What is the best way of explaining football hooliganism?
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words: it is war minus the shooting." (Oswell, 1945)
The best way to explain football hooliganism is to perceive it in the same context as war. Like war, football hooliganism has different factors that all contribute to the overall goal. Although the goal of each is initially considered as overtly different – war, to some, is demonstrated as a positive thing, especially within the social movement of futurism, while football hooliganism is, as a whole, a negative as portrayed mostly by the media – there are however, similarities among the two that have yet to be further explored. To demonstrate this I will gain further insight into, what I believe are, the similarities of war and football hooliganism. I will do this by studying and explaining the three main attributes of each, which are; Territory, masculinity, and the moral codes each social group follows. With territory I will compare how the two groups defend and protect their 'homelands' and how they achieve a sense of pride by claiming someone else's land. Although they conduct this in different ways, I will hopefully be able to present how similar their process of achieving this are. Through the study of masculinity, I will explore the symbolic meaning that each present, in order to achieve a high status of being a 'real man'. How they vilify their rivals is also studied, in order to make them feel less worthy or 'manly', including how fashion and uniform play an important role. Before concluding my findings, I will explore how moral codes set internal 'laws' within each social group, to which each must abide in their realms of fighting, focusing specifically on the rule that non-combatants or 'civilians' are not to be harmed during combat, and how each group distinguishes combatants and civilians from one another. I will support my claims by using my own methodological research – in which I interviewed an anonymous football hooligan, who we will name as 'Darren' – I will also use Anthony Kings' The post-modernity of football hooliganism (1997) journal article, T.W. Reesers Masculinities in theory: An introduction, and Michael Byers' Understanding international law and armed conflict – War Law (2005). By using the various sources, as said above, I hope to be able to support my claim that football hooliganism can be explained in the same context as war, through three important components – Territory, masculinity and moral codes – in which I have identified similarities among the two social groups.
“...Hooliganism's central confrontation involved the 'taking of the ends', where fans would seek to infiltrate the opponent's terrace and assert their claim to the space. This ritualistic combat was hyperbolically described as war (between nations) by many fans, but rarely involved the conquest of a complete terrace.” (King, 1997)
The above quote - taken from Anthony Kings' article on the post-modernity of football hooliganism – shows us that the idea of hooliganism has similarities with the concept of war. This is not only shown through my own evidence, but also by football hooligans themselves. During colonisation, the British army would claim other territories in different countries and claim them as part of Britain. They would do this by capturing towns and cities, and forcing the surrender of the national people. The ultimate aim was to protect Britain and also show the world that we were a strong, independent country, with a powerful army, that could take over other nations with ease. Today, war is conducted differently. Colonisation is a thing of the past, instead of taking over and claiming other nations, the British army demonstrate their presence in other countries, and set up base camps within foreign towns...
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