Lebemann and the Culture of Hooliganism
When you hear about football thugs or hooligans by watching the news, reading about it in your local newspaper, or even just by remembering France ‘98, there is probably only one picture that will cross your mind: a bunch of wild, lawless, boiling mad lads that are out for trouble and fights. Well, yes, in some cases this might be true, but, at the same time, there is another part to this the story (as always) which most of the news doesn’t cover. Behind the disputable mechanism of pints and fists, there is a vivid subculture all across Europe that has their very own stories, views, rules, and figure heads.
One of these figure heads is Lebemann, a self-titled bon vivant and a good friend of mine.
I first got into contact with this guy via his Facebook page, because Lebemann is one of the few hooligans in the German-speaking scene who openly shares bits of this still agile and, for a lot of people, mostly unknown subculture.
Due to this, I approached Lebemann last year to ask him about a story for VICE Sports (read it). As mentioned above, hooligans in Germany don’t usually talk to the press, also because, as soon as they do, they may face some real heat for it. Since I gave a flying fuck about that – and, thankfully, so did Lebemann – we actually made that story happen, during which we became close friends and WhatsApp aficionados.
The way I see it, Lebemann is giving insights to a world almost nobody can relate to or will have ever access to, however, with an even more special twist: this guy can write! Even though his stories are full of sexism, brutality, drugs, and crime, he makes it very, very, VERY hard not to laugh and smile while reading his letters. Lebemann is a kind of terrace version of Charles Bukowski. Even though a lot of people hate this guy, you gotta love his stories and read this interview:
Lebemann and the Culture of Hooliganism
Hey Lebemann, great to see you, again. Thanks for your time and your pretty face. Let’s talk about you and your notorious hobby…
Hi Bianco, thanks for having me in Berlin.
First of all, who is Lebemann? What is he doing, what are his ideals, and what is he living for?
Lebemann is a character created by the culture and the environment he lives in – especially on the weekends.
When did you actually become a “football hooligan?” Was there any Henry Hill moment in your life when you officially joined the “mafia” or something that felt like officially becoming part of it?
There actually was a moment, drug related. I was 16 at the time, I think (it was a long time ago). You’ve always heard about the “old lads” doing cocaine. It was a big thing at the time, even bigger than nowadays, I would say, because, nowadays, everybody seems to be doing cocaine at the footie. I was casually invited by one of the top boys to do a line with him before we went to a punch-up. I couldn’t resist, because this was an offer you couldn’t refuse. So, this really was my kinda Henry Hill moment.
Do you remember your first fight and what were your feelings afterwards?
It was nothing football-related and I felt deeply sorry and terrible afterwards, ‘cause I broke my classmates nose in third grade. We’re still good friends to this day. So, sorry again, pal! Haha.
Have you ever thought about becoming someone who fights regularly back then?
Never. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a very violent person at all, but under certain circumstances, like football and booze (and good weather, of course), I become a different person. It really feels like a switch in my head. Even close friends told me that when I’m in this drive nothing can stop me. I think that’s why I got myself in a row of stupid situations like, for example, jumping up and down on a police car at the Champions League Final 2012 in Munich and spending 7 weeks in jail straight for this.
Have you ever taken part in one of these “acre fights,” where people fight in a more organised way, kinda like a box fight with 60 fighters? And what do you think about these organised fights?
That’s a subject I don’t want to talk about, due to police intelligences that took place not a long time ago. In fact, I did. Only a hand full of times, but I did. I can say, however, that this kind of stuff has never been my cup of tea. Driving 5 hours or more through Germany, for example, completely sober and bored, just to take part in a 20 second, not really football-related punch-up. Anyways, I do have a deep respect for all the lads I know who are involved in this. The stuff they do is next level and they take their things pretty seriously.
So, why do hooligans fight, Lebemann?
