The New York Review of Books has a charming little article on the subject of Soccer, and how the game is really predicated on hate. It sounds awful on the surface, but I think the author makes a very good case for his thesis. As one radio show host remarked, "You know, the wonderful thing about soccer is that it's the only situation left where you really feel you have an enemy, someone you can hate unreservedly, someone you don't have to make compromises with. Even with the terrorists you have to worry about whether you're indirectly responsible for their extremism." Said one Italian national player, "No, soccer is about hate. When Roma play Lazio [local rivals] I really hate the Laziali. But how can I hate Ecuador? I don't feel anything."
I've always been amazed at the way European (or maybe I should say non-American) fans deal with sport, particularly soccer. Of course, Americans aren't above some drunken brawling, and we certainly root hard for our favorite teams. But the spectacle of European sports are a different thing altogether. The flags, the chants, the excitement--it's very much like a battlefield just before the fighting breaks out. I think that it makes the denationalization of Europe that is underway even more remarkable.