Soccer has always been an emotional sport and many people feel very strongly about their team. So much so that people are willing to fight the supporters of rival teams. This kind of behavior is called hooliganism and while there have been many fights about other sports, soccer hooliganism is something far different.
Fighting and sport have been intrinsically linked since the creation of the latter. Hooliganism has a long history with soccer but it only started to become a real problem in the 1960s. However, many times the violence was limited to the stadium. From the 60s to the 80s, soccer hooliganism has grown most popular in England, expressly between the fans of Manchester United and Manchester City. A man named Hotshot recalls why:
“You’re in school, and you have your gangs in different areas and you were all reds or blue,” he says, referring to a heady mix of United and City fans. “It’s what you were brought up with. I met a lot of my friends through fighting each other in different gangs from different areas…” “They were against us and we were against them, but when you went to United or City, you had to get on the 53 bus through Manchester. That’s where we got to know each other. You had people from Bury and places like that, and I had a little firm [gang] and things escalated, and we all started meeting at the matches. We were all kids at the time, and we started going to away matches and getting together. When we all went, my young firm, we were the young lads, the new generation coming into the Red Army. To be accepted, a young hooligan had to prove his abilities in fighting supporters of rival clubs. “The buzz about the kick off — you were Man United, you weren’t running anywhere or you weren’t getting into the Red Army. We wasn’t boozing, we’d be out before, ambushing other firms before the match started.”
Recently, hooliganism has become less of a problem. “Football stadia today are safe and welcoming places, offering good quality facilities to supporters,” according to the English Football Association’s summary of measures to prevent football violence. “There are no pitch perimeter fences. All stadia in the top two divisions, and many in the lower divisions, are all-seated. Supporter violence inside stadia is very rare. Some hooliganism does take place, but on a very limited scale and usually some way away from the stadium environment.”
Now the very large majority of violence is done away from the stadium. Furthermore, local law enforcement has gone to great lengths to prevent hooligan violence, or at least minimize the damage. In a recent friendly match between England and Scotland there was an enormous effort put forth by law enforcement to prevent the two opposing fan bases from meeting, again. When the two sides met, in 1999 there were a total of 230 arrests made. Today, even though they have tried to make activities surrounding the soccer safer, hooliganism will always be around as long as there is passion for the game.