What is a summary of Among the Thugs by Bill Buford?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

American journalist Bill Buford, while living in the UK, became fascinated by football hooliganism and spent eight years getting acquainted with Manchester United football fans, going to games, and observing riots, all of which resulted in his book titled Among the Thugs: The Experience, and the Seduction, of Crowd Violence.

Football fans will often form bonds so strong that they resemble the bonds and ethics held by criminal gangs; the British call these kinds of gangs football firms because firms is the British slang term for gang. The term football hooliganism refers to the violence displayed by such football firms, including vandalism, riots, and sometimes even deaths.

During his research, Buford spent most of his time with a firm of fans of Manchester United who call themselves the Inter-City Jibbers. He traveled with the firm to Italy for the 1990 World Cup match held in Sardinia, where he witnessed the firm incite a mob riot that turned the city into chaos. Two hours before kickoff, 1,000 English football fans started throwing rocks at Italian police barricading the Sant'Elia Stadium. Police responded with tear gas, chasing hooligans and rounding up 500 to take into custody.

Buford's book presents the thesis that football hooligans are really just your average working-class citizens who use extreme violence as an outlet because they are bored and do not have other strong social ties.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bill Buford, an American magazine editor, became obsessed with the "football hooliganism" he witnessed on a train from Wales in the United Kingdom. He spent several years trying to understand the genesis of the violence carried out by male soccer fans in that country. In the process, he tried to dissect the elements of dangerous crowd behavior. While researching his book, he befriended soccer hooligans and even participated in drunken riots himself. His experiences culminated with his attendance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, during which he was thrashed by the police.

After trying to figure out the source of the violence he witnessed, Buford concluded that football hooliganism was the outgrowth of the young male tendency toward antisocial behavior, which consists of drug addiction or drinking in other forms. He believed that this behavior was in fact addictive and that it offered the same types of release as mind-altering substances. He also saw the violence as "an outlet for frustrations of a powerful nature" (page 15) and traced the violence to a class protest over diminishing economic opportunities for the working class in the U.K.

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