Friday, 9 December 2016

Character building through the noble sport of hooliganism

Sport, as we have all known since Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, is a great builder of character: teamwork, loyalty, persistence in the face of adversity, leadership, strength, endurance - the list of positive character traits it encourages is endless.

By "sport", I don't mean watching sport. I mean participating. Throwing oneself into the action, shoulder to shoulder with one's teammates, winning or losing - taking the knocks - together.

Sports come with a social structure to them too. Not just socialising at the 19th hole or the cricket tea, valuable though these occasions are, but a whole social world. Clubs (is there a more British word than club?), youth programmes, A teams and B teams, managers, coaches, veterans, clubhouses, fixture lists, hon secs and so on. How many people spend valuable hours of their lives not just playing sport, but encouraging the next generation or simply doing the admin? All of that, too, builds character.

And don't forget that all of amateur sport is done because of, for want of a better word, love. When someone turns up on a Saturday morning to teach rugby to children, or spends her evenings arranging next season's match fixtures, or shouts themselves hoarse urging the team to one final effort - what's it all for? Glory, honour, self-respect, self-sacrifice, duty - in a word, love.

You knew all this already. But perhaps you didn't know that football hooliganism is a character building sport in its own right too. "That decade as a hooligan allowed me to grow into somebody that I wouldn't want to change for anything – it made me a better person," someone says here. It's possible, isn't it?

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