MSWell done to The Morning Star newspaper for being the only UK paper to bother to report about the wonderful football solidarity tour that I mentioned here last month.

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-ebfb-Easton-Cowgirls#.VK1fDyusWKY

However, there’s also another editorial by Sanaa Qureshi, published on the Morning Star site the same day, (please click link) which opines that:

“More broadly, I think we have to take a step back from valorising football both in Palestine and generally. Although it is a brilliant and universal hook to connect with people and harness collective power, it is still a sport that reproduces the same hetero-patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy prevalent in the rest of society.

“I think when we consider the use of football as a useful tool to break boundaries and engage with people, we also have to recognise the complicity of how the industry of football perpetuates inequality.”

I thoroughly understand why many on “the left”, typified by Qureshi’s article, are sick and tired of modern football’s perpetuation of inequalities and its crass top-down gestures like the ill-conceived FC Barcelona ‘peace match’ she refers to. However I couldn’t disagree more with her apparent despair as to football’s potential as a multi-faceted medium for the promotion of awareness and change, on almost any issue you care to name. Football is what you make of it, and groups like Easton Cowgirls FC and Republica Internationale FC do try to make it something different.

“Another kind of football is possible.”

Here’s the start of my original blog post, as published here last month.

Football Against Apartheid in West Bank Palestine

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Football Campaigning, Liberation Footbology, Republica Internationale FC 

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Earlier this month two women’s football clubs from the UK, Easton Cowgirls FC of Bristol and Republica Internationale of Leeds, embarked on a trip of a lifetime to the occupied territories of Palestine. The tour aimed to build solidarity with the women footballers of Palestine and for the UK teams to learn about life under occupation…. (see full original report).

Bullieve it

Posted: November 14, 2015 in Rants in my Pants

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First thing you notice about ‘Anti-bullying week’, this coming week, are that it’s only 5 days long and that it focuses exclusively on kids & young people.

http://www.westridingfa.com/news/2015/nov/anti-bullying-week-2015

Maybe it should be a full week, and the other 2 days should focus on adults playing football next weekend, because bullying stays with you for life and bullying goes on in all walks of life. This means that, by simple arithmetic, there are more adult bullies out there than child bullies, and by simple psychology, that adult bullying is a principal cause of child bullying.

At at least two of the schools I attended, we were systematically bullied by the PE/sports staff, which seemed to be fairly typical in those days. The resulting bitterness will never go away, and it has made me very sensitive to those who abuse their power around any sports pitch. Indeed it has meant that there are a couple of sports that these people tried to ‘teach’ in their sadistic ways, that I will never be able to enjoy in any way.

An interesting aspect of the definition of bullying, published by the Anti-Bullying Alliance who organise this ‘awareness week’, is that it includes the word ‘intentional’. We can guess that this is to enable educators to argue for sanctions against perpetrators, where unintentional acts would be a case for education rather than sanction, and that once further education has been given, then an act can be considered ‘intentional’. It is difficult to know how much the teachers and coaches who bullied us were doing it ‘intentionally’ in that sense, because you don’t know what awareness they had or whether they were just involuntarily repeating ways in which they themselves had been bullied. They did though seem to want to hurt us and I will never forget that.

I’m sure the days of the good old-fashioned, sadistic, sergeant-major-style PE teacher are long gone, but the legacy is still there in plenty of sports teams, whether it is what people say to each other or the tone of voice they use. Misogynist and homophobic bullying is still rife in amateur football, from on and off the pitch. But even ‘nice’, ‘educated’ people who wouldn’t dream of being homophobic or sexist can still be bullies if they do not exercise tact and tolerance in how they talk to team-mates and opposition on the pitch.

Bullying isn’t handball, and I would argue that it doesn’t have to be intentional – if you repeatedly make someone feel bad in a futile attempt to cajole them into doing something you are mentally/physically capable of doing/willing to do but they aren’t, you are bullying them even if you don’t fully realise in what ways they are less capable or willing than you.

So let’s start with our own team-mates. No it isn’t just banter, no it isn’t just exasperation with the performance of others, no it isn’t alright to talk to someone like that as soon as you step over a white line in a park. Please be careful fellas, and why not just be prepared to lose the f*cking match rather than aggressively express your own exasperation with weaker players, whether the perceived weaknesses be physical or mental. Our own team-mates will hopefully soon become aware that we would rather lose than be bullied, that we will always, always stand up to it verbally, and that we won’t be back if it happens again. And ‘try grow a thicker skin’ should never, ever be anyone’s shrugging advice to the bullied … not until the advisor can find comparable examples where it successfully changed anything.

Get that sorted and we can then all stand up together to some of the bullying dickheads on opposing teams or the pond life on their touchlines.

 

10364120_736515819775193_1384974952598572783_nFrancisco Javier Romero (AKA “Jimmy”) Taboada was brutally murdered last Sunday, not long after arriving in Madrid to attend an away match for his beloved Deportivo de La Coruna against La Liga champions Atletico Madrid.
love-deportivo-hate-racism

Jimmy was a member of the Deportivo ultras Riazor Blues, a group which is explicitly left-wing, anti-racist and proudly Galician. The picture above (“Love Depor, hate Racism”)shows that their ethos is as far as it is possible to be from the group of far-right Atletico Madrid ultras, Frente Atletico, who lay in wait for their arrival at the stadium last Sunday. The ambushing fascists were armed with deadly weapons including knives, clubs and metal bars, and the helpless Riazor Blues were immediately overwhelmed. Videos (see below) show the intensity of the clash that took place along the banks of the Manzanares river. It was along this river where Jimmy would be savagely beaten and then thrown down a steep embankment into the freezing water, trapped there for half an hour as rescue attempts were disrupted by the ongoing battle.

Jimmy’s autopsy showed he died of head trauma with internal bleeding from blows to the head, possibly caused by an iron bar. He was the sole fatality in an attack that saw at least a dozen injured, three stabbed and another person thrown into the river. Bloody photos of the injured circulated on social media and Spanish news outlets spoke of police encountering trails of blood across the whole area of Frente Atletico’s savage charges.

This ‘El Pais’ video is especially spine-chilling for those of us who know the approach to Atleti’s stadium along the leafy riverside Avenue, with bars I remember fondly from Liverpool’s visit to Atleti in 2008, when many friends were made with normal, non-fascist Atleti fans. The video shows fighting between two groups, yes – witnesses says that Jimmy was was one of the first to defend himself – but what is hard to make out from footage like this is that one group consisted of a coachload – a few dozen – and the other of several hundred ambushers. I would hope that if a coachload of my own friends ever gets jumped by fascists, we would try to defend ourselves, but that would not make it any less of an ambush.

