A Watford supporter was attacked at Wolverhampton at the weekend by a large group of Wolves hooligans, which has left him in a critical condition in hospital. At Villa Park the home fans and West Brom supporters clashed before the game and thousands of Villa fans kept on invading the pitch during it. There were also reports of a player being bitten and another punched – it all just further reinforces my recent article where I wrote about hooliganism and how it is entrenched in football culture and will never be eradicated.
I went to the Coventry City verses Port Vale game on Saturday and I heard that Vale supporters had caused trouble in the city centre before the match and after the fixture there was trouble between rival gangs. This was a League One fixture with a crowd of just under ten thousand, but you could sense inside the arena that many fans of both teams wanted to fight, as many were taunting each other throughout. If it wasn’t for the segregation and stewards you would have seen mass brawls breaking out.
So this is football in 2015 but it reminded me of the bad old days of the 70’s/80’s. On the radio all the talk was about how ugly it was back then and how football violence is getting out of hand again. I honestly can’t see it ever being as bad as it was back then, but if you think it is just being blown out of all proportion by the press just to fill the papers I reckon you’d be wrong and sadly it won’t ever go away.
Why is football linked with thuggery? Why is it that the beautiful game that has always attracted males and females who want go to games with the sole intention of having a scrap with a rival fan? Other sports haven’t had this negative reputation have they? Many experts have tried hard to explain the reasons behind it over the decades coming up with all kinds of explanations, but here we are again talking about football violence and I’ve come to the conclusion after fifty years of watching football all over the country that as long as football is played there will always be those who will attend matches with one thing on their minds and that is to have a fight. In their mindset they see nothing wrong with it.
I myself was one of those thugs who belonged to a gang of hooligans back in the 80’s who went to games all wired up and ready for a fight, as in my warped thinking I thought it was part and parcel of being a fan back then as all those around me did the same. You only have to look at the names of “firms” to see this was serious stuff as you had the Bushwackers, Headhunters, Zulus, Legion, Bootboys, just to name a few so, it was a case of fight or flight.
If you belonged to a “crew” you stood your ground or you’d be labelled a coward and being called yellow just wasn’t what you’d want. Looking back it was as if you belonged to an army and if you didn’t fight alongside fellow comrades you’d be branded chicken and being young and macho that wasn’t on the agenda. It shows how insane those times were.
I also believe that hooliganism is about protecting your clubs honour as you only have to go to a local derby to feel the tribal atmosphere. In the hooligan’s mind he’s defending his club against the local opposition and how dare they come onto his territory?
Our local rivals are Aston Villa, Birmingham and Leicester and over the years these derbies have had many violent clashes. One such clash between our hooligans and Leicester’s was prearranged for an early Saturday morning by social media and it resulted in mass street fights but with people going about their shopping being caught up in it, the brawls made the national news. Innocent bystanders ended up being injured as rival hooligans fought on a Coventry street.
I looked at the pictures in the local paper and thought to myself that was me many years ago but I thought how mad it all is and I felt sorry for the innocent people getting hurt. But to a football hooligan it was probably a good day out and to he/she it was an adrenaline high.
I like to go to the pub before a match home and away and I love having a drink with a fan of the club we’re playing that day and having some friendly banter, but no way would have that happened when I belonged to the gang of hooligans as rival fans were the enemy and the foe.
In fact when you went away the aim was to try and take over their main pub and many times this would end in nasty violence with injuries being inflicted by flying bottles and glasses. But of course the main objective was to take their “end” and if you managed to do that it was as if you’d won a war and you’d return home all bloodied but as some kind of hero to your fellow “soldiers.”
So a black eye and swollen lips would show that you got stuck in and were prepared to fight for the troops and you could even rise through the ranks if you stayed in the army long enough. To a young football hooligan he probably feels important and it’s as if he is wanted in a warped sort of way.
So I’ve tried to explain as best as I can what’s behind the menace of football violence etc but at the end of the day I’m afraid to say hooliganism will keep on rearing it’s ugly head. But let’s hope the days of wired fencing and cages don’t return, as it felt you were some kind of dangerous animal, but then again weren’t we just feral beasts?