Euro 2016 in France has seen a return of football hooliganism which had been largely absent from recent international competitions. Hooliganism and football is a phrase everyone is familiar with, but it has been largely absent from recent international competitions. However, Euro 2016 in France saw a return of this ill-affair.
England and Russian supporters conflicted over and over in Marseille and in Lille when the tournament started. Tear gas, stun grenades and baton charges were used against fans from England, Russia, Slovakia and France who all gathered in the city to watch different games.
According to an “insider” in a report by The Independent, the issue became even worse when after the strife in Marseilles, the French authorities announced that 29 Russian supporters were getting deported.
According to the report, more than 50 people were in fact being kicked out, including women and others who were not involved in the trouble. They also stopped six people from entering the country because of assuming they were linked with the hooliganism. This supposedly got the Russian supporters further irritated which meant that they continued to cause trouble in Lille.
The French authorities cannot be blamed for any of the action that they carried out. France recently witnessed a terror attack, things have been extremely tense there and if football fans create unpleasant situations in a sensitive place, the authorities can absolutely not be blamed for taking action.
More crucially, like Croatia’s flare throwing on the pitch against Czech Republic, this fan battle didn’t really have a deeper meaning or a cause. The Russian, English and other fans (who might have not caught the eye of the media) were not rebelling against anything. It was just people being notorious.
“Hooliganism” in essence is violence caused by rowdy troublemakers. After reading more in depth verbatim statements by the hooligans, one can understand and begin to explore the meanings of hooligan behavior and begin to locate the football hooligan in the overall social structure, the class system and try to examine the dynamics of the relationship between them and the wider society. The one thing consistent in the statements of hooligans over time that stretches more than five decades, is the fact that they revel in fighting and make it about masculinity and excitement. Fighting for them is a source of meaning and “reputation” and most importantly it brings them emotional arousal.
Considering the next World Cup occurring in two years is in Russia, this makes things even scarier for the future. Russian football hooligans are more than just disrupters, they are Ultras who carry an extremely fearsome reputation. In the run up to the recently concluded tournament, ultras from rival clubs such as Moscow’s Spartak and CSKA apparently intimidated that they will join forces in France to bully supporters from other countries. It is a well known fact that the Russian Ultras have turned many of their domestic games into a battleground, where extreme right wingers assert dominance in a burly fashion and are often seeing openly waving flags, throwing flares and smoke bombs on the pitch, attacking the police, and displaying neo-Nazi symbols.
They also have a history for deliberately targeting Black and Asian supporters. The World Cup will have teams with players from such countries; how they will be treated inside and outside the stadium remains a worrisome subject.
This is not to suggest that only Russians will cause trouble in 2018, In the 2012 Euros, there were clashes involving the Poles as well, and back in 1996, when people thought that the tournament went without any cases of violence, there were disturbances reported in Hull, London, Bedford, Brighton among other places. These took place despite a coordinated police effort which had been planned for three years and costed an estimated £20 million back then.
Effective policies are urgently needed if the social invention of football is to be protected from the serious threat posed by hooliganism. Hooliganism always stems from social issues. FIFA as well as the Russian authorities will have to assure the world that they will be safe to attend the games. There have to be more effective and better constructed policies to tackle this problem, ones which haven’t been offered so far.