Among the Thugs

Among the Thugs

3.9 15
by Bill Buford

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They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. Now Bill Buford


They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. Now Bill Buford, editor of the prestigious journal Granta, enters this alternate society and records both its savageries and its sinister allure with the social imagination of a George Orwell and the raw personal engagement of a Hunter Thompson.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The American-born editor of the British literary magazine Granta presents a horrifying, searing account of the young British men who turn soccer matches at home and abroad into battlegrounds and slaughterhouses. Buford, resident in England for the last 15 years, set out to get acquainted with these football supporters--as their fellow Britons call them in more measured moments--to learn what motivates their behavior. He discovered a group of violent, furiously nationalistic, xenophobic and racist young men, many employed in high-paying blue-collar jobs, who actively enjoy destroying property and hurting people, finding ``absolute completeness'' in the havoc they wreak. He also discerned strong elements of latent homosexuality in this destructive male bonding. Following his subjects from local matches to contests in Italy, Germany and Sardinia, Buford shows that they are the same wherever they go: pillaging soldiers fighting a self-created war. ( June )
Library Journal
Buford, a native of the United States, is the editor of the London-based literary magazine Granta . In 1982 he witnessed the takeover of a train, a football special, by English soccer thugs. He reveals how fascination for this distinctly English phenomenon of ``soccer hooliganism'' led him to follow a group of violent supporters of the Manchester United Red Devils. Buford is accepted into the group and in time seems to develop a sixth sense about impending violence or when things, in English parlance, are ``going to go off.'' Particularly riveting is his account of the aftermath of a match in Turin, Italy, where 200 or so Manchester supporters marched through the ancient streets leaving fire and destruction in their wake. Buford's original theories on football violence, fraught with notions about disenfranchised youth and the frustration of the working class, are forever dashed. He concludes that the English working class is dead, and what remains is a culture so vapid that `` . . . it pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that is has smell.'' Public and academic libraries should have this.-- Mark Annichiarico, ``Library Journal''
Kirkus Reviews
A horrific and almost unbearably up-close look at British football (soccer) fan violence; by the editor of Granta. There's very little football here as Buford follows the "supporters" on their Saturday jaunts from 1982-90. During these years, British football fans and their loosely organized "firms"—with their bizarre ties to white-power groups, skinheads, and the National Front—were involved in scores of deaths, countless riots and skirmishes with police and rival supporters, and untold damage to property in England and across the continent. The violence is merely highlighted by the dozens dead at Heysel Stadium in Brussels in 1985, and by the 1989 FA Cup semifinals, in which 95 fans were crushed to death in a misguided attempt at crowd control. It is that "precise moment in its complete sensual intensity" when the crowd goes over the edge and erupts into heedless violence that captures Buford's attention as he attempts to understand such ferocious behavior. He witnesses—and gets swept up in—crowd scenes so ugly and alien that the individuals he comes to know—Daft Donald, DJ, Mick, Berlin Red—seem utterly beside the point. (Buford observed one supporter head-butt a policeman, then suck out and bite off the cop's eyeball). He finds that "violence is their antisocial kick, their mind-altering experience," and notes that " the way animals behave...." Following his own brutal beating at the hands of Sardinian riot police, a despairing Buford concludes that, in a society that offers little to look forward to or to believe in except "a bloated code of maleness, an exaggerated, embarrassing patriotism, a violent nationalism, an array of bankrupt socialhabits," youth, out of boredom, frustration, and anger, will use violence "to wake itself up." An extraordinary and powerful cautionary cry.

