by Denise van der Bij
The stabbing of his 16-year-old friend made Mike (30) the person he is now: a football hooligan with four stadium bans who can only take on construction jobs.
“People think we are the bad guys, but I don’t see myself that way.”
On the 10th of February 2006, the supporters home of Dutch football team, ADO Den Haag was under attack by a group of approximately 70 Ajax-hooligans, the opposing team from Amsterdam. People got hit with polished baseball bats and one supporter was almost set on fire by the violent group of supporters. It was only a matter of luck that nobody got killed. Mike has been a member of ‘Midden Noord’, the fanatical supporter side of football club ADO Den Haag, since he was 16. He was there when the tragic event happened. ‘One of the Ajax supporters came after a friend of mine and stabbed him. He was innocent and unarmed, only 16 years-old.’
The event sparked Mike’s life as a football hooligan. It made him the person that he is now: very angry and easily frustrated. ‘I sometimes act that anger out in the stadium’, he says. For this reason he’s already gotten four stadium bans and has paid thousands of euros to the police. Right now, he is even entangled in a court case between supporters of both ADO Den Haag and Willem II where some supporters face imprisonment. ‘Sometimes I regret the things that I have done, like the illegal things obviously’
“All Cops Are Bastards”
Hooligans all over the world have the feeling that they are being treated unfairly by the police. ‘All Cops Are Bastards’ (ACAB or 1312) is a term that refers to that and is widely popular in the hooligan world. Mike can relate to the slogan, he even has the abbreviation tattooed on his left knee. ‘In the Netherlands, there is a police department especially for football hooliganism. When you commit a crime, you get an annotation on your personal record. When you visit a game after you get the annotation, it does not matter if the game takes place at home, away or abroad, the police will keep track of everything you do.’ The way of handling this is not always fair he says. ‘When something happens during the game, I will be the first one to be picked out of the group, even though I might not even be guilty.’
His record is one of the reasons why Mike is easily seen as the instigator for new problems. Another reason is that Mike doesn’t always wear something to cover his face to be unrecognisable to the police during a game. ‘If you feel so tough to do illegal stuff, you should not be afraid to face the consequences.’
Life besides football
Nowadays Mike works as a tiler for a construction company. ‘I used to work in a clothing store, but since I have a record now, I cannot do that anymore.’ For a lot of jobs which are directly related to working with people, a certificate of conduct is needed. ‘And you can’t get a certificate when you have a record. I definitely should behave myself in the upcoming years when I want to work with people again,’ he says while laughing.
Although his friend got stabbed and he lost his job because of multiple convictions, Mike chooses to stay in the hooligan scene. ‘For me, it does not feel like a bad thing to do. The media exaggerates what happens during a game. That is why people think we are the bad guys. If you want to have a clear idea of hooligans, you should visit a match and see for yourself.’
Brotherhood and Friendship
Without football, Mike would not have had the great friendships that he has now. ‘For me, football is all about friendship and brotherhood. You are all together and you have similar goals when it comes to football. It really feels like my co-supporters are my second family.’
Every week Mike can be found either in the Cars Jeans Stadium of ADO Den Haag or in other stadiums throughout the Netherlands. ‘I think you should support your club no matter what. There is nothing better than supporting your team through thick and thin.’ Since 1987 there has been an alliance between ADO Den Haag and Legia Warschau from Poland. There is a strong bond between the hard-core supporters of both teams. ‘The people I met during the games have become really good friends of mine. We talk a lot over the phone, we visit each other outside of the stadium. It really shows again what an impact being part of a community can make.’