To say that this work of nonfiction is about football is like saying The Godfather is about the mob. On a simple level, yes, it is about football fandom in England -- but there's so much more. I'd think that sociologists would love to get their hands on this book, especially the ones who study crowd dynamics, because that is undoubtedly Among the Thugs's greatest feat. What separates this book from most other crowd studies is that Buford fully immerses himself into the situation. Like the way Johnny Depp the cop becomes Donnie Brasco the gangster, Buford becomes a hooligan. He infiltrates their club and becomes a member, and we see their crazy, desperate violence from the primary source.
It's a dream come true -- none of these hooligans are smart enough to analyze their own psyches, but Buford, being infinitely smarter and aware, is able to report on being a hooligan. Haven't you ever wondered what might be going through an animal's mind? Here we have the answer. I don't know if I like the answer, but it's there, and it's as true as true journalism can get.
Buford was just a real pleasure to read, his self-deprecating humor making me chuckle many times over. His description of British football and its fans was so real that I felt almost uncomfortable. They're all animals, every last of'em! I'll be happy if I never see a soccer match live as long as I live.
The only part of the book I didn't enjoy was Part 3, Dusseldorf. I thought it slowed down significantly, and I wondered just why he kept going on. Then I noticed another chapter followed, Sardinia, and sighed. But Sardinia is worth it. It is absolutely where the book should have ended. Until Sardinia, I thought to myself, "What hasn't Buford done?" Read Sardinia. You'll see.