If you’ve been watching the news over the last couple of days you’ll know that there’s been trouble in Marseilles, as England fans fought running battles with Russians, local supporters and the police.
Yesterday’s violence inside and around the stadium appears to have been caused by black shirted neds from the Moscow clubs, but in running into the square where white shirted EU sceptics had been holding court for days, telling everyone who’d listen that they’d taken over the city, the hooligans found willing participants for a right good rammy.
Sure, many of the wide-boys of yesteryear regretted it soon afterwards; after all, these are the “large donner kebab and a chicken pakora” sons of cities like Birmingham and Wolverhampton who perhaps thought holding court of a Saturday afternoon down in the Duck & Lion public house meant that they were hard.
As unbelievable as it sounds, Russian hooligans actually train for violence and most of them have the tools for it, as they’re all ex-national service lads. You’d do well to find a flabby gut amongst them. These guys weren’t the least bit intimidated by the “pride of the isle.”
In fact, they’ve been looking forward to meeting these folks for many years.
Nevertheless, whilst the white shirted louts were able to remain upright (a state of being that ended shortly after that first moment when an English fist met with an incoming face and said Englishman was shocked not to see fear in the others eyes but a steely kind of amusement) the Assorted Nutjobs of Bristol were game enough to stand their ground and give it a go.
The media has called this The English Disease; this arrogant booze fuelled lunacy best summed up on a TV documentary I saw where Darren Wells, a former member of Combat 18 and now a police informer, told the film-makers that it was all about being an “island race”, about how England once conquered the world, and how his kind of people wanted to make sure that when they visited a foreign city the people there remembered it for years afterwards.
One suspects he wasn’t talking about the way people in Seville remember Celtic fans.
What might not be as well know to some of you is that Northern Irish fans were also involved in violence over the weekend, fighting with Polish fans, police and locals in Nice. There’s no word to suggest that Welsh supporters were involved in similar with Slovakians or anyone else and I guess I don’t need to tell you that this never happens with Ireland fans and the notion that Scotland supporters would go abroad and riot is frankly ridiculous.
England has a peculiar problem, but as the behaviour of Ulster’s Finest proves it’s not one that is limited to them, and we don’t need to look too close to home to find another set of fans who have many of the same issues. Sevco supporters – and Rangers fans before them – have a similar disturbing tendency and without turning this into a sociology paper I’m going to take a stab at the reason why, and it’s relatively simple; it’s the Union Jack.
Now, England fans are rarely seen with it; they prefer the St George flag.
Northern Irish fans prefer their own take on the same, with their red hand in the middle.
Only a very few of them fly the old flag of blood and war, which some of us call the Butchers Apron.
But that’s part of the problem, you see, because the crazier elements amongst those two supports – and amongst the Sevco one – have their whole sense of nationality identity wrapped up in it.
Note that the Northern Irish and English fans sing God Save the Queen (as do those of Sevco of course) whereas Scottish and Welsh fans sing their own, entirely separate, national anthems.
Note, too, that the whole sense of rank nationalism which you get from the media down south during these tournaments is a peculiar muddle of Old English history and the collective one of this island.
The French are the enemy, because of wars that took place hundreds of years ago, but so too are the Germans and the Argentines, two countries Scottish fans have no animosity towards but who’s countrymen certainly killed more than a few of ours. Yet those wars – the Second World War and the Falklands War – were both fought under the Union flag.
England claims them as its own, and in the way in which they can’t stop talking about them and celebrating them – and I use that word deliberately; this is not commemoration, this is celebrating – they are welcome to them. It makes entire swathes of the population seem bloodthirsty at best, and it is one of the contributing factors in the distrust of foreigners and the casual racism that forms the core of the Leave campaign for the EU referendum.
There’s an unhealthy amount of this coursing through the British bloodstream and it has its dark heart in the West of Scotland, Ulster and in certain parts of England. It manifests itself in many ways, but foremost amongst them is the arrogance that led to drunken yobs in white tops swanning around a city in another country as if they owned the place.
Calling out ISIS, in France, following the two terrorist outrages which have happened there, was every bit as loathsome as the Nazi salutes Rangers fans once made in Tel Aviv, and they can prattle on about this “red hand salute” pish all they like, but even that excuse asks you to forgive the murder of Catholics instead of the murder of Jews, and I don’t really care what goes on in the mind of someone who makes such a distinction with a straight face.
Give these people their flag, give them a six pack of beer, turn them loose in any public setting and wait for the explosion. They always react true to type, and as we’ve seen in the press coverage over the last day or two, and as we saw following the Scottish Cup Final, there’s always somebody else to blame. So people rioted, attacked the police, fought with rival fans … but hey, they were provoked. Normal people don’t react that way to provocation though, but this appears to have slipped their tiny, infinitesimal minds, just as normal people aren’t moved to mouth foaming madness by the sight of an Irish flag or the Sign of the Cross.
We have a quaint little law here, of course, which criminalises behaviour that would “offend a reasonable person” but so many of these cretins simply don’t apply to that description and so much offends them these days that we may as will criminalise everything.
So this weekend, Marseilles joined the ranks of cities set upon by the Little Englanders. But what that really means is that it joined the ranks of cities which fell prey to a warped form of Britishness, and you don’t even have to go abroad to see it work. It was on full display, after all, in Manchester and all the excuse making with it.
Violence like this isn’t the “English disease” any more than paranoia is now the “Irish disease.” Because this is a British thing, a peculiar strand of Britishness, but actually that which is truest to the national nature.
Paranoia and the feeling that everybody hates them is one of its strongest and most obvious traits. Yet perhaps there are reasons why much of the civilised world can’t stand the sight of these people and it doesn’t matter whether there are tens of thousands of them, mob handed and tanked up, wrecking the town square or simply a handful of them in a Tenerife bar singing of how Britannia rules the waves; people automatically move the other way.
I am frankly sick of them, of the embarrassment and shame they bring to everyone on this island, of their sense of entitlement and their smug superiority.
I am sick of people making excuses for them, as if nothing done under the Butchers Flag was ever less than wholesome and pure; it didn’t get that name for nothing though.
Its adherents founded the slave trade. They brutalised all the known world. They subjugated countries beyond count, and only released their grip on those who offered the fiercest resistance and fought for their freedom. It flew over the first concentration camps and those who marched under it practically invented ethnic cleansing.
The outriders of the Empire were well and truly scudded yesterday, but the caravan of hate and loathing (most of it for the self) is already on the road and heading to the next French city, where easier pickings await. Welsh fans will share the town with them, and but for a handful of halfwits who follow Cardiff and who’s mentality is also of a peculiarly British kind – but who care not a whit for their own nation – I expect them to behave impeccably. Whilst most English fans will too, that section will be out in force, as ever, and ready to give it large.
Not satisfied with appropriating every war ever fought by the collective parts of these islands, these people simply can’t wait for the next one to present itself. As long it’s not lean, fit and wearing black. As long as it runs from the sight of a fat git in a Union Jack hat. As long as it can’t stand its ground under the Charge of the Shite Brigade.
For this is England. This is Britain.
It’s why I said Yes in one referendum and why I’ll vote Remain in another; because this bubble of poision has to be punctured once and for all.
If the EU as a whole had a vote in this one, I swear to God they’ve vote for us all to leave in an instant, just so they never had to listen to these whiny bigots ever again, and I cannot blame them for that at all.
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