Are We Making Football Hooliganism Worse?

Posted on February 29, 2012 by

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Are the measures taken in football to control crowds merely a catalyst for a contradictory and adverse affect? They were when The Trawler’s @PreeceOfficer visited Milan.

‘So be a good boy and don’t get up to mischief.’

These are the words of George’s mother one Saturday morning in Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine. Dahl’s narrative rapidly quips with what many perceptive parents might also recognise:

‘This was a silly thing to say to a small boy at any time. It immediately made him wonder what sort of mischief he might get up to.’

Should you not know what the rest of Dahl’s novella entails, George creates the perfect medicine for his ghastly Grandma. This involves mixing everything he can get his hands on in the house, shed, animal barn, wherever his little legs can carry him. And what follows George’s stint in mixology is pandemonium. It seems that George’s mother’s, ‘so be a good boy and don’t get up to mischief’ is a catalyst for the chaos that ensues.

The San Siro’s version of, ‘so be a good boy and don’t get up to mischief’.

(The view from my seat ^^^)

The nets which line the tiers of Milan’s San Siro are in place to stop missiles being thrown onto the pitch or into the lower tiers. I am aware that the netting has a practical use. Yet from my experience they do nothing but provoke fans into finding something small enough to fit between the gaps. Be it throwing a handful of Euros or a lidless cup of liquid to shower the opposing team’s supporters below, fans shamefully find a way around these things, or through them.

My qualms aren’t just with the netting.

The buses which escorted the away fans in Milan were similar to the ones that carried men to the pits in the 1980s miners strikes in Britain. Bolted to the window frames were metal cages and the interior was hard, basic and robust. Smoke hung in the air (because smoking is allowed on transport in Italy) and in contrast to the poignant miners that were being forced to go back to work in the midst of the strikes, fans sang Arsenal songs of old with glee.

‘He’s got no hair but we don’t care Stevie Stevie Bould’

There were the more contemporary songs too, a woman behind me often drunkenly screaming abuse concerned with Harry Redknapp’s mother. Other Arsenal fans would then follow with a vulgar verse about their North London rivals who were now hundreds of miles away. People were passing around cans of beer. Everyone trusted everyone. Everyone was united. Everyone was jolly. The bus headed not to the mines, but to the bubbling cauldron of the San Siro.

Fans disembarked from these buses with fire in their bellies. They were greeted by growling police dogs and stern-faced Italian police. There were only brief moments when you caught a glimpse of the Milan fans who gritted their teeth and swung scarves above their heads. Both sets of supporters were kept away from each other before the match. Even after the match Arsenal fans were kept in the highest echelons of the San Siro for an extra half hour.

It seems that these measures taken by Italian police simply made fans’ arousal levels higher. Because fans were grouped together they were subject to deindividuation, that is, a lack of responsibility in the individual when within a crowd. As a result, rebel fans become a bigger threat. And the common idiom suggests: it only takes one.

It poses the question, have the Italian authorities been faced with so much trouble in the past that they’ve stopped the humanitarian treatment and just decided to separate people? It’s not quite the case in England just yet and I’m glad.

It’s a shame

I went to the San Siro to watch my team but was looking forward to taking in the ambience surrounding the San Siro. Unfortunately however, I was shepherded right up to Gate 5, and then away from it again. I didn’t see any stalls or hot dog stands. I didn’t speak to any Milan fans. I was treated as a thug and a hooligan and it wouldn’t have surprised the Italian authorities if I would’ve acted like one.

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Posted in: Football