In the aftermath, a narrative that indiscriminately denounces all ultras has prevailed, not just in the Spanish media but in most commentaries on it by complacent foreign journalists who have been content to take the word of the ‘football authorities’ at face value. Articles that should have been highlighting the problem of fascism in football have instead suggested a false equivalence of ‘two extremes’ at either end of the political spectrum, both of whom, it is suggested, somehow enjoy violence for its own sake. These narratives were spread by the authorities, who within hours of Sunday’s murder were lying about the Riazor Blues and Frente Atletico having communicated over social media to arrange a fight, as if this was somehow an equal and consensual thing rather than a brutal, cowardly ambush by the fascists.

By Monday, this claim was already being revoked by police sources. The only communication for which they had evidence was in fact between the fascist Frente Atletico members who were called upon to gather for the ambush, ominously ending their call with “Atleti o muerte”. Atletico or death.

Like so many police and press conspiracies to smear anti-establishment groups though, the damage already appears to have been done. The Spanish and international media is still full of calls for both groups (nay all Spanish ultra groups, whether good or evil) to be banned, and the right-wing establishment of Jimmy’s own club Deportivo have even seized the chance to say they will ban the victim group from the stadium, even though it’s a group who have been responsible for anti-racist initiatives, etc! Anti-fascist ultras exist because fascist ultras exist, but surely that does not make them part of the problem!?

Attempts to decontextualize the violence or deny its political nature, or say that somehow the fascists and the Depor fans were equal players in Sunday’s events, simply do not stand up to a closer examination of the Frente Atletico ultras’ record. The group has murdered before – in 1998 near the same stadium where Jimmy was killed on Sunday, they cornered and fatally stabbed Aitor Zabaleta, while hunting down defenceless Basque fans ahead of a match with Real Sociedad. This isn’t blind violence against random opponents – this is cowardly mob murder with a clear fascist motive. the name of the fascist thug who was sentenced for the killing of Zabaleta is still regularly chanted from the south stand occupied by the Frente, together with warnings to Basque fans: “we came here to knife you.” In 2011 Frente Atletico ultras were recorded celebrating Zabaleta’s murder during another match against Real Sociedad. The Frente ultras chanted “you don’t fool us, Aitor Zabaleta was from Jarrai.” Jarrai is a radical left-wing youth organization advocating Basque independence, which has been outlawed by the Spanish government. Whether those who deny fascist violence a problem wish to believe it or not, Frente Atletico members themselves consider their violence political and glorify it as such.

The appeals for ‘football without violence’ by the media, political authorities and sections of the public risk becoming ‘football without any ultra groups’, when the objective should be ‘football without fascism and racism’. Ultra groups such as Riazor Blues at Deportivo, Biris Norte at Seville FC or the Bukaneros of Rayo Vallaceno are part of a strengthening anti-fascist and anti-racist tradition being built in La Liga, offering a far more heartfelt, ‘bottom-up’ stance against racism than the fines and rehearsed, ‘top-down’ pre-match statements by football federations.

The problem with the media just echoing the authorities’ response to Sunday’s violence isn’t just a matter of false equivalence between the far-right ultras who brandish their racist Celtic cross symbols (because they’d like to use swastikas, but can’t) on the one hand, and the left-wing ultras who protest during matches about good causes such as home evictions, violence against women, and austerity measures, on the other. The problem is that authorities and the media are together taking advantage of this fatal attack by the far-right to continue a long-standing campaign of criminalisation against left-wing ultras. This is particularly the case with Rayo Vallecono’s wonderful Bukaneros, who have been demonised for several years now by the right-wing Spanish media as the shock troops of various mass anti-government mobilizations in Madrid over recent years. Before it was even clear what had happened on Sunday, the Bukaneros were already being linked to the violence by police and news outlets, when the bloodstained hands on the videos of the violence clearly belonged to Frente Atletico. If a few Bukaneros were arrested as fellow victims with their friends from the Riazor Blues last Sunday, it’s not some sign that a “left v. right” fight was arranged, but that the network of anti-fascist friendship is strong. Many of us on the left in European football have paid homage to the Bukaneros and stood on their terraces with them in Madrid, just as we make pilgrimages to St. the likes of St. Pauli. It doesn’t mean we are looking for a fight or asking to get murdered.

Of the 21 arrested following the street battle, only six were from the far-right ultras. It is always easier to pick up outsiders and victims. No justice can be expected from a state that has common cause with the killers of Jimmy and Aitor.

This post was loosely based, with my own additions, edits and re-translations, on an excellent article on an Italian blog by David Perreira http://wire.novaramedia.com/2014/12/how-madrids-fascist-ultras-are-getting-away-with-murder-actually/

POSTSCRIPT 12/12/2014: The lies of the authorities gradually start to unravel. The police withdrew their “pre-arranged fight” allegations within hours.  Now ‘El Pais’, Spain’s establishment newspaper, has shown that the Madrid police were indeed given prior information by email that this one coachload of Riazor Blues was travelling to Madrid, something which had previously been denied. Furthermore, Depor’s President has now admitted he was wrong to order the closure of the Riazor Blues’ end for last week’s cup game, which came across as punishing even more of their own fans for being victims of this ambush.

I can’t think of a precedent for any neighbouring country having openly raided the offices of an occupied country’s Football Association, though I’m sure that Nazi or Stalinist armies would have readily done so during the turmoil of the mid-twentieth century (had they not just been able to quietly replace the incumbent executives with their own appointees, where they deemed it necessary).

Israel has as yet supplied no explanation for its forces raiding the Palestinian FA’s offices in Ramallah on Monday 24th November, when three military Israeli patrols raided the HQ, blocked the employees from going about their business and thoroughly inspected the offices without giving any information about the reasons behind their acts.

Palestinian Football Federation president Jibril Rajoub said that “What happened last week had no precedents in the history of sport … we want to represent the values of the game of football rather than the violence of the guns and rifles. I do believe that this disgraceful act requires a position from the family of football and I think it is the time to take sanctions.”

This was an incursion by Israeli forces into Area “A” of the West Bank, over which the Palestinian National Authority(PNA) has jurisdiction for both civil affairs and security. “Area A” includes most large Palestinian towns – including Ramallah where the PFA HQ is situated, so the Israeli action once again showed a flagrant disregard for the Oslo Accords.

According to a Ma’an News Agency report, when PFA Director of International Affairs Susan Shalabi asked an Israeli officer the reason for the raid, he merely responded that it was “not a raid”. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=742363

Before Israeli forces left the place they tried to prevent journalists from taking pictures.
PFAHQ

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Shaikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa condemned the “unjustified aggression” on one of the Federation’s affiliates, calling it “unacceptable”.

It is not known whether Israel’s actions are a precursor to attempts to further hinder the freedom of movement of Palestinian international players in the run-up to their first major international tournament, the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, but the occupying forces have long tried to disrupt travel and preparations for Palestinian players, as they do for all the citizens of the occupied territories. Rajoub naturally expressed his fears that this may turn out to be the case, calling on FIFA to put pressure on the Israeli authorities to ensure that the players are allowed to travel for preparation and for the tournament itself.

