Why hooligans could not torpedo my dream

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There are many things which I would like to accomplish before my days are spent moaning about the price of a cuppa.

On that bucket list are the usual suspects of travelling to places where they don’t necessarily have happy hours and seeing my numbers come up on either a Friday or Saturday night - I’m not fussed which one.

I’ve also thrown in many attainable goals too and it is my love of sport, and football in particular, which presented me the best chance of ticking off at least one of those not-so-ambitious goals

Until last week I had never travelled abroad to watch a match and when my chance finally came it was a prospect which filled me with more than a little concern.

I headed to Lille, which for 48 hours, seemed to be at the epicentre of a media frenzy which had gripped much of Europe. Nothing much more needs to be said about the goings on in Marseille, except to say those disturbances involving groups of Russian fans, local youths and some English supporters set the tone for my brief trip across the English Channel.

Although, thankfully, this tinderbox didn’t actually go up in a spectacular ball of flames, I suspect peacetime Lille has rarely experienced anything like it, such was the huge security presence. None of my loved ones could understand why I wanted to go to a place where trouble was so widely predicted just to watch a game of football, a game of football between Russia and Slovakia no less.

The answer was simple: I didn’t see it as a risk, as like the vast majority of those who have travelled to France over the past couple of weeks have gone there for one reason only - to watch some football.

Yes, we did see idiots while we were there but they were in the minority and the battalions of news crews dotted around the city didn’t get the story they went for.

It is fair to say that over the past 15 or so years what was once regarded as the ‘English problem’ of hooliganism seems to have improved thanks to a combination of better policing, modern day stadia and, with it, more expensive tickets.

There will always be idiots, of all nationalities, who cause bother wherever they go, but for those of us with the brain capacity to enjoy match days without throwing bottles and thumping strangers, the game will continue to occupy our dreams and even form part of our ambitions.