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Hooliganism is unruly and destructive behaviour, usually by gangs of young men, its origin is unknown. It is frequently linked in the public mind with the game and support of football clubs. The term has however been widely used since (at least) the 1990s to describe various street gangs of youths behaving indecorously. Hooligans have also attached themselves to other sports, such as rugby and even of recent times cricket. In Canada, crowd violence at hockey games is common, even at schoolboy level, though the term "hooligan" is not generally used.

The game of football has long been associated with violence since its beginnings in 13th century England. Medieval football matches involved hundreds of players, and were essentially pitched battles between the young men of rival villages. Only two periods in British history have been relatively free of football-related violence: the inter-war years and the decade following the Second World War.

The behaviour now known as 'football hooliganism' originated in England in the early 1960s, and has been linked with the televising of matches (and of pitch-invasions, riots etc.) and with the 'reclaiming' of the game by the working classes.

In other European countries, similar patterns of behaviour emerged about 10 years later, in the early 1970s.

The Belgian Heysel Stadium disaster was a consequence of the attempt to separate two groups of hooligans.

In 1997 in Beverwijk in The Netherlands an Ajax supporter was killed during a riot between Feyenoord and Ajax supporters.

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