As well as qualifying for AFC Asian Cup for the first time in its history, the Palestinian national side was also awarded the distinction of being voted “Best National Team in Asia” for the year 2014.

Condemnation by the Asian Federation is natural of course, but will UEFA now join them in condemning this action by the government of a one of its own favourite members? We won’t hold our breath.

The Cost of Loving

Posted: November 29, 2014 in Liverpool FC

price protest

Liverpool supporters protested today on behalf of those of us who are priced out of going to the match these days. The Spirit of Shankly supporters’ union has declared that there will be no flags on the Kop for their next home game, unless the club agrees to talks over ticket pricing. It’s a relationship on the rocks, but while there are ‘plenty more fish’ in the sea of willing punters for LFC, it was an ‘Amoco Cadiz’ scale shipwreck for me quite a while ago.

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Earlier this month two women’s football clubs from the UK, Easton Cowgirls FC of Bristol and Republica Internationale of Leeds, embarked on a trip of a lifetime to the occupied territories of Palestine. The tour aimed to build solidarity with the women footballers of Palestine and for the UK teams to learn about life under occupation. The joint team’s slogan for their tour was “Freedom Through Football”, a message that they wrote on Israel’s separation wall (pictured above), along with the words “we will share your story”.

“It wasn’t always an easy experience emotionally” said Chrissie P (the captain of the joint team). “We met families who had just had their houses knocked down and we witnessed total apartheid, but equally we were so warmly welcomed and met some amazing people. I think we all knew before we went out there that the only thing we would change would be ourselves. But the one thing that we can do, and that we are doing, is to speak to everyone we can about everything we experienced.”

Having been in Palestine for less than 24 hours, they had to hit the ground running when they played the national under-19’s team at the country’s national stadium in Al-Ram. “It was an amazing atmosphere” added Chrissie. “We lost 5-1, but as we scored two own goals it was like 3-3 really!”

The second game could not have been more of a contrast. Played behind closed doors and with no male spectators or cameras allowed, Hebron University Women had never before played a competitive game. “Maybe we laid off them a little too much” says midfielder Sarah, “it was 4-4 and with the clock counting down from 10 seconds we hit the post, the rebound was cleared straight to their forward who pulled out a fantastic strike to win the game bang on full time!”

The final game was against Bethlehem Diyar, a team who have regularly won the Palestinian national league (which currently stands at 12 teams). “They had a number of players from the women’s national team and they were shit hot” said Sarah. “But it was never going to be about winning. What struck me most was when chatting with one of players afterwards, she explained that she had been inspired to take up football seriously in 2001 when her cousin, who she first played football with as a child, was shot dead in his house by Israeli soldiers.”
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“It may be a bit of a cliché, but football really is the international language”, said Chrissie, explaining that the visiting group’s contacts also took them on visits to other projects in the Hebron area – amongst these a women’s co-operative that employs 120 women allowing them an income by selling traditional embroidery and needlework. They also visited projects in the South Hebron hills area, where the ever-increasing number of illegal Israeli settlements threaten the very existence of the villages struggling to maintain their traditional subsistence farming way of life.

The Easton Cowgirls from Bristol and Republica Internationale from Leeds are football teams with a bit of a difference. Although they play their regular league football, both are also involved in fundraising activities, community initiatives and politics.

“Our clubs are involved in a European network of DIY/alternative football teams” explains Chrissie “We play in annual tournaments including the Anti-Racist World Cup in Italy and are friendly with several like-minded teams across Europe, including the famous St.Pauli FC women.”

The tour participants are currently editing film footage they took and hope to produce a short documentary of their trip early in the new year.

The Exploited

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Football Campaigning, Liverpool FC

Great to see the black flags of protest unfurled at Anfield today – on behalf of those of us who were long ago priced out of going to the match, as well as those who aren’t quite yet.

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Woy

I don’t normally pay much attention to the Ingerlund football team, but I have to say that was classic and utterly class-less behaviour once again today from the clueless Roy Hodgson, as he desperately sought to deflect the blame for an uninsipring display by his team last night onto a young hopeful who came on as one of his substitutes. Presumably he felt this approach would play well with the anti-Liverpool sentiments of the majority of southern Ingerlund followers. Of course this all comes after the hapless England manager showed no humility whatsoever about injuring Liverpool’s other best young striking talent by failing to rest him correctly just a few weeks ago. That’s definitely the way to get the best co-operation from your colleague Brendan Rodgers and from all your players in future, Roy, you rank… errm genius of world football.

Comments will probably include:

“Well Woy got Fulham to a final, you know, so he must know what he’s doing!”

“Well he can make a decent attempt at saying ‘I thought we deserved better’ in six languages, you know. And he almost won trophies in some of those countries he’s worked in.”

“Well he’s got to be better than big Sam hasn’t he – and if the FA won’t have a genius like ‘arry, who else have we got?”

“Ryan Shawcross for England! I can’t wait to hear Woy talking about how the Wumanian wef wongly wepwimanded Wyan for a bit of gwappling that you’d see at any avewage set-piece on a wainy night in Stoke. ”

“That Marcus Stewart deserved a few caps for England, too. I like Woy ‘cos I like to think he would have picked Marcus Stewart. And Marcus Stewart wouldn’t have minded being under-Wested.”

protest

Well played to those who marched in the London rain yesterday to protest outside Premier League HQ about the outrageous price of match tickets. This might seem like banging your own head a against a brick wall, but the parallel “Twenty’s Plenty for Away Fans” campaign has had some ongoing successes.

There’s no way I could afford to go to London myself yesterday, much less afford to go and watch my football team any more, but I’m told that the pub where the marchers gathered yesterday was charging an eye-watering £4.35 a pint. London has always been more expensive, and because of the exponential rises in duty rates, beer has risen in price more than almost anything else .. anything else that is EXCEPT FOOTBALL TICKETS!  When I first started paying full adult price to watch Liverpool on the Kop, it cost me the equivalent price of about three London pub pints. Now it would cost me the equivalent of about about twelve. But forget beer (if only I could) – relative to the cost of more typical items and essentials, watching football is now about five or six times more expensive than it was before the Taylor report.

The really depressing thing is that my own club, Liverpool, could still sell out a stadium twice as big as its current one, even if it raised its prices yet more. That’s why money men buy football clubs, and why the market won’t stop them – the market drives prices ever upwards. It was the market that stopped the obscene “Game 39” proposals  six years ago, when a supporter boycott of Premier League sponsors was threatened, but now, on ticket prices, ultimately only legislation can work. The supporters’ organisations surely have to mobilise their members to put more pressure on the politicians to act on this issue.

Bring your glad rags,  don’t forget your shin pads,

Your fireworks, your flares, your banners and your flags,

Spray-paint a golden trophy from any old ornament

For the alternative football tournament.

Exactly 15 years since our first overseas tournament, Republica Internationale FC will be in deepest Germany once again this coming weekend for the ICE NECKARSTRASSE TOURNAMENT  (click for details).

