Brits Abroad

You’ve got to love the British press:

England fan fighting for his life and dozens more injured as English fans and Russian thugs clash at Euro 2016 in Marseille

The English were fans.  The Russians were thugs.  Presumably no Englishman in Marseille last night displayed thuggish behaviour, and no Russian showed the slightest interest in football.

Aye, they look like a bunch out to enjoy the beautiful game.

There’s another word the British press and authorities like to use in such situations:

Sir Julian King, Britain’s ambassador to France tweeted that several Britons were being kept in hospital overnight.

If ever a British citizen is in some sort of strife abroad, the immediate assumption is he is wholly innocent and the hapless victim of overseas thuggery, an incompetent and heavy-handed local police force, or a corrupt foreign justice system, in which case it is necessary for the British press to thereafter refer to him as a “Briton”. (The best example of this is in the reporting and government statements relating to the conviction of Liverpool fan Michael Shields in Bulgaria in 2005.)

This reminds me of the summer of 2010 which I spent in Phuket, Thailand hanging out in expat bars all day (and all night, if I’m being truthful).   One of the regulars who used to come into my favourite bar was a dangerous-looking thug from Manchester, whose reputation for fighting, drug-dealing, treachery, and other unsavoury behaviour preceded him by a good three miles.  Typically he would come into the bar at 11am ready to start the day’s drinking and recount the story of what happened the night before, usually prompted by somebody asking why he was sporting some new injury or other.  His recollections always followed the same format:

“I was walking along the street near the boxing stadium minding my own business when a bunch of Belgians started kicking off…I punched one of them, but the others got behind me and I fell down and one of them kicked me in the head.”

“We were in a bar and some Germans started a fight with us…you know what the Germans are like…and we all ended up being thrown out when the police arrived.”

“I was riding my scooter down the road and I ran into a bunch of guys…Spanish or Greeks, I think…same thing…and one of them threw a bottle at me, so I picked up a brick and threw it at him, and it all kicked off.  The police came and I had to spend the night in the cells.”

I detected a pattern here.  Now he might have been telling the truth.  And I might be the Dalai Lama.  But what I never heard, in all my time in Phuket or indeed ever in my life, was a story told to me by non-Brit complaining of getting into a fight with another non-Brit.  For whatever reason, Frenchmen don’t seem to end up fighting Spaniards in beach resorts and Germans somehow manage to rub along all right with Italians on holiday without kicking the shit out of one another.  The common element in all the fighting in beach resorts across the world, particularly the Mediterranean, is the presence of young Brits.  Little surprise then that the only trouble seen thus far at the Euro 2016 tournament features the same demographic.

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15 thoughts on “Brits Abroad

  1. The Wallabies could do with recruiting a few Ultras for the next test.

    My favourite shot was the one of the Englishman tending to his fallen countryman in the middle of it all, his intact and full pint safely perched on the cobbles next to him.

  2. When I was a boy, before I gave up watching football for playing rugby, Scottish football grounds were safe unless Celtic or Rangers were playing. As far as I know English grounds were safe. Then, at the very end of the sixties and early seventies, English crowd violence began to be reported. I saw some, indeed experienced some, when I was at a match at the otherwise peaceful Easter Road (‘otherwise’ being subject to the Gers and Bhoys exception) where Leeds turned up for a European tie. Who were these vile buggers? That was probably the last football game I attended, and I have no plan ever to attend another.

    Meantime I have attended entirely peaceful rugby games at Murrayfield and in the Borders, at Cambridge and Twickenham, in Vancouver and Brisbane, and peaceful Rules football in Adelaide. Rugby League has a reputation for decent behaviour, but I admit to having no experience of it except on the telly.

    Soccer supporters are disproportionately shitty. Maybe the problem is that much of each game is pretty boring (which is why it lends it self so well to highlights shows on the telly). But I suspect that the shittiness is nothing to do with the game itself. I suppose sociologists and criminologists could explain the phenomenon to us if only they weren’t so pathetically useless.

  3. “otherwise peaceful Easter Road”

    Would you believe that I got a touch up at Easter Rd when I was a lad, it was a Wednesday night game, one of those occasions when I foolishly said to my lot to stand and fight, they ran and left me on my own, I went down and got a kicking on the terraces. Nothing too serious thankfully. The Gorgie Rd boys were also a bit vicious in their heyday.

