I don't follow German soccer at all, except when the Venn diagram of German teams overlaps Arsenal's circle in the Champions League. So I was kinda surprised, very pleasantly, to read the latest Tim Stillman Column on Arseblog. In it, Stillman describes his trip to Gelsenkirchen for this week's match and his experiences at the stadium, in which he was delighted to discover that away fans are treated...just like home fans, who are treated like intelligent adults and not potential disasters. Money quote:
The Germans seem to realise that 99% of folk at 99% of football matches have no desire to rip people’s heads off and treat them accordingly
I haven't been to a Premier League game in about 10 years, but I distinctly remember the vaguely police-stateish vibe of the games I have been to. There are many cultural and historical reasons for what I saw - for years leading up to Hillsborough, fans were treated with open contempt by teams, by society in general, and by the government, and a not-insignificant minority of them took their frustrations out on each other and on whoever else got in their way - but by and large, instead of evolving their view post-Hillsborough to realize that most supporters are just there to watch the game and have a good time, policing in England still assumes guilt rather than innocence.
That's why it was so refreshing to me to read about the German matchday experience. A stadium where it is assumed by the team and the league that you're there for fun and not for trouble? A matchday environment that encourages standing and chanting? I'm not quite sure how to process that, at least in an English context; I'm spoiled as a Timbers fan because Jeld-Wen is very similar to what Stillman describes, but for all England's progress in battling hooliganism and making football "safe" again, a lot of the fun of the match day has been stamped out.