They're drunk. They're violent. They're racist. Margaret Thatcher called them "Animals". Tony Banks, Minister for Sport only yesterday called them "drunken, brain-dead louts". This is the picture drawn of the few hundred youngsters who, on Sunday evening, provoked the first serious scuffles of the World Cup.
They were "only" following one of the more imbecilic of their traditions: get as drunk as possible as fast as possible. Drinking like fish, knocking each other about, football for these few has only ever been a pretext for enjoying several drinks which, in turn, is only a precursor to a quick brawl in the street.
They are all too often English. Not that I want to condemn all England, although its tabloid press, the most xenophobic in Europe, does tend to encourage the torrent of abuse directed at England's opponents. Only the other day, the Daily Star ran a front page article claiming that the English would crush the Tunisiens, accompanied by a picture of a dog wearing a fez. Certainly, it is only a very small group of English who use the World Cup as an excuse for violence. Not that the World Cup should be blamed for inciting their behaviour. With the regime of alcohol, mischief and hatred, these kids could be anyone from anywhere. These youngsters know no school but the pub and the street and no law but violence. They are manipulated by extremist movements and celebrate the fact that they are "white and proud to be white". They would be pitiful if it weren't for the fact that they are dangerous.
Unfortunately, their violence begets more violence. We still don't know who started the violence on Sunday night. Was it an Englishman or a Tunisian who threw the first punch, turning the finely balanced situation from general tribal defiance to running battle? We can, however, make an informed guess at where it will all end. And we can shudder at the thought; on Sunday night in Marseille, the English were hunted down. Hundreds of youngsters from the working class Marseille suburbs came armed with clubs and baseball bats in an attempt to bring their own order to the streets. This is no more tolerable than the English behaviour. It seems that we are dancing on a keg of gunpowder.
The World Cup cannot afford to let the street violence continue, particularly when so many people denounce the tyranny of all football and here find justification for their loathing of the game. It is such a shame that there are so many who want to come and watch the greatest sporting tournament of the end of the century in peace but find themselves continually having to excuse their enjoyment of a sport which has been hijacked by a bunch of hooligans.Reuse content