Malay Mail Online

Opinion

Fake fan fury threatens Valencia fine start

Andy West

NOVEMBER 11 ― Just occasionally, something happens which makes you wonder what on earth the person who did it was thinking.

I don't mean impulsive and instinctive actions... we all do those from time to time, often much to our regret that we allowed ourselves to be carried away in the heat of the moment.

And I don't mean nasty, strange or alienating behaviour carried out for personal or political motives ― a Trump move ― which can generally be explained by the selfish biases or beliefs of the perpetrator, or the potential gains they might derive.

I'm talking about actions carried out that have been obviously thought through in advance, often requiring a great deal of contemplation, but which still leave you shaking your head and wondering... why on earth would you do that? What were you hoping to achieve?

That's what happened on Thursday, when I, and many others, was totally perplexed by an article published on Valencia football club's official website.

Let's rewind a bit.

The last few years have been disastrous for Valencia, traditionally one of the biggest and most successful clubs in Spain.

After years of overspending they were in financial dire straits until three years ago, when Singaporean businessman Peter Lim bought the club.

He was welcomed as a rescuing saviour, but the rapturous reception soon turned into scepticism and then outright ill will after Lim made a series of disastrous decisions including some poor managerial recruitments (remember Gary Neville?) and several overpriced forays into the transfer market.

Midway through last season the club reached a crisis point, with thousands of fans repeatedly chanting loudly and passionately for Lim to sell the club, also chastising the players as “mercenaries.”

At that stage the team was in serious danger of relegation, but an improvement towards the end of the campaign averted that danger.

And then, everything finally started to go right.

An excellent manager was recruited, former Villarreal coach Marcelino. An oversized squad was trimmed down with the departure of several high earners, and they were replaced by a small number of young and/or hungry new arrivals with something to prove.

Results followed, with an early season draw at Real Madrid showing signs of encouragement which were soon followed by thumping victories over Malaga, Real Betis and Sevilla.

Playing exhilarating, fast paced and ambitious football, the team climbed up to second place in La Liga and headed into the current international break unbeaten in 11 games, with eight wins and three draws, and 30 goals scored.

Off the pitch, there was more good news as the club announced plans to restart the long abandoned new stadium, which had been left derelict, half-built, when the money ran out nearly a decade ago.

At last, things were looking up for Valencia, whose fans were starting to forget their ill feelings towards Lim and look forward to the rest of the season with optimism.

All good, no? If you were in the club's position, you'd just want to keep everything ticking along and maintain the current positive path, wouldn't you?

Well, they didn't. On Thursday, the club's powers-that-be decided it was the perfect time, just when everything was going so well, to publish an “editorial” article on their own website blasting “fake fans” for undermining the club in the last few years and hailing Lim for rescuing them for obliteration.

Fake fans? What is this nonsense? Is it a new branch of fake news?

Whatever it's supposed to be, the use of the phrase on the club's own website has generated a great deal of anger among fans who believe themselves to be, not fake, but real. People who have invested time, emotion and money into supporting the club during some very difficult times.

Of course, Lim has also invested time, emotion and money into the club, and some of the criticism flung in his direction in the last couple of years, especially personal racist abuse of his family, was unacceptable.

Lim has indeed spent a significant sum of his own money to recover the club from a serious plight, and he deserves praise and respect for that alone, no matter how bad many of his subsequent decisions have been.

But you know what? That's football. Football fans, as a collective bunch, are often pretty horrible. Vulgar, fickle, short tempered and unreasonable. Not just Valencia fans, but all football fans (as a mass, not individually) everywhere.

Lim must have known that from his close personal allegiance to Manchester United, many of whose fans have been fiercely and relentlessly critical of the Glazer family, who own the club, for many years.

None of this is new or unusual, and if Lim didn't want to expose himself to unfair personal criticism, he really shouldn't have got involved in running a football club.

Perhaps even more importantly, even if the article Valencia published, which appears to have been the work of Lim's right hand man Anil Murthy, is completely accurate in everything it says, what is the point of publishing it now?

The only possible result of such an article was controversy and hostility ― the tens of thousands of people who spent much of last season chanting for Lim to leave certainly aren't going to turn around and say, “You're right, I'm a fake fan, please accept my humble apologies.”

So what was Lim, or Murthy, trying to achieve? Who knows. I can only assume they felt emboldened by the team's recent successes on the pitch and decided they are now in a strong enough position to air their grievances.

Whatever their intentions might have been, the fateful article has only succeeded ― as it so obviously would ― in seriously angering fans who were just starting to like their owners a little bit more.

If that newly and unnecessarily negative atmosphere finds its way down to the pitch, and the team now suffers a dip in results, all we'll be able to do is look at Lim and Murthy, shake our heads and ask... what on earth were you thinking?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.