Football hooliganism a mug's game
CNN Hong Kong
(CNN) -- "Now if you need money you can trash and loot shops," a thuggish voice booms.
You direct your gang accordingly.
"I'm going to like this," the voice says as one of your men takes to a phone kiosk with a metal bar.
Pretty soon the crew is causing havoc on the streets of Amsterdam, attacking police, beating up people, looting shops and smashing anything in sight.
The mayhem is a scene from a controversial computer game featuring European football hooligans that has taken Europe by storm, becoming a bestseller in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Called "Hooligans Storm over Europe", the game appears based on some of the ugly events that characterized the 2000 European football championships.
"Become the most notorious group of hooligans in Europe!" the game's blurb says.
"Wreak havoc across Europe, use alcohol drugs and prostitutes to control your troops and whenever there are problems, solve them with a nice little knock on the head!"
Released last month in the Benelux countries, around 16,000 units were sold in January alone.
Many major retailers have shunned the product, citing problems with its violent nature.
But the company that published the game, Darxabre, says the contents don't promote violence.
"We do not think that the message is to become a hooligan. It's basically playing a strategy game against the background of hooliganism," Darxabre's Jason Garber says.
"It's rather sarcastic and, you know, a lot of irony in it as well."
Besides, the game comes with a health warning.
"Games are to be played not imitated. If after playing this game you feel the urge to commit violent acts, please seek professional help immediately," its packaging says.
The game may soon sweep through Asia -- a region that has had little exposure to hooliganism so far -- ahead of the World Cup finals co-hosted by Japan and South Korea which begin May 31.
Darxabre says they have a deal with a Japanese distributor and is in talks with a company in South Korea.
And it will be hoping that the irony won't be lost in those markets.
Already, British police have expressed concern that many convicted hooligans have not been banned from traveling to Korea and Japan for the finals.
Japan is playing host to matches featuring England, a team whose fans -- although generally only a minority of which -- bring with them a terrible reputation.
Already, the Japanese public is already bracing for an onslaught from hooligans and authorities are tightening up and preparing for the worst.
"I heard they use violence, fight and are prone to wanton destruction," a Japanese male says when asked what he knew about hooligans.
"It is very scary. I feel helpless," another admits.
One woman was shocked to hear about "Hooligans Storm over Europe".
"It gives me goosebumps," she says.
Despite this apprehension, Darxabre expects a positive response from consumers in North East Asia.
"The world cup which is -- I believe in June -- is also a very good time to release such a game," Garber says.
That means it could generate sales comparable to those in Europe, where it mowed down everything in its path.
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