- A lot of people have been waiting a long time for this grizzly spectacle – a major football event with very clear power and (seemingly obvious) political dimensions. This is what people wish Hillsborough had been.
- I half expect Ian Taylor to burst out of his grave. Spare a thought for him, he spent a lot of time in the early 70s trying to interpret British football hooliganism in terms of class consciousness. He had one example to go on. One event, when some fans (my memory is fuzzy but possibly Sunderland?) remonstrated with the board.
- Whilst football hooligan and/or Ultra culture outside of Britain does tend to be more ‘political’, I must point out that in every case I’ve seen political ideology is very secondary to the group identity of supporting a club. Politics is used as an extension and/or defence of the collective sense of masculinity. I recall a lot of people I know were mightily impressed by the chanting of PAOK fans on the day of last year’s pensions strike. In a dreamy eyed utopian way they saw some sort of revolutionary potential in them. Which, yes there is in all football fandoms – but only if their group identity is challenged by, for example, austerity measures. Why were PAOK fans in London? To play a UEFA Europa Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur, a massive English club with institutional contempt for the riot-strewn neighbourhood kids that can’t afford to see the games played in the stadium they’ve grown up in the shadow of. It is revolutionary aesthetics at best.
- And lest we forget that whilst our kneejerk utopian reactions may scour for crumbs of Hope Lies In The Firms what possibly seems to have happened in Port Said is that fandom, by chance or design, was harnessed to carry out counterrevolutionary dirty work. And, of course, more profoundly, many are dead.
- This piece in the Guardian is definitely worth a read. The comparison between Al Masri and Millwall’s “no-one likes us” fan cultures is (a) interesting, (b) predictable, (c) probably quite extreme, and (d) shaped not unlike a convenient coat peg.
Category Archives: Death
This is the second part of this post.
BUT! I didn’t go to the 26th March march either… After over a month of gradual excitement and being halfway through making a splendid protest sign (one side pink & blue, “THIS GOV’T IS SO BAD I’M FORCED TO MISS DULWICH HAMLET FC TO BE HERE TODAY“) I didn’t turn up.
Two days previously my mum had rung me to say my grandpa has been diagnosed with cancer. Pancreatic cancer. The “silent killer”. Undiagnosed, indeed, unnoticed, for a year or so, the black mass has taken hold of him from within.
I had the chance to be driven with family to visit him. On Saturday. The 26th. The day of the march. I had a second of “ahhh, shit…” A strange mix of selfishness and civic duty. But not for long. Of course I was going.
I’ve always viewed my grandpa as something of a great man. Strong. Quick-witted. Handsome. Humorous. Silly. Cheeky. Very very charming. (If I had half of what he has I’d have half of London following the ambitious guff I write here). And given certain family complications, he filled a fair few father figure roles.
This is a ritual. Another ritual. I didn’t go to the football. I didn’t go to the protest. But I did join my family in visiting my ill grandpa. There is a hierarchy of ritual. Some you only ever play with whilst some are so entrenched that they Simply Are. They feel natural, right, part of you. So much so that I feel deeply uncomfortable writing about dying and death in a knowing, rational way.
I fear I’m devaluing my experiences, those of my family and even grandpa’s own, with this Diet Roland Bathes decodifying…
But rituals aren’t a bad thing. They are a fact of life, a vital part of our existence as social creatures. Animals who live for meaning and the buzz of connection.
I feel ashamed to say family tragedies are rituals, but I should be even more ashamed at the thought of lying and saying they aren’t.
The undercurrent to this post, though I shirk from the agony of conclusively admitting it, is that the “realness” of the emotions surrounding death are as unessential, spatiotemporal and kind of pretentious as those of celebrating a goal at a football match… But two points:
(1) Without wanting to be too postmodernist, there is probably a lack of essential truth, and even if there is one, to adhere to it would be so Sovietgrey, so joyless, so rigid that I don’t think it would be living. What moves us is all important.
And (2) Death, “the cult of death”, is the most historic, the most enshrined, the deepest foundationed ritual of all. And therefore the least escapable (not that we should wish to…) Mircea Eliade noted that prehistoric burial sites, having lasted thousands of years for archaeologists or even passers-by have survived whilst the more practical day-to-day living quarters of those ancient societies do not. It “testifies to a very important cult of the dead.” Indeed it does. As does my family’s current activity.
In a thousand years time we won’t be discussing benefit cuts or even western liberal democracy. We certainly won’t debate goalline video technology or even association football. But we will go to funerals. And we will be funereal.
So, in the struggle of three rituals, one emerged gloriously triumphant over the others. I can put it in a league table:
And as football clubs’ fans tend to claim, but seems to be true in this case, the upper echelon of this table has more history, more tradition, and are – deep in your gut – more real.
Oh, and he votes Tory…
Spain win the World Cup. Andres Iniesta’s late winner was celebrated by the Barça midfielder pulling off his shirt to reveal a dedication to Dani Jarque, whose death last year inspired me to write this post.
And consequntially, this miserable little blog, used to maybe eight hits a day, got over a thousand views in the hours following his goal.
There is something fitting, or telling, that the world’s biggest sporting event gives even a strange, maladjusted little sports blog like this its biggest day of hits.
I cannot escape the order of things.
And where the fuck are you bastards normally? Reading the BBC Sport website? Cunts.
