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Hooliganism is hatred pure and simple, but it’s a symptom too

It appears we’ve been labouring under the happy delusion that we’d left football hooligans behind in the Nineties along with boil-in-the-bag curry, Melissa Tkautz and Vanilla Coke. But no, they’re back, and unlike Vanilla Coke, there’s a good chance they’d never really gone away in the first place. 

The scenes of fighting during Millwall’s FA Cup semi-final against Wigan and on the streets of the North East (the latter of which at least came replete with the comic relief of one of the most futile acts of violence ever committed to film when a podgy Newcastle fan attempted to punch a police horse) weren’t, as they were so regularly called in the media, a “throwback to the dark old days of the Eightes and early Nineties”.

Having worked in a pub in the East End I’ve seen first-hand that football hooliganism is still a favourite preoccupation of a particular kind of preeminently unintelligent social exile, one who’s generally identifiable by a wall-eyed expression of aimless aggression and angle of forehead that during even light rainfall has the capacity to collect sizable puddles.

While hooliganism is certainly in decline, the violence is still happening, it’s just that these days it’s happening away from the grounds. Actually the serious instances of violence have generally always happened away from the grounds, showing, if only symbolically, how incidental football itself is in this frankly bizarre subculture.

Think of how little to live for a person must have to think that they would attack someone, at great risk to their own personal safety, for supporting a different football club. Think of the effort, think of the cognitive gymnastics you’d have to go through before you could convince yourself that something so utterly arbitrary was grounds enough to want to hurt them.

While I’m in no way excusing the behaviour of those engaged in it, hooliganism, like many kinds of social belligerence, is a symptom of disenfranchisement – a symptom of a problem that’s never truly gone away.


Sport unites in times of grief

A video that went viral this week was filmed at the first Boston Bruins game played since the city’s marathon was bombed last Monday.

It shows Rene Rancourt, a veteran singer, resplendent in a slightly mawkish shiny dickie bow at centre ice, singing the American national anthem at the TD Garden just prior to the Bruins’ match against the Buffalo Sabres, the first major sporting event to take place in the city since the marathon.

What follows is one of the most moving scenes ever captured at a sporting event and a reminder of sport’s incredible capacity to unite people. Seconds into the song Rancourt drops his microphone and joins in with the crowd’s impassioned rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

It was an impromptu coming together of people during what is generally a perfunctory element of American sport, a perfect act of defiance and solidarity.

Agree or disagree? Is this a totally new wave of hooliganism?

Photos: Getty 


Opinion: Football hooliganism is an anachronism that never left
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