The Blog

The Hashtag Football Hooligans of Euro 2016

I just wanted to impress my new French friends

I like kick-offs. In football stadiums. Where they belong.

It's the unofficial ones where people kick off with each other, that aren't my favourite.

We won't get sent home.

Euro 2016 is on right now. An event that, traditionally, people turn to the back of newspapers to read about.

Not this week though.

It just seems like an extreme reaction to disqualify us, can't see it happening.

This week, football hasn't dominated the headlines. Neither have footballers.

We have worked very hard to get here, and desperately want to stay.

Most of us are not famous. But, thanks to social media, everyone gets to have a platform.

Not only that, us non-famous folk get to have the illusion of direct contact with celebrities. We can tweet them, even if we are ignored, they might have still seen it.

We get to take selfies with them, if we hang about the right places long enough.

For a little while, just a moment, we get to feel not quite so invisible.

Please don't travel if you don't have a ticket to a game.

It must be so hard to be young these days. to have constant snapshots into lives that are far more glamorous than our own.

To watch from the sidelines as the famous folk get to live, whilst everyone else is relegated to spectator.

People do all sorts of things to feel less invisible. For validation from others.

It used to be that it was alcohol that impaired our judgement. But young people don't even drink as much as we did, back in the day.

Because it doesn't look good. And appearance is everything, nowadays.

Today, young people haven't gone to the Euro's to gain a new life experience. They've gone to take a photograph of themselves there, to gain "likes".

We have a generation more concerned with how an event looks, from the outside, than how a moment feels, when submerged in it.

And how do we know this? Because they are leaving these experiences still feeling empty. Still not feeling good enough.

Stay safe, be sensible. Please.

Football does not have a cameo role at Euro 2016. It is the main event. It needs no recording for posterity.

But when we are so used to nothing touching us, because we have trained ourselves into thinking that other people's posed snapshots are more real than actual life is? Then we become immune to authentic moments.

We miss feeling connection. And then we feel even more empty.

And, to overcome this emptiness, we get drunk with new friends. We do things we would not ordinarily do, in a bid to impress them.

Even if that thing is throwing glass bottles ar French police officers.

The thing is, it can't be stopped.

This cycle of drinking like alcohol is a toy. Rioting like violence is a game.

Not overnight.

Because these young people are going to wake up still feeling invisible. Still feeling like the only time their footballing heroes looked twice at them, was to beg them to behave.

But mainly? Because UEFA expelling England doesn't feel true to them, because nothing feels true.

Nothing feels real.

Not bad behaviour leading to arrests.

Not taking on professional football hooligans and ending up badly injured.

Not actions having consequences.

Footballers will continue to go on camera, imploring these impressionable souls to stop.

Bewildered parents will continue to wring their hands and tell journalists they can't understand how their son's ended up in this mess.

We will continue to see evidence of these hashtag football hooligans, until someone actually starts looking at them, in a way that validates them more than their social networking accounts do.

The sad irony is that footballers aren't primarily celebrities with social media accounts. And I don't think that even occurred to me, not until I started interviewing them for a living.

They are athletes.

And these very young men do know what it is to be consumed by something. Obsessed with a goal bigger than themselves, or the way they appear to others.

A goal that is about to be taken away from them, by blokes there own age who just want to feel noticed.

Who, for once, just want to be visible too.

Popular in the Community