- 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: Politics
UPDATE! A game of three-sided football will be going ahead (provisionally) at Saturday Feb 25th. 11.00am in Deptford Park. Get in contact via the comments if you want to join in, or even just observe.
This story begins with a triangle.
In outward appearances I seemed a fairly football-obsessed child. But, in truth, I must have got quite bored of it very soon. I was always daydreaming, drawing and writing of changes, improvements, implausibilities. Ranging from statistically anal fan fiction about goalmachines plucked from non-league obscurity to re-imaginings of the rules of the game, at the tender age of maybe 10 years I was already dissatisfied with the real-world limitations of the game (but clearly utterly enamoured with an essense of its form).
One of my idle fantasies was imagining a three-sided version of the game. I pictured this being played on a triangular football pitch, with goals on each equilateral side, with thrilling match-ups like Manchester United versus Sheffield Wednesday versus Wimbledon FC. I thought this could replace the much maligned League Cup! It was only the realisation that stadiums couldn’t be moved around for a midweek triangular game that killed the idea for me (yes, at that tender age my imagination was stuck with pre-existing organisations and a desire to make the fans pay… a capitalist realist…)
It’s not a triangle, it’s a hexogon – as soon as my eyes fell upon the image, I realised the foolishness of the three sided pitch.
It’s not a new game either, and in fact existed whilst I idly daydreamed something very akin to it. Asger Jorn, the Danish situationist, apparently invented it (presumably before he died in 1973), to explain his trilectics (an upgrade of Marxian dialectics) and generally oooh-errr people’s view of football.
As a result, it seems to be mainly played by philosophy students, situationists, psychogeographers, lefties without too much of a stick up their arse et al. The Luther Blissett lot are involved. As is Stewart Home. But I have also heard mention of it being used as a training game for young players.
Interestingly it is the team that concedes the least goals that wins. Whilst in regular binary rectangular football that would probably lead to a horrifically negative game, in heterodox trinary hexagonal football it leads to (distrustful) alliances, i.e. the two teams losing (or likely to lose) can team-up against the superior team with a double man advantage – whilst it suits them.
I really want to play a game. Not really because of the intellectualism surrounding it, though that does indeed whet the appetite, but because I still have that greedy maximalism of childhood. I wasn’t daydreaming of three-sided football at the age of 10 to challenge the role of proletariat and bourgeoisie or the fucker and the fucked. I was doing it because, wow, an extra team, that would be amazing!
But, sadly, attempts to contact people involved with it have been unanswered. It’s as if I’m tring to blag my way into a situationist freemasonry lodge…
If you know of a game, or would like to set one up with me in sunny South London, get in touch. (Warning: I am rubbish.)
(Here’s Sid Lowe writing for Sports Illustrated about it…)
I want to play it oh-so-much…
(With such a grandiose title this blog post feels far too short. But given I actually want people to read it, this blog post already feels too long…)
Why do so many atheists and agnostics demand rationality of the religious, but not of themselves? Why do they not apply cool logic to their romantic relationships, their proclamations of pop star genius and their sport loyalties?
Sport. And particularly fandom. Here we have something that fits so well with Durkheim’s elementary forms of religious (and, therefore, social) life that I see football fans like myself as inseparable from the dancing naked pagan. An ecstatic, orgiastic ritual. Totemic worship. Blind faith.
Football as the new religion was quite a fashionable line in the 1990s, purely as a hyperbolic catchphrase, something for a twat to blurb out at an advertising meeting (or whatever those shits do). I want to distance myself from that. I think sports were always rich in religiosity, or to give it a truer label, ritualism.
The big difference in Britain is that god has lost its authenticity for most, but sport hasn’t, as the Olympic state of exception we’ll collectively embrace later this year will show.
But the church buggers children senseless… Yes, very true in far too many cases, too much even for my debauched tastes… But in Britain today, based on my harrowing anecdotal experiences of aggressive fantasist football parents screaming in the faces of their children (in public, fuck knows what happens at home), I’d wager more children are abused under the unchallenged umbrella of sporting ‘authenticity’ than in the now-moribund religious sector.
Not that I’m particularly concerned, of course. I don’t actually want you to all necessarily see the (en)light(enment) and fuck off, leaving me the alone in the irrationality arena of the football stadium. The crowd dynamic, the ranting, the screaming, the caring about something not worth caring about – it’s a lot of fun, my head might know it’s meaningless but my viscera certainly don’t feel the same, and it might just be the essence of our social existence.
