Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 12 Jun 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Hooliganism

For a long time now, England fans have swaggered around the continent enjoying their reputation as the ‘hard men’ of international football. Fat, bald men with their shirts off. Skinny rat boys with their shirts off. Anonymous men in bucket hats, pretending to be Liam Gallagher. With their shirts off. We’ve watched them throw picnic furniture around sundry European cities, set fire to bars and abuse foreigners on an ad hoc basis. With their shirts off. And now the narrative has changed.

What happened was that the bellicose taunting of anyone and everyone has been taken at face value by the Russian supporters who, if reports are correct, turned up with gum shields, gloves used in mixed martial arts and weaponry, looking for a fight. Which is not what the Ingerlund ever thought might happen. Foreigners, tooled up and looking for a fight, rather than watching as you set fire to someone’s bar? A man wants to chase you and batter you to death rather than you chasing him? That isn’t supposed to happen.

There has been a massive amount of bleating on social media about England being ‘provoked.’ I’ve been provoked more times than I care to remember because, if you’re out on a Friday or Saturday night, there’s often a complete and utter tool who wants to hit the tall one and that, quite often, is me. I don’t retaliate. I don’t react. I am not, in tabloid parlance, provoked. Someone can say whatever he wants to me, or about my mother, partner and whatever. It doesn’t give me licence to hit him or escalate things. Instead, I generally went home or went somewhere else.

England fans saying ‘we were provoked’ is, frankly, pathetic. If your reaction to taunting is to set part of a city on fire, then you shouldn’t be allowed out without a carer and should probably live in secure accommodation until such time as everyone else is free from your impotent rage. As an excuse, it’s somewhere down there with ‘he made me do it’ and ‘another boy did it and ran away.’ Nobody is convinced.

And I’m not, incidentally, excusing Russia. Their league is dogged with the kind of racism and casual violence that were a feature of football here into the eighties and beyond. Their fans are clearly morons and that they travelled miles across Europe for nothing much other than a fight says something rather savage about their Neanderthal mindset. That they were more serious, more intent on taking England at face value, is neither here nor there. They knew who their opponents were, they believed their reputation. All else followed.

Equally, numbers of people got caught in the crossfire. A man was seen shielding his child. There is talk of someone’s gran being scared for her life in the stadium. Both are utterly unforgivable and both argue for a massively straightforward punishment. You send both teams home and ban the fans, en masse, from travelling abroad for, say, two years. Anyone should be able to go to a football match and return home safely. That they can’t is down entirely to England and Russia fans, so it’s the England and Russia fans who need to pay the price. Their teams are sent home and banned from competing in the next tournament.

When UEFA and FIFA start making fans responsible for their own behaviour and stop treating it as some kind of bizarre aberration that has nothing to do with the respective national teams, you’ll start seeing real, actual behavioural change. If so much as one punch is thrown, one picnic chair picked up more than two inches off the floor, you, your friends and your shitty national team are going home in disgrace. Want to stay in the tournament? Then you need to behave. Make that rule non-negotiable and watch the riots stop.

Until then, the best thing to do for Russian and English fans who want to watch football, the simple thing to do is stay away. Both teams have such a damaged and violent reputation that they are, for the time being, best avoided. Nobody deserves to be made to cower in fear, but unless you’re some fat white bloke in a bucket hat with a gut full of lager, that could happen all too easily. For your own sakes, find another national team to support or stay at home. The problem is that violence begets violence. England have a deservedly violent reputation, which means that violence will be visited on them by anyone with sufficient resources to ‘have a go.’ The problem is that the people who start the aggro generally get away untouched. The people who end up on the receiving end are the father with a kid and a grandmother. Karma is visited upon the England support, but if those supporters just included the knuckle-draggers, then fine. But they don’t. Those supporters include a kid and a grandmother.

England and Russia, for the time being, have no place in international football. Their fans have willed that into existence and need to pay the price. The result of ignoring it will be that there is more violence, more innocents caught in the cross fire and that, one day, someone will die. By that time, it’ll be too late.

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