'Agent Oliveira' might not have scored against Ipswich if fans had been kinder
PUBLISHED: 00:44 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 00:44 04 March 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Liz Nice ponders whether the natural football fan urge to berate certain players isn't counter productive
It is a mistake to goad your enemies.
Ipswich fans discovered this on Saturday after targeting ex-Norwich player Nelson Oliveira from the very start of their game against Reading, only to see him celebrating triumphantly in front of them after his goal edged his side closer to victory in a six-pointer which may have been Town’s last opportunity to rally a revival.
Much was made by some Ipswich fans of Oliveira’s ‘Zorro’ mask and broken nose and this proved to be all the motivation Oliveira needed to punish Ipswich where it hurts the most.
I enjoy the banter as much as the next person. In fact, in the Pink Un’s online story about ‘Agent Oliveira’ https://www.pinkun.com/norwich-city/canaries-nelson-oliveira-ipswich-town-goal-delights-fans-1-5915324 I can be seen giving the player a look that shocks me a little bit now. I don’t even know the man, but evidently watching him celebrate like that in front of the Ipswich fans riled me more than I realised, and a few of the baser emotions that football inevitably brings out are captured forever in my face.
It strikes me now that Ipswich has an abysmal record against players who are given a particularly hard time by fans.
Call Grant Holt fat and watch him score a hat trick.
Boo Jordan Rhodes for so called treachery and, oh, what happens?
Lay into David Nugent at every opportunity – I can barely even remember why our feud with him started – and watch him become ‘Ipswich Town’s Nemesis’.
I completely understand the rage that builds against certain players during games.
This is partly what we watch football for – to unleash the frustrations we feel against the people we come up against in our real lives on people we don’t know, nor will ever meet, so there is little chance of a comeback.
Football, when used like this, can be great therapy and probably averts far more bust ups than it ever causes.
It is relatively harmless really.
However, it is counter productive.
On the contrary, when kindness is shown to opposing players, it can have a neutralising effect.
When Billy Sharp came to Ipswich after the sad death of his baby son, he was given a standing ovation when he scored against us and was visibly moved. We all were. There is nothing more beautiful than kindness coming from the least expected quarter.
It was completely genuine, but any player on the receiving end of that is naturally less likely to want to punish those fans in the future. He will play his game, he may score, he may not, but the extra motivation of wanting to make fans eat their words is lost.
At the risk of sounding like Neil from the Young Ones, ‘Peace, Love’ and all that, I do think the game on Saturday should give Ipswich and all fans pause for thought.
I am reminded again, as I so often am, of Martin Luther King’s famous quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
As naïve and girly as I may sound here, it is clear, as my Norwich fan friends reminded me all weekend, that Ipswich are on the verge of ‘falling apart’ so whatever it takes to give Town a final chance of putting it back together, surely it makes sense to consider it?
Perhaps Town fans should all smile, wave and blow kisses to ex-Norwich players next time? Sing the names of players who have hurt us in the past with love and respect? Wave a flag with their face on - a gesture that so disamed Rafa Bentitez when he returned to Anfield as manager of Chelsea?
It will never happen, of course, but I can’t help wondering what the result would be if we tried it!