    There was a previous post on here where we thrashed out the reasons that hooliganism was more of less contained to soccer.

  4. I never saw any trouble at Easter Road between my first going there in ’64 and stopping after the Leeds game. I never saw any trouble at Tynecastle either, though I went there only a few times because the football was duller.

    Anyway, insofar as I have a point it’s this. Why was the sudden upsurge of violence largely an English rather than a Scottish matter? It’s very odd.

    I suppose there is a second point: the upsurge in violence was of course the fault of Thatcher. If you don’t believe me, read the Guardian.

  5. “Now he might have been telling the truth. And I might be the Dalai Lama”

    Well do you think it’s impossible that those looking for a fight might pick on a group of Brits – in the knowledge that everyone will mindlessly say “oh, it’s the British causing trouble again…”?

    I think it’s distinctly possible don’t you? Like you say, we don’t know, and there is certainly a culture of fighting associated with English football fans (not rugby, cricket, athletics. But to say it’s definitely all their fault is simplified, and gossip rather than looking for facts

    You’re being a lawyer, arguing the case for one side, rather than a scientist, looking for evidence.

  6. Rugby League players – Australian ones anyway – have a history of behaving abominably towards one another, towards women, and towards just about everyone really. Spectators are fine, though. Supporters of both teams sit together and make a lot of noise, but crowd violence is unheard of. If there are any crowd problems in Australian sport, they occur at cricket matches, probably because there is six or seven hours to get drunk. Bad behaviour then tends to be more drunken boorishness rather than thuggishness, though. This (along with lower ticket prices) may be one reason why Twenty20 games have become so successful as a family day out – they are shorter and the crowds are therefore better behaved.

    I often find myself explaining that the arrangement in English soccer where the supporters of the opposing sides are physically separated from each other to prevent violence just doesn’t happen in any Australian sport. English people are surprised by this – separating supporters just seems the natural order of things now.

  7. Well do you think it’s impossible that those looking for a fight might pick on a group of Brits – in the knowledge that everyone will mindlessly say “oh, it’s the British causing trouble again…”?

    I’d be more convinced by this theory if Brits weren’t kicking the shit out of each other on Saturday nights up and down the country.

  8. English people are surprised by this – separating supporters just seems the natural order of things now.

    Only English soccer fans, surely. The rugby fans (both codes) mix along perfectly well.

  9. I just looked up that old post about soccer hooligans and the different behavior by code fans, its here:

    http://www.desertsun.co.uk/blog/?p=1917

    I read it again and to me it kind of explains why the English fans may be losing the battle this time round. All the Top Men are banged up or restricted from practice, the current cohort of chavs have no management structure or leadership, plus there are no new leaders being developed, a talent vacuum so to speak. Whereas the Ultras, they now seem to possess the strategic advantage and surprise first strike initiative.

    “Like I said this is not the profile of a drunken chav, this is the profile of a well organised leader with strategic objectives and the wherewithal to carry their plans out in such a way that they continually out maneuvered police intelligence and opposing teams fans tactic’s.”

    Also as for tabloids it kind of touches on Henry’s point, tabloids talk it up as it sells. I found myself scouring through online pommy Red Tops at the weekend for a bit of juicy biff, that’s the first time I have done that since Frank Bough was photographed leaving a London brothel with a gimp mask on.

    “The tabloids in their efforts to sell, sensationalise violence, they also don’t show the Italian supporter initially throwing the projectile at the English fan, but they do show the tattooed, bare chested, union jacked, angry, anglo aggressively retaliating and throwing it back at them, this sells. The tabloid readership wont pay to see Italians behaving like hooligans, but they will pay to see English behaving like English, if you know what I mean.”

  10. Also as for tabloids it kind of touches on Henry’s point, tabloids talk it up as it sells.

    Yes, I’d agree with that.

  11. Good link, Bardon. The penny has dropped as to why English football crowds went to the dogs more obviously than Scottish. Most violent arseholes in Scotland would just join the troglodytes who supported Celtic or Rangers, leaving more civilised folk to support their local teams. This concentration of arse-holery probably reduced the policing problems to manageable proportions.

  12. By the by: “Brits Abroad”; the weekend has also been marked by an outburst of Afghans Abroad in Orlando, in something of the same spirit as Chechens Abroad in Boston a few years ago.

  13. Pingback: Streetwise Professor » Sometimes Hooligans are Just Hooligans

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