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"Hooligan" is a word that means "young vandals or criminals who are prone to fighting or committing crimes." The word was given a new connotation during the administration of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom in the 1980s: People who cause trouble in soccer stadiums.

Linguists are still debating the origin of the word. Some say hooligan originated from a Slavic word. Others say the roots of the word can be found in English. But nobody denies that rowdy soccer fans of Britain have greatly contributed to spreading the word across the world and adding a modern meaning to it.

According to the scholars who support the English origin, the word hooligan first appeared in a British daily newspaper in 1898. In the same year, a police report also used the word hooligan.

Some argue that the word hooligan stemmed from Patrick Houlihan, an Irish tramp who enjoyed a certain notoriety in 19th century London.

The linguists who champion the Slavic origin contend that in the 19th century the word hooligan already existed in Slavic countries, Russia in particular. As in the case of the word "robot," they insist, the word hooligan was born in the Slavic region and entered English vocabulary later.

European countries have racked their brains over how to handle hooligans who seldom fail to start a row during an international soccer match. During the final game of the European Club Cup in 1985, held in Brussels, soccer hooligans who crossed the North Sea from the United Kingdom battled the opposing team's fans, a brawl that resulted in the deaths of 39 people. After the tragedy, European countries established anti-hooligan acts and banned these British thugs from entry.

The 2002 World Cup soccer tournament begins in about 90 days, and the police and the co-hosts of the event, Korea and Japan, are working to come up with measures to address possible disturbances caused by hooligans. But there will be hospitable guests at the World Cup, too, and they're called "roligans."

Roligans are soccer fans that behave well. A roligan is a cheering squad that was organized in Denmark in 1986. The squad is similar to Korea's Red Devils.

Roligans believe in "soccer without violence." They cheer on the Danish national team wherever it competes.

According to the Danish media, more than 2,000 roligans will visit Seoul during the soccer tournament. I urge Koreans to not confuse roligans with hooligans and be hospitable to these polite fans.



The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Kim Seok-hwan

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