The US doesn't have great form when it comes to football hooliganism. Besides, of course, American journalist Bill Buford's Among the Thugs – arguably the definitive book on the topic – the first things that come to mind are: Green Street, the Little Britain sketch of a hooligan movie; and the time those MLS fans threw rubbish bags at each other in New York.
Still, this hasn't deterred Florida-based Derek "Diablo" Alvarez from founding the "Miami Casuals" and posting WWE-style call-outs of British hooligan firms on social media. His best-known video features him, dressed in casuals clothing, goading Millwall's firm with the words: "You want to act like the hardest gang in the whole world, brother? How come you ain't never come down to Miami or South Florida?"
Strange as it might seem, Alvarez has managed to gain respect from some within the UK hooligan community for his passion and enthusiasm for terrace culture and all things football violence-related. He plans to gain further acceptance via a series of hooliganism-related ventures, including a scheme to transform match-day thuggery into a combat sport and a hooligan-themed cooking show. I caught up with him to find out more.
VICE: When did you first decide you wanted to be a hooligan?
Derek "Diablo" Alvarez: The skinhead scene was a big influence. American skinheads were the equivalent to the UK hooligan scene. We used to fight the Hammerskins [a white supremacist skinhead group] and would go mobbed-out 100-deep to shows in their cities, which was like hooligans going to away games. I was also exposed to oi [a sub-genre of punk], and the bands were constantly talking about football violence.
I went through a few different lifestyles before I arrived at being a casual. I got in deep with anti-racist skinhead gangs. I was in a hardcore crew called FSU. I was also the president of Florida SHARP [Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice] and got into politics and joined the Communist Party. I was in the anti-Trump movement and took part in the Women's March. Then neo-feminists took command and I was betrayed over the fact that I said "bitches". I wasn't talking about my comrades; I was talking about bitches on the street. This was after I'd fought the Nazis, took territory and won wars. I was like, "You’re going to ostracise me for that? That means you don't want any Latino or black gangsters involved because all gangsters talk that way." I said, "You don’t need us? Then you go fight the Nazis without us."
I'd taken being a skinhead as far as I could take it, and the politics hadn't gone anywhere, so I decided I needed another lifestyle to move on to. Hooliganism had always been in the back of my mind, and I ended up deciding to be a casual. I thought, 'Wow, I'd be the first to represent that in the US.'
America is better known for gangs that fight with guns than those that fight at sports events. Don't football hooligans seem a bit tame in comparison to your homegrown gangs?
Yes, which is precisely the point. I don't agree with using weapons, and don't like the old-school style of hooliganism involving attacking pubs. I'm more into the forest-fighting model [a form of hooliganism involving pre-arranged fights in forests, which is popular among hooligans in other European countries]. I see that as something that could be used as a retirement programme for skinheads and gang members, where there would still be camaraderie and fighting but it wouldn’t harm society.
What's the deal with the Miami Casuals? Have they actually taken on any other firms?
I've got access to a pool of several hundred people who've been in the skinhead and gang scene, and a lot more from the martial arts scene. From that pool, I could put together a ten-on-ten fight without a problem. I put out a challenge of a ten-on-ten forest fight and nobody expressed any interest in wanting to fight us.
Are there any other firms in the US for you to go up against?
The US actually has an active hooligan scene. People have been jumping each other and have been stabbed before.
Can you say a bit about your plans to transform hooliganism into a combat sport?
Everyone I've shown videos of forest fighting has said, "This is awesome. Is anybody making money off this? You could be the [UFC President] Dana White of this thing." To me, it's the evolution of hooliganism. I want to turn it into a sport. I could see firms doing it wearing their teams' colours. Is society going to like putting a load of hooligans on TV? Well, what's the difference between this and MMA? It's basically just group MMA.
What about your hooligan cooking-show? How did you come up with the idea for that?
I’m a member of the Football Hooligans Banter Facebook group. I don't know if all British guys do this, but people on there are always posting pictures of their food. Somebody started saying, "What's up, Alvarez? How come you won't show us your dinner?" I thought, 'I don't want these fuckers thinking I’m not eating right,' so I put some Cuban food out on a tablecloth and took a picture. When I put it up online, these guys said, "It looks as if you shat it out and put it back on the plate." I said, "Alright, you fuckers. You criticise my food? I’ll learn how to cook your food and do it better than you. As a matter of fact, I'll make a hooligan cooking-show." They didn’t know what the hell I meant, and I didn’t know either, but I thought, 'Okay, I’m going to do it.' In the end, I did some hooligan bantering and drank beer while cooking some British food that hooligans eat. Maybe everybody else there eats it too, but whatever!
Finally, what other hooligan-related plans do you have for the future?
I want to establish a joint UK and US firm for World Cup matches, to get revenge against the Russians for what happened in Marseilles. British hooligans had travel bans, which meant there was no retaliation in Moscow. Americans have always backed up the British. It's up to me to breathe new life into the UK hooligan scene by getting them doing all the training that the Russians do and getting them away from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. I’m looking to transform the British scene.