 

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The weather forecast suggests that forest fires won’t be an issue – just beware the legendary headless horseman!

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Ahed Zaqout was not a military general, or any way a military man. In his day he was a midfield general on the football pitches of Palestine, but is now one more murdered Palestinian, one more statistic on the list of the innocent massacred by Israel’s war machine. The Palestinian football star was killed after an Israeli bomb struck his apartment in Gaza while he was sleeping, it has been confirmed. Emergency services rushed to the home of the former midfielder on Thursday but were unable to save his life.

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Zaqout had recently been working as a coach and as host of a Palestine sports programme in Gaza. Khaled Zaher, a Gaza sports journalist told Reuters: “Palestine has lost one of its best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had.”

20 years ago he was in his prime and was a part of the Palestinian team that played a friendly against a team of French stars that included UEFA’s president Michel Platini in 1994. Four years later, the Palestine football team was accepted into FIFA.

Perhaps his death was one of those that are being celebrated on the distant hillsides by crowds of exultant Zionist onlookers, who have gathered to cheer each Israeli bomb strike like ecstatic football fans?

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Last month Mona Dabdoob, from the Palestinian Players’ Federation, presented FIFA chiefs with a dossier of restrictions and attacks from Israel on Palestinian football as they met in Brazil.

FIFA ruled out sanctions against Israel but said it would monitor the country’s alleged violations of Palestinian football, including preventing players from travelling to and from matches.

In January two young Palestinian footballers from Abu Dis FC, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were reportedly shot by Israeli snipers, beaten up and had dogs set on them as they walked home after training.  Abu Dis FC play in the shadow of the Israeli apartheid wall, on a pitch where some of our own Republica Internationale FC members have played on a previous tour of Palestine with Easton Cowboys FC.
“There was no alarm, no identification or warning,” Jawhhar told  reporters. Adam said that he was shot first in the leg. As Jawhar tried to drag him to safety, he was shot repeatedly in the hand and leg — 11 times total. Adam was shot once in the knee and two times in the other leg. The teenagers told the website that as they lay screaming, Israeli forces set a dog on them.

Jawhar (let) fplaying for Abu Dis before the shooting and torture by israeli occupying forces

“They hit my head with a gun and they broke the leg with a gunshot in. They forced my leg backwards until it snapped. They were joking and laughing.” Adam said.

Israeli police maintain that the teenagers were moments away from attacking the nearby police base.

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After transfer to hospital in Amman the young footballers were told they would never play again.

Medical reports indicated that Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot. The two were taken to Ramallah governmental hospital before being transferred to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, where they were told they would never play again.

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On March 10 Saji Darwish, Birzeit student and player for Beitin FC, was shot dead by soldiers near the West Bank settlement of Givat Assaf, close to Ramallah. It was alleged that he was throwing stones at vehicles belonging to Israeli settlers in the area.

In response to a previous dossier of Israeli violations of Palestinian footballers’ basic rights to play football in the West Bank, which was presented to the FIFA Congress in October 2013, FIFA President Sepp Blatter predictably set up a “Task Force”. Which has so far achieved precisely nothing.

This blog’s hero of the week is Patrick Vieira. When players were faced with racism or other forms of bullying, football coaches, managers and captains always just  used to say “Ignore it”.  But not Vieira, and surely he is right.

He walked his Manchester City U-21  lads  off the pitch in the middle of a pre-season game after young French midfielder Seko Fofana was allegedly the victim of racial abuse in Croatia.

Vieira’s Elite Development Side are currently on a 10-day pre-season training camp in Novigrad and they demanded that a match against HNK Rijeka was postponed after an opposing player allegedly racially insulted  19-year-old Frenchman Fofana..A club statement read: “Manchester City’s EDS U-21 game with HNK Rijeka has today been cancelled due to an alleged incident of racial abuse toward the club’s young midfielder Seko Fofana by a member of the opposing team.”Following an alleged incident in the latter stages of the first half of the game, being played in Novigrad, Croatia, a decision was taken by the management staff to withdraw the City team from the field of play and canc.el the game.”Club representatives in Croatia and in Manchester are liaising with officials, the match organisers and the Croatian Football Association to pursue this matter further.”Recent high-profile precedents include a couple of incidents involving Milan last year such as this one which had full club backing  and this one which didn’t.Well played Patrick – the way forward has to be “No Football for Racists.”  If the referee , police, and management of the two teams can’t or won’t resolve the situation, a walk-off has to be the way.  Zero Tolerance!

Working away from home at the moment, and travelling across the country on World Cup final day, I was forced by the railway timetable  to watch the match in a pub in a provincial town centre, somewhere in Middle England … where I should have been really enjoying  the later stages of the match after 3 of my best bets of the whole tournament all came in at once: I’d punted on 0-0, on the draw  and on Germany to win in extra time or on penalties. Get paid, Nige!

However my enjoyment of this clean sweep  was more than spoilt by a bloke sitting down nearby in an openly fascist T-shirt  for a pub meal with his partner. The usual body-building white-supremacist type you see in this sort of offensive garment … a t-shirt which if you google the slogan is available by mail-order from fascist outlets all round Europe (they’re even advertising free postage during “white summer”). Sorry to post the offending iconography here, but “know your enemy” and all that…

t-shirt7  You don’t often get  a chance to challenge a dumbbell-pumping fascist dickhead when he’s not hanging round with a  bunch of equally dangerous-looking meat-heads, or where you know he’s unlikely to attack you physically in front of witnesses. So trust me, he was well and truly challenged there tonight. His partner must have felt very uncomfortable too, and oh dear I spoilt your meal did I? Shouldn’t come as much surprise when you’re having dinner with such an openly fascist twat. I eventually got thrown out of the pub (where they told me of course that the bloke is “a regular, who never causes any trouble”), but at least I’d timed it so things came to a head after the final whistle, and at least the staff and fellow customers there are no longer in any doubt about the racism and fascism of the offending garment and the dickhead who wears it.

Tonight’s Republica Internationale gathering also paid tribute to our lovely friend Dot Greaves who so sadly passed away recently, and whose funeral was today.

Dot-Greaves

She often accompanied her partner Rob to our Republica events and tournaments and even though football itself was not particularly her thing, she always spread her special positivity and encouragement around everyone who met her and supported our activities wherever possible.

Happy memories of a wonderful person, and my deepest sympathies and thoughts are with all her friends and family.

I’m not a great one for awards – and I don’t really know why a football club like my own dear Republica Internationale FC needs to give internal awards – but I was really glad to hear tonight that at our annual awards night we’d voted to give a well deserved gong to The Yorkshire St. Pauli Fans Group  to recognise the brilliant work they are doing in support of refugees here in Leeds, and in providing those refugees with footballing opportunities.

Click on the link to read about most of the stuff they do – although the website does not blow its own trumpet too much about their support for refugees through the PAFRAS group – Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

If only their screenings of St. Pauli matches could be live streams, then YSP would be pretty much picture perfect!

