Books on Soccer Hooligans
A number of books discuss violence and soccer. London England hostel bookshelves are full of stories from current – and former – leaders of ‘fan clubs’. Although these voyeuristic stories are in danger of becoming a dime a dozen, two of my favorites stand out.
Among the Thugs was published in 1991 by Vintage Books. The American-born author, Bill Buford, was an editor for prestigious London-based literary magazine Granta. Buford had a decades long obsession with soccer hooligans, what prompted their violence and why the fans did what they did. Through a lot of dedication, lager and hard knocks, he managed to join the ranks of the Manchester United supporters, following them around Europe with the goal of understanding what made them tick. The book is so well written that the reader feels the story increase in speed and urgency as it nears the conclusions. The end reaches a frenetic pitch, with Buford becoming so involved with the gang that he cannot separate himself from their actions. In the course of the book, he goes from impartial observer to all-consumed supporter and it’s astonishingly fascinating and horrific.
Another editor, Franklin Foer of the New Republic, takes a different approach in his book, How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory Of Globalization. Don’t let the big words scare you – the book isn’t really about economics and theory after all. Instead, it’s about taking lots of different societal problems and examining them through the lens of soccer. For example, Foer explains violence when he examines how Serbia’s Red Star soccer team had a fan organization so brutal that it killed more than 2,000 people during the fighting for the Balkans. He also studies how Top Hats and cronies have been able to endure in Brazil, and how the religious wars are reflected in team competition. A series of ten essays, it’s a great book to pick up whenever you’re on a long train ride around Europe or checking out the central London hostel closest to the stadium.
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