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Among the Thugs

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  6,363 ratings  ·  564 reviews
They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. Now Bill Buford, edit ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 1st 1993 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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Blake I really don't see him an infiltrator of any sort. He may have been present for a few grisly scenes but he never does more than run to keep up and the…moreI really don't see him an infiltrator of any sort. He may have been present for a few grisly scenes but he never does more than run to keep up and then watch with wide eyes, immune from the carnage only because he visually appears to be a fellow supporter.

He's also very sincere with himself and his subjects. Most of the people who spoke to him seem to have done so under some level of anonymity, intentionally keeping their distance, and yet he never represents himself as anything but an interested third party to them - most want him around specifically because they believe he might help them bolster their reputations.

It might be different were he acting like he was some kind of official firm member, or spun a yarn about plunging a broken bottle into the face of a Italian police officer. He isn't self-aggrandizing at all, anywhere - if anything he represents himself as somewhat cowardly, doubtful, and confused by his own motivations before deciding entirely that the scene isn't worth the trouble, and greater insights aren't to be had by spending further time in it. (less)

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Paul Bryant
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-life
I'd forgotten about this one. It's hilarious, in a grim kind of way, which is how hilarious should be. Expat American infiltrates the notorious English football hooligan sub-culture of the late 80s/early 90s, you may remember those horrible violent yobs. These were hard nuts like the Inter-City Firm from West Ham who yould beat the daylights out of you and leave you broken, bleeding and barfing in a back alley but always remember to leave a smartly printed business card in one of your pockets sa ...more
Anders
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jacob, to whom I have already lent it
Recommended to Anders by: jason cons
A stunning work of non-fiction, Among the Thugs chronicles Buford's attempts to understand the English phenomenon of soccer hooliganism by immersing himself into its characters, events, and lifestyles. He starts as an outsider, an American living in London for many years without ever attending a soccer game. Intrigued by the stories of violence and lawlessness the games ignite in the supporters of the teams, he sets out to understand how and why so many young and working-class people are continu ...more
Evan
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!

I can say without hesitation that this is the best of the 55 books I’ve read this year. It’s gonzo-style journalism at its very best; funny, horrific, impertinent, robust and insightful by turns; it one-ups Hunter S. Thompson and does for English soccer hooligans what HST did for Hell’s Angels in his classic book on same. It’s not just a read but an overwhelming experience; intensely engaging and memorable. I doubt I’ll ever forget about Mickey and Sammy and Rod and DJ and
...more
Charlie Miller
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is such a great book- the fruits of years of ethnographic research. Every few years, an incident happens in English football which makes people question the culture- is it racist, violent etc. This book describes a time that was on a whole different order of magnitude. The level of tribalism, and the thirst for violence was something largely forgotten or never even known of by most of us in the modern day. One of the great pieces of sociological research in recent decades, certainly one of ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
Among the Thugs stands next The Hell's Angels as an unflinching look at a violent male subculture, in this case the classic English football hooligan of the 1980s. Buford was an American living in England. What he depicts as an idle curiosity about a strange feature of English culture, much sensationalized by the press, became a multiyear sociological study.