Totally underwhelmed here by the FA’s “Reds v. Blues” nonsense this weekend.
http://www.thefa.com/news/my-football/players/2014/jun/nation-enjoys-day-of-football-celebration-on-reds-v-blues-weekend

After getting non-stop emails about this for a month (the FA does love to pester everyone who has ever written to it about anything), I still found myself thinking “What’s this about? What does it stand for?  F*** all, as usual.” Woolly aims of “mass participation” involving “tens of thousands of people”, but no idea as to how many of those people wouldn’t have been having a kickaround this weekend anyway. And look at the type of venues they are promoting – the rip-off 5-a-side “providers”  like  Goals or Power League, who charge about £50 an hour for the right to kick a ball on a small square of plastic. Hardly inclusive!

This is Refugee Week – they FAcould have chosen to promote and lend their support to the unsung heroes up and down the country who are trying to send out positive messages and improve the relationships between minority and majority communities. They could have chosen to offer publicity and support to tournaments like this, thereby swelling the numbers involved, http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/leeds_refugee_world_cup_2013 (that’s last year’s website, but the same event is happening again this week) .  They could have given impetus for mainstream teams to organise something similar and try to open their doors to minorities.

Instead they give us possibly the most unimaginative promotion of the game of football in history, and so got a much poorer response from the public than all the publicity they put into it should have merited.

But then what do you expect from the organisation that promotes junk food obesity among young footballers through their ‘McNasty’ sponsors? The organisation that won’t let males and females play together after the age of 12? The organisation that won’t let a transgender friend of ours play in a league with other women?  A bit of imagination and inspiration from the FA?  F*** all chance of that.

Millerntornament

The “Alerta!” Network held its annual tournament this weekend – but this time with a difference, as the event was held on the hallowed turf of St. Pauli’s beloved Millerntor stadium itself. In the women’s tournament, the glory was shared between Republica Internationale FC and The Easton Cowgirls, who drew the final match and will take this dose of international antifascist inspiration back home to inspire their UK activities in the year ahead. See you next year everyone!

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Pyramid erosion

Erosion at the base – guaranteed to strengthen any pyramid.

Click here to sign the petition against the FA Commission’s delusionary and downright immoral ‘B Team League’ proposals. Even if the proposed scheme did somehow perform the extremely unlikely miracle of  making an English national team perform slightly better (relative to other countries, many of  whom will of course continue to improve their own standards at least as rapidly), why does the Commission automatically think that the fans will agree that the price of reducing the integrity of our traditional pyramid would be worth paying?

This all  seems like yet another example of far too much emphasis on success in elite international sport from the policy-makers. National teams are not the apex of the pyramid of  club football, and nor should they have to be served by that pyramid. They are something else entirely and need to solve their own problems, which of course are largely problems of unrealistic expectation., for which the media are in large measure to blame but which the policy makers feel they have to pander to. The whole commission was set up on the basis of an unrealistic expectation with Greg Dyke’s ridiculous speech last September about winning the World Cup in 2022 – that’s winning the World Cup in the heat of Qatar, by the way. Why should anyone’s delusion ruin our traditional football pyramid?

 

St. Pauli     0     FC Ingolstadt    0                     Millerntor Stadium,  Hamburg.   22nd  March  2014

An enjoyable  weekend staying in St. Pauli with mates, but unfortunately we’d chosen the weekend when St. Pauli’s recently very  dull football was at its very dullest, and as a result so was the atmosphere in the ground…. (but still way better than any English crowd when their team are serving up a dull goalless draw).

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And at least standing on the terraces behind the goal here only costs about 12 Euros, plus a few quid for the decent quality Astra beer, which it’s so great to be able to drink as you watch the match. This leaves a  bit of  cash for some  post-match merchandise, which  is also still decent enough quality.  Our dog Pauli needs s a new lead  [EDIT – here he is in fact, looking very pleased with it at a later date]:
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After the game we had interesting discussions over a beer in the new Fanraume with Nick Davidson, author of this new book about the club:
book
In the book, Nick writes that:
“Supporting St. Pauli isn’t about results, league positions or even the football. “  It’s a good job too, I think,  after a game like that one we saw  today against Inglostadt!

“It’s about friends, community, standing-up for what is right, and making sure you have a good time doing it. When I visit I stand on the Südkurve and it feels like home. Over the past six years, I’ve seen some great games, visited some amazing grounds, but most of all, I’ve met some incredible people. I owe those people a lot. They renewed my faith in football, in the power of football supporters to make a difference.”

Spot on, Nick! So I’m ashamed to say that, after just a couple more beers, I ignored the delights of a night in St. Pauli and had to have an early night, curled up with a good book.

(I was way too knackered to read it of course, but it certainly does look like a good book!)

Another victim of the pathetic Football Association gender rules, our friend Aeris Houlihan, who only wants to play for Middleton Park FC women’s team in Leeds. As she says, “it’s not like I play for Barcelona”.

Stay strong, Aeris and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

One of my ranting verses, loosely inspired by this story hich made the regional press throughout the north-west this week.    [ Oh and also inspired by the song by the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit, ‘Fun Day in the Park’].

 

     Fun Day at the Seaside!

 

My nephew saw it advertised on the internet,

“Junior footy tournament, our biggest event yet –

Tourneys for all age-groups, on Saturday and Sunday”

And why not stay over for a seaside holiday Monday?

 

“Something for all the family, it’s not just the football:

Face-painting, mask-making, tournament souvenir stall,

Tournament film or photo service, reasonable fees,

We’ve got discounts for campsites or local B & B’s;

 

Ice creams, balloons, hamburgers and hot dogs,

Beat the goalie, bouncy castle, photos with our mascots.

All this, and much, much more – you’ll be surprised.”

Nephew was insistent, we called his club, got organised

His team had never been to a big tournament before

So we forgot to ask about the “much, much more”.

 

******

The sun shone bright, as did some skilful girls and boys

A few parents on the touchlines made encouraging noise.

Impressive was the spirit from all our little fellas.

But oppressive was the spirit from a few other yellers.

 

“Get stuck in Josh, d’you wanna win Josh? Josh get in his face!

Josh be a man, he’ll bottle it, if you don’t give him no space.

Josh just boot it up the field, anywhere near our Ryan –

He’s just a better player, i’n’e?  And is Josh even tryin’?”

 

These were the parents of ten year-olds, no older

I bet kids’ games don’t sound like this at FC Barcelona.

And then, in the quarter finals, one incident I saw

Was what made me wonder ‘bout the “much, much more”.

 

Much, much more getting in the ref’s face

Much, much more calling her “a disgrace”.

Much, much more swearing at this teenage ref,

Much, much more calling her “blind and deaf.”

 

‘Cos she wouldn’t listen when your lad went down

With his much, much more diving and rolling around.

Much, much more running onto the pitch

Much, much more calling the ref a b*tch.

