Like everyone else lucky enough to be at White Hart Lane last Wednesday night, I enjoyed the North London derby immensely.
It was a mesmerising match between two fine attacking sides, played at a relentless pace in a rousing atmosphere and peppered with brilliant goals.
But one thing spoilt it for me. One memory I took away from the game polluted all the others. I’ve tried but I still can’t get rid of it.
Arsene Wenger had become increasingly agitated as the second half progressed and midway through it, the Arsenal boss leapt to his feet and moved out towards the *touchline.
As he stood there, Spurs fans began to chant at him. “Sit down you *paedophile,” they screamed, over and over again, “Sit down you paedophile.” It was not a minority, either. It felt like 35,000 people were singing it.
It made me feel sick. Wenger just stood there alone, the abuse raining down on him. What else could he do?
It has been going on for almost 15 years, ever since Wenger was forced to stand outside *Highbury’s marble halls and issue a denial to malicious and unfounded rumours that originated in London’s financial district.
And we have tolerated it all this time. We have turned a blind eye to it. We have become inured to it. Some have even laughed at it and made fools of themselves by excusing it as “banter”.
Banter? It is a strange kind of humour that seeks entertainment in perpetuating a vile lie and bombarding one of the most important figures in our recent football history with such an abhorrent calumny. Apologists for this particular chant – and, *surprisingly, there are many – seek to legitimise it by saying no one actually believes Wenger is a paedophile so it is okay.
Even if we put aside for a moment the fact the accusations once became so widespread Wenger had to humiliate himself by denying them publicly, it is a bankrupt argument.
Imagine for a second you are a father and thousands of people are screaming week after week that you are a paedophile. Does it make it any less sickening because you know you are not? Of course it doesn’t. It makes it even more repellent.
Isn’t it about time we stopped turning our faces away and did something about it? Have we no shame? Have we no decency? Surely, we have abandoned Wenger for long enough over this issue.
However well-*intentioned, it is no good Spurs making announcements to the crowd that there is a zero *tolerance policy towards racism and other types of abuse inside White Hart Lane.
A couple of minutes after they made one of those announcements last Wednesday, thousands of people were singing, “Sit down you paedophile”.
It is not just Spurs fans who sing it. Bolton supporters sang it when Arsenal visited the Reebok on Sunday. Manchester United fans, who will visit the Emirates this weekend, have sung it en masse.
United and Sir Alex Ferguson deserve some credit for doing their best to put a stop to the song with public pronouncements and text message pleas before games with Arsenal.
But the time has come for actions, not words. It is time we confronted the inconvenient truth that some of the chants at our football grounds are simply not acceptable.
We like to stare north of the border and congratulate each other on the depravity of Rangers and Celtic fans and yet we do not care to gaze inwards at ourselves.
The screening of the deeply moving BBC drama about the Munich Air Disaster on Sunday provided a reminder, if one was needed, that it is disgusting and vile for fans to glory in songs that mock that terrible tragedy and the many who died there.
It is disgusting and vile to sing songs about the Hillsborough Tragedy and add to the searing grief that the tortured families of the 96 who died there will always feel.
It is disgusting and vile for opposing supporters to taunt Spurs fans with songs about Adolf Hitler and Belsen and for Millwall supporters to wave Turkish flags at Leeds fans as a gleeful reference to the fans of the Yorkshire club who died in Istanbul.
We have to start ridding our grounds of this disease. This is not about the gentrification of football. This is not about trying to dilute the tribal culture of our game. I am as resentful of that process as anyone.
But it is time for the police to start going into crowds singing about Hillsborough or Munich or labelling managers paedophiles and making arrests.
It is time for clubs to start banning people from grounds for a season. If that doesn’t work, the FA needs to consider closing parts of a ground for a number of games as a punishment.
Things would change then, I promise you, and English football would be able to look itself in the mirror again instead of turning away in embarrassment.
Read more: Oliver Holt Manchester United Munich.. Liverpool Hillsborough.. Arsene Wenger Paedophiles.. Why FA and police must come down hard on disgusting chants and abuse - Oliver Holt - MirrorFootball.co.uk