That’s actually a tough question, my friend. Of course, I can’t speak for anybody but for myself. For me, it has always been about proving myself that I have no fear to stand my ground or whatever, but that’s my personal motivation and everybody is different. Mainly, it’s about fighting to defend your city or club colours.
Since you got experience in the UK and Switzerland, what’s the difference between the scenes in the UK and the ones back home?
Nowadays, in continental Europe, it’s definitely better organised and professionalised than in the UK. Over here, lads go to the gym, take free fight or boxing lessons, and compete with each other in forests or old warehouse districts. In the UK, it’s still all about getting up, going to the pub, meeting the boys, having a few drinks, and seeing what’s going to happen during the day. I, personally, prefer this over the strongly organised continental European style of today’s hooliganism.
Are you still active today or are you already enjoying the scene from a more distant perspective?
It got less and less over the past three to four years, to be honest. I’ve never really thought about calling myself “retired” but I can’t even remember when I had my last punch-up, apart from Tottenham away with Millwall in the FA Cup. I’m getting older, my friend. I got “grown up” stuff to do and may become a family man in the near future. So, I can’t get arrested every weekend and just go to work to feed my expensive clobber and cocaine habit anymore, as well as paying fines for football-related stuff. I’m like a heroin addict, my friend. Now, I’m clean, at least for the moment, and I’m focussing on endurance sports and my private life – and I feel great. However, on the other hand, I still got this passion and aggression inside of me, especially in sports or when I drive a car. Last night, I sat in my car on the way back from an event. It had nothing to do with the scene or whatsoever, but then a tune turned up on the radio and I got a bit melancholic about my football days and the good times I had for decades. So, I still do need weekends somewhere in Shrewsburry and smash up a pub from time to time, but it’s more like a substitute than the full heroin rush from the past.
Is there even a way to fully “retire” from this life or will you always stay connected with the flow?
Never, I guess. You will always be well-known by the old bill and especially by your rivals. On the other side, I’m still checking out the scene over the World Wide Web or chat with my football pals about the weekend. However, nowadays, I’m more of a Tom Hagen than a Henry Hill.
So, Lebemann, what does it need to be a football thug? Does someone really need to fight or is there something like a peaceful hooligan?
Yes and no. Well, you need to fight to be a “hooligan” but you may not need to if you’re just a friend of the subculture. The term “peaceful hooligan,” however, is complete bullshit.
What about drugs? What role does that white powder and other things play in this scene?
Football violence has always been fuelled by alcohol or some kind of drug.
If people talk about hooliganism, the majority has the same images, news, and trouble makers in their minds. What crosses your mind when you think about the word “hooligan?”
Addicts. Menace to society. Freedom and respect.
How do you feel about the media portraying you and how do you feel about the fact that most people still don’t know much about this scene?
I’ve never cared about the media and society. Most jurnos just write stuff to fill up their pages, with words less worth than the paper it’s actually printed on. Must be a horrible and useless life. I hate them and they should all burn in hell. (I hope they all read this.)
So, how far are the pictures the media is showing away from actual reality? Are there different groups that interpret the dos and don’ts in different ways?
Hmm…I can only speak from my point of view, but I can say that there are too many different views of groups and also political interests to speak about them. So, there is not really one general answer to this question.
You’ve once told me you’ve never had a fight outside this subculture. So, you’re no threat to society at all?
That’s true! I may be the nicest person in the world outside of football. I am a good person, I guess. I’m helping an old lady, who lives in the same building as me, with her shopping, for example, but when it comes to the beautiful game there is like a switch in my head and I become a completely different person – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hool.
Lebe, can you explain why there are always problems around your person, once you’ve talked to the press or a magazine? Why do you guys normally don’t speak to the media?
That’s actually a hot topic to talk about and a very necessary one, for that matter. On the one hand, people like us blame the media for being biased but, on the other hand, they don’t take a chance to work in some kind of way with them and influence them at least a bit to our likings. When I got the deal with VICE, for example, there was still a minority who was completely against it. They even stopped talking to me and other childish stuff and I just thought, “c’mon it’s VICE, not the fucking BBC.”
