The soccer game ended. Happy with the result I exited the Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. Several thousand angry Portsmouth fans spilled out of the ground disgruntled at the six – nil thrashing dealt them by the home team. Trapped inadvertently in their midst I was swept along by the ever increasing momentum that egged them on. Our speed accelerated to a run, as we veered en masse left down a narrow side street breaking away from our police escort. I smelled trouble.
The air thick with tension was charged with electricity. Without warning mob rule exerted its violent authority. Stuck right in the middle of a full blown soccer riot, I had little choice but to go with the flow or become a target for the indiscriminate violence I was witnessing all around me. Rocks smashed every window in sight, cars were overturned, innocent by-standers kicked and beaten, all of this mindless ciaos performed while maintaining a steady six-minute-mile pace. I jogged along minding my own business and thinking to myself Surely this will end at some point. And hopefully I will still be alive.
I never realized how strenuous rioting is. I was simply performing the running part and found myself totally exhausted. The real participants, when not rioting, must dedicate themselves to an arduous training schedule to keep themselves in tip-top rioting shape. I doubt any of these highly trained athletes spend any time at all drinking, smoking or swearing. I have to say I am highly impressed by their commitment and endurance. They must really enjoy themselves to work this hard at it.
After the riot ended I spent some time evaluating my level of participation. Did my presences alone mean I was now a fully fledged soccer hooligan? I believe my life was saved that day by one simple fact.
As I ran down the narrow Brighton streets surrounded by the bedlam and chaos that is part of any proper riot, I noticed that out of several thousand riotees, I bore the distinction of being the only one wearing a duffle coat. (See one on Wikipedia) Resplendent with hood and toggles carved out of bone to fasten the front. Yes, the very same duffle coat worn by Paddington Bear, except his was blue and mine is green, ironically a soothing color.
It stood up well to the cold night, but was certainly not in any way threatening. It is safe to say a duffle coat is not cut from dangerous cloth, but it did save me. Its thick unassuming innocence insulated me, preventing the general depravity that smothered me that evening from soaking into to my bones and converting me into a mindless riotous athlete for ever.