A horrific and almost unbearably up-close look at British football (soccer) fan violence; by the editor of Granta. There's very little football here as Buford follows the ``supporters'' on their Saturday jaunts from 1982-90. During these years, British football fans and their loosely organized ``firms''- -with their bizarre ties to white-power groups, skinheads, and the National Front—were involved in scores of deaths, countless riots and skirmishes with police and rival supporters, and untold damage to property in England and across the continent. The violence is merely highlighted by the dozens dead at Heysel Stadium in Brussels in 1985, and by the 1989 FA Cup semifinals, in which 95 fans were crushed to death in a misguided attempt at crowd control. It is that ``precise moment in its complete sensual intensity'' when the crowd goes over the edge and erupts into heedless violence that captures Buford's attention as he attempts to understand such ferocious behavior. He witnesses—and gets swept up in—crowd scenes so ugly and alien that the individuals he comes to know— Daft Donald, DJ, Mick, Berlin Red—seem utterly beside the point. (Buford observed one supporter head-butt a policeman, then suck out and bite off the cop's eyeball). He finds that ``violence is their antisocial kick, their mind-altering experience,'' and notes that ``this...is the way animals behave....'' Following his own brutal beating at the hands of Sardinian riot police, a despairing Buford concludes that, in a society that offers little to look forward to or to believe in except ``a bloated code of maleness, an exaggerated, embarrassing patriotism, a violent nationalism, an array of bankrupt social habits,'' youth, out of boredom, frustration, and anger, will use violence ``to wake itself up.'' An extraordinary and powerful cautionary cry.
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