Football and Fighting.

British premier league football…that’s soccer to a bunch of you, was for years overshadowed by the actions of those proud to call themselves supporters but to everyone else were simply cruel and savage hooligans. I grew up with the violence when it was probably at it’s peak in the 70’s, Saturday night’s News at Ten was regularly dominated with footage of drunken, bloodied and angry fans who were proud of the mayhem they had caused and the injuries inflicted upon rival fans. These are my fighting men of Britannica who are passionate about their tribes and their heritage and fiercely loyal to their leaders. They are ever ready and prepared for battle, quick to anger and short on temper, so madly fond of war that they will run to battle with enthusiasm and little forethought. Just like the hooligans they can be easily inspired, roused or goaded into a battle fury by those who are seen as worthy, those with battle scars who have proven their worth.
The build up to the battles in Britannica are inspired by my memories from watching men such as these on Saturdays, when my dad would take me to Wolverhampton to watch the Wanderers or when I’d go into West Bromwich with friends to watch the Albion. So-called supporters would stumble from the pubs already chanting and singing, hurling foulmouthed insults at anyone stupid enough to be wearing another teams colors anywhere near them. They’d form their groups in the streets, drawn together by ritual and descend upon the football ground intent on seeing their team beat the opponent of the day but also determined to beat the crap out of anyone who got in their way. Fights would break out as individuals faced off and punches were thrown, sometimes it escalated, weapons of all shapes and forms would materialize and the police made sure those involved had wasted their money on tickets.
I remember the last time I went to a Division 1 game, I was 13 and with a friend who’s ambition was to go to the Stretford End. We secretly saved our pocket money, talked his brother into taking us and off we went on one very cold and rainy Saturday. Although we were very lucky, being drawn into a high spirited and good natured crowd, we were not shielded from the yobs completely and I was terrified from the time we arrived in Manchester wearing borrowed red and white scarves, to the minute I was safely back home in bed. That was the end of football for me, I’d seen first hand the violence and been in the midst of it…almost pissed myself when the man in front of me on the terrace pulled a long length of pipe from down his trousers and turned round to face me. I can still smell the beer on his breath as he screamed something intelligible in my face and then dropped his trousers to moon the opposing fans. He burst out laughing, playfully tightened my friends scarf for him before hiking his trousers back up and resuming his barrage of chanted insults and thankfully the pipe was not meant for either of us.
So I may never have been in a life or death battle but I think I have a pretty good idea of what it might have been like. I love my characters, my wild and sometimes foolhardy, fearless warriors who cannot hide their competitive spirit, their joy when they win or their despair when they loose. Men who see war as part of their life and look forward to it, who cherish the ritual of it…they are the ancestors of the hooligan.

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