Former French national goalie Fabien Barthez is quitting the Nantes soccer team, saying he fears for his safety from angry fans.
Barthez, a World Cup and European Championship winner with France, has made costly errors in recent matches -- and was booed and jeered by some Nantes fans on Saturday. Several fans surrounded Barthez's car as he left the stadium, kicked the vehicle, and tried to pull him out.
Not long ago, high school sporting officials in the state of Washington were considering tough new rules for spectators, including a ban on booing. Those who support the ban say that too often, spectators are cruel. While I believe booing can be unsportsmanlike, physical threats such as those that Barthez encountered go beyond the realm of sports.
In a sports world that has a father throwing his son���s opponent from the wrestling mat, a youth coach knocking down a football referee, and soccer matches being played in empty stadiums due to security concerns ��� an athlete can���t even feel safe and supported by his team���s own fans? I find the situation in Nantes ridiculous -- a World Cup hero for the very same country is taking abuse. I think that certain fans of ���the beautiful game��� need to reevaluate their allegiances and loyalties.
(Photograph provided by Getty Images/Michael Steele)