Russia's Hooligan Army proved that we should be afraid when the 2018 World Cup kicks off – review
16 February 2017 • 10:00pm
At last summer’s Euros in France, England (population: a lot) stumbled and tripped towards defeat against Iceland (population: mainly cod). The national indignity was considerable. A similar act of giant-killing happened off the pitch on the pavements of Marseille. A couple of thousand England fans were given a fearful pasting by 200 Russian practically paramilitary hooligans, who smashed chairs over heads with tactical precision. Guess who’s hosting the World Cup next year? In anticipation of it all kicking off in Russia, Alex Stockley von Statzer bravely took it upon himself to find out who these souped-up thugs are and what they might have planned for our blobby sunburnt boys. (BBC Two) made for truly terrifying viewing.
What he found was a culture of renascent post-communist machismo which has kicked the vodka binges and derives identity from violence. “When we are being good no one remembers us,” explained one practitioner in a mask. They loved giving the English, the so-called forefathers of hooliganism, a seeing-to. It used to be an honour to fight them, suggested Vassily the Killer, a cheerful bear with a manly beard and Putin moobs. Now he had nothing but disdain for the softness of England’s hooligans who reflect western culture declining “deep into the garbage bin”. There seem to be no Queensberry rules. They high-mindedly draw the line at killing, but no one was asked if they know when it’s prudent to stop kicking a man’s head when he’s on the ground. A mixed martial arts expert with an American accent called Denis sounded like a dry civil servant as he fondly recalled Marseille. “If you can imagine a penalty kick, I shot a good penalty.”
The film found no evidence that this culture is state-sponsored. Quite the reverse, in fact. They have to go off to the forest to fight each other, in gimp masks and balaclavas, and the camera followed to watch young men auditioning to join a “firm”. It would be interesting to see a special edition of Gogglebox with English hooligans watching on the sofa. This is the country which is slackening the laws on domestic violence, so perhaps it’s not just our boys who should be very afraid.