 

And, as the opposite touchline shouted you down,

Much, much more insulting about their rival town.

At my nephew ‘s first tournament, this was what we saw

Ref in tears, match abandoned – much, much more.

 

I had to wonder who was much, much more mature-

Them, or the kids that they were shouting for?

They were much, much more judgemental

Much, much less gentle, distinctly un-parental,

 

I could see the damn mental in their fundamental,

But where was the fun, which should be central?

It ain’t necessarily so, folks, it ain’t necessarily so.

Things that you’re liable to think won’t be tribal,

It ain’t necessarily so.

Republica Internationale FC proud to once again represent the 3 million refugees of Palestine at this year’s Refugee Council tournament in Leeds. It has to be said though Joe – in this photo you look a bit too proud!

PSC_2013-06-15 12.17.14

Republica players have toured in Palestine, where we met so many of those who have been refugees since their lands were occupied 1948 (and who were in many cases displaced again by the 1967 war ), that the least we can do is to represent their cause in this small symbolic way alongside the other refugee communities of Leeds. I know we could be accused by some of pretentious posturing (well certainly Joe could in the photo), but there was a tournament and a chance to stand up for a cause, and credit to our players for doing so I reckon. There has been so little opposition to the apartheid state of Israel hosting this month’s UEFA European Under-21 championship. Football needs to stand up for the Palestinians and say that it is not acceptable for the finals to be hosted there.  A collection was made on the day for the Leeds Palestine Solidarity group, to hopefully fund more ‘Boycott Israeli Apartheid’ publicity.

20th June every year was declared World Refugee Day in 2000 by a special United Nations General Assembly Resolution, having previously been commemorated as African Refugee Day in a number of African countries.

In the UK, Refugee Day is celebrated as part of Refugee Week, a nationwide festival designed to promote understanding and to celebrate the cultural contributions of refugees, and features many events such as music, dance and theatre. Football, however, does not do enough to celebrate this week, and the fact that it is outside the professional football season should not be an excuse.

Well played Danny Rose – you were right to react to the racism of the Serbian crowd last night. (see video in the linked article). Coaches used to advise their players to “just ignore it”, and I bet that’s what England U-21 Stuart Pearce did last night – but perhaps Pearce could have done more and taken his players off the pitch – Jason Roberts, meanwhile, accused UEFA of not dealing adequately with past racism issues and said players should take action themselves by walking off the pitch if subjected to racist abuse.

The 34-year-old Reading striker said: “I was absolutely fuming at what I saw. To think this was an England Under-21 game and another generation of players is seeing this sort of behaviour makes me very sad and makes me aware of the fact we haven’t moved far enough.

“Everyone says UEFA needs to be stronger, do this and do that, but they’ve shown they have no stomach for this battle. They haven’t taken it on in the past. I doubt they will now with paltry fines and slapping on the wrists.

“So that’s why it’s time for players to take action. I’ll go one further and say players should walk off the pitch because – guaranteed – if that happened, things would change.”

Asked if a failure to rescind Rose’s red card would leave UEFA’s bid to stamp out racism in tatters, Roberts replied: “I would say it’s in tatters already.”

And of course the ultimate irony is that the U-21 side were playing last night for the right to take part in next summer’s U-21 championships in the apartheid state of Israel, which should just be boycotted by all concerned for its racist policies, illegal occupation of the West Bank and oppression of Gaza..

Walk off the pitch if the referee and opposition won’t do anything about incidents of racism.

Boycott  racists. Boycott Israeli apartheid and its exports. Zero tolerance.

 

In last Monday’s blog post I had a look at the recent form table for my beloved Reds. But tomorrow I’m off on one of my occasional visits to Tranmere, who also hold a place in my heart, so let’s have a look at their recent form now. The first table shows the form through the dark days of winter, from 1st November right through to 1st March.

P W D L CS FtS F A GD Pt PPG
1 Sheffield United 16 12 0 4 8 2 30 11 +19 36 2.25
2 Charlton Athletic 17 11 5 1 8 1 29 11 +18 38 2.24
3 Milton Keynes Dons 16 9 4 3 5 1 35 19 +16 31 1.94
4 Stevenage 15 7 5 3 5 6 24 13 +11 26 1.73
5 Sheffield Wednesday 17 8 4 5 5 4 24 18 +6 28 1.65
6 Bournemouth 17 8 4 5 7 6 19 13 +6 28 1.65
7 Carlisle United 15 6 6 3 3 5 22 23 -1 24 1.60
8 Huddersfield Town 16 6 7 3 4 3 27 19 +8 25 1.56
9 Leyton Orient 15 6 4 5 5 4 16 17 -1 22 1.47
10 Yeovil Town 16 6 4 6 3 2 25 29 -4 22 1.38
11 Notts County 17 6 4 7 5 3 19 22 -3 22 1.29
12 Bury 17 6 4 7 2 3 24 29 -5 22 1.29
13 Brentford 15 4 7 4 4 5 23 19 +4 19 1.27
14 Colchester United 15 5 4 6 5 4 17 22 -5 19 1.27
15 Hartlepool United 18 6 4 8 7 7 20 20 0 22 1.22
16 Oldham Athletic 14 4 5 5 3 7 14 19 -5 17 1.21
17 Walsall 16 3 9 4 6 5 15 16 -1 18 1.12
18 Preston North End 16 4 5 7 6 7 14 21 -7 17 1.06
19 Exeter City 17 4 6 7 6 9 15 21 -6 18 1.06
20 Wycombe Wanderers 17 5 2 10 2 6 28 37 -9 17 1.00
21 Chesterfield 17 3 6 8 2 5 17 28 -11 15 0.88
22 Rochdale 17 3 6 8 7 9 10 22 -12 15 0.88
23 Scunthorpe United 16 3 5 8 3 5 16 24 -8 14 0.88
24 Tranmere Rovers 16 1 6 9 4 6 12 22 -10 9 0.56

Pretty depressing stuff for the Prenton Park faithful.

