John Lanchester

Most of the men I know display more emotion about football than they do about anything else. The most obvious of these emotions – the one that makes the biggest impression on first-time attendees at football matches – is anger. Everything from mild irritation to outright pre-psychotic fury is on open display; even celebration can look like a form of rage. And it’s no secret that this anger can sometimes turn into (or be accompanied by) violence – a violence which to many outsiders has come to seem what football is basically for. Books about football by people who came to the game as tourists, anthropologists or sociologists therefore tend to be books about the violence around the game. This has helped to create a state of affairs in which the terms ‘fan’ and ‘hooligan’ are widely regarded as functional synonyms.

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[*] Gollancz, 247 pp., £13.99, 17 September, 0 575 05315 1.