The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Friday, June 16, 2006


AMONG THE THUGS by Bill Buford was the perfect book to read just before watching the England-Trinidad and Tobago World Cup match. Buford's been getting a lot of press recently for his book about quitting his job and going to work in Mario Batali's kitchen, but he's a writer and editor of long standing--he was the founding editor of GRANTA and up until recently he was the fiction editor of the NEW YORKER. This might make him seem like he moves in rarified circles; that's certainly true, but these two books show a different side of his personality.

AMONG THE THUGS is about Buford's three-year-long involvement with English soccer hooligans, thugs organized into the brutal "firms" that follow club teams around England and Europe. They are absolutely horrifying people, brutal and violent and xenophobic and racist in the crudest ways. He joins up with the Manchester United firm and follows them to Turin for a match against Juventus that turns violent. He riots with Man U fans against West Ham thugs. He makes contact with National Front organizers who are seeking to build bridges with the "supporters."

It's definitely participatory journalism, similar to Thompson's great book on the Hell's Angels, and equally morally compromised. In the end, Buford accompanies a group of English fans to Cagliari, Sardinia in 1990 to see a World Cup match and ends up being beaten up very badly by Italian police and carabinieri who are responding to the English fans' rioting. The reader sympathizes entirely with the Italians--I wanted Buford to get beaten up.

A more depressing picture of English soccer supporters I can't imagine, so I was really pleased to watch yesterday's match--until England scored two late goals. Maybe things have changed--authorities have praised the English fans for good behavior, although there's got to be some real "defining deviancy down" here.


  • At 3:00 PM, Blogger anna said…

    buford's article on Italian butchery was so great- carrying a pig into his condo lobby, etc.

    on soccer: friend stopped me on the street and went off about how awful the Swedish team is. Also, the Italian cafes in the neighborhood have been swamped at 10am in the morning. The world cup is so funny.

  • At 8:18 PM, Blogger mantooth said…

    everyone in Pittsburgh is an England fan--at least everyone I see. There's tons of Italians and Croats here so they must have bars somewhere.

  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger anna said…

    oooh, US won. This means rioting in North Beach.


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