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Book Review Khan's Casual approach demystifies 1980s football hooliganism

Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual
by Riaz Khan
(Old Dog Books, £9.99)

MANY football hooligan books are little more than bragging that’d be better done with a tattoo, though there are some excellent exceptions. This is one of them.

Leicester hooligan Riaz Khan isn’t what’s perceived to be your typical hooligan. He has a sense of humour and this account is bigger than himself. Many of his mates write chapters and the book is a portrait of the lifestyle of many working-class males in the 1980s, all the more of interest for its honesty and that the story it relates of young Asians is one neither the Football Lads Alliance nor Unite Against Fascism tells.

Khan is admittedly no fighter, but football violence was always more about standing and stand he definitely did. The music and fashion are captured in good detail — it was clothes that really defined the Casuals — and the 1980s style and lifestyle told here is authentic and not mythologised. We can leave that to the Daily Males.

Unsurprisingly, racism played a part in the 1980s and, in Khan’s life, this is discussed with several pertinent examples and it’s not as the middle class would have it writ. In school, it’s a skinhead girl who stands against racism. “The Casuals were radicals too,” Khan writes, “as we took every opportunity to go against the Establishment.

“We started to become more conscious of who we were and what we had become. Our crew started looking at the preaching of Martin Luther King, but we were more attracted to the rhetoric of Malcolm X because he believed in fighting the system.

“That’s exactly what we thought we were doing down at the football — though perhaps we were more like Citizen Smith, with his ‘Power to the People!’”

The book is about lads finding their place and that place is home, something we all help make.

Football hooligans don’t have to be gammons, ignorant or ignored. And Britain doesn’t have to be full of Nimbys, benefits porn or us v them. Britain can be whatever we make it.

The stage version of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual runs at Leicester’s Curve Theatre from September 26 – October 6, box office: curveonline.co.uk

 

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