Interpretations of the Port Said Riot

"That's the money shot!" roars the shirt sponsoring executive.

I’ve just bashed together a quick few incomplete thoughts on the way people are reacting to the Port Said riot after Al Masri beat Al Ahly. I assume you all already know the basics. My wotsits:
  • A lot of people have been waiting a long time for this grizzly spectacle – a major football event with very clear power and (seemingly obvious) political dimensions. This is what people wish Hillsborough had been.
  • I half expect Ian Taylor to burst out of his grave. Spare a thought for him, he spent a lot of time in the early 70s trying to interpret British football hooliganism in terms of class consciousness. He had one example to go on. One event, when some fans (my memory is fuzzy but possibly Sunderland?) remonstrated with the board.
  • Whilst football hooligan and/or Ultra culture outside of Britain does tend to be more ‘political’, I must point out that in every case I’ve seen political ideology is very secondary to the group identity of supporting a club. Politics is used as an extension and/or defence  of the collective sense of masculinity. I recall a lot of people I know were mightily impressed by the chanting of PAOK fans on the day of last year’s pensions strike. In a dreamy eyed utopian way they saw some sort of revolutionary potential in them. Which, yes there is in all football fandoms – but only if their group identity is challenged by, for example, austerity measures. Why were PAOK fans in London? To play a UEFA Europa Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur, a massive English club with institutional contempt for the riot-strewn neighbourhood kids that can’t afford to see the games played in the stadium they’ve grown up in the shadow of. It is revolutionary aesthetics at best.
  • And lest we forget that whilst our kneejerk utopian reactions may scour for crumbs of Hope Lies In The Firms what possibly seems to have happened in Port Said is that fandom, by chance or design, was harnessed to carry out counterrevolutionary dirty work. And, of course, more profoundly, many are dead.
  • This piece in the Guardian is definitely worth a read. The comparison between Al Masri and Millwall’s “no-one likes us” fan cultures is (a) interesting, (b) predictable, (c) probably quite extreme, and (d) shaped not unlike a convenient coat peg.


Filed under Death, Millwall, Politics

2 responses to “Interpretations of the Port Said Riot

  1. I notice the media highlighted this as a “massacre” and a “slaughter” in which 74 people died. I notice Hillsborough was branded a “disaster” by the media. There seems to be some outright criticisms being fired off by the media which, had this incident happened in this country, would have taken years to surface.

    • That is at least partly because Hillsborough was closer to a disaster than a massacre. There are political elements to Hillsborough: a contempt for the new developing underclass, an elite annoyance that football wasn’t making as much money as it could, police ineptitude. But it wasn’t an outright slaughter as Port Said maybe was. Nor was Hillsborough part of a wider revolutionary context.

      I think a lot of what is ‘common sense’ knowledge of Hillsborough is actually a folk history dominated by Liverpool’s fan culture, where romantic concepts like “justice” and “the death of the working class” are used very simplistically to strengthen their group identity. It’s fun for them, but hampers an attempt to understand it objectively.

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