But now let’s have a  look at the springtime form, since Rovers legend Ronnie Moore at long last returned to replace Les Parry as manager. The table shows games for the 4 weeks from 1st March (yes I know that means I’ve conveniently cut out last Saturday’s defeat at Bury):

1 Sheffield Wednesday 5 4 1 0 2 0 12 4 +8 13 2.60
2 Tranmere Rovers 6 4 2 0 3 0 10 3 +7 14 2.33
3 Wycombe Wanderers 5 3 2 0 1 1 12 5 +7 11 2.20
4 Huddersfield Town 5 3 2 0 3 0 7 3 +4 11 2.20
5 Carlisle United 6 3 3 0 1 1 10 5 +5 12 2.00
6 Sheffield United 6 3 2 1 1 0 15 8 +7 11 1.83
7 Yeovil Town 6 3 1 2 1 2 7 8 -1 10 1.67
8 Walsall 6 2 3 1 1 1 10 8 +2 9 1.50
9 Brentford 6 3 0 3 2 3 7 6 +1 9 1.50
10 Milton Keynes Dons 6 2 2 2 1 1 10 6 +4 8 1.33
11 Stevenage 6 1 5 0 3 2 6 5 +1 8 1.33
12 Scunthorpe United 6 1 5 0 3 3 5 4 +1 8 1.33
13 Colchester United 7 1 5 1 3 2 6 6 0 8 1.14
14 Hartlepool United 5 1 2 2 3 4 1 2 -1 5 1.00
15 Preston North End 7 1 4 2 3 3 5 7 -2 7 1.00
16 Notts County 5 1 2 2 1 1 8 10 -2 5 1.00
17 Bournemouth 5 1 2 2 1 2 4 7 -3 5 1.00
18 Leyton Orient 6 2 0 4 2 2 6 11 -5 6 1.00
19 Oldham Athletic 7 2 0 5 2 2 6 9 -3 6 0.86
20 Charlton Athletic 5 1 1 3 1 2 6 8 -2 4 0.80
21 Rochdale 5 1 1 3 0 2 6 10 -4 4 0.80
22 Chesterfield 5 0 3 2 1 2 4 9 -5 3 0.60
23 Bury 5 0 2 3 1 1 4 13 -9 2 0.40
24 Exeter City 5 0 0 5 0 3 2 12 -10 0 0.00

So yes, most people who go on radio phone-in shows to demand a manager’s head may well be knee-jerk divvies, and yes many chairmen who sack managers at this time of year may well be needy, deluded jerks (step forward Ken Bates and Steve Morgan in particular), but they do very often have a point. It did  seem that Les Parry, Tranmere’s loveable former physio, was out of his depth, and Rovers Chairman Peter “Agent” Johnson  has realised how wrong he was to dismiss Moore in summer ’09 and replace him with John Barnes – a nice bloke, sure enough, but long since proven to be even worse as a football manager than he is as a TV presenter. Barnes’ tenure lasted a few short months,  and somehow Les Parry’s stand-in stint dragged on till this year.

Four League Division One clubs  changed their manager at the end of February or beginning of March, and you can see that three of those four (Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield as well as Tranmere) have significantly improved their form from that winter table to that one for  last month. In fact those clubs comprise three of the top four in the March form table.

The revival of rejuvenated Rovers has verged on the miraculous. Tranmere had looked doomed, but within 10 days of Moore’s re-appointment they had gathered more points than in the previous 4 months. I’m looking forward to seeing the “Ronnie Revival” in action myself at Friday’s match at Prenton Park – and it’s only a fiver to get in!

I haven’t written anything much about Liverpool’s form this season. Having seen the hero’s return last year, fulfilling the dreams of twenty years, I didn’t want to jump in too early to the ranks of the twittering classes who were questioning the form of the 2011 batch of signings, commenting that Andy Carroll can’t even run like a proper footballer or saying that Luis Suarez is actually quite naughty. I found the Suarez affair thoroughly depressing for a number of reasons, but it didn’t make me rush to my keyboard like the rest of the moronic  inferno.

Last season I managed a couple of quite detailed match reports, but I haven’t been going to the games lately – I can’t afford it. What I do know is that we’ve been missing last season’s best player, Lucas, and that I rarely enjoy watching Liverpool asuch while Carroll is on the pitch as when he is off it, a feeling which reached its numbing nadir with his despicable dive at Newcastle yesterday. I also know that I won’t shed any tears if either Damien Comolli or Ian Ayre, or preferably both, are swept away from the heirarchy for their ineptitude in their signings and in their handling of PR, respectively.

I know too that we were top of the form table at around this time last year(click to see that table), that we are bottom of it now (see below), and that the team that Kenny was picking  last Spring would have battered the team that’s playing now.  I know that shrewd punters are making a lot of money from betting against Liverpool in league games at the moment, just as much money as they made when Woy’s wisible incompetence began to tell last season. They know that it’s always worth looking at the form tables, but especially at this time of year.

On Match of the Day Two last night they showed a form table from 1st of January to 1st of April, with Liverpool languishing among the April fools, second from bottom. They occupy the same position  in my own table here, which is for the last 8 weeks only, but I think my table shows the committed punter even more about the state of play in this apparently unpredictable league. It shows clearly who will be champions, and probably who will finish second and third.  It shows who will finish bottom and  it shows one other team who will surely go down. It shows  3 Lancashire teams who are battling doughtily to stay up and one other midlands club that is plummeting alarmingly and is certainly worth an 11-1  punt for relegation.

It shows that apart  from that 3-0 game at Anfield last month, Everton have been decidedly un-distracted by the cup, and might well be in the Europa League next season whether or not they get to Wembley.  At the moment I wouldn’t back against them to accomplish either of those goals.

My table also begins the week that Cappello was sacked from the Ingerlund job – Spurs’ fortunes since then have been well documented, but this table makes their slide down from outsiders for the  title down to just a 50-50 chance of a CL qualifying tie even more starkly obvious.

April is the cruellest month, and can bring a chilling reality check in all kinds of ways. But it’s also a good month for shrewd punters. I’m putting my money where my mouth is and my bets today based on such form tables are: the tricast of 1st. United;  2nd City;  3rd Arsenal;  QPR to go down; Wigan to stay up. An outside bet of just a few quid on Villa to go down, because the odds should be 4 0r 5-1, not 11-1, though I tghink in all probability Blackburn will be the third team to go down with the already doomed Wolves and with QPR.

Meanwhile I’m afraid that Liverpool will qualify for Europe through their cup exploits only.

P W D L CS FtS F A GD Pt PPG
1 Manchester United 7 7 0 0 4 0 17 3 +14 21 3.00
2 Arsenal 7 6 0 1 2 0 16 7 +9 18 2.57
3 Manchester City 7 4 2 1 3 1 12 6 +6 14 2.00
4 Everton 7 4 1 2 4 2 8 5 +3 13 1.86
5 Fulham 7 4 0 3 2 3 10 7 +3 12 1.71
6 Wigan Athletic 7 3 3 1 2 2 8 6 +2 12 1.71
7 Newcastle United 7 3 2 2 2 1 10 11 -1 11 1.57
8 Bolton Wanderers 6 3 0 3 0 2 8 11 -3 9 1.50
9 West Bromwich Albion 7 3 1 3 2 2 12 9 +3 10 1.43
10 Chelsea 7 3 1 3 3 3 9 7 +2 10 1.43
11 Blackburn Rovers 7 3 1 3 2 2 9 10 -1 10 1.43
12 Swansea City 7 3 0 4 3 2 9 10 -1 9 1.29
13 Stoke City 7 2 2 3 2 2 6 7 -1 8 1.14
14 Sunderland 7 2 2 3 1 2 9 13 -4 8 1.14
15 Tottenham Hotspur 8 2 3 3 3 3 12 11 +1 9 1.12
16 Norwich City 7 2 1 4 0 2 8 10 -2 7 1.00
17 Queens Park Rangers 7 2 1 4 0 1 10 13 -3 7 1.00
18 Aston Villa 6 1 2 3 2 3 4 9 -5 5 0.83
19 Liverpool 8 1 1 6 2 3 8 12 -4 4 0.50
20 Wolverhampton Wndrs 7 0 1 6 0 3 6 24 -18 1 0.14

So spring truly springs this weekend as the clocks go forward. But hope fades for most of us, as our football teams go backward.

