No missiles, please

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:01 AM ET

As the soccer season draws to a close today, the shadow of tragedy hangs heavy over the world's biggest club competition.

In what should be a worldwide showcase of the game, fear has long since replaced all thoughts of celebration.

At the end of a year in which we've seen a resurgence of fan violence, the outcome of Liverpool's clash with AC Milan in Istanbul really isn't about the score. Or even the quality of the game.

It's about whether this showcase event will be hijacked by hostility.

Make it 0-0. Make it the most boring game in history. Just don't make it violent.

"I would ask every one of our supporters to observe the local customs and respect our Turkish hosts," said Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry in one of many pleas to supporters on the team's website.

Many observers have pointed to the fact that today's final is just days away from the anniversary of the Heysel stadium tragedy, in which 39 people were killed.

Others have noted the death of two Leeds fans ahead of a UEFA Cup clash with Turkish team Galatasaray in 2000.

The truth is that both factors have contributed to the very real fear that violence could erupt. But the legacy of both events has been excacerbated by the explosion of violence and disturbances we've seen at games around the world this year.

And while we sit and wait, hoping for these and other anniversaries to pass without incident in an atmosphere of heightened anxiety, the spirit of the game is starting to fade away.

Earlier this week, Parry and others were forced to make a series of appeals for Liverpool fans not to wear fezzes.

Supporters started wearing the traditional brimless, tousled Turkish hats - a trademark of the late British comedian Tommy Cooper - in honour of the team making it to the final in Istanbul.

But it appears they were banned by the modern founder of Turkey in 1925 and could cause offence if worn by fans.

"It would be a shame if the most innocent and humorous of gestures was taken in the wrong way, so please leave the fezzes at home," said Parry.

Issuing the warning ahead of the game was absolutely the right thing to do. What choice do officials have when you hear about the kind of incident that happened on the weekend - in which two children and a man were wounded by stray bullets fired by fans celebrating their team's league title on the weekend - yes, you've guessed it, in Istanbul.

But you've got to wonder what's happened to the world - and where corporate responsibility starts and individual responsibility stops - when you take a closer look at the Liverpool website.

Officials felt compelled to "inform" fans that the following items are not allowed inside the stadium in Istanbul: Racist, xenophobic or extremist propaganda, pyrotechnic devices or materials and weapons or missiles of any kind. Enjoy the game.


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