It is an undeniable fact that by all conventional measures, attending a football game in England is a terrible way to spend a Saturday after
...more
Roy
Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks Europe is perfect
The English disease in all its gory. This book does a wonderful job of reporting and commenting on the horror of soccer crowds. For me, this comes after a six month fascination with soccer violence. There is very little to explain why hooligans do what they do, but what interests me is that this is a problem that seems to effect most western "civilized" nations except the good old U. S. of A. In discussing this issue with a friend, we both expressed surprise. Surprise not in the predictable riot ...more
Wheeler
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Note: This is a truncated review due to character limitations. For the full review, please see this link
There are two kinds of violence in Among the Thugs.
The first is the violence we, the reading and civilized public, are supposed to abhor: violence perpetrated by the football (soccer) hooligans.
The second kind of violence is that perpetrated by the police forces against protesters of all stripes, including those football hooligans, American author Bill Buford all but outright states is an enti
...more
Alexander Boyd
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book will accompany me wherever I go. It will be the measuring stick for everything I write. Among the Thugs inspects organized violence among the British working class in the form of soccer hooliganism. But that is a simplistic take. The book is the lived experience of the crowd, the violent crowd. There are so many things to say about Among the Thugs, but I will confine myself to three: Lad culture and Barstool sports, a journalist's hope that things will "go off", and a question: where a ...more
Nishanth
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
The power of crowd, the Lad culture and football.The author gives his experiences of the football scene in England during the 80s. Glad the situations are much better and safer for everyone.
Eric_W
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
Bill Buford, an American export to Britain, began an exploration of sports violence after he had the misfortune to take a train that was being systematically destroyed by hundreds of Liverpool soccer team supporters - the police seemingly unable to control the riot, indeed as afraid as the other passengers. There is a particularly savage image of a drunk "supporter," as Buford calls the hooligans, throwing lighted matches on the shoes of a well-to-do businessman riding in first-class, perhaps ho ...more
Nathaniel
Dec 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
At its finer moments, “Among the Thugs” conveys a powerful and contagious desire for violence. Maybe this is easier to do than I realize—many Hollywood films fill me with bloodlust and I’ve got enough disdain for hooligans to think they deserve one another—but Buford walks a fine line. He’s keenly aware that he could write a jaw-breaking work of pure sadistic voyeurism; but he largely refrains from doing so.

He dips into the mayhem enough to establish his credibility and by highlighting instance
...more
Geoff Smith
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this after Justin from the Point Blank podcast recommended it. It's pretty good. The descriptions of the people and the violence are spot on. Also the links to nationalism and racism and right wing political groups. It gives you an insight into the underbelly of the new, media savvy, free-speech right, and where they came from.

Buford though fails to find any true political conviction in the violence of the crowd, and settles on a sort of mass abnegation. It's a good book, a bit repetitive
...more
J
Dec 09, 2011 rated it liked it
As was the case with Heat, Buford is overly conversational (really never a reason to put "I must admit" in writing) and in need of a friend with a red pen. "I didn't need to be told, I was told" might be clever, but it is not reader-friendly writing.

It would have been interesting to read this book in its time, since the Hillsborough disaster changed so much, and for that matter a follow up, even a brief one (in the New Yorker?) would be compelling. Still, although I know it was part of the plan
...more
Amie
Nov 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: sports fans, Bill Buford fans
Only Bill Buford could take subject matter so disturbing and write about it in a way that is both sensitive and compelling. Considering I have virtually no knowledge or interest in sports in general and football (soccer) in particular and am generally squeamish about violence, the fact I found this book such a great read is impressive. Buford offers up several theories for why these "hooligans" who are by and large normal law abiding citizens by day commit unspeakable acts of violence in the nam ...more
Peter Derk
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It takes something willing to go pretty far to call it one of the most intense reads I've ever had. Among The Thugs makes it in there, easy.

The premise is Buford, an American living in the UK, starts following football/soccer. In the late 80's and early 90's, this was not an easy thing to do. This was a violent, crowd-ruled thing.

In one short chapter, Buford talks to a police captain who can't believe that in the States, at a football game, people show up shortly before the game (as opposed to r
...more
Ernie
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The most incredible thing about this book is the character studies. Mick, Harry, Roy, etc. Learning about these people lends individual characteristics to the faceless crowd that Buford finds himself slowly orbiting. These are normal, working people who seem to leave the confines of civilized behavior on a weekly basis as if they were just stepping out for air. Their alcohol-fueled ragers are both unbelievable and at the same time rendered mundane by their transition into writing. Out here in th ...more
Paul
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I originally read Among the Thugs last year, but with a (potentially) lengthy amount of hospital time looming, I decided to return to it, just because it was such a page-turner. Thankfully the hospital visit turned out to only be out-patient surgery (and also thankfully, the surgery went as well as could be hoped). Be this as it were, I still managed to rampage through this book. As my girlfriend will testify, I spend too much time reading about soccer/football (debatable) and other sports (prob ...more
John Carey
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow this book blew me away. Jumps wildly between hilarious and terrifyingly dark. It was about 80s English football hooliganism but in my opinion could have easily been about current American political violence.

