Sports Thoughts from the Great White North
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           Yesterday was a great day for most of us North American sports fans, as we were treated to two fantastic football games, both with great stories and passion behind them. 

           Passion being the key word...with some fans in Green Bay still tail-gating even though -3C (F) temperatures were in danger of freezing their beer. Not only that, but images of scantly clad men/women dressed in their usual GB attire as if it were a normal Sept. game flashed throughout the broadcast.

           It got me thinking about fans and their passion, and that GB/NYG must have a passionate fan base if they were crazy enough to be at that game...

          After the game was over, I tuned into a local sports station for highlights before I headed to bed...and as if it were listening in on my thoughts at the moment, on came a popular documentary about the most passionate fans in sports...soccer Hooligans.

          The Documentary is called "The Real Football Factories - International" and is hosted by a fellow by the name of Danny Dyer. In the episode I caught last night, he travels with Brazilian Hooligan ‘firms', to and from games, documenting their stories along the way.

            Talk about passion...

 

            The term "Hooliganism" is loosely used to describe the inappropriate actions of gangs or "firms" of soccer fans, usually consisting of fights or other illegal activity. And to casual fans, when one looks at the word "Hooligan" you can't help but think of innocent fun - Tom Sawyer pops to my mind for example. Unfortunately, that is far from the case, with hooliganism far from being innocent or fun.

             What "hooliganism" really describes, is a culture of fans so obsessed about their sport and team, that they would do anything to show it - If that means rioting in the streets until dawn, so be it - If it means breaking limbs & getting trampled after a goal, so be it - Even if it means getting attacked and shot on your bus, after leaving an away game, so be it.

            These aren't exaggerations either; in last night's episode Dyer and his crew came under fire when traveling with a Brazilian firm out of Rio, with one of the members barely missing a bullet to the head. Later that year, another club supporter wouldn't be as lucky; they were attacked again leaving Rio and he was shot in the head, critically injuring him. He was a father of two, and a husband.

            One of the most chilling lines from the documentary was uttered by one of the lead supporters in the firm, as he was taking shelter from gun-fire on the bus. He said and I paraphrase:

"In England, the hooligans kick and punch...In Brazil, they shoot, shoot, shoot"

             While there is an abundance of soccer-violence in Brazil, it is not the only country guilty of ‘hooliganism' to the extreme. Italy, Turkey, Poland, and Russia all have long histories of violence in sports; with murders and bombings not an unusual occurrence.

            One must wonder though, if being a ‘hooligan' is so dangerous, then why do they do it? If they get shot at all the time, then why don't they take the club flags down off of their bus?  If I could answer these questions I would, but the only reasoning I can come up with is that it is engrained in their culture. The nature of the beast if you will; if you are going to be a soccer ‘fanatic' in those countries, then you better be prepared for some mayhem. It's like here, where if you plan on being a GB ‘fanatic' you better be prepared for some below zero ice-bowls.

            This previous week, we were bombarded with stories about passionate fans from all over the country, getting ready to brave the elements and cheer for their teams on Sunday. We even caught wind of a crazy father, who as a die-hard GB fan couldn't deal with the fact his son wasn't, so he duct-tapped a jersey to him. Some will brave snow, some will brave cold, and some will even skip work.

            If that's all we have to deal with as fans in North America, then I'd say we're pretty darn lucky. When you as a Giant fan can travel into Green Bay, and all you have to worry about is whether Seinfeld is on or not; or as a Charger fan, your main concern is the cross-country commute to Foxboro - then we all are quite well off.

            Meanwhile, in Brazil the "Hooligans" from the firm supporting Palmeiras are wondering whether or not they will make it out of Rio alive, and when they might see their children again.

 

‘The Real Football Factories - International' airs  Mondays at 10pm on Bravo, or Sundays at 9 & 10pm on TheScore(Canada) with host Danny Dyer.

           

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