September 6 2002
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
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
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
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
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