This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
Lots of football fans are worried that, at some point, hooliganism will spoil the World Cup for everyone. After chatting with *Dennis, it's clear where those worries stem from. He is a proud hooligan and supporter of Dynamo Dresden, a second-tier club in eastern Germany. "It's not that I think it's cool to hurt people," he told me. "It's just that I get a kick out of throwing punches."
Dennis claims his father is proud of his "hobby", but says he hasn't told his mum that he likes to participate in organised fights in fields and forests with two dozen other grown men who are as passionate about punching as he is.
According to the German police, there are roughly 3,643 football supporters in the country who have been officially categorised as "violent fans", while thousands more are considered "violence-inclined". I spoke to Dennis to find out why he loves fighting so much, what sort of injuries he has suffered and whether he is a danger to the public.
VICE: Do you go to matches just to fight?
Dennis: No, I go to support Dynamo. Fights don't actually break out inside stadiums very often anymore. It's been almost 20 years since there's been a proper brawl in a ground. Back then, club owners would encourage hooligans to be aggressive – giving us free beer at halftime, before things kicked off on the final whistle. But the police have really cracked down on all that now.
The real fights take place outside the stadiums, sometimes in fields and forests. Most of these fights only last a couple of minutes, but it feels like an eternity. In Germany and across much of Western Europe, hooliganism is part of our football tradition. Eastern European hooligans are more into ice hockey, basketball and, sometimes, even water polo.
What's the worst injury you've ever inflicted on someone?
I don't know, because I don't really care about my opponents. I don't send them a card afterwards to check that they're OK. I once heard that someone I punched suffered a double-jaw fracture, but I can't say for sure if that's the worst injury I've caused. As soon as I knock someone to the ground and they stay there, I leave them alone. It's in our code of conduct that it has to end there.
Has anyone ever died in a fight?
Not that I've seen, but I know someone who ended up in a wheelchair. Personally, I've broken several of my bones. I once fractured my wrist because I hit someone too hard. But saying all this, Russian and Polish hooligans are a lot worse than us.
How do you arrange fights?
Every group has a leader, who calls up other leaders to organise fights. But they never plan anything on the phone. In Germany, loads of hooligans have their phones tapped. The leaders then meet up in person to plan where we're going to fight and how many people on each side should come. Most of the time it's between ten and 20 blokes. The leaders will also discuss the finer details, like making sure nobody brings any weapons or weighted gloves. I always wear a protective cup, and I prepare by not drinking alcohol and getting plenty of rest in the three days leading up to a fight.
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Do hooligans become more stupid the more fights they have?
When I'm on my way to the next game, it's as if... wait, what kind of stupid question is that? Are you trying to provoke me?
Are you a danger to the public?
Maybe. But I think I maintain some balance in my life. I don't go looking for fights in my day-to-day life, but if someone provokes me on the street, it's their own fault what happens next.
Why don't you have a more productive hobby?
Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Some people like to hunt rhinos in Africa, I like to smash heads in. I've also got some relaxing hobbies, though. I like eating Italian food, for example.
Are all hooligans extremely right-wing?
I'm not on the extreme right-wing, but I'd guess that about half of all hooligans are. Around them, you always hear the sort of jokes you'd expect to hear – jokes against Jewish people, Muslims, Angela Merkel. I actually don't think I know any hooligans who are left-wing.
Are there women who are particularly attracted to hooligans?
Yes, you do get a few.
Do you take any supplements to make you stronger?
No, I don't take any training supplements. I prefer cocaine.
*Name has been changed to protect his identity