AFC Wimbledon v Mansfield Mutilators*, or, An Overly Deliberate Attempt At Contemporaryness & The Horror Of New Etiquette

(*=This is a lie. They are called the rather more dour Mansfield Town. I told several non-football fans they were called the Mansfield Mutilators to see if trumped up Americanization would perk up their interest. And indeed it did. So, commanding heights off postmodern industry, there you have it. Get more people interested in football by dishing out names like that. All, on the other hand, maybe enough people like it already? Ha ha.)

(NB: I am reminded of the fact that the last time I wrote a match report for the internet I spent a lot of it dwelling on the fact I accidently exposed myself to a number of elderly shoppers in an Edinburgh Woollen Mill during an eventful trip to the match. Nothing quite so jolly this time, but do please contact me at vornstyle@googlemail.com for a digital image of my naked groin. Be sure to mark you e-mails either “Erect” or “Flaccid”. And remember, the customer is always right.)

After numerous weather-based postponements, I was finally able to see my new local team last saturday. The mythology-rich AFC Wimbledon were playing (the mythology-poor I would assume) Mansfield Town in the 5th tier of English football: the Blue Sq. Premier. I set about a mission of compiling a haphazard match report thru the increasingly international medium of Facebook status updates. This is what now follows…

Robert Peter Vaughan has found his spectacles, and so will be able to enjoy the splendors of non-league’s tiki-taka total footballing genius in glorious High Definition reality.

Football can be a very beautiful thing. It depends on the consumer’s belief and assumptions. I wrote this in reference to this advert:

What the hell? Mourinho’s anally-retentive defensively-minded football looks more beautiful in HD?! As a child I used to watch football on Teletext. Nothing would happen. I would sit there, waiting, waiting, waiting for the page to reload. Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-1 Manchester Utd. YYYEEESSSSSSS!!!! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! MUM, WE’VE SCORED!!!

Who can deny the beauty there? Not I. The above advertisement is part of the sustained game-changing campaign to  and change perspectives, build industries on and basically make money from the highest reaches of the game. To me it is crude McDonaldisation, Disneyfication, hypercapitalism, postmodernisation. Whatever. But it is also undeniable, a bolted horse, an out of control juggernaut. The above status update was a bit wallowing, a bit romanticist, a bit backwardbound, a bit utopian. I apologise.

Robert Peter Vaughan is at a funeral service.

Former Wimbledon manager Allen Batsford had died over the Christmas period. Before the game, numerous players from his 1970s team gave eulogies over the PA system. The minute’s silence was a proper pin-dropping affair. To state the absolutely obvious, it was funereal. The only thing missing was to actually bury him beneath the center circle of the pitch. It brought home, with thunderingly simplicity, the whole sociological notion of sport being a ritual. This was a better funeral than all of the ‘real’ ones I’ve been to!

Robert Peter Vaughan After two minutes head tennis antifootball, sudden quality, sudden incision, sudden blood. 1-0 you slag!

Okay, as alluded to in the first status update, I’m quite snobbish about the style of football I watch. I even criticize my girlfriend – an insightful, intelligent, talented, beautiful young writer – for her chaotic & opportunistic style of Table Football play. I adore Barça’s quick-passing, supremely technical football. Non-league football – indeed, any level below that of economic superclubs – represents something quite different. No sustained possession, greater reliance on power and strength. Long balls. Up & at ’em. The first two minutes of the game followed this stereotype. But then – sudden! – a considered, measured diagonal ball was floated from just outside the ‘D’ of the penalty area for AFC Wimbledon’s striker to head accurately, gently past the exposed goalkeeper. All of which, of course, further enhances my philosophical prejudices (for that is what they are). And as for “1-0 you slag!”… well, I was excited. I am, after sustained research, human after all.

Robert Peter Vaughan Ah, people smoke here. Interesting.

Something I haven’t noticed in other English football grounds. Not just a handful of isolated oddities. Lots of people were smoking here. It was totally acceptable in this temporary microsociety. Reminded me of Barcelona. Not only was the Camp Nou full of smoke & smokers, but the whole city was. I was amazed to return home and later find out that was supposedly a smoking ban.

Robert Peter Vaughan 2-0. And lino is mobocratically sentenced to “cunt”.

