Not these guys again
It will be thirty years exactly next June since football hooliganism brought death and destruction to Frankfurt. Back then it was purportedly English hooligans bringing their scourge of violence along to the ’88 European Championships. Frankfurt survived. Though a few fans, perhaps hooligans themselves, did not.
Over the last few years, however, the specter of football related mayhem has once again appeared in West Germany’s old capital city. But this time it’s renowned to be home grown devotees of the home side, Eintracht Frankfurt.
Hooliganism is not hard to explain
People turning into a violent mob, which is exactly what hooliganism is, is hard to explain. That is, it is hard for anyone with a life outside of their status as a fan of one club or another, to understand. Academics and scholars can explain the dynamics of mob behavior, but it still won’t make sense to anyone who values their own physical safety over pretty much anything else.
But hooliganism, of course, goes beyond mob behavior. It’s not just a group. It’s a group with pent-up feelings of powerlessness. A group that’s probably intoxicated in one way or another. And a group that has been energized as well. The matches are exciting. There’s a freedom in the anonymity of the crowd. There’s a sense of empowerment in starting a song, or a chant, or even a shove.
In that respect, hooliganism is easy to explain. Everyone has felt resentment towards the person sitting next to them who has a better seat, a better car, an easier life. If you live long enough, of course, you come to realize that most of what you resent about other people is really only true inside your own head. But that doesn’t make it any less real when you’re feeling it. That’s both the point and the flashpoint.
Hooliganism is not at all rational, but it is all too easy to comprehend.
The book was awful
The book usually cited on football hooliganism of the latter part of the previous century is Bill Buford’s, “Among the Thugs”.
A view from “inside the mob” the book never really gets around to offering a solution to the problem. It stops at the point of trying to make hooliganism intriguing.
If you were a fan of the game in the English-speaking world there was a time when you kind of had to read that book. I am no longer convinced that that applies. Regardless of its qualities as a reference or even as journalism, however, it does encapsulate, perhaps only accidentally, the conundrum of such behavior.
Hooligans are fans too
That’s the problem in a nutshell.
They’re not the best fans by any stretch. In fact I’m fairly convinced that they don’t even much watch the matches they pay to get into. But they do support a team as if they were any other fan at least to the point that they become destructive.
In that respect, all of us are fans of the game for the same reason. Mainly, because the game arouses our passions. That what competitions are supposed to do.
I have to admit that I don’t know what the solution to such violent behavior is either. (There, you got the same result and read far fewer pages, eh. Lucky you.)
In the end, I think it’s down to each one of us to answer for our passion as fans and human beings. We must ask ourselves some hard questions: What slakes our passion? And how do we react when it goes unrequited?