Football hooliganism within the UK has dark and deep roots. These roots stretch back to organised firms terrorising European cities, to the extent where clubs such as Manchester United and Leeds United were banned from UEFA competitions in the 1970s.
With the dawn on the millennium there have been notable improvements amongst British reputation, yet the issue still overhangs the sport. Clothing brands such as Burberry and Prada have withdrawn certain garments from their stores, through fear they have an association with hooligans, whilst as recently as 2010, German flags were burnt in Leicester Square following the World Cup defeat to Die Mannschaft.
Yes am still alive for those asking, crazy day in Leicester Square.. Riot police, burning of German flags, lots of Am England Till I die…
— Kaya La Roche (@KayaLaRoche) June 27, 2010
Rationality is replaced with animosity, an anger driven by frustration in a sport which carries unrivalled emotional stimulators. Football can make a person see red, a stupid moment; it only takes a second.
Understanding why certain individuals would be driven to such vile acts can be broken down: What age category are they in? What gender are they? What’s their job occupation? What class are they? Seemingly obvious questions met with perhaps stereotypical answers – a certain criteria to understand who constitutes the core of hooligan groups needs little research.
That doesn’t seem sufficient though in understanding the motivation behind the violence. It’s easy to categorise members where they follow a similar to pattern to right-wing political movements, the identity of a skinhead; another trait easily associated with a hooligan. But to understand it, you need to follow the leaders. CLICKON met Manchester City hooligan, Carl Moran, a leader figure within the Blazing Squad.
Carl speaks of hooliganism as a thrill and a sense of community, a community who share a passion for violence:
“For the one day it does happen, it does go right, it does go off, it’s top. And that’s worthwhile for all the shit days it doesn’t.”
Carl Moran, Manchester City Hooligan
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Carl’s first bloody taste of violence came at a young age, just 16. He was an unlicensed boxer, who reportedly turned down the chance to make a career out of it because he wanted to be part of the Blazing Squad. The foundations were already set in place: a man who enjoys combat, a warrior with someone to kill in the ring… a warrior with someone to kill in the terraces during the height of British football hooliganism.
Times have since changed for Carl. No longer matching the perceived criteria of a hooligan; Carl is nearly 30, he needs a job for his second child.
Time for the next generation to step up.
“I’ve got a five-year-old daughter, and another kid on the way. I’m 27, it’s time for younger people to go and sort of do it, we’ve done our bit; I mean we don’t get involved as much anymore.”
But the new wave of youths will struggle as Carl expressed he did in his latter years. The demand for violence is less fervent, the motivation for a scrap at a football game declining due to banning orders and police restrictions – it is becoming increasingly difficult to organise a fight. Yet the adrenaline is still there, the warrior within the hooligan is still as bloodthirsty as ever.
Carl has turned back to boxing; the Citizen fan had his first fight in the ring for six years last year, and it seems to be a good substitute for the testosterone which drove the motivation behind his acts of violence.
“Obviously people know my history with Man City but I’ve been using boxing to keep myself out of trouble and I have stayed out of trouble.
“I’ve trained hard for this fight coming up and it’s been a good way to focus my attention on and kept me away from other things.”
Carl Moran, speaking to BBC Three
The warrior will always need someone to kill, and fortunately for football itself, that someone is becoming increasingly difficult to find and grab by the collar. Alternatively, many afflicted with the fighting desire are turning to boxing, as the white collar sport continues to thrive at unlicensed level in many UK cities.
Boxing potentially provides the saving grace to reduce fighting on the terraces, instead keeping it in the ring; the rush of blood will never be able to be removed from the warrior himself.