The European dissemination of Barcelona Maghrebis’ trademark mugging technique: a brief multilingual glossary

The emerging narrative seems to be that the mass sexual assaults in Cologne and other places during the New Year celebrations confronted on the one hand white left-wing institutional racism and sexism (brown men can do no ill, for all Rolf Jäger’s (misreported?) fine words) with on the other hand brown right-wing popular racism and sexism (white women will get what’s coming to them). The Dutch shock comic, Hans Teeuwen, satirised what in 2002 was already a known problem in a comprehensively blasphemous scene, God and Allah, in his show, Dat dan weer wel, “Mind you”:

And Allah thinks that all Dutch women are whores!
And he’s absolutely right!

But taharrush gamea تحرش جماعي / taḥarruš jamāʕiyy isn’t the only criminal activity spreading rapidly across Europe, protagonised by Maghrebis, and posited on the exploitation of interethnic misunderstanding. I first encountered the the “Ronaldinho” brown-on-white male-bonding pickpocket routine in around 1998 in Barcelona, when a member of a Moroccan street gang tried (and failed) to apply it to DA in c/ Carders. (I’d be interested to hear if anyone has an earlier date, particularly in a different city and involving different ethnicities. I failed to find any older material, though I thought I might in early 20th century accounts of dancehall escorts.) Probably tens of thousands of Barcelona victims later, I last saw it a few months ago, when JS was relieved of his iPhone with rather more force by a lone Moroccan on c/ Avinyó. Here’s a Barcelona compilation from 2010:

I had never really thought about the specific mechanics until the recent posting by the Düsseldorf police of this excellent instructional film:

The video surprised me because I didn’t know that el Ronaldinho had spread beyond Amsterdam and Rotterdam. But it now appears to have become common in most places across Europe where young Moroccan- and Algerian-heritage males regularly come into contact with their naive and preferably drunken white counterparts, particularly tourists from safer parts, whether foreign or suburban/rural.

I think that in Barcelona it is still known as “the Ronaldinho”, though now that his gangly gait is fading from memory we probably need a new name. The Germans seem to use Antänzer quite a lot for the perpetrator, which Kate Connolly@Guardian translates as “waltzer”, as in waltzing up to someone, though I’d prefer “seriously-come-dancer”. They also use more literal expressions like Tanzende Diebe, “dancing thieves”, as do the Dutch and Flemish – dansende dieven, dansdiefstal (“dance theft”) and dansdieven (“dance thieves”) – and the French and Walloons – vol à la danse has been around since at least 2013.

I also think that the technique is still specific to Maghrebi thieves (I have never heard of anyone else using it), but I imagine that will change rapidly: it is easily learnt (particularly now that Facebook video has supplemented and perhaps to a considerable extent displaced presential learning networks), relatively non-violent (hence unlikely to lead to any serious police action), effective (defence is hard when tipsy, even if one appreciates that strangers are not to be trusted), and lucrative (I think there’s a causal connection between its diffusion and that of the iPhone). Anyone who remembers stuff like the 1999 Feyenoord football riots will know that no-one is perfect, and that, to put it mildly, rape and pillage are not the exclusive preserve of North Africans. Dubbing it “the Tangier tackle” isn’t going to work.

Someone else may want to discuss redneck disco-shopping moves:


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  1. I'm left wondering where this leaves the light-skinned perpetrators of the annual mass sexual assault parties at San Fermín and La Tomatina. Even these guys were given the benefit of the doubt until recently – as was underscored by Público's coverage 2-3 years back, all concerned, but with footer links to previous years' photo galleries, particular emphasis on any tits they could include.

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