The killing fields of soccer: Violence, villains and victims

  • Cora Burnett


The destructive nature of soccer violence and the resultant deaths of hundreds of supporters since the sixties have directed academic enquiry and scholarly investigation. The aim of this study was to utilize a synthesis of theoretical paradigms in order to provide some explanations for this complex and multifaceted local manifestation. Data was collected from major English and Afrikaans newspapers from April 1977 to May 2001, in which 180 incidents of soccer violence were reported. The interviewing of soccer officials (n=7, the conducting of focus groups with soccer supporters (n=20) and the attending of matches provided the ethnological background and context for analysis. The tabling and discussing of 23 occurrences of soccer-related violence between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates explored the nature of this local sociological phenomenon. Different layers of explanations were offered, including the relevance of class-based structural "fault lines", ideology, socialization patterns, poverty-related manifestations and situational factors that may sporadically trigger violent behaviour. Soccer violence and crowd behaviour should be understood and addressed within the wider social context without merely shifting the blame from "victims" to "villains", which would at best provide dichotomous and rhetorical answers.
Key words: Soccer violence, theoretical explanations, South Africa, Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs.

(Af. J. Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance: 2002 8(1): 149-160)

Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2411-6939