BROWNE ON THE BALL: When two tribes go to war...

A bit of tribalism can be good as these but things have turned sour in the Suarez-Evra row.
A bit of tribalism can be good as these but things have turned sour in the Suarez-Evra row.

THERE’S nothing wrong with some good old football banter.

We can all take a put-down when it’s done in a witty way.

But so often, terrace chants are downright lazy cliches which just aren’t worth the breath.

For those five years in the Football League, Boston United fans travelled up and down the country only to be called inbred carrot crunchers. Yawn.

It’s about as clever as those obvious and dull sheep impressions the poor people from Colwyn Bay must receive every flipping week. Yawn.

Or the Scottish jokes aimed at Corby. Yawn.

But I suppose we can’t expect anything different when football itself is the modern-day metaphor for tribalism.

Long gone (thankfully) are the days when settlements would up tools and charge at their neighbours in a bid to gain superiority, and maybe a bit of fertile farmland. Today, we let our finest athletes represent us and gain bragging rights, both on the local and global scale.

Even at matches without segregation, football fans cluster together, to form an us-and-them stand-off. There may be a bit of name calling and a few cheeky hand gestures, but in this day and age it’s mostly good humoured and without the disgusting street battles of the 70s and 80s.

A bit of tribalism is important. It makes us all feel a part of something. In truth, that’s something we all yearn for.

But in recent weeks, tribalism has taken a very nasty turn.

I am, of course, talking about this whole rotten Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra affair.

We’ve now reached a crossroads where some people’s own morals are compromised, purely because of the club they support. What they would condemn in the street, they refuse to if it’s done by a man in their team’s shirt.

I don’t care whether an outcome was decided at a tribunal or in a court of law. I don’t care which translation of the word ‘negrito’ you have selectively decided to choose as fact. I don’t care what doctored picture of a handshake you emailed to like-minded mates.

At the end of the day, a man has admitted (and this is all the evidence you need) to using a term which the recipient found offensive.

The same man later publicly apologised for refusing to shake an opponent’s hand. There, in those two sentences, are proof that Luis Suarez is in the wrong.

Please note, I’m not for a second suggesting Patrice Evra has spent his life with a halo around his head, or that he is a model pro you’d wish your children to emulate.

His leading of the French mutiny at the last World Cup was disgraceful. He was also found to have fabricated claims of racial abuse following an altercation at Chelsea.

But does this mean he is deserving of abuse from a man who also has an equally despicable track record – a seven-match ban for biting an opponent when playing in the Netherlands?

On this occasion, Evra was the victim.

This whole issue has created an us-and-them mentality that is far from witty terrace banter.

In the aftermath we’ve seen Liverpool fan sites post photos labelling United boss Sir Alex Ferguson a hypocrite for stating Suarez should be booted out of Liverpool, while standing by a ‘kung-fu’ kicking Eric Cantona and Roy Keane, following his ban for admitting a pre-meditated lunge on Alf-Inge Haaland.

Yes, they may be correct, but these are just attempts to deflect from Suarez’s wrongdoings.

Everything Liverpool fans despise about Ferguson has been evident in Kenny Dalglish’s staunch defence of his striker.

No one has come out of this smelling of roses.

Sadly, it seems, the only winners have been the chancers cashing in by pedalling pro and anti-Suarez T-shirts to the deluded followers.