Soccer Hooligans fuel hate mill for right-wing politics
2018-11-01 14:32:04 -
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By Staff Reporter

 

Once known as the ‘English disease’, soccer hoologanism has been almost entirely eradicated from sporting stadiums in Britain. But the term that emerged in the late 1800s — ironically enough, after Irish gangs called the O’Hooligan Boys terrorised the city of London — lives on throughout many countries in Europe.

The problem is finally being addressed by the European Union through its agency the Radical Awareness Network, which have determined there is a correlation between the grassroots ‘hools’ and the rise of the right wing in the European political scene.

A recent study visit to Poland by senior police officers and NGOs from 15 different countries that use sport to tackle discrimination heard reports from Poland, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Austria and England on the issue.

They also took part in a workshop facilitated by an eminent professor working in the field of exploring the interrelationships between hooliganism and the fuelling of far right political rhetoric and its worrying acceptance in some European societies.

Ken McCue, a cultural planner with Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari), presented the facts in relation to Ireland, where the scourge of hooliganism is minimal, but cautioned against the emergence of potential problems arising out of loutish behaviour among the fandom of mixed martial arts, or MMA. Polish and Belgian speakers also referred to the infiltration of MMA fight clubs by hooligan elements.

McCue warned of the realities of the transnational importation of hooligan behaviour, and recalled the Northern Ireland-Poland soccer game in Belfast when Polish fans waved Irish tricolours on the streets and in pubs in a strongly loyalist neighbourhood near the Windsor Park stadium.

On a more positive note, McCue demonstrated how Sari helped to diffuse tensions between the Dublin-based Polish and Chinese communities by distributing material in the Polish language produced by anti-racist organisation Never Again. The campaign was related to a showcase soccer match involving teams drawn from the Polish and Chinese diasporas that attracted over 2,000 supporters.

Former Never Again worker Jacek Purski, who has moved to establish the Institute of Public Safety, gave delegates an update on the variety of hooligan elements in Poland and their influence on the re-emergence of the right in that country.

Purski introduced a former hooligan who illustrated the internal workings of the gangs, their use of social media and their ability to create a pan-European movement that will be evident by the presence of a large international hooligan element at a forthcoming demonstration in Warsaw on the centenary of Polish Independence Day on 11 November.

 

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