A British reformed football hooligan (i.e., soccer thug) issues a j’accuse and mea culpa regarding a blight on his country’s—indeed the world’s—top sport, as well as a warning that this brand of anarchy is imminent in the Beckham-era United States.
In his U.S. debut, Brimson, author of 12 soccer-related titles and screenwriter for the 2005 film Hooligans, begins and ends with an unconvincing red alert to America that the rising popularity of this mostly disregarded sport could lead to the kind of brutality and bloodshed that has marred the game in England for decades. But the author’s own stated reasons this might not be—(1) the vastness of the country is unaccommodating to local rivalries; and (2) there is no history of hooligan culture to build on—are sufficiently valid for extinguishing his earnest foreboding. In between, though, he offers a captivating history of the outrageous behavior of British fans, many of whom gleefully carry on the tradition. Brimson portrays hooliganism—practiced not just by disaffected young toughs, but by doctors, lawyers, even company directors—as an obsessive jones: “So addictive does this rush become that it is very difficult to pull back. I’ve fought in two wars, flown in fighter jets, raced cars . . . but [this] is without doubt the most incredibly exciting and enjoyable thing I have ever known.” He spares himself no guilt in his involvement in the fist-fighting, “missile”-throwing and police beatings. Anecdote after anecdote recount maulings and even killings perpetrated by proud, unrepentant fans the author admonishes, some of whom, he says, denounce him for his breaking of omertà. An extensive glossary of Briticisms—bollocks, pitch, geezers—and football essentials—Lacoste, Adidas, Burberry—is both helpful and amusing.
Too brief, but chockablock with riveting, shocking tales of madness that cut to the heart of a passion unthinkable in the United States but very real—and very frightening—elsewhere.