Will hooligans scar South Africa in the World Cup?

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, June 9, 2010
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With the World Cup just days away, the world is gearing up for a 31-day football bonanza. Like with all major sporting tournaments, the players, hosts and fans alike want World Cup 2010 to run smoothly and to be enjoyed by everybody. Well, nearly everybody that is.

Whenever a football match takes place, whether it's between Inter Milan and Manchester United or Accrington Stanley and Luton Town, a police presence is necessary to control any planned or spontaneous violence which may erupt between rival fans. Why? Because football unfortunately breeds hooliganism, and ever since the term was created by the media in the mid-1960s, it has escalated into a well-recognized ignominy of the "beautiful game."

As South Africa makes its final preparations this week for one of its grandest and most significant occasions, I wonder which fans of the 32 countries participating are most likely to slur another country's name? Why do some "adults" insist on wreaking violence, intimidation and havoc in order to "defend their territory?" And will South Africa be able to cope in preventing the almost inevitable from occurring?

Even though, for example, Russia is infamous for its regular battles between opposing fans, it is perhaps England, the inventors of football, who are personified as the worse perpetrators of a crime which has yet to have any established legal definitions. Is this representation of English football fans justified?

David John's eyes sparkle as he talks about his five-year stretch of being a "frontrunner" for English football hooliganism for his team Manchester City. The 52-year-old from Gorton, a working-class Manchester suburb, excitedly recalled story after story of violence, degradation and hostility toward anyone who dared not to wear a blue scarf on match day with such passion and animation that he almost fell off his sun lounger in his six-bedroom villa in the South of Spain. His most beloved story, which left him speaking without taking breaths and drool spilling from the corners of his mouth, is one about the "day we battered the 'Scousers.'" This sordid day involved John and his fellow frenziedly-devoted Manchester City fans pouring a week-old bucket of fermented urine and feces onto a group of Liverpool supporters. Another favorable recollection that John was particularly proud to share was the day they kidnapped "the Cockney." The poor, bespectacled kid from London was thumbing his way back to the South of England, unaware that the rest of his day would transform into hell when a van full of Manchester City fans traveling to London offered to give him a lift. The City hooligans entertained themselves by inflicting verbal and physical abuse for six solid hours. It ended with the youngster "weeing himself" in terror before his captures finally released him.

"Do you ever feel any remorse?" I asked. John's excited tone and eagerness to share his stories gave away the answer. "Never," John confirmed. "On match day, they are the enemy."

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