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Book Review: March of the Hooligans

brimsonbook Book Review: March of the HooligansIt’s not a stretch to say that hundreds have died as a direct result of football hooliganism. We’ve seen recent problems with football-related violence in Italy, Croatia and England just to name a few places.  Some pundits claim that the violence has less to do with football than it does with societal unrest. 

It was with these events in mind that I read a copy of Dougie Brimson’s latest book on the subject of hooliganism which is called March of the Hooligans – Soccer’s Bloody Fraternity. I had yet to delve into this area of football books and was not sure what to expect. The back cover and the promotional materials put forth the notion that this book was targeted toward North Americans and was meant to open their eyes to the potential dangers of hooliganism taking a foothold here.

My view is that the book serves well as an introduction to the subject of hooliganism and gives an insider’s view of the world. I’ve watched the Football Factories series (a show hosted by Danny Dyer) and have been left absolutely lost for words at what I’ve seen. Men willing to kill one another simply because they support different football clubs. Brimson’s retelling of his experiences, while only slightly less violent, offered a plausible though incomplete reason as to why people do these things.

“I’ve fought in two wars, flown in fighter jets, raced cars and motorbikes but being involved in soccer violence is without a doubt the most exciting and enjoyable thing I have ever known.”

To me, that statement justifies my feelings towards the hooligan culture. I’ve always felt that it had little to do with the sport and was essentially an excuse for these guys to have a little anarchy. The urge to inflict some sort of physical retribution on someone who opposes or has wronged you in some manner is a primal mindset that higher reasoning usually overcomes. However, alcohol or even emotional issues can short-circuit that reasoning process and you end up with people beating the life out of one another for wearing the wrong coloured shirt.

There was one area where I felt the book fell short on delivering. I had hoped that Brimson would outline the dangers for North American leagues like the A-League and MLS. Unfortunately, only a scant few pages are devoted to how the culture of football violence might take hold here.  I wished that Brimson had expanded more and included some of the ideas he discussed in interviews conducted by EPL Talk and Major League Soccer Talk.

Despite that oversight, the book is a snappy and enthralling read if you’ve never been exposed to any information on the hooligan culture. Even for those, such as myself, who’ve seen documentaries or read a bit about the subject, the book has some fascinating and colorful anecdotes. 

March of the Hooligans is available from Amazon, Chapters and many other fine booksellers. You can read more about Dougie Brimson at his official website.


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