Written by Gavin, 46 from London.
As an England fan for many years, I’ve been to many different parts of the world, following the boys in white. I’ve been to pretty much every country in Europe for qualifiers, friendlies and I’ve even had the pleasure of being at a tournament or two.
It has not always been an easy pastime, as the reputation of english football fans has always been tainted because of the dark days of the 1980s when fan violence dominated the sport. When local fans hear that England are coming to town, there are some occasions when trouble comes looking for us. Thankfully, everyone I’ve ever been with has turned the other cheek and walked away.
In recent years though, organized hooliganism has been largely eradicated from the english domestic game, with the police and stewarding becoming that much better than it used to be. It’s now a game that I would happily take my kids to.
Just a Few Idiots
What tends to ruin it for everyone are the actions of a few idiots and when trouble does occur, it is rarely organized and it is usually over very quickly. I guess if you add the emotion of the game to 5 or six pints of beer and someone, somewhere is going to act stupidly.
A good example of what I’m talking about happened to the Manchester City coach on the Way to Anfield before a Champions League game recently. The team bus was pelted with bottles and cans as it approached the ground, with the barrage coming from the assembled crowd. You’d obviously think “well, that’s english fans for you”, but you’d be wrong, as the overwhelming majority of Liverpool fans I talk to who were there are completely against what happened and actually tried to stop it.
The same can be said for fans of the England football team. There might be a small, concentrated group of idiots up for making trouble, but 99.9% of those who go and watch the games just want to support the team. It’s sad, but true...that a few morons can ruin it for thousands of passionate fans.
The World Cup in Russia
I read somewhere recently that England fans are looking out for ‘vengeance’ for past actions of some Russian Ultras in France in 2016, but I have no idea what they’re talking about.
Modern football fans just want to enjoy the game, have a skinful of lager and sing until they’re hoarse. Then maybe get a burger on the way home and head to bed to try and sleep off the expected hangover.
Now, I’m no fan of the police, but they have cleaned up the english game. They are so hot on hooliganism that anyone involved or believed to be involved is instantly taken out of the picture with banning orders and passport confiscation to stop them going abroad. If there are english hooligans going to Russia looking to make trouble, then they’re not football fans...they’re fans of violence and causing trouble.
Trust in FIFA…..really?
I’ve also heard that we should trust in FIFA to organize things in Russia correctly so that there’s no trouble. Seriously? FIFA don’t exactly have the best reputation right now, especially after all of that stuff with backhanders and bribes to Sepp Blatter and his cronies.
The information we need, which I’m pretty sure no one knows, is how to avoid trouble. It’s also how to go to Russia and enjoy the footie and come home safely. I’m certain that’s not going to be on the FIFA website any time soon.
The biggest thing I can say about the advice we’re being given about our visit to Russia in a couple of months time is that we don’t trust any of it. It feels like it’s going to be a case of ‘suck it and see’ when we get there and hope that nothing happens during our stay.
Whether it’s due to baseless media rumours or not, I don’t mind admitting that I’m concerned about Russian Ultras making trouble whilst England fans are in their country. Propaganda is a powerful thing and what we’re seeing in the news is lots of stories about ‘extreme violence’ being predicted in areas where England fans are.
Do I believe it? Maybe? Is it total rubbish? Maybe? You see, that’s the danger. Not knowing.
One thing I do know having lived in England all my life is that there will always be idiots whenever alcohol is served in vast quantities and if provoked, there could be trouble. Especially as I’ve heard stories about Russian hooligans dressing up as England fans and starting problems.
It just seems like a powder keg needing just a few sparks to start it.
What I and every England fan I know wants is for the World Cup to come and go without any violence of any kind. England will likely not make it past the group stages (as usual) and when that happens and every England fan has made it back home safe, I’ll be a happy man.
Will there be trouble? That depends on how good the local police are at keeping an eye on extremists from both England and from Russia. Whatever the case I will still be going, intent on having a great time and cheering my team on.
Anything else just doesn’t bear thinking about.