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The Tunnel Unveiled: Uncomfortable Words, Offensive Humor, and the Presence of Riot Police

“I’ll see you in the tunnel.” That line used to hold more weight on the soccer pitch, even if some players would make sure they never showed up. Liam Ridgewell, former defender for Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion, and Portland Timbers, shares a story of heading the ball and putting his studs down an opponent’s back, a move that would get you sent off nowadays. He did this to the late Papa Bouba Diop at Fulham. Bouba Diop turned around, rubbed his back, and confronted Ridgewell, saying he’ll see him in the tunnel. Ridgewell tried to avoid it by staying on the pitch for a long time after the game.

But tunnels in football have changed. Modern stadiums have more spacious layouts, so players are rarely in close proximity to each other before matches, reducing tension. The fixtures and fittings have changed as well, with glass replacing concrete blocks in some cases. Players’ behavior has changed too. Former players like Gary Neville and Roy Keane wouldn’t even look at their opponents, but now players are hugging, laughing, and high-fiving mascots.

Post-match feuds in the tunnel are rare these days. Minor incidents like Kyle Walker refusing to shake hands with an Arsenal staff member caused a stir, but it pales in comparison to past events. Tense moments like a 22-man brawl in the tunnel of a game or players being throttled before kickoff are less common now. Intimidation used to be a tactic, with some managers using the tunnel to gain an advantage. Aidy Boothroyd, for example, would make his Northampton Town squad go out early and stand in the middle of the tunnel, showing dominance.

Occasionally, the tunnel itself can be intimidating, like when Chelsea traveled to Galatasaray in the 1990s and experienced a hostile atmosphere. The tunnel was like an extended tunnel of riot shields, with people launching objects at the riot police. It created an intense and intimidating atmosphere.

Overall, the tunnel in football has become more relaxed and friendly compared to the past. Players now engage in friendly banter, exchange greetings, and even ask about each other’s families. The days of intense aggression and feuds in the tunnel seem to be a thing of the past.

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