Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

You've probably never heard of Kevin Beltran. The 14-year-old travelled to watch his team San Jose in the Bolivian league away at Corinthians earlier this year.

As the child sung for his team he was struck and killed by a flare thrown from opposition supporters. Kevin's tragic story is finally being given prominence in this country as the row over pyrotechnics at matches escalates.
The use of flares and smoke bombs in all levels of English football is a worry. Sorry to be a profit of doom, but if it continues, it's only a matter of time before Britain will have its own Kevin Beltran.
Recently Liverpool supporters set off flares at Old Trafford. One was hurled from an upper stand into United supporters below. It's a miracle no-one was injured.

Smoke bomb at Burscough V Marine

Even at our level we've seen sporadic incidents of smoke bombs (at home to FCUM last season and away at Burscough in the FA Trophy - pictured above).

The media reported last week that in the Premiership youngsters are passing through turnstiles with pyrotechnic devices. The "mules" smuggle flares and smoke bombs into games on behalf of older relatives.
A recent survey found that more than 50% of football fans had been at a game featuring pyrotechnics, 24% had experienced a smoke-obscured view, 10% had suffered smoke inhalation and 2% had been affected by heat from a flare.
Some fans see the use of flares as a protest against modern football and as a way to increase atmosphere.
I don't believe they add to the atmosphere one jot. Flags yes! noise yes! Mosaics yes! Flares? No.
While I'm totally for the tough stance on these items I do think it's a tad hypocritical of the football authorities who have embraced the "official use" of pyrotechnics at major finals for years.
At Wembley (and previously Cardiff) the use of fireworks at presentation ceremonies is commonplace. I always find the crashing blast of pyro during such moments as having a negative impact on atmosphere.
When your team has won the cup you want to hear the noise from the crowd not from the bangers.
The flares, fireworks, and smoke bombs need to go. There's no place for them in football - either in the stands or on the pitch at cup presentations.
Anyone who feels I'm being over-the-top should talk to the 15-year-old boy who suffered lung damage from a smoke bomb during a Wigan game last May.
Or speak to the parents of Kevin Beltran. A youngster who has paid the ultimate price.

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