The Dark Side Of Soccer

By: Jim Brown

Soccer riots have always been something of a mystery. The violence in hockey is at least reconcilable. Grown men in heavy outfits skating at high speeds with sharp blades on their feet create enough tension and energy to start a brawl in a hurry. In baseball, a hard leather ball thrown 100 mph at your head can understandably make you want to charge the mound. But soccer? Even the game happens at a slow pace and hardly inspires more than focused concentration on the field itself. American commentators jokingly portray the reason for soccer riots as its low-scoring low key nature. They often say "after paying almost $100 for seats and fighting the crowds to see two teams play an entire match an end in a 0-0 tie, you might riot too." However, to the rest of the world, soccer riots are no laughing matter.

People die

Deaths from soccer riots happen around the globe. They have been recorded in Germany, England Greece, Spain, South Africa, Italy and Latin America. In 2001, a soccer riot in Ghana claimed the lives of 138 people. While it is in our human nature to have a visceral response and succumb to mob mentality the fact that any fan would be killed simply watching a soccer game is tragedy at its height. All sports should make players and fans more noble, and more a part of the tapestry of humanity. Loss of life at a soccer game shows how truly far we have fallen from our ability to connect with one another.

Politics enter

What distinguishes soccer from many other sports is its international acclaim. Soccer isn't a property of any one country, people, or race but is an international phenomenon, encompassing a diversity of people, ideas and landscapes. Because of the vast diversity of participants in the game, world politics often play an unfortunate part in soccer rioting. When countries become enemies or evoke different political positions the residents often let the soccer team play out their frustration. This creates an angry energy and misdirection from the good of the sport to the violence in the stands. A soccer riot at a game between Iran and Japan was said to be motivated by protesters fed up with Iran's gender rights violence. The erupting riot left three dead. In 2004 a soccer riot in Rome was planned to protest the government's spending in regard to education and sports. When the tension of the world around invades the field of sport, everybody loses.

Antisocial behavior

Unfortunately, soccer seems unable to separate itself from its reputation as a riotous adventure. This draws fans wanting to be part of the mob mentality and creates an atmosphere of antisocial and anti-authority behavior. The number one casualty of any soccer riot is generally the police or authorities who have come to maintain order in and around the stadium. Gangs of young people calling themselves "soccer hooligans" have purposely begun to infiltrate the world of soccer to spread their own brand of antiauthoritarian violence.

The Olympian model of athletic competition put forth that when individuals and teams compete at the best of their ability all of society is a nurtured and inspired by their progress. Soccer rioting has the opposite effect on the sport as a whole and harms the common good.

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