Letter: Not a cuddly game

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The Independent Culture
Letter: Not a cuddly game

Sir: Suzanne Moore blames male culture for, well, everything that isn't nice, but obviously for football hooliganism. Your correspondents seem to blame Paul Gascoigne and tabloid xenophobia for the same thing. In the usual panic-stricken rush to provide answers, the wrong questions are endlessly trotted out. Ban alcohol? Remove passports? Re-educate offenders? Oh, dear.

Middle-class handwringing is misplaced. Oh yes, we all know that when we are abroad the host culture is allowed its own integrity - those are their ways of doing things, their sensibilities. However, for an urban working-class culture that admires toughness and celebrates rivalry no such shifting of context applies. They are proud of their form of Englishness and don't care how provocative that pride may be. Football becomes an expression of loyalty (which, in its extreme form, can be loutishness, intolerance and arrogance).

The rest of us feel ashamed of such pride because hooliganism makes us all look barbaric. In fact, it is the upshot of one part of English social history. Now that the middle classes want to cuddle up to football they seem surprised at having to cuddle up to its previous owners at the same time. Football still has some of its roots in an aggressive sense of honour, in meat pies and fizzy beer. Chardonnay, baguettes and internationalism are late starters in the English context. The rest of the world is entitled to be confused. We are not.


Wellington, Somerset