What is a Hooligan?

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what is a football hooligan
Heptagon / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Hooligan is a word closely related to football. This relation dates back to the 19th century when hooliganism started gaining ground in the sports.

In this article, we look at what a football hooligan is, the origins of the phenomenon, and the modern state of football hooliganism.

Hooligan Definition

The word hooligan is generally defined as a young individual who engages in violent behavior as part of a gang.

However, a hooligan in football is equivalent to an extreme fan of a football team. They are spectators at football games who engage in violence and disorderly conduct described as hooliganism.

The unlawful and illegal nature of the actions of a hooligan makes them prefer a more underground approach to their activities. Nevertheless, a lot of the feuds between hooligan factions eventually happen in stadiums and sometimes secret locations.

A documentary by RT

A hooligan is usually part of a group with other hooligans who are bound by their support for the same football club. Further, hooligans may identify with extreme political and social ideologies.

Football hooligan groups employ terms like “squad,” “crew,” “firm,” and brava brava (meaning wild bunch) to describe themselves. 

During Euro 2016, for example, there were several confrontations between hooligans from participating countries.

English and Russia fans clashed ahead of their match in Marseille, German and Ukrainian fans also had a similar issue in Lille and another clash in Nice between French and Northern Irish hooligans.

Origin of Football Hooliganism

what is a hooligan
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-0408-011 / Kasper, Jan Peter / CC-BY-SA 3.0

According to research, football hooliganism dates back to 1349 when football originated in England, where competing villages fought between each other during games (a different kind of football compared to the current sport).

However, hooliganism in modern football started in the 19th century. An early record of hooligan activity is the 1885 game between Aston Villa and Preston.

Aston Villa fans went mad after their team lost 5 – 0 and began to attack players from both sides.

The phenomenon spread to other parts of the world and became a global problem.

At its peak in English football, the media used the words “football hooligan” and “the British disease” or “English disease” to describe the increasing scenes of disorderly behavior at football matches.

Hooligan activities have taken different forms in the past. Aside from attacks on opposing factions, hooligans also distort game proceedings by throwing projectiles like objects unto the pitch.

In recent years, football clubs and organisations have implemented strict rules to discourage people from violent behaviour. When caught in acts of hooliganism, fans receive a stadium ban or even jail time.

Football hooliganism continues today despite the measures put in place to remove the element of violence from the beautiful game.

Striker @ Hooligan F.C.

Elisha is an Accra-based freelancer writer who has a passion for technology, finance, and football. He supports Chelsea FC.

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