Sport Without Hooligans

Letter From England

Last year I had the agreeable and unusual experience of spending two hours in a packed sports stadium where there was no hooliganism, no violence, and no bad feeling. The good-humored crowd of thousands of men, women, and children, mainly local but with a fair sprinkling of foreigners assembled, enjoyed themselves and dispersed in a peaceful and orderly way. There were no concealed weapons, no blood on the terraces, no need to cage in unruly fans. Needless to say, I was not at a British soccer match, but at a Spanish bullfight. It was one more occasion for me to feel ashamed about the behavior of British crowds when provoked by England's national sport.

The British are a people of no less memorable honor than their Spanish cousins, so why is it that their behavior at play is so contemptibly worse? Why are the British such bad sports? The answer lies more in the nature of the games than of the people. Soccer, or football as it is called in England, is by its very nature divisive and apt to cause conflict. There arc always two sides and sets of mutually hostile supporters whose feelings are bound to erupt in those menacing taunts and blows that are largely excluded from the card-and-whistle-tamed game below. The hooligans have rightly realized that the real conflict has to take place not on the pitch, but on the terraces.

Where football divides the bullfight unites. Apart from a few taurophile perverts, the whole of the...

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