Football can learn a lot from rugby union when it comes to watching 'the beautiful game'
SINCE I was a little girl my dad and I have regularly donned our claret and blue scarves on a Saturday afternoon and headed down to Glanford Park to cheer on the "Mighty Iron".
During my first match I distinctly remember my dad turning to me and saying: "Now you might hear some naughty words this afternoon, but you are never to repeat them, and for goodness sake don't tell your mum!"
Luckily, as an innocent eight-year-old, most of the foul language went over my head and I found the less offensive swear words very amusing.
I had only ever heard my parents mutter the odd curse under their breath; when my mum burnt her hand on the over door, or when my dad hit his thumb with a hammer.
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Back then hearing swear words instantly made me snigger, I found it funny – it wasn't until I grew up a little that I truly understood the derogatory terms constantly hurled at the ref, manager, away fans and players each week.
As my naivety faded my tolerance of foul language at the football automatically seemed to grow.
I just accepted that hearing nasty chants and crude songs was all part of the so-called "Beautiful Game". It is almost expected on the terrace.
However, stunning skills and glorious goals aside, it is often hard to see what is so beautiful about football.
Just last month violence between Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds fans caused football to hit the front page headlines once again instead of the back.
Appalling images of the Owls' goalkeeper Chris Kirkland being shoved by an aggressive pitch invader shocked many fans and unfortunately reaffirmed some of the old hooligan stereotypes and once again showed the unpleasant side to football.
Last week my dad took me to Twickenham to watch my first ever England international rugby match.
As we neared the ground via train the carriages became horrendously crowded but to my surprise all of the fans made room for each other, courteously ensuring no-one was getting squashed and merrily chatted about where they had travelled from and what local teams they supported.
Little stalls and gazebos lined the streets to the stadium as residents sold homemade soup, sausage sandwiches and doughnuts from their gardens.
As children helped their parents serve the thousands of hungry visitors I pondered whether the same street would indeed open up their gardens so freely to football fans?
The outskirts of the ground were littered with bars and drinking spots and although the beer, Guinness, and in some cases Champagne, was flowing nicely – the atmosphere remained extremely warm and incredibly friendly.
Exercising their chivalry men offered their places for me at the bar and not a single swear word was heard all day.
In a crowd of 81,000, and with drinks flowing freely throughout the afternoon, you could be mistaken for thinking there would be brawls and swearing aplenty – but no. Nasty remarks and swear words were replaced by cheers and support for the away team and short bursts of patriotic hymns.
The family-friendly atmosphere and merriment remained throughout, even after the match when the majority of the crowd traipsed down to the small train station in an orderly manner.
The impeccable behaviour and wonderful atmosphere made me feel quite ashamed of some of the things I have witness as a lifelong football fan – it appears some fans have a lot to learn from other supporters in order for the sport to remain "the beautiful game".