Let's face it; football is one of the most adored games in the world. It is played in nearly every country, and there are representatives from far and wide who qualify for the FIFA World Cup every four years. Some fans take this game very seriously, and they use the international matches as symbolic ways to express the dominance of their country over other countries in the world. When this intensity is focused on a single game, things are bound to eventually get out of hand. The good news is that the game continues to grow and change and the fans have begun to realize that their actions could have negative affects for the teams they love.
Football fans have always been a little more passionate than fans of most other games. Fans have verbally abused referees and other figures of authority since long before the game became officially organized. The fact that there are teams that represent entire nations means that almost every match carries symbolic national implications. Fans feel more connected to teams that represent them on a national level, and the games take on special importance.
Politicizing the Game
Football matches sometimes exacerbate political issues. If there is national tension between two countries, a match between those two countries carries far more intensity than it would otherwise. Fans can become overwrought during the matches, and violence has been known to occur between opposing fans in some high profile games. If two countries have traditionally been political rivals, like Scotland versus England, the game carries several centuries' worth of disdain for one another from the fans in the stands. Any perceived slight by officials or one of the teams can ignite a passionate response from the fans, which sometimes spills over into the streets.
Hooligan support by football fans was begun in Italy in the 1980s. These fans will organize very dramatic ways of showing support for their national teams, often without regard for the legality of their actions. They will set off fireworks, create bonfires, break seats, and even cause small explosions during pivotal moments of the game. The hooliganism invariably degenerates into a wider violence, and several teams have experienced damage to their stadiums and tour buses. The motives of these hooligan fans are usually nothing more complicated than a desire to disrupt the game and give their team an advantage.
Larger European nations have made some inroads in curbing the hooligan behavior. Football coverage in the media focuses on the game and ignores the outrageous behavior as much as possible in the hopes that the hooligans will be discouraged at the lack of attention they receive. Police have also begun to patrol stadiums more diligently, concentrating especially on areas that may provide an opportunity for hooligan behavior. Unfortunately these steps have not curbed the general rise in violence at football games around the world. Much stricter measures may have to be instituted across the game to eradicate this violent trend.
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