This is interesting. 2-0. To the home team. And yet the Assistant Referee (formerly known as a “Linesman”) is absolutely abused. Why? Well, a few moments earlier, he had disallowed a goal because of a fairly unquestionable offside in the build-up. The home fans reacted badly. Of course. But when this allowed goal (rather than the disallowed goal, ha ha) went in, part of the celebrations were to vilify the lino. Quite brutally. It’s as if the subjective correctness of allowing this goal had highlighted the subjective incorrectness and stupidity and dare-I-say-it evil of his previous decision. Rather than right his ‘wrong’ he’d actually erected a flashing neon sign to highlight it. And, so, “SURE IT’S A GOAL, LINO? YOU CUNT!” And, dear reader, as much as it makes me blush… I called him a “cunt” as well…

Robert Peter Vaughan just heard an elderly man say, “I’m friends on Facebook with the Womble.”

Ahhh… Just… alway remember he’s a womble? Here’s a picture standing on the 4th plinth:

Robert Peter Vaughan The brotherly love of the football crowd. Where a knocked over crutch brings only an “EXTERMINATE!” joke.

All rather lovely. Except I chickened out of bringing my usual bag, a bright orange My Little Pony one. The very same bag that so often in central London draws people to me to inform me of my messianic wonderfulness. Symbolic interactions, eh…? Or shell of an Übermensch.

And then! This is where things started to get ridiculous. And by things, I mean things in my head, not out on the pitch. I stopped status updating. Not for want of interesting things happening. For example, AFC nearly scored a *roll out the cliché* audacious!! 35 yard goal. But I began to worry about my excessive status updating breaking some unwritten Facebook etiquette. What? What? What? In the context of my general rudeness, I was flaberghasted that such bullshit could effect moi, the great artist. It’s a sad sad sad sad sad sad world in which we live, with delicate intricacies of social normative shitsandwich stopping people riding around in rapehungry biker gangs. Pity the artist! See how he suffers!

The match finished 2-0. I enjoyed it very much (remember, I am human). I got excitable, and bought a scarf (human, I am). It is blue with SOUTH LONDON emblazoned across it in bright yellow. I have enjoyed wearing when visiting my (above-mentioned) girlfriend in rat-infested Islington.

I somehow managed to pluck up the courage, admittedly several hours later, to make one last status update:

Robert Peter Vaughan would simply love (possibly Love) to see AFC Wimbledon versus MK Dons. What a ritualistic spectacle that could be! Oh, the delight I feel in my tummy. That would be one for the decapitated pigs. Beautiful, vibrant, throbbing, malignant, violent. Potentially.

To start with, read the background here. Basically, Wimbledon FC, a South London club who had been in the top tier of English football for nearly twenty years and famously won the FA Cup were moved by their owners to Milton Keynes.

Hmmm… Was it wrong to move to Milton Keynes? Well, i’m a little fuzzy on good and bad, hence my recent spate of wild stabbings, but I believe in cause and effect. There’s reasons why Wimbledon FC moved, local council, lack of Premier League level support, etc. But it’s also utterly predictable that a significant number of people would be pissed off by the move.

The curious thing is Wimbledon are now a lot stronger than ever before. There’s so much good will for them, and they are developing layers of exciting mythology with their second rise up the leagues. Myths that will attract fans. I mean “stronger” in the sense of their identity. And I’m fairly certain to will taste the top flight again (unless a breakaway EuroSuperLeague happens first). Because the goodwill and strong identity essentially means: media interest/fan interest = money = better players/staff/facilities = continuing their rise up the leagues.

I admired the leagues fact that Wimbledon were a non-league club, essentially, who had landed themselves in the 1st Division thru luck and audacity. I like to see those things in sport. I believe football needs variety to remain interesting. AFC Wimbledon aren’t quite an FC St. Pauli, but they are a club on the up and in some vague way avoid the extremities of the homogenizing mechanisms at play with the rest of the game and its surrounding culture. I wish them well. And I call on every football fan to demand more variety.

And a match against MK Dons would be fantastic pantomime of the rawest and most viscerally believable kind.

Edit: Here’s the highlights:

Edit 2: An article by Matt Dickinson in The Times is here, using this match as a starting point for some brief queries about the Dons’ future growth. Not as interesting as mine, but he at least gets to interview the AFC Wimbledon manager Terry Brown. Interesting as a normative comparison piece to this article.

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Filed under AFC Wimbledon, Football, Sport

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