From the Publisher
“A grotesque, horrifying, repellent and gorgeous book; A Clockwork Orange come to life.” —John Gregory Dunne 

"An important, perhaps prophetic, book ... both exciting and sad at the core.... [Buford is] a superbly talented reporter." —The New York Times Book Review

"Brilliant ... one of the most unnerving books you will ever read." —Newsweek

Like Michael Herr or Ryszard Kapuscinski, Buford has witnessed events which can only be compared in intensity to those of a war ... an unflinching look into the festering soul of England ... a fuckin' great read." —David Byrne

Animated, witty, and so pungent you can taste the stale lager." —Washington Post Book World

Product Details

Random House of Canada, Limited
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Among the Thugs 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
mtablue345 More than 1 year ago
A dated book, back when the Brits ran the streets with fists and beers, but still a good look at that time. The cover is a little depressing, and the lives of the thugs are depressing as well, but that's what the book is about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome. More about the human spirit than soccer.
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Jon_B More than 1 year ago
Compelling if disturbing read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Buford's look into the seedy underworld of that segment of England's football supporters' spotty past, is well worth a read. Humorous at times, shocking at others, Buford finds a thread that doesn't unravel the mystery of the violence witnessed in soccer stadiums across England, but chronicles his movements as a mostly welcomed outsider, allowed to travel with the true thugs he attempts to understand. While his journey is entertaining, it is disturbing to the same degree. Why does he spend so much time with the hooligans? He is not an anthropologist, but merely a writer who is interested in the behavior of people in mob situations and attempts to make some sense of it. In the end, he does not come to an explanatory conclusion that satisfies the depth of his interest in the mob, and thankfully the story ends just as he runs out of energy for telling it. Unfortunately, we are left with the unanswered question of why soccer hooligans looted stores, vandalized cars, started fights with opposing team supporters and a host of other things. Could they get their motivation from the same source that prompts hockey spectators to beat on the plexiglass wall separating them from the players when a puck is trapped in the corner, or that allows fathers at their kids baseball games to fight other kid's fathers over a missed call, or that causes much of America to watch any one of the proliferation of 'real' police-in-action or Jerry Springer-type telvision shows? Buford's look into that world gives us cause for reflection and introspection. What causes a normal, happy blue collar worker with a family to behave much like a criminal simply because of his attendance at a football match on a Sunday? Perhaps if you read the Buford's book, you'll come closer to that answer which is one worth asking. Hold on tight though, because it will take you for a ride.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend of mine at work recommended this to me. My eyes got wide and I swiped it from his hand with a big grin on my face. This is one of those extremely cool (I should start using a thesaurus to improve my vocabulary but hey I'm a Hooligan) cultural studies/sociology books that are actually about something interesting. Bill Buford moved to the UK in '77 (or so he says) and had never been to a football match and became obsessed with these Football Hooligans storming around and causing trouble almost everywhere they went. SO he decides to get to know some of these goons, hooligans, 'terrace terrors' and thugs and write a book about them. The end result is pretty damn satisfying. Yeah there are some points where he starts in on 'blah, blah, society, blah, blah...' but those are few and far between and not that dull. For the most part he sticks to the good stuff: drinkin', fightin', swearin', and just being a Hooligan Youth! I'd give this book two thumbs up but I've got beer in both hands. Cheers, Joshua.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bill Buford, a naive American adrift in England, tackles a very dicey subject: Mob violence by English football fans. He starts out innocently enough, trying to find the allure, cause, nature, basis, and form of England's notorious football hooligans, but soon has difficulty separating himself from his subject matter. As he relates his journey into the world of the yobs, we get a vivid picture of the people and the events, but no real glimpse into what is behind the football mob violence -- even after Buford spends most of the second half of the book trying to work it out. The only real insight were provided is that the mob becomes greater than the sum of its parts, and that there is a line where a person within the mob ceases to be an individual, and becomes a compnent of a greater organism. However, questions such as why sporting crowds in the US, Canada, or other countries never reach the level of violence or mob mentality as seen in England are never addressed, nor are questions of why this sort of violent behavior seems to be limited to a very large degree to football (soccer) crowds. Of course, that subject is beyond the scope of any one book. Still, the snapshot into the seedy world of NF members, jingoistic supporters, drunks and felons provided by Buford is entertaining, in a voyeuristic sort of way. Besides, unless you are intimately familiar with crowds at English, or any European, football matches, Buford's book is best if taken as a sort of superficial sociological travelogue, offering a glimpse into a strange land, complete with foreign customs, traditions, uniforms and etiquette. Reading 'Thugs' won't provide too much enlightentment on sports violence or the psychology of mobs, but it will entertain. And with the coming Euro2000 tournament, reading this may prove timely, as well.