There have been countless articles and academic papers written on the subject. Just Google "soccer violence" for a small glimpse into the problem. The question "What is it about soccer particularly that inspires this kind of violence?" is a fascinating question. The answer is not to so clear.
As the World Cup craziness commenced this month and the first trampling incident occurred, I started to think on it a bit more. I do like soccer but do not have a passion for it. I have no reason to unjustifiably attack it nor do I have a motivation to come to its fervent defense. I find the violence bizarre and have found what I think are some answers that at least touch on the subject.
It is interesting to note that the United States soccer community is not plagued with the violence of other nations. Although it does happen, the primary incidents of US soccer violence seem to have occurred among members of ethnic clubs within the US. So what is it about the international environment that breeds this violence? Does it have to do with the fact that soccer simply isn't as popular in America?
The bulk of soccer violence in the international community has been a result of a fierce club and nationalistic pride. Reading about it reminds me of the blind and furious passion of gang members who give their lives and souls to their singular devotion. That devotion is without a moral code but is guided by a set of laws (recorded or unrecorded) centered on pride of identity. They are willing to do anything to advance their their club pride, their national pride, their politics and their race (yes, it seems that all these elements can sometimes be inseparable with soccer hooligans) and to reduce and eliminate the strength of their opponents.
These violent fans eat, sleep and breath soccer. Literally. They live in post-Christian Europe and other countries where people are starving for a life purpose. In America, we love baseball but we do not kill for it. And I think it would be hard to find even the most die hard fan willing to die for it. Not so for certain soccer fans.
There is a state of soul that is so vacant of purpose, so blind to the beauty of creation, so hardened to the gift of life, so senseless to the presence of a majestic God, that it will give itself over completely to any inane human purpose. To me, giving oneself over in that way to a sport seems literally insane and incredibly grievous. However, it can be the only reasonable explanation for the chronic violence that plagues this particular sport. It is the sport of many nations. It becomes the focus of time and energy and passion that has no other significant outlet.
When we allow faith to die, something must become our god. Our passions are placed first.
I was forwarded the following commercial clip today and it dramatically illustrates my thoughts. The viewer is first tempted to think of the thing as a joke. An advertisement done in poor taste. Unfortunately, the thing is true. There are those in the world who give sport that which is intended for God alone. With the absence of a greater purpose and outlet for their passions, they will certainly sacrifice life (their own and others) in service of that passion. Even if a person does not go to the lengths of setting up a physical church and rite to worship a game, the place it takes in his or her heart is ultimately what drives action. This commercial simply puts a visual to an internal reality that exists for an unfortunately large number.
In addition to being incredibly objectionable to faithful Catholics, this commercial is just focusing the lens on the ridiculous. It's disappointing, to say the least, that Hyundai chose to showcase these people and their "faith" in the game of soccer.