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The National Football League’s Oakland Raiders have the Raider Nation supporting them, while the Cleveland Browns have the Dawg Pound passionately cheering them on.

But however intimidating both of these fan groups might appear, they have nothing on England’s hooligans, who favor the other kind of football — soccer.

While rooting for their beloved football clubs, British hooligans swarm the stands belting out offensive slogans, igniting flares and throwing random objects onto the pitch, or field. Before and after a match, fights can break out against rival “firms” — another word for a football gang — as they brawl to protect each other’s reputations.

This behavior, known as hooliganism, is believed to have originated in England as a result of televised matches in the 1960s that showed fans invading football pitches and causing riots, according to the Social Issues Research Center’s Web site,

Hooliganism was even seen as a way for the working classes to reclaim the sport, with fans from other European countries following similar patterns of behavior in the 1970s, the Web site said.

Still, the sport long has been linked to violence since its beginnings in 13th-century England, where medieval matches pitted hundreds of young men against each other to settle feuds between rival villages and towns, the Web site added.

Fist fights occurring between rival firms are one thing, but when Italy’s Juventus and England’s Liverpool football clubs met for the European Cup final in 1985, the outcome was a lot bleaker than bloody noses and bruises. About an hour before the match inside Belgium’s Heysel Stadium, fighting erupted between fans from both sides. Amid the fighting, a group of Juventus supporters were hemmed in by concrete walls. One of the walls eventually collapsed, crushing 39 fans to death, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. News Web site.

Following the disaster, all English clubs were banned from European football for five years, with a 10-year ban going to Liverpool, the Web site added. Additional security measures — including sophisticated policing, surveillance and monitoring techniques, segregation of fans and restrictions on alcohol — were initiated to prevent similar incidents in the future. The British government also introduced specific legislation to cover hooliganism acts, according to the Social Issues Research Center.

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