So why am I writing this? Perhaps I’m compelling you to be like me, embrace the knowingly-comfortable-with-one’s-own-irrationality position. It certainly sounds good doesn’t it? In fact I must sound like a smug self-congratulatory git. No, no, no. The trouble is, once it’s gone, that belief, that faith, it’s never quite the same. I haven’t felt the same about football since that bastard Sport & Society (SOC3052) module started in room 301 of Bastard Building in the Streatham Campus of the University of Exeter. I enjoy football still. Get happy. Get pissed off. But… there’s a gap. Something profound – sublime even – is missing. So don’t do what I’ve done (though obviously I’m playfully risking it, just to spitefully drag you down to my level).
I think what I am saying is… allow the loose-jointed Church of England wankers, at least. All they do is drink tea! (And I find it far more difficult to imagine a CEO of a corporation – a far more ‘rational’ set-up – doing what Giles Fraser did.) Honour killings are bad, viciously awful, but so will be the first under 8s poor performance familial killing when it comes. And it probably will.
(PS: just noticed retired referee and self-styled controversial talking head Jeff Winter has gone bonkers at the Catholic Church, though in more of a UDA manner than an Enlightenment one.)
There are a lot of miserable old-before-their-time lefties who argue sport is part of a bread & circuses phenomenon of social control.
I like to disagree.
But consider this weekend:
AFC Wimbledon, a democratically run fan-owned football club born of a bizarre, clumsy & ultimately capitalist injustice, win promotion to football league… but low brow gossip and awful Twitter jokes about Ryan Giggs’ naughties continue to dominate the agenda.
Sure, there are principled nuances to the Giggs story in the ethical & legal debates surrounding the use of super-injunctions by the rich. But in AFC Wimbledon there is case study in people organising themselves, successfully so. But what reports of the Dons’ success I have seen have been so simplistic and unquestioning they may as well have not bothered.
Tittilation has won.
This is reason no. 1,527 why the miserable old lefties think football fans are dismissable cunts, and they are right.
I must be the only person in the world to have stopped supporting AFC Wimbledon this season.
A campaign in which, consistently competitive in a national league for the first time in decades (an incarnation ago), the Dons (re)gained Football League status through their play-off final victory over Luton Town.
Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Crawley Town being the Met Police FC of the division, the Dons would surely have walked automatic promotion.
And I was there, at the beginning.
Starting the season living on South London’s historic Garratt Lane, and ignoring the existence of clubs like Fulham on the other side of my other side of the river, and given the recent move of Tooting & Mitcham FC from the former to neither, AFC Wimbledon were my local club. (They would have been my huperlocal club if they still played at Plough Lane, but oh well…)
As documented previously, I had started seeing the Dons in January 2010, taking in the second half of their debut Conference season in which they ultimately fell shy of the play-offs.
The new season, however, started brilliantly. The Dons looked bolt-on for a special year – a season of Excalibur proportions with the modern mythology round these Wombling parts: AFC were going to get their league status back.
But as the football (which of course never stops) learched to one of its annual business ends I moved eastwards from Garratt Lane to the Dog Kennel Hill Estate. And the Dons were no longer my local club. I now live three minutes’ walk from Dulwich Hamlet.
And this came at a time when I had been thinking a lot about locality, and it’s relationship to football…
I’m not interested in bullshit notions of ‘authenticity’ regarding “support your local team”. Rather, it had occurred to me that a basic foundation in the inequality of the football economy was how acceptable it is to not support your local football club. Now, obviously, this process is multiplied at a geometric rate by the technological possibilities of television, computing etc. and the regulatory liberalisation of globalisation, but its founding stone lies in the simple act of a sepia-tinged flatcap’d man walking past one football ground to go to another, more popular.
Indeed, a massive contributing factor in Wimbledon FC’s original (and still continuing) problems of place was that swathes of matchgoing southwest London handily ignored them to support other ‘local’ clubs such as Chelsea, Fulham, Arsenal. The Dons were dismissable. And even now, with the Milton Keynes move widely derided and now firmly institutionalized against, Merton council are still seemingly disinterested in the club, who – as they did throughout the ’90s – have to make do playing miles from anything like a ‘spiritual’ home, groundsharing again (though this time as dominant partners) in the relative backwater of Norbiton.
For these reasons, combined with the difficulty of fitting travel to Norbiton around work, I stopped going to AFC Wimbledon.
