The greatest force for social change in modern times may well be the pasty, drunk, bellicose, and overwhelmingly male fans of soccer, referred to dismissively by some and affectionately by others as “football hooligans.”
The last few weeks have seen the beginning of the delayed EUFA Euro 2020 tournament. For the uninitiated, Euro 2020 is a continent-spanning contest that pits European and Europe-adjacent nations against one another in slow-paced, pass-heavy soccer matches. Similar to the World Cup, countries must qualify for entry, making even a short-lived appearance in the tournament remarkable.
Unfortunately for these hooligans and their collaborative merry-making, much of Europe has maintained COVID-19 protocols, resulting in drastically reduced capacities at many of the stadiums. Fans are scattered throughout the seats, and the air of excitement and expectation is lacking. However, just as they do with physical stadium barriers, the hooligans have been dismantling obstacles to supporting their side in person.
Before the tournament even began, assurances were made that all host cities would permit at minimum 10 percent capacity. While this might not seem like much to us in the U.S., many European countries have maintained highly restrictive rules for public assemblies.
On June 10, Denmark announced a relaxation of masking regulations and an increase in the number of fans permitted to attend matches. What’s more, after pressure was exerted and a loophole established, Danes are allowed into the Netherlands to attend their match against Wales, all while technically not being on the permitted countries list. So long as the cheeky Danes are in and out of the country within twelve hours, they’ll be free to support their side in person.
The coup de grace for hooligans everywhere, however, was the announcement that the U.K. has agreed to allow tens of thousands of foreign fans to enter the country to watch the Euro 2020 finals in Wembley Stadium, with a minimum of 75 percent capacity. For a country that just two months ago was in almost complete lockdown, what else but the passion of the hooligans could force such a quick about-face? Sometimes all that is necessary for change are your lads, a pint, and a barrel full of pluck.