After hearing about how Italy and Serbia’s 2012 European Championship Qualifier was canceled after six minutes due to violent behavior in the section where Serbia fans were seated at Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Italy, I further realized that global football continues to have a serious problem with violence and Hooliganism. Three people were reportedly arrested and up to 10 people injured in clashes on the eve of the match, while five police officers were hurt around kickoff time as they sought to maintain order.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Hooliganism”, here’s how most people define it: “Hooliganism refers to unruly, destructive, aggressive and bullying behavior. Such behavior is commonly associated with sports fans, particularly supporters of association of association football and university sports. The term can also apply to general rowdy behavior and vandalism, often under the influence of alcohol and or drugs”. Why are football/soccer fans causing such a ruckus and disturbing the peace (is it pure passion or dangerous tomfoolery?)? Could any of this behavior be good for the world’s game? Some of these “hooligans” pledge a loyalty to the club and/or city (country) while others are violent substance abusers who cannot control themselves. Other critics proclaim that it’s a cultural and political movement. I think it’s damaging the game and revolves around corrupt individuals who are stalling the progression of our “beautiful game”.
Hooliganism has its roots in England but has recently become a major issue in places such as Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, and Greece. Football/Soccer’s historical beginnings have been secretly embedded with violence since the times of 13th century England. Medieval football matches saw its earliest players and supporters staging early battles between the young men of opposing villages. This was often how a conflict or political bout was resolved. In other countries, forms of ‘folk-football’ existed as well such as the German Knappen or the Italian (Florentine) calico which was done in costume.
Some extremely violent groups have formed over the years. I’ll quickly educate you on some of the more memorable groups. In England, Manchester United’s Red Army, West Ham’s Inter City Firm (ICF), Millwall’s Bushwackers and Chelsea’s Headhunters were (and still somewhat are) notorious for attending matches and exciting violence. Over the years, the fisticuffs have changed to a more dangerous method of brutality, taking this problem to a more severe level. Weapons like knives, guns, bats, etc. have all been used to create a new modern type of hooliganism.
As far as solutions, various organizations and clubs are trying to implement the following strategies: Clubs are providing extra security for the more high-scale matches, football grounds have been restructured and redesigned to make it more difficult for fans to get access to the pitch, stewarding as well as actively trying to install banning orders and a larger, more concerted effort to coordinate the ways to prevent problems and enhance coordination between clubs, police and the media have all been tried in order to stop and later prosecute offenders. On a side note, another focus point must include addressing the innocent bystanders who are caught up in the overall violence. Personally, I have a friend that was stabbed in Rome at a Champions League match between Roma and Manchester United 4-5 years ago. This person did not do anything to deserve the near fatal wound except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was not adamantly supporting either club and had no plans to attend the match.
`We need to be more proactive in stopping hooliganism in football and preventing the type of scene we saw 2 weeks ago which caused the abandonment of an important match. Match attendees should remain vigilant about protecting themselves and their family/friends whenever they choose to attend games in hostile environments. I challenge the club presidents, Organizational bodies (who govern soccer), and security authorities to put a stop to this growing phenomenon so we can all safely enjoy high quality football without fearing for our lives.