It’s a custom that has survived a change in generations, a change in method. The temper round most England video games, on overseas soil, is not one among full-fledged hooliganism. It’s, if something, extra akin to a very raucous bachelor celebration. There may be a whole lot of consuming. There are medication: One favored chant, courting to at the very least Euro 2016, is an ode to cocaine. There may be, extra typically than might be required at a sporting occasion, nudity.
It will take a brighter thoughts than mine to parse why that could be. Maybe it’s no thriller: perhaps that’s simply how folks, typically, reduce free. Maybe it’s how younger English males expertise overseas international locations: It’s what you do once you see the Mediterranean solar. The issue there, in fact, is that these issues don’t happen with followers of Scotland or Wales or Northern Eire, although they go on the identical kinds of holidays to the identical kinds of locations.
So, maybe, it’s one thing to do with England: not the nation, however the soccer workforce. There are some who’re sufficiently old to have been in Marseille in 1998 and Charleroi in 2000, the ultimate throes of the outdated hooliganism, and who would possibly nonetheless yearn for somewhat topless wander down a reminiscence lane that has a water cannon parked at one finish.
However there are lots of extra who may have seen the movies and watched the footage and inferred that that is what it’s to be an England fan, that that is the way you earn your stripes and assist your nation, and have change into, in impact, cosplay hooligans. England is an opportunity to say area and go somewhat wild; that’s their function, their patriotic obligation. That’s what it’s to be England.
The query, in hindsight, is an easy one: What, precisely, did the police suppose was going to occur? Followers had been arriving on the Wembley Park underground station all day, gathering in ever better numbers within the shadow of the stadium. A few of them — 60,000 or so — had tickets. Twice that quantity, 3 times probably, didn’t.