What is the reason people resort to the mindless acts of hooliganism and aggression we have seen in the media over the last few days?

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I have started writing this message several times, unsure if it was relevant or even appropriate for us to send. However I feel compelled to do so.

I was in Marseille last weekend for the England vs Russia game. Many of you would have witnessed the violent scenes unfolding in the media. Mindless hooliganism where many innocent fans were caught up in the mayhem. Stuck between thugs intent on hurting you and police with tear gas and water cannons can be a very scary place to be. The weekend has brought up a lot of buried feelings for me and I am taking this opportunity to share some of them with you.

The big question that I keep asking myself is what brings people to the point where they behave in this way? Being an avid football fan and having travelled around the world for games for over twenty years I am very lucky to say that I have not directly been impacted by violence up until last weekend. As we walked through Marseille’s Old Port it looked like a war zone, police in full riot gear armed with mortars to fire teargas canisters from- hardly the carnival we were expecting! Despite this, most fans were in good spirits and carried on singing and dancing and enjoying themselves.

So what makes someone become a hooligan? Who decides to go to a place where people are having a good time and enjoying themselves with the sole intention of hurting people? This is a question I have asked myself many times in recent years and when looking for an answer, I had to do no more than look back into my own youth.

Men have an overwhelming need to belong; that tribal instinct. Whether it be lads that support the same football team, live in the same neighbourhood or in more extreme examples have been indoctrinated into a particular ideology (whether that be extremist religious or political views).

As a teenager I was heavily bullied at school and by the time I got to college I got drawn to a group of people that essentially could have been almost described as a ‘gang’. Moving as a pack and often out seeking trouble. Starting fights or creating scenarios where violence erupted as a means of proving how tough we were, and to prove our masculinity. To feel a sense of belonging and the safety and security of your ‘pack’. I look back in disbelief at the memories playing out in my head and struggling to comprehend that I myself was involved in them.

The aggression of gang members and hooligans is closely linked to stress. In fact, they feed off each other, contributing to a “cycle of violence” that can be tragic. When we are under stress, we are more likely to fly off the handle or maybe even seek out opportunities to vent or take out our aggression on others, and when we fly off the handle, that increases our level of stress.

So considering this cycle of violence and as stress in modern society increases, will this contribute to more young men displaying such behaviour? Particularly during Men’s Health Awareness Week this is definitely a point to ponder. I would invite your comments and feedback as we hope to foster a deeper discussion on this subject in the near future and understand what societal actions we can take to address these issues.

Neil cropped

Wishing you a happy and peaceful day!

Love life and smile,

Neil Shah


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