Sergey Alekseev
Russian Federation

Sergey Alekseev

The history of football fans from Antiquity to the present day (brief review)

The history of football fans from Antiquity to the present day (brief review)
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Organized associations of football fans, groupings, or "firms", as they call themselves, are often invisible in the life of modern society. For an ordinary person the collective image of a football fan is a dense mixture of a socially dangerous alcoholic, bandit, hooligan, drug addict, ready, like a berserker, to destroy everything in his path in a fit of uncontrolled madness. Any person in a club scarf subconsciously causes concern among others.

Meanwhile, this collective archetype of urban folklore has nothing in common with real football fans. On the contrary, such a description for real fans is offensive. And they even treat such people with contempt.

The invisibility of "firms" in public life follows from their very nature. These are rigidly organized structures with a rigid chain of command. Those who are capable sometimes even unite with their irreconcilable rivals for the sake of global actions.

The emergence of fan groups and associations in the UK, then in Europe and later around the world, the growth of their popularity among young people occurred at the beginning of the sixties of the XX century. The post-war generation was actively looking for its place in public life and the association of football club fans with the formation of an appropriate subculture became one of the brightest forms of self-expression, mainly for marginalized youth of the lower and partially middle classes.

Great Britain became the birthplace of this phenomenon for objective reasons — in this country football in its modern form appeared and here, due to historical premises, it is one of the national sports along with cricket and rugby. Of particular interest is the question why among fans of rugby and cricket, support for their teams, "sickness", did not take hypertrophied forms of fanaticism. The answer is too broad. In short, we can say that cricket matches take a long time (sometimes two days), and rugby, unlike football, was divided from the very beginning into several subspecies, with its own varieties of game rules, and these contradictions did not allow creating a single form of sport in the UK itself. In this regard, organized support for teams during games, which is one of the basic components of the meaning of a fan's life, seems difficult.

For its part, the first unified rules of football, the "Cambridge Rules", were adopted in England in 1846, and in 1862, John Charles Thring, published in The Field a revised set of rules called "The Simplest Game". The first official rules were approved by the Football Association of England on 23 October 1863. And since then, football has been the "Number One Sport" in the world, the simplest game which is played by everyone all over the world, regardless of race, social and gender.

However, the need for socialization, the universality of the game and its wide distribution seem to be clearly insufficient for the emergence of fan groups. The determining factors are the historical moment, the economic situation, the age and social composition of the first British firms.

In the spring of 1945, Churchill summed up Britain's situation in two words: "Triumph and tragedy."

The army of Great Britain during the years of World War II lost 303,240 people killed and missing. Most of the dead were members of the lower class. And their children, brought up by their mothers, subconsciously searched for their fathers, putting older friends, "street authorities" in their place.

The economy of the UK, like the whole of Europe, was in a deep crisis. Taxes rose, military spending increased due to the start of the Cold War, wages lagged behind rising prices. Appropriations for social programs were reduced. In the colonies, the national liberation movement was gaining strength. Great Britain was forced to recognize the independence of India, Burma, Ceylon. In other colonies, the struggle for independence was suppressed by force. Neither the Conservatives nor the Labor Party could fully solve the social problems facing the United Kingdom. Therefore, one of the few entertainments available to working youth, like several hundred years before, was football.
Here it is worth remembering that this has already happened in the history of Western civilization. We are talking about the "Parties of the hippodrome" in ancient Rome and Byzantium. These are the first mass associations of sports (and chariot racing is undoubtedly a sport) fans who played an important and often decisive role in the life of the state.

Chariot racing was part of the program of the Olympic Games in Greece and anyone could take part in them. However, such people could be only those who could afford to buy horses and a chariot and had free time for training, since chariot racing at that time was a deadly activity. Therefore, noble people and even kings either competed themselves or hired professional riders.

The Romans, after the conquest of Greece, began to hold chariot races at home. The main difference was the existence of special people, domini factorium, who did services for the organizers of numerous games in hiring racers and selecting sports equipment — horses, chariots and other things. Their work was paid, so we can safely say that chariot racing in ancient Rome was a professional sport.

An important moment in the formation of the Hippodrome Parties was the reign of Nero from October 13, 54 to June 9, 64. He regularly held all kinds of games and performances and spent fortunes on them. As a result, domini had already been hiring teams for extended periods of time, which was costly. The small mercenaries went bankrupt, and amalgamation took place — in the end, only four "enterprises" remained: red, white (they were the first), blue and green. In addition, Nero regularly distributed money, clothes and food to the inhabitants of Rome, who had not complained before about regular gifts from previous emperors, officials and applicants for public office. In this regard, the lower class became marginalized, demanding from the state only bread and circuses, which were regularly given to them in exchange for votes in elections and loyalty. Chariot racing was especially popular and groups of fans of the four largest racing clubs began to form in a marginal environment, although the first mention of them dates back to 70 AD.

The parties of the hippodrome of Byzantium differed from the Roman ones in that they became real not only associations of fans, but also political, military and religious organizations, parties of the people. This was shown by the outstanding Russian Byzantinist Fyodor Uspensky in his 1894 work “The parties of the circus and dima in Constantinople”. His theory was developed by the Serbo-Croatian scientist Manojlovic, who proved that the factions were real people's parties and that the color differences were based on class differences — the parties were connected with the territorial (by quarters) and property division of Byzantine society. The "blue" party was associated with the upper classes — the landowning aristocracy, the "green" — with merchants, industrialists. There were also differences in religious preferences.

And finally, the Russian Byzantine historian Alexandra Chekalova in her 1997 monograph “Constantinople in the 6th century. Nika Rebellion" indicated that according to epigraphic data, many social or craft groups (tanners, gardeners, jewelers, youth, Jews and even old Jews) sat in the stands together and adhered to the same faction.

The support of at least one of the parties was necessary for those who claimed the imperial throne.

There were also their own "militants" — stasiots (literally — rebels) in dimah. Clashes between parties have always ended in human casualties, and the most famous is the Rebellion of Nick (Win!) in 532. The result of the uprising was almost forty thousand dead and the destruction of Constantinople.

Fortunately, in our time, such victims, as in the Rebellion of Nick, have so far been avoided. Although the “football war” is also known in modern history — a fleeting military conflict between El Salvador and Honduras that lasted six days.

As my own hypothesis, we can add that there is another factor that may influence the emergence of fan firms, which is currently almost unexplored and requires reflection. In post-war Great Britain, there was a significant strengthening of the role of state monopoly capital. Exactly the same process we are seeing recently in many countries where fan groups are becoming active participants in political life. Whether this state of affairs in the national economy is one of the prerequisites for the emergence of football firms due to the marginalization of the impoverishment of the lower class is a debatable question.

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