At this time of year I think this little piece of verse is appropriate to most of us, whoever we support. It’s an adaptation by my comrade Gary Kaye of Philip Larkin’s famous poem.

This be the Curse

They f*ck you up, your football team.
They do not mean to, but they do.
They try to make you live the dream,
But leave you feeling sad and blue.

Fan hands on misery to fan,
From Football League to FA Cup.
So get out early, while you can,
And tear your season ticket up.

I hope Gary himself hasn’t yet torn his own season ticket up, though I would respect him if he had. Gary used to be Leeds United’s ‘Poet in Residence’, but was sacked by Leeds’ despotic owner (ahem, sorry Chairman) Ken Bates about 3-4 years ago, just for penning something slightly critical of a poor signing.  Bates is the sort of megalomaniac who can’t stand any criticism – he’s even banned that excellent prize-winning football reporter David Conn, just for asking who actually owns the Leeds shares (Bates denies that he himself or anyone else  holds more than 10%, and as such he, or anyone else, has so far managed to wriggle out of the “fit and proper owners” investigations).

Piratical beard, piratical attitudes:
'Master' Bates of offshore infamy.

But now that Bates is starting to ban Leeds United’s own most loyal supporters – the activists of Leeds United Supporters’ Trust – I could understand if some of them started saying “I’m not going till he goes”. Easy for me to say, I know, but if my club had a match at Elland Road I would certainly help organise an away fans’ boycott in solidarity with the banned Leeds supporters.

And by the way, good luck to you Gary  in your local election campaign this May – you’ll be as much an assett to Leeds, and possibly still to Leeds United, on the City Council as you were in your former poetic role.

Like Liverpool’s former owners  a couple of years ago, Mr. Bates, be careful who you turn into enemies. I note that about  a thousand more people have joined the L.U.S.T. protest movement since your counter-productive bans began – it’s all about critical mass.

And while you’re at it, pay your tax, you offshore pirate tw*t.

Claire has now edited her own footage of the recent tournament in Argentina into a seven-minute video:

FC Che Guevara Copa America Alternativa Cordoba Argentina 2012 from claireblue on Vimeo.

We’ve been sent a short “trailer” for a documentary that was made at the Alternative Copa America which  we attended in Argentina in January (see report, here).   The video was made by the ‘Hombre Nuevo Collective”, named after Che Guevara’s famous dictum, and is mostly in Spanish of course. But at least it gives you a taste of the atmosphere. You can almost taste the dust, that’s for sure.

Have a look too at this video that Claire made the previous weekend in Brazil:

The Europeans visit Autônomos FC Brazil from claireblue on Vimeo.

The organisers of the event in Argentina said that they were inspired by our own “Yorkshire’s Altenative World Cup” in 2010. Here’s the short video that Claire made of that event:

Yorkshire’s Alternative World Cup from claireblue on Vimeo.

A very proud day for my club, Republica IFC, last Sunday. It was “Football versus Homophobia” week, supported by the F.A. and football leagues, but I doubt there were too many other teams in the Leeds Sunday leagues who made a stand against the prejudice and homophobic abuse which is still all too commonplace  throughout every level of football.

The following article from the Yorkshire Evening Post gets things a bit mixed up, as usual, because last Sunday’s match in this dashing black  & pink kit was just a normal league game.  The tournament that they refer to us organising was actually a year and a half ago, but we regularly represent the Justin (Fashanu) Campaign in other small-sided tournaments too.

Today’s Yorkshire Evening Post article

Doncaster Rovers   1    Blackpool  3            February 14th 2012, Keepmoat Stadium.

No romantic candle-lit dinners for us tonight. We do that most nights anyway in our house, but what better way to spend Valentine’s evening than with the perfect match between Claire’s favourites?  Blackpool FC are her true love, but she occasionally flirts too with Doncaster Rovers, for whom her grandad played for most of his careeer in the fifties.

Providing an average aggregate of  3.8 goals in their away games this season, this Blackpool team are still easy for a neutral like myself to love, as of course is their manager, the utterly unique Ian Holloway.  Despite relegation, Holloway hasn’t changed his attacking instincts – he doesn’t know how to do ‘cagey’, but at the same time he does know how to keep it safe at the back. The back four stay put; the full-backs don’t overlap; two sitting midfielders (Ferguson & Silvestre) are solid as a great big solid base-type thing; the keeper, Gilks, is reliable.

In front of them, though, the other four are free to attack at will, in a great big rotating diamond-type formation that cuts through Doncaster on the break, like the diamond bit of a great big rotating drill-type thingy. All this, don’t forget, is without their two best forward players: Kevin Phillips, on the bench tonight, and Matt Phillips, out injured. Tonight, Fleck generally anchors the diamond; Lua Lua is usually in front of him at the leading point, Dicko usually on the left and Taylor-Fletcher usually on the right. But it can all change in an instant, confusing the defenders as it did tonight when Taylor-Fletcher popped up at centre forward to slot home the opening goal from Eardley’s long pass after 20 minutes.

Doncaster tried to rally, but only Hayter was at all impressive, forcing Gilks into a couple of decent saves. Meanwhile, somebody had clearly told the Doncaster defenders not to worry about Taylor-Fletcher’s pace. “What pace?” Rovers’ manager Dean Saunders had probably said to his defenders. “I bet even Charlie Adam used to beat him in sprints in training.” That must be why they let him advance 20 yards with the ball in the 34th minute, Blackpool’s resident Scouser accelerating, swerving, dropping his shoulder a couple of times and slotting home when he arrived in the box virtually unchallenged.

Blackpool’s travelling supporters were by this stage going through their joyful repertoire unchallenged by their home counterparts, singing to their true loves on a balmy Valentines night. But, predictably, it was Doncaster’s El Hadj Diouf who then brought out very different emotions, as he dived for a controversial penalty just before half-time.  In the legend of Valentine, the Saint is said to have miraculously cured someone’s eyesight – referee Gary Sutton could have done with similar treatment as he was fooled by Diouf’s stick-out-a-leg-to-catch -the-defender-as-I-lose-the-ball-then-stumble act. Diouf’s cheeky dinked kick in front of the raging Tangerine fans was admirably cool, but his attempts to start a fight with the keeper afterwards were less so.

In the end Diouf’s antics didn’t matter.  Doncaster did rally for a brief five minutes at the start of  the second half, during which spell of pressure  the home fans actually made themselves heard for the first and last time, but Blackpool always carried an infinitely greater threat going forward, eventually restoring their