England’s hooligan army – a great lie or a media delusion?

It’s not often you meet a person in a Moscow McDonald’s, especially one notorious for being the distribution centre for doping products, who knows Annaghminnon Rovers, let alone has been to their ground.

Enjoying the hiatus from geopolitics through the medium of a World Cup, I found myself chatting with two English fans who were grabbing coffees before heading to the England versus Colombia game.

The two lads were the nicest guys you’d want to meet. Both had Irish roots, both University educated, both travelled widely and both had spent their childhoods Summers in Ireland. One still went back to visit Aunts and Uncles in Louth, hence the Annaghminnon link.

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Both sang the praises of Russia and Russians, both wanted to come back again. They almost didn’t come, due to fearmongering originating in English media, yet were glad they did. The one with Louth roots gave my son, then eight, an Oldham Athletic lapel pin. Both were sober and weren’t planning on getting drunk.

Yet minutes later they rejoined England’s Hooligan Army.

England’s Hooligan Army

“They haven’t gone away you know,” a former English International told me as we stood waiting to use the toilet in Luzhniki, “What you saw and heard, it’s the norm. What they do at home in, where was he from?” “Oldham,” I answered. “Oldham, doesn’t matter, what they do at home, they do here and they’re worse.

Get a mob of them and they suddenly forget that they’re second generation English or what have you. And you think we can speak out about it, can we fuck.

March 2017 in Dortmund, German fans politely applause after ‘God Save the Queen’, a minute later, during the German anthem, England’s Hooligan Army go and do this.

Twelve months later and 100 English ‘fans’ are arrested while rioting in Amsterdam. England’s Hooligan Army descend on Russia and cannot help themselves by singing offensive songs in Moscow’s party street, this after three fans were punished for making Nazi salutes in Volgograd.

In October 2018, Seville is the latest beneficiary of the pride of English manhood.

Yet English sports journos will have you believe that these are a “rent-a-mob”.

This is either a delusion or a lie, because it is not the truth.

In Prague at the weekend there were groups of English tourists all searching for a pub to watch the UEFA Champions League Final. Outside ‘The Dubliner’ Irish Pub, just off the main square and 500 metres from the Maisel Synagogue, a bunch of Liverpool shirted patrons began a “Fuck the Yids” chant to the melody of “Here we go”.

They were not all from stag parties and not all were drunk. Naturally they didn’t know, or care, about the estimated 263,000 Czech Jews who were killed by the Nazis.

Self-delusional lies

Tony Cascarino is under no illusions:

At a street cafe on Nikolskaya Street last Summer English fans were getting vociferous and rowdy in the build up to the semi-final with Croatia.

One of them decided to try remove a large umbrella provided by a beer company from it’s place. A petite Uzbek waitress tried, with okay English, to dissuade him.

He joked at first as she refrained from physically touching him but stood between him and the umbrella. His brothers in arms moved closer and began to mock him.

He swore at them and then unleashed a tirade at the waitress before shoving her into an adjacent table.

He’d only gotten his hands around the umbrella when a single OMON (riot police) officer was standing next to him smiling.

The officer’s nose was less than six inches from the Pride of England’s face and we all froze.

I had my son by the hand and moments before we’d been chatting with Gary Lineker. There were news crews all around, including one from Sky. A single OMON officer against three dozen English lads, there was such a lack of balance.

The man who so desired the umbrella decided against it, raised his hands in surrender and returned to his comrades. The OMON officer was gone, along with any chance of misbehaviour.

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What lies beneath

This is not a “rent-a-mob” or few idiots as the English media are pushing. This is a deeper issue that has been a scourge for decades.

Forget the carnage at Euro ’88, Italia ’90, club or country. England’s Hooligan Army has roots in something darker and deeper which plays well for a media that loves to kick the life out of middle class and below England, and football.

When they opened both barrels on Russia, they were keen to forget that the Russian halfwits were simply doing what English fans continue to do.

Less than two months ago English Premier League footballers boycotted social media over racist abuse.

To think “Ten German Bombers” and riots on foreign soil are isolated incidents support the continued anti-social behaviour.

But why are English fans shaming their country and fellow citizens time and again? Four years ago I updated an earlier series of articles I’d written on the roots of Russian fan misbehaviour.

I’d been disappointed in how the supposed liberals here were turning their noses up at ‘guest workers’ yet ready to abuse football hooligans.

The same with what we see now in England. It’s a minority, a rent-a-mob, a few idiots etc. No, ladies and gentlemen of the English media class, it is not.

Just as in Russia, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, it is not just a few dragging the rest into violence or misbehaviour. Making an us versus them is what perpetuates this scumbaggery and it keeps you in gainful employment.

Better to report on “them” than look in the mirror and accept what’s always been the problem.

Let’s put an end to the lie that is going around – Liverpool and Spurs fans went to Madrid and there was no hassle.

No, there was. Unless you discount theft, assault, public masturbation and drug possession as societal norms.

The narrative will be put forward that the fans of the two English clubs playing in Madrid last week were much better behaved than national team fans in Porto this week, but is that to suggest that the bar has fallen so low?

Having said our goodbyes, my son and I left McDonald’s and went over to watch the dancing fountain in front of the Europiski Shopping Centre next to Kievsky metro stations.

We spotted our newly found friends meeting with the main body of their fan group at the Dorogomilovo – Ukrainski junction traffic lights.

As they crossed the road a few stopped to take photos of the soaring Moscow City skyscrapers before racing to catch up with their mates.

They arrived on our side of the road and began to chant, “England, England”, to the smiles and cameras of locals and others at the fountain.

As they passed by the chant changed to “No surrender to the IRA”. Locals and others continued smiling and taking photos and videos. England’s Hooligan Army was on the move.

The Author

Alan Moore

Russian-based sports journalist, commentator, radio host & consultant. Worked with major clubs including Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt, Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow. Current host of Capital Sports 3.0, former international boxer and semi-professional footballer and FIFA World Cup commentator.

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