Really it was about crowd violence and what draws people to it. Bill Buford makes it clear you'd be foolish to typecast the kind of person to get involved. I enjoyed immensely Bill Buford's abandonment of judgement in the moment. Especially when he meets the extremely violent and racist s
...more
Andrew
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The grittier version of Fever Pitch . That was on the terraces. This is in the streets around the stadium. Most of all, it's about the crowd as its own being that subsumes individuals.

I just missed the worst of English football violence. But I've been among those crowds on matchday and there is something electric about them. And not always the buzzy-feel-good electric. Sometimes it's the high voltage type that could overheat. Bill Buford captures that feeling and, a little chillingly, sometim
...more
Brian
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When it "goes off," this book is a breathless, astonishing thing, not merely because of the shocking violence depicted but because the author has (self-destructively? morally ambiguously?) observed it with such intimacy. Beautiful writing about the least beautiful parts of human nature, this rises to the uppermost echelon of writing on violence - and, indeed, nonfiction writ large - that I've ever read. In a thin category with (and a likely inspiration for) the excellent Maximum City by Suketu M ...more
Garrett Millbrooke
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book because I am a fan of soccer, and learning about the culture of the English Soccer league was very interesting. This book was based in the 1980's to the 1990's, and the atmosphere during the games were very violent. Buford is an american, so he wasn't a hug football fan. This lead him to learn all he could about the players and fans. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Soccer.
Kate
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: futbol
the entire thing reads like some future dystopian nightmare where hooligans have gained enough power to run amok and cause massive violence, but this all actually happened in the 80s. so if you wanna call yourself a futbol fan...you have to read this and square with the sport's pretty gross history.
Phil Rose
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just fascinating. I had PTSD or several days afterwards.
Vince Tuss
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I wish I would have read this when I first came across it in 1994, but I am glad to have done it now. Along with the senselessness of the English lad football fan, I found a cogent analysis of the Brexit vote. Published in 1990. How little changes.
Chad Statler
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Bill Buford has done for English soccer hooligans what Hunter S. Thompson did for the Hells Angels. Buford's style is clearly gonzo. He immerses himself into the world and culture of various football firms and their supporters in England. There he observes the violence, drinking, parochialism, and nationalism of some of these supporters.

One scene I thought was interesting was when Buford speaking with a police chief about football violence and the chief seemed incredulous that in the US football
...more
Alejo
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
I don't know if all of it is factually true, but it was a great reading and gives pointers for further research.
Moira Burke
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Ira Glass recommended this biography of soccer hooligans—erm, football supporters—in England in the 1980s. Buford is an editor for Granta, and so the book reads more like a lengthy New Yorker profile, rather than A Clockwork Orange. Thus, the violence is palatable because it's sheathed in a discussion of group psychology. It's fascinating how men with decent paying jobs revel in freeloading (in fact, being \on the jib\"" while traveling to playoffs implies that the fans not only don't spend mon ...more
Shannon Windham
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In the book department, this has been a pretty great year. I have not read that many books but the ones that I did get from cover to cover were all really exceptional books (with the exception of one). This however, is not that exception. Among the Thugs will be a book that wont let me forget it. It kept be gasping for air page by page from the alley chases and bar brawls, laughing out loud from the brilliantly timed interjections of humor, and shrieking to avoid reading another word of its grot ...more
Margaret
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Surprise! I really loved this book. Bill Buford, the (American-born) editor of Granta, is a clearly a great bloke. Willing to mix it up, get loathed and rat-arsed, with thugs and hooligans to find out more about the psychology of crowd violence. And how interesting is that? It isn't individual sadism, but group-think gone off. He writes beautifully. His observations are funny, witty, scary, and I think accurate. Soccer thugs apparently like England, The Queen, violence, the Falkland Islands, Mar ...more
Alvin
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely stunning work of reportage. Buford immerses himself in the scary, stupid, and bewildering world of soccer hooligans - a task that involves attending a National Front (ie. fascist) disco, consuming vast quantities of greasy pub food with warm lager, and rioting. The vividly drawn characters are dysfunctional and often despicable, but Buford is a fair witness, finding things to like about them as well as detest. He's a witty and sharp writer, keeps the investigation moving, and only ...more
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Bill Buford is an American author and journalist.
Buford is the author of the books:
Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

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