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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The special violence of soccer crowds in countries with cultures as dissimilar as those of Brazil and Turkey, Germany and Peru is a mystery that Britain's Minister for Sport is trying to solve with the aid of a psychiatrist. He has his job cut out for him.
It has even happened here—at Yankee Stadium this past summer—in a country where soccer generally does not induce a rapid pulse. Ethnic factors accounted for that one, to be sure, but nothing remotely involving racial or national differences could explain what occurred on a recent Sunday in the city of Kayseri, Turkey during a game between the home team and longtime rivals from nearby Sivas. A disputed goal brought out pistols, knives and broken bottles. Final score: 41 dead, 67 injured among the 30,000 spectators. Two weeks previously, in Bolu, one spectator was killed and three were injured. A week later, in Afyon, 13 were hurt.
The rumble at Kayseri might be explained as the culmination of an ancient rivalry between the two cities, rather more bitter than that between, say, Harvard and Yale. But it was only the second worst such incident in soccer history, by no means as dreadful as the riot three years ago in Lima, Peru, where more than 300 fans were killed and some 1,000 injured.
Soccer riots are so prevalent that the digging of moats, as at Brasilia's new stadium, is a commonplace protection for players and officials in some countries. In Germany, many soccer clubs have surrounded their playing fields with fences six to eight feet high. But moats and fences are no certain protection. Several years ago in Naples fans used advertising signs to span the moat separating them from the referee and the winning Modena eleven. And it is not unusual for Italian referees to carry pistols.
For all this there are explanations of a sort. Professor Francesco Ferraroti, Rome University sociologist, holds that the rioting may arise because "the fans are passive." (But spectators at all sports are passive.) "Their frustration when the heroes they identify with are being 'robbed' gives rise to a mob psychology that I think is quite similar to the lynching psychology," he said. "The fan's identification with the hero becomes morbid."
So far, Britain's investigator, Dr. John Harrington, psychiatrist, has detected such peculiarities as signs of "hypnotic trance" and "frightening aggression" in soccer fans, but, he adds, soccer fans in Britain generally get rid of their aggressions with bad language.
BETTER THAN A MANGER
During the World Series games to be played in St. Louis, hotel accommodations will be hard to come by in the city and for many miles around.
But there is hope. The Meramec Caverns, 60 miles from Busch Stadium, are available and, it is said, can take care of from 600 to 800 persons without difficulty, if they don't mind sleeping communally on cots. There are certain advantages to be gained by staying in the caves, too. The temperature is a constant 60�, and there is no pollen in the air, which is why hay-fever sufferers have long used the caverns.