Football Hooliganism is a term used to describe organized, destructive behavior committed by football (soccer) spectators. It is a transnational subculture that began in the United Kingdom. Hooliganism is quite unique because, unlike many other social phenomena, it rarely if ever occurs in North America. It occurs on every other continent, this is most likely due to football being the most popular sport in the world. Almost every other country views football as Canadians view hockey or how Americans view American football.
Hooligans form gangs based on which team they identify with. These gangs are commonly referred to as “firms”. Most hooligans are working class men who have a very strong sense of pride in their community. Their socioeconomic status as well as their sense of community may both be contributing factor to the violent acts they commit. However, there are “guidelines” among hooligans on how masculine honour can be won or lost; think of it as “honour among thieves”. An example of this would be there rules of engagement: “Hooligans should only fight other hooligans (or intervening police) and not women, children or non-violent male spectators”. “Honour” can be gained via challenging or responding to a challenge of an equal.
Violence between hooligan firms occurs before, during and after matches. It can be anything from verbal insults to each other to fist fights to full blown riots. In 1985, before the European cup final between Liverpool and Juventus even began, 39 Juventus supporters were killed when a wall collapsed on them as a result of Liverpool hooligans breaching into the Juventus section and pressing them up against a collapsing wall. Another incident occurred in 2003 in Poland when 4 different firms clashed for a organized brawl. One person died and 229 were arrested.
It is interesting that such a phenomenon occurs with an entire, somewhat underground, culture formed across the globe and with those that identify as members of it agreeing upon a certain set of rules. Although it may have developed independently across the world, hooligans all share one thing in common: a love for Football.