The changing face of hooliganism
The 27th Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Amsterdam, September 6 2002

Dear reader, 

Fighting with each other is out.
Fighting with the police is out.
Disturbances on the field are out.
But the anxiety remains, the feelings of discontent have not vanished.

There are some indications that the action goals of football hooligans are changing.

Holland is notorious for the behaviour of soccer fans. Fights, racist slogans, throwing of materials, invading the soccer field. In the past most actions were concentrated in and around the field. Police and football organisations made this nearly impossible. Zero tolerance, the prohibition to see football matches, strong fences, high sentences and a strict control prevented many hooligans to attend matches of their club. But the grievances remained. Supporters have nothing to say about what happens with the club, which players are bought and sold, which trainer is attracted or sacked, what kind of play is shown on the field.
In Belgium, the club Molenbeek even ceased to exist because of incorrect financial transactions. In Holland several clubs balance on the edge of existence because of the misconduct of leaders. Money reigns and not the love for the sport.

Many hooligan actions are directly related to the bad performance on the field. Leaders and players are to blame when the club does not perform according to the expectations but only supporters are hurt. Leaders talk in comfortable skyboxes with money bosses, players get a big income that often does not match their abilities. When the most attractive player is sold because leaders cannot meet the demands of the money bosses, supporters know that next season the club will even be weaker. Then it is not strange that some supporters become violent – some far-off people destroy the object of their passion and they are never listened to. This behaviour is promoted by the violence on the field. Many players often violently attack and sometimes cripple the opponent before addressing the ball.

Hooligan actions are typical for the behaviour of powerless people. When you are not satisfied but cannot do anything about it you sometimes hit unexpectedly back even though you know that the situation will not change. But you get some “satisfaction” in street fighting. That is also true for most political actions. Neither peaceful nor violent demonstrations influence much the behaviour of leaders. Demonstrators ventilate their grievances but seldom consider the question if anyone anytime listens to the opinions that are brought forward.

The changing behaviour of Dutch hooligans was triggered by the death of a supporter in a fight between fans of two famous Dutch clubs, Ajax and Feyenoord. It had never been the intention that hooligans themselves should die in such an action!
Some supporters realized that not the supporters of other clubs were responsible for the unsatisfactory situation but those people who made the rules that made soccer less attractive despite the huge amount of money earned by players and leaders. What is shown on the field is not anymore what you could expect from the game. Why are players who earn millions a year often like zombies?  Why do they want to eliminate their opponents by unlawful actions? Why do trainers force defenders to stop opponents at all costs? The final culprits are always leaders who listen only to the money bosses but never to the people round the field who want to see the best possible football.

Erring managers, trainers, umpires and reporters are becoming the target of hooligan actions and are more often threatened than in the past. The trainer of Sparta that was relegated to a lower division got a letter containing a bullet. The house of the director of another club that was in deep financial trouble was attacked and damaged. The director of the Dutch Football Association was threatened when he approved rules that prevented supporters to attend a match of their club in another town. Other supporters blocked train traffic when they were not allowed to attend an away game of their club.

Time and again political leaders mobilize people for begging actions that have hardly any effect but refuse to try new action methods. Many leading political activists still believe that top leaders are really concerned about the well being of the masses. The Earth Summit in Johannesburg is the umpteenth prove that problems of the masses will never be solved when solutions are left to leaders that live in another and much richer world. But political activists continue to repeat actions of which in the past is proven that they hardly contribute to a change in the situation.

It seems that soccer hooligans have understood the old actions had hardly any success and that they have to penetrate into the private living sphere of leaders to change the situation. Maybe political activists, who are often considered as well educated and intellectual, could learn something from the changing ideas of hooligans who are often seen as impulsive and lower educated.

Yours truly, Joost van Steenis


When you want to receive an e-mail message each time I publish a new article,
please become follower on my blog http://downwithelite.wordpress.com

28. Changing the minds of leaders
To the index of All Letters