If it is your first time to watch a football match, whether a friendly or an international between national teams or professional football clubs in a FIFA-approved stadium, you will be asked by security people to leave umbrellas, ballpens, pencils and other items that can be turned into improvised missiles or projectiles or spears and lances.
Better follow these people, who are usually burly and muscled men who mean business or you don’t get to enter the venue where, for example, the Philippine Azkals may be playing a game that could mean elimination from or qualification for the World Cup in Russia in 2108.
The reason is that, when members of opposing teams are all fired up, get physical and eventually reach for each other’s throat, the negative energy wafts through the stadium, encouraging football fans (they can be very fanatical) to resort to violence and unleash the hooligan in them.
Hooliganism, a fairly European monopoly, can be put down with reciprocal violence and has been, usually leaving bloodied noses and even dead bodies, especially in England and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The gangsterism by usually young white males was an ugly legacy until the 1980s in Europe but has since given way to the proverbial cooler heads among police and sports officials.
The beautiful game, however, may have to contend today with uglier menaces—terrorists.
Europe, again, could be the battleground, with unsuspecting football fans in their thousands being exposed to the clear and present danger of extreme violence from suicide bombers who seem to be envious of other people’s simple pleasure of just watching the beautiful game until the final whistle.
Brussels was a recent victim of terrorist violence, with one of its airport departure areas becoming a horrible scene of blood and death.
Belgium’s capital is just as enamored with football as Paris (an earlier terrorist victim) and Rome are and both are prone to extremist attacks.
Under threat, the city as well as others in Europe can only hope and pray that they be spared of the evil that men do.
Thankfully, in the Philippines, football still has to gain the lofty status that it enjoys in Europe, South America, Africa and many parts of Asia (the Middle East, Japan and South Korea) that extremist violence seems remote and far-fetched.
With the game just getting to be mildly popular here, the few football stadiums that the country can boast of are hardly jampacked even during the Azkals’ matches.
Many years later, though, football can give basketball a run for its money and we could expect arenas to be filled to the rafters, just exactly what the bad guys want to happen.
For now, just leave those umbrellas, ballpens and pencils behind if you are asked to do so by security people who only want to ensure that you get to watch and enjoy a football game in peace.
These people may have to deal with much bigger problems in the near future.