Fulham fans are a tame bunch. Their reputation for middle-class niceness precedes them. One half expects them to turn up at games with a picnic hamper under one arm, and an order form for a Wills & Kate Commemorative Plate under the other. It’s rare to see them embroiled in any sort of nastiness or controversy. Which is why their actions at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday were so surprising.
Instead of their usual polite clapping and twirling of rattles you thought had vanished from football grounds in the 1950s, every time Andrey Arshavin got on the ball they would join as an unruly chorus to boo him.
Why, you wonder? What had he done to so upset the Fulham fans.
And no, I don’t mean that he composed the electro horror that accompanies the start of the video. What offended them so much was Arshavin’s speech in the second half of that film, and its assumed impact on Russia’s victory in the 2018 World Cup bid – and England’s subsequent defeat.
It’s just a collection of honest, humble words from a guy who simply wants the best for his country. It’s not as if he’ll get to play in the World Cup on his home turf. When asked if he expected to make the squad for 2018, aged 37, Arshavin quipped:
“I have no chance. Plus, if I can play then it means Russia will have a bad team, so I hope not.”
He’s right. At times, Arshavin looks as if he won’t last eighty minutes, so another eight years would be a bit ambitious.
Booing Arshavin for England’s failures is a symptom of the same conceit and sense of entitlement that sees English squads perform so badly in tournaments, wherever they’re staged.
What’s more, the Fulham fans are directing their ire at the wrong man. Arshavin didn’t make the decision himself, and it’s probably fair to say his speech had little impact on the voting. Those decisions were made long ago, and were probably more influenced by Roubles than Rhetoric.