P.S. >>> Iniesta was booked for the celebration. Scoring a nearly last-minute winner in a World Cup final, for a country that had never got past even the Quarter Finals previously, with a ready-made dedication to a dead man. And he gets booked for the mere act of pulling his shirt off. Jesus! FIFA clearly don’t appreciate the ritual they claim to have control over…
If I was in Iniesta’s situation I’d lose the plot. Shirt, shorts, socks, velveteen posing pouch. They’d all be ripped off whilst I roared at the gods. I’d probably sacrifice a virgin by the corner flag and as she neck-bled to death cum over her naked breasts.
GUNFIRE! SHOOT-OUTS! BLOODLOSS! DEATH! MILITANT SEPRATISM! CIVIL WAR! COMING FROM 4-0 DOWN TO EQUALIZE IN THE LAST MINUTE! THERE’S A BALL! KICK IT! KICK IT! GGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!
Football is about identity, and authenticity, and masculinity. Football requires drama, a groupbuilding myth, a legendary roughness to contextualize the smooth, to authenticize an imagined right to sporting success, or to authenticize the lack of success (thus itself forming an integral part of “success”).
5) Togo Team Bus Attack 2010
4) Gabon Air Crash 1993
(Fascinatingly, I couldn’t find a YouTube video forA WHOLE FUCKING TEAM DYING after numerous searches. Doesn’t matter, of course, they’re only black people…)
3) Turino Superga Disaster 1949
2) Hillsborough 1989
1) Munich Air Crash 1958
If football punditry could ever get over its neverending politeness-hemorrhage of conservatism and mythologies, they’d properly address tragedy and disaster with the same moribund mundanity they do offside decisions… And now i imagine Alan Hansen – who has the face and hairstyle of someone you could imagine starting a coup with Mark Thatcher – grimfacedly looking over replayed slow-mo footage of the attack, belittling the low deathtoll (“At Liverpool in the ’80s we were more committed. All champions are. Like the Busby Babes – you can win things with kids.”) Particular vile bile would be reserved for Adebayor, “the selfish primadona.”
It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be correct. It would unease me deeply. Dream on, dreamers. Dream on. It would make such sense. A vibrantly disgusting celebration of morbid honesty. Party poppers loaded with snot & blood clots.
Post-Script. At the time of publishing there is debate and confusion surrounding the Togo national team and whether they will compete in the 2009 African Cup of Nations. In one sense they have won the competition already. There is no need to play in it and risk not winning it, having already won it. You see?! And in direct contrast to Zambia a mere 17 years ago, the media seems to have found a lot more room/appetite for reporting/feasting on the perils of black footballers. However, a more potent cocktail would be to “do a Zambia” – who in spite of having lost their entire first choice squad to niggling cases of DEATH only months before, managed to combine tragedy with relative success, narrowly losing the 1994 African Cup of Nations final to a strong Nigeria side. Decisions, decisions. Do they want to gamble?It’s like a quiz show. But not.
It’s also much like a simple ballgame played by children. But not.
The shocking death of Catalan footballer Dani Jarque, a defender for RCD Espanyol de Barcelona, brings to mind (of course) the similar passing of Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta two years ago. For me, the most striking and upsetting aspect of that situation wasn’t his collapse on the pitch, youthful and handsome yet so virtually lifeless when he had been playing top-level football only seconds before, but this image of his heavily pregnant girlfriend Mar Roldan:
It sends shivers up my spine. It is harrowing, horrible, awful. The sense of loss smacks you in the face, a bitter little taste of what you might well have to deal with yourself one day, but you know full well it will be a million times worse.
Look at this picture. Look at it! Taste the misery, the panic, the black despairing waves of helplessness, hate of the unfairness. Smell the fear, feel the gentle neverending throb of pain.
This image is so… full. Overflowing. You can drown in it. Sometimes the memory hits me, and I feel for a couple of seconds I may be drowning in a thick primordial custard of empathy, sympathy, sorrow and sad sad songs.
You can probably sense from my tone a degree of excitement about the photograph. You’d be absolutely right. It is excitingly dramatic. What a story this is! The hypernarrative of a football match in this instance floods with ease into a headfuck of emotional catastrophies. This trumps mumbled post-match interviews and sportswear endorsements with such spectacular vigourous vulgarity. Over The Top. Indeed. Gloriously so.
And look at the (accidental/chaotic/natural) composition of the photograph. My word! This could be one of the old masters. I absolutely LOVE! the way she is joined by two similarly distraught women, both protectively and/or desperately clinging – like Roldan herself – to her gorgeously strained pregnant bump.
There is something deeply sexy about the photograph. The team is dumbstruck, the nation mourns, the worldwide footballing culture purses its lips sorrowfully. But at the epicentre of pure fucked-upness is this poor beautiful woman – literally heaving with appetizing womanhood – screaming for the fallen (posthumous) hero, the father of her unborn child. I find myself desiring her on a quite profound level, a conceptual yet visceral plane. I am here, dear reader – all three of you! – hungry to snort the drama, lick the tears, stiffle the cries.
This could be a Renaissance oil, 12ft by 6 framed in opulent overkill of gold, capturing a pregnant Virgin Mary sobbing at the crucifixion… Obviously I’m playing a little here, but the point is, haphazardly unintentional as it may be, this is comparable to art (although probably not itself art – but that’s a massive discussion best avoided for now).
Only a real tragedy could do this so well… so camply… so tragically. It is more art than art. Therefore I raise my glass to the horror I sobbed with sympathetic sternfulness to only several paragraphs ago. A vulgar sledgehammer slams me in the face: once, twice.