Category Archives: Millwall

Interpretations of the Port Said Riot

"That's the money shot!" roars the shirt sponsoring executive.

I’ve just bashed together a quick few incomplete thoughts on the way people are reacting to the Port Said riot after Al Masri beat Al Ahly. I assume you all already know the basics. My wotsits:
  • 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.

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Filed under Death, Millwall, Politics

Trying To Explain Millwall…

I recently moved to Dog Kennel Hill Estate. It’s between Dulwich and Peckham, in South London. The nearest professional football club is the infamous Den-dwelling Millwall FC. And so, with uncharacteristic trepidation, I’ve been to a few games, including the 2-0 win over “boutique football club” QPR last Tuesday.

Seeing Millwall is… amazingly good fun. Where I expected a repressive, scary miasma, I instead found a liberating atmosphere. It is, undoubtedly, the most communal football experience I’ve ever been part of.

Millwall fandom is spectacular, extravagant, dramatic. The chaotically compiled group identity is profound, loud, and has a discernible effect on the team. And, most importantly, it is relatively unique – a dash of heterodoxy in the homodox world of blandly commercialized football.

Millwall is what a lot of other clubs’ fans secretly wish they were.

I can’t claim an exhaustive empirical basis, but from what I’ve seen Millwall have a far more defined group identity and enjoyment of the footballing ritual than any comparable club.

This is a club that historically yo-yos from second tier to third. A club that has spent a mere two seasons in the top division. A club whose biggest achievement was losing the 2004 FA Cup final. In short, they are unsuccessful – especially compared to the few clubs who moribundly dominate English football.

But Millwall fandom seems to partially wriggle out of that logic. Not entirely – they cheer goals, they bemoan decisions against their side etc. But Millwall exists above and beyond the “sporting” hierarchy of being shat upon by the Manchester Uniteds, the Liverpools et al. Which all clubs do, really. But at Millwall there is a tangible sense of existing for themselves. “No-one likes us, we don’t CARE!!!”

Too many other clubs that size meekly beg, “Please like us and offer a few crumbs…?” Well, fuck that! Millwall provide the beginnings of the two fingered salutation – we exist for ourselves – that the rest of football deserves.

In terms of identity, Millwall are up there with the most successful clubs, which when you think about it is quite staggering. Those clubs have a lot to shout about – they’ve won football’s Harsh Economic Reality lottery. Millwall haven’t. So, I applaud them for Being. They are a great socio-economic anomaly, but so very social.

Former Millwall chairman Reg Burr described his club as “a convenient coat peg for football to hang its social ills on.” They should instead be a coat peg from which other clubs and fans hope to hang their own ambitions of a grand, encompassing and fun (!) ritual.

Notes

Racism – Was worried about this, but haven’t heard a peep. Not even when new pantomime villain Danny Shittu played up to the role on Tuesday. And the home fans cheered the shapes pulled by a half-time urban dance performance by a group of kids from a local estate. This is not the nightmare Millwall of people’s wild imaginations.

The Roar – This is surely the greatest (and most deconstructed) football chant I’ve ever heard. The crowd basically start screaming. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. It whips around the stadium, like a disordered Mexican wave of Bermondsey banshees. It is worth a trip down the Den for this alone. I’m told it evolved from a simple chant of “Millwall!” Absolutely splendiferous. This video doesn’t do it justice:

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Filed under Culture, Millwall, Ritual, Sociology, Sport