When hooligans hit the front pages of the newspapers, it’s usually because they’ve been involved in fighting at football games – as was the case recently following the New Firm derby.
But there’s another side to hooliganism that few people see or are even aware of. Groups of fans of Brøndby, FC Copenhagen, Odense, Esbjerg and a number of other football teams in Denmark regularly meet up in forests to fight one another in organised battles.
The fights can be set up as a 20 versus 20, 10 v 10, 7 v 7, or however many both sides can muster, and there are even various age groups, such as under-23s or under-19s. The Danish hooligans also go abroad to fight it out against groups in countries like Germany and Sweden.
But it’s not about the violence or football, according to an anonymous ‘forest fighter’. It’s about the sport and adrenalin. And as is the case in most other sports, the forest fighters are pining for a proper league of their own. The man compared the fights to MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), in which punching and kicking are also permitted.
“It’s about meeting like-minded people in reasonably controlled conditions. I can’t see the point of going to the stadiums and causing chaos, because it then affects random families, and that’s ridiculous,” the man said according to BT tabloid.
“If you go to Poland, there is actually a league with referees. You could avoid a lot of problems such as cheating, injuries and the police if these fights are sanctioned under special conditions.”
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The groups are avid users on social media, with a number of accounts being dedicated to the fights – including Ultras Danmark – Fights on Facebook and ‘thetroublemakingvikings’ on Instagram.
This year alone, thetroublemakingvikings account has documented over 45 forest fights, primarily in Scandinavia – with Danish groups being represented in over half of the battles. And the organisation behind the skirmishes is constantly evolving.
“In recent years the fights have developed into a kind of sport with rankings and winners. It’s very organised and agreements are set up across countries and groups,” Lise Joern, a researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said according to BT.