So, it’s kind of a no-go to talk to the press, nevertheless, football thugs blame the media for just showing one side of the story. Regarding topics like, for example, police brutality and who actually started a fight, wouldn’t it be better sometimes to work/talk closer with/to football-related media?
I’m completely with you on this one. Especially football-related media, like VICE Sports or 11 Freunde in Germany, are good examples for not being partial at all and letting fans and hooligans speak on their points of view without taking any actions in censorship, etc.
What do your friends in England think about your popularity? From my perspective, there seems to be more of a hype and respect for the figureheads of their scene?
First off, I’ve had way less problems there than over here with it. In fact, they loved it. So, there is defo more respect for “prominent” football-related people. But still, somehow there’s a little hype around my person over here. Somehow, I think, I actually started all this football casual hype over here, when I came back from England in 2006. On the one hand, this makes me proud. On the other hand, when I see those poor attempts to copy English football lad clobber they wore ten to fifteen years ago, I feel a bit ashamed as well for being their “role model.”
Let’s talk about jackets! Why do guys (at least some of you) dress so smart and casual?
I, personally, like to show off and stand out from the crowd of scarvers and Christmas tree lookalikes, with all their full kit wanker gear.
Is there a huge difference between the way people dress up in the UK and the German speaking scene?
Fucking yes, my friend; and not just in the football scene. I mean, take a look around: all those Germans in their softshell tech jackets on their way to work in a city. I wouldn’t even wear those kinds of jackets, if someone pointed a gun to my head – utterly stupid looking stuff. On the other hand, you have a German “casual” scene which also has no sense of style or whatsoever. I mean, c’mon, why would you print your “lifestyle” on a T-shirt and walk around with it? That’s the German thing. They’ve always been comfortable in uniforms and they used to have some pretty good-looking ones in the past, to be honest, but I think that sense of style got wiped out at the end of the war, like Dresden ‘45.
Can you explain to us how a bunch of tough guys can be found in a brawl but also be seen in a pub talking about jackets, aquascutum scarfs, and the latest adidas sneakers?
Basically, it’s a social thing. At moments like this there is no football involved, just men in (and on) gear talking about jackets. Once upon a time, I sat in a pub talking to a lad from Burnley about some specific Adidas leisure shoes which were supposed to come out in a few weeks at that time…a few months later, I threw a pint at him up north at the football.
How do you feel about the latest terrace trend that brought your subcultural wardrobe into the social media feeds of hype beasts? Or let’s be more specific, how do you feel about cunts like me dragging the badge into the spotlight of an audience that has nothing to do with your scene?
It’s a mess. If someone unknown to you wore, for example, a Stoney jacket on a match day or even just on a Tuesday after-work drink or something, he would get knocked out and get rid of his jacket in the aftermath. Nowadays, every sneaker cunt is wearing Stone Island without even having a clue what it used to be all about. But hey, I don’t mind getting a free Stoney jacket from some middle-class hipster cunt from time to time.
Can you name the one thing you love most about being a football thug?
Travelling; seeing the world with different eyes and having friends in every big European city.
Is there something you hate?
Sometimes you just want to be left alone and you don’t want to have any hurry with the old bill or rival fans, but, of course, this doesn’t happen. It’s not like you push a button to get into this weekend mode. Na, my friend, being a football thug, especially a prominent one, means commitment for life.
When will you finally write a book, Lebemann?
Actually, I think about it from time to time, but there are no real plans, yet. However, if there is any publisher who’s interested feel free to get in touch with me. But be prepared, I’m very lazy.
Any last words to your friends, lovers, and haters?
I’m hated but rated. So, love and peace (or a fist instead) to all of you out there. May the force be with you.
Thank you for your time. Catch ya soonish!
I have to thank! The beer is on you, right?