the Dutch. A few weeks ago, we played against a complete Dutch white team from a village just outside Amsterdam. Only after a few minutes, when we scored a goal, I knew this match was doomed when violently protested that it was offside. The first half the opponent was verbally fighting and threatening us, the second half it became physical. They beat one of our players and repeatedly threatened to beat up the referee. Everybody was happy when the game was finished.
The terrible thing is that afterwards it was regarded as kind of normal. We didn’t report it and drank some beers. The same happened when the linesman was beaten up two weeks ago. He managed to walk back to the canteen and had a drink. The police wasn’t even called at that moment. The problem of aggression is deep rooted in the football game in Netherlands that it almost became part of the game. The death of the linesman is unfortunately no incident. Last year a player of an amateur team attacked a 77-year-old supporter of the opposing team with a flying kick. The man died as result of the attack.
There is a lot to improve in Dutch football. Nevertheless, maybe it is the society as a whole that should change. Are the football fields not a reflection of (male) society, since more than 1,2 million people from every level in society play football at an amateur level. So possibly it is a societal problem. A newspaper, for example, reported that people experience more violence outside the football fields that inside. People are getting more intolerant in general and social safety(?) is declining.
The biggest example of this societal trend is maybe the person who is deliberately increasing the feeling on insecurity and thereby intolerance: Geert Wilders. He has permanent security watching him for its own safety. And after he said the aggression on the pitch was a “Moroccan-problem” he received dozens of death threats. Believe me, those were not all made by Moroccans, many Dutch people detest him at least as much. Is this tolerance? I’m happy that there are people who realize that we have change our attitudes, as I saw at when my own football club gathered to discuss the problem. Even at professional level a player realized he was acting the wrong way towards the lineman (watch here). Still, it is a shame that even such a tragic event doesn’t create tolerance form all different sides (even today a referee was beaten by a amateur player at a friendly match). For a short time we were united against violence. What else should happen to create permanent tolerance?