For those that recall the deaths of Leeds supporters Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight in Istanbul prior to the 2000 UEFA Cup semi-final with Galatasaray, the event will live-on with extraordinary sadness and loss. While Leeds will honour them each campaign with a moment of silence, the sheer notion of loyal fans losing their lives in support of our team sparks intense emotion and will for years to come.
Now 29, a young Harry Kewell was a star winger for that Leeds squad and upon moving to Istanbul powerhouse Galatasaray this week he has sparked a firestorm of dissent, many labeling his move as traitorous, insensitive and disrespectful.
My thought process within this entire range is and always will be with respect to the families of Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight. There is nothing I can say, nor any journalist, can express in the loss of life that can provide sufficient comfort to their families. Beyond the individual loss, the dark aspect of violence within the sport might be the single worst concern and one that harms many of the life-changing lessons that the game provides us. While naturally Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight will never be forgotten by the Leeds faithful I think this present situation is an example of an entirely different thought process that the fan base exists-in compared to the modern player. Please let me explain.
I think this issue illustrates is the personal nature of "our club" within our lives and the changing world of modern Football. I think each of us, dreams a little dream as a child, of playing for our hometown team or certainly one squad and not a resume with changing clubs every season or two. Like many other players through history, that was the brilliant charm of Jonny Howson's playoff match brace; a hometown boy, who came to the matches with family and dreamed of playing for the club, saw his dreams come true. But somehow these dreams and this vision of what the game means to us, is changing within some elements of the professional game. We’ve all experienced soaring ticket prices and with transfer prices sky-rocketing, at times the common game of footy seems to have forgotten people like you and I, although I do not feel this is not the case at Elland Road. Those of us, who talk endlessly over the game, shell-out for the new kits each year and through the hottest afternoons and the coldest wintry matches, we support "our" squad. Sadly in some corners of the professional game, the notion of "our" team is being forgotten by players and management and this somehow lays at the crux of the venom that is directed towards Mr. Kewell now.
Of course one of the great magical aspects of the beautiful game is its healing power. For those of us with a trace of gray on the side, we’ve all heard stories of impromptu battlefield truces being called and a ball being kicked around by those only moments earlier at war against each other. I myself have spent much of my career working with and becoming friends with people throughout the world that if it wasn’t for this simple round ball, I wouldn’t be blessed with calling them friends. With this in mind, my hope is that what comes out of this entire situation is a positive healing process for loyal Leeds fans. I'm not sure that is possible but I'm guilty of "hope".
I understand the inflammatory nature of this situation and while I invite your comments and respect your personal opinion, I ask you to please not post objectionable content as it will only be removed. I know many will want to discuss the situation of Harry Kewell’s move to Galatasaray but I’d also like you to consider the role of "fan" and "our-team" and how you feel that is, if you feel it is, changing the game.