Inspired by watching the film ‘Green Street’ I got researching about real life football hooliganism, what I found was devastating, and thought I’d make use of it by writing the following article Firms are irascible trouble making gangs that align themselves with a football club, every football club in England has a firm, some have two, Leicester City have five. This kind of stuff has everything to do with football, yet nothing to do with football.
Their names aren’t very imaginative, as you might have guessed, there’s infamous ones like the ‘Naughty Forty’ (Stoke City), ‘Inter City Firm’ (West Ham) and ‘Bushwhackers’ (Millwall) Football Hooliganism is a problem right down to the non-league, Barrow AFC have a firm called ‘Holker Street Elite’ named after their stadium, I think they may have robbed that name from somewhere.
The culprits are easy to distinguish, skinheads with a Sergio Tacchini or Fred Perry jacket, with a head down stance accompanied with a stare that could kill from up to 100 yards. Stella can in one hand and fag in the other, oh and did I mention they’re usually unemployed?
Football hooliganism isn’t pretty to say the least, it’s a dark cauldron of violence that dates back to the 19th century, and was particularly a problem in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Firms would meet up and beat the hell out of eachother, just because they supported different teams, or to ‘gain and retain a reputation.’
The introduction of all seater stadiums and CCTV has meant less violence takes place in stadiums, but it has been moved to hidden locations rather than removed altogether. These people are frustrated idiots that live to give others pain whilst putting themselves and their mates at risk, and they use football as an excuse to do so. It’s sad really, when you think about it.
If you thought this kind of stuff was no longer a problem, and films exaggerate it to gain more viewers. Think again.
Would you believe that even our Wigan Athletic have a firm? They call themselves ‘The Goon Squad’, and it’s uncomfortable knowing that when you watch your team on a Saturday, you may be sitting within yards of people that are more bothered about kicking the hell out of an away supporter than the actual game itself.
You may be aware of these guys, and I can guarantee you that they won’t be particularly nice people. Thankfully, I’ve never witnessed a firm related fight as they tend to do them behind closed doors, so the Cops can’t deal with them and, unsurprisingly, details on firms are hard to come by, they’re not really going to publicise themselves on the internet.
The odd incident leeks out however, and it’s thrown out all over the media. I’m sure if I was bothered enough to do so, a few hours speaking to the members of some fans forums could give me some interesting information.
Take the incident at the West Ham vs Millwall game in the league Cup last season, the pitch invasion and mass brawls were, unsurprisingly, arranged and caused by the two team’s firms. The riots meant one innocent man was stabbed and many were left injured after the random attack, even the players fled the pitch for their own safety.
It was just like something out of ‘Green Street’ or ‘The Football Factory’ Other recent incidents include the pitch invasion of Grimsby Town fans at the Pirelli Stadium in May after their side lost 3-0 on the final day and were relegated, on the Championship’s final day last season, Sheffield Wednesday fans reacted to their relegation by attacking Crystal Palace fans, both incidents were thought to be ‘firm related.’
Many footballing related figures have been targeted in the last decade aswell, Rio Ferdinand received death threats from Leeds fans following his departure to Manchester United, then referee Andres Frisk retired from his job after receiving death threats from Chelsea fans after sending off Didier Drogba in their 4-2 defeat to Barcelona in 2005.
Chelsea fans were again in the news in 2007, after both Carlo Cudicini and Petr Cech suffered accidental head injuries in a match against Reading, the offenders Ibrahima Sonko and Stephen Hunt were given death threats, underlining how cowardly and ignorant some people really are.
The problems aren’t just in England either, Argentina is known to be the world’s footballing hooliganism capital, don’t be fooled by the player’s Alice bands and reputation for diving, their fans are petrifying. We’re all aware of the vicious nature of the River Plate and Boca Juniors derby, but other incidents are just as violent, and would be headline news if it occurred in England.
Since 1924, 250 people have died in relation to Argentine football attacks. Just to pick one example, in a relegation play-off in 2007 between Neuva Chicago and Tigre, the latter won a penalty in the 92th minute, they were already leading 2-1, Chicago fans saw this as the final straw, and invaded the pitch in some kind of protest provoking an angry response from Tigre fans. After the game, serious riots broke out, some culprits had nothing to do with either side, but still joined in with the ‘fun’ leading to the death of one Tigre fan, and the injuries of countless others, this showed the ugly side to the beautiful game for all to see.
The former leader of Newell’s Old Boy’s firm (or Barra Brava as they call them) Roberto Camini, was shot dead in March this year. Also, following Argentina’s elimination from the World Cup, a huge fight broke out in Cape Town, but not between Germany and Argentina fans, oh no, but between two sets of Argentineans, Independiente and Boca Junior fans, leading to the death of one man, a tragic end to Argentina’s World Cup campaign.
I personally don’t see the attraction, yet many others do, and the debate is huge over the question ‘Do football hooliganism films promote football hooliganism?’ Well, my answer to that would be yes, however, they do try to balance it out with a tragic ending, for example the death of a main character.
But imagine you’re a twelve year old boy watching ‘Green Street’, this kind of thing will appeal to them. Having a gang of mates that meet up in the pub, have a laugh, watch a game of footy and then top it off by having a mass brawl. Then they’ll do it all again next week.
Films glamorise this horrific behaviour, and make it appeal to youngsters, when otherwise, they’d never even be aware of it. Some don’t need this promotion however; it’s sad yet true, that some parents bring up their children to be just like them. ‘Ard, I would know because I’ve seen it happen, and the result is a horrible child that goes looking for trouble, is this the way children should be brought up? No, and although it’s rare, it’s still a problem.
The FA and the Police really need to clamp down on football hooliganism, and although it’s not as bigger problem as it once was, it still happens. Yet what do they do? Sweet FA.
I conclude with a phrase that sums up firms, inspired by the names of two firms actually. Arsenal’s ‘Gooners’ and Burnley’s ‘Suicide Squad’, they’re very ironic because football hooligans are just that, Suicidal Goons.
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