I could have chosen to have enjoyed the glory, and it was exquisitely tempting. But I felt to carry on at Kingsmeadow, an approx. 80 minute trans-transpontine journey rather than the hop, skip & a jump to Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill, would be to play my small role in the contemporary capitalist logic of consumption that was itself the breeding ground of the madcap move to Milton Keynes.
I did it for you, Dons…
1) The Status Quo Returns? For many, Wimbledon’s return to the Football League just that, but it simply isn’t the case. The past decade has made the Dons everyone’s second favourite club (particular fans of big Champions League level teams – like an anti-guilt mechanism) rather than the inconvenience many regarded them as previously.
Wimbledon, having spent years as a gigantic whale in a garden pond, now view themselves as synonymous with ‘good’ football, short passing rather than desperate long hoofing of their days in the top tier of English football.
2) Arrogance & Oddity There was certainly a feeling amongst some fans that rising through the non-league pyramid was an absolute inconvenience as they approached that which they were righteously owed. And sometimes this arrogance grated on non-league fans. But others, both Dons & (blown away) rivals, embraced the oddity of it all, particularly in the first few years where thousands would invade afterthoughts of pitches more used to the proverbial two men and a dog.
3) The Power of a Creation Myth AFC Wimbledon have the most powerful facilitator in the development of a strong fan culture: a sense of profound injustice at the heart of their foundation. The Milton Keynes mockery unites ALL football fans more than anything I’ve ever come across, thus allowing the Dons a position of unequaled righteousness. It is another reason why they are culturally a far stronger unit than ever before.
4) A Political Act? Well, of course, in a world where everything is political, of course the formation of AFC Wimbledon is. Even an idiot could apply new social movement theory to it. But for me, it wasn’t outright ‘political’ enough. It was, after all, the richest (in terms of average salary) matchgoers of the late ’90s Premier League setting about bringing back the status quo.
Don’t get me wrong, the move to Milton Keynes was ridiculous. I have no time for anything surrounding a subterfugeous redevelopment scheme (which is in essence what was going on in Milton Keynes. Ask Asda.)
What was noteworthy about Milton Keynes wasn’t that it heralded the invasion of capitalism into our sacred and unspoilt football, but that it was done so cackhandidly that people were appauled by it rather than lapping hungrily from the bowl as they usually do with, for example, the restructuring of the Champions League to facilitate monopolisation by big clubs.
AFC Wimbledon do not challenge this.
I think – or hope – football can go deeper as a canvass for cultural resistance. FC United are a ‘reformed’ club who take the idea of footballing rebellion an ideological step further into the abstract, responding instead to a change of ownership at the ‘parent’ club. But I’d like to explore even more possibilities. Why form clubs in the idealized image of the ancien regime? Why adhere to the footballing aesthetics & values that now seem so distant, so privatised, so globalized?
We should form a truly new club for all London’s discontented football fan. And groundshare somewhere other than bloody Norbiton. If the club was truly rebellious I would get off my arse and travel. As it stands, football clubs seem so homodox that to visit any other than your nearest one is frankly a waste of effort.
Yes, they exist. And yesterday they narrowly won the Ryman Isthmian Division One South.
Until very recently a works team, they have – according to Wikipedia – relaxed the rule on eligibility and signed non-cop players. And I have heard talk of their “big wallet”, which makes them sound like a Crawley Town with the added PR disaster of kettling teenagers.
According to the statistics, they approximately average attendances of a mere 80 for home games. Bognor Regis Town, who they pipped to the title on goal difference, were getting 1,300-ish at the end of the season. Which doesn’t seem very utilitarian… or even meritocratic.
And, as a result, Dulwich Hamlet – whose late surge I am (subjectively) very pleased to say saw them reach the final play-off place – will play the unfortunate Bognor Regis this coming Tuesday in the play-off semi-final.
I have to say I would have preferred them to play the Repressive State Apparatus instead, and not only because I can’t afford the travel to the south coast, but because I think singing We All Live In A Fascist Regime would have been rather appropriate…
How come the FT can today have the headline “Royal theatre captivates the world” whilst the far better – lurid, melodramatic, guttural, miasmatic, transpontine – spectacle of Real versus Barça is castigated?
If the tourist-friendly sterility of the Royal Wedding – or indeed a routine, incident free, overpowering, freescoring win for either Spanish giant in a regular Liga match – is the world’s best then I am happy to slink into my stinking underworld of sporting deviance. As the Notorious B.I.G. once said, It don’t make sense going to heaven with the goodie goodies… no sleeping all day, no getting my dick licked. That is how I view football, music, art. And I like it. Welcome to hell!