Fans really are the worst.
Pedro replaced Neymar in the 80th minute of Tuesday’s Champions League-ing between Manchester City and Barcelona. During the remainder of the game, Neymar had to sit near Manchester City fans. That’s how things work. One of those Manchester City fans realized that this new seating arrangement provided the ideal time to start taunting Neymar at close range. He took advantage of that opportunity. Neymar, understandably, clearly wanted to punch him.
When asked what the City fan said to him, Neymar told reporters, “What he told me? I can not repeat it, no. My mother gave me an education. What his mother did not tell him, my mother taught me.”
Burn. So Burn.
Manchester Evening News identified 19-year-old City season ticket holder Aziz Hammad as Neymar’s showdown opponent. Hammad, who denies any wrongdoing, did question Neymar’s professionalism. Apparently, it isn’t professional to have any reaction to a stranger screaming at you while you watch a soccer game.
Here’s how Hammad framed the event:
“He stared at me for a few seconds and looked to see if his manager was watching. Then he gestured for me to come over but straight away the whistle went. Then he came over and put his face right in my face. I didn’t know whether he was going to push me or what he was going to do. He was saying something to me in either Portuguese or Spanish but I couldn’t understand him. I kept doing the diving gesture to annoy him. Then the stewards pulled me away and he went down the tunnel.”
Hammad also made it clear that he wants justice: “I don’t want to be in danger of losing my season ticket and want to make it clear I did nothing wrong.”
It’s unclear whether Justice 4 Aziz shirts are now on sale at the Etihad.
Manchester City is aware of the incident but has decided that it won’t be pursing any action, probably because that would be stupid.
Should there be penalties for this type of fan behavior? I’m not so sure. Enforcement would be problematic. But if players were allowed to punch these people and the rules restricted assistance from other fans or security, some fans might dial it down. I don’t want to condone violence, but every now and then it’s OK to think about it.
But what if the fan in this punching scenario is an experienced mixed martial artist? Well, these players evaluate risks on a daily basis. Big game coming up? Maybe keep the emotions bottled up. You’ve already been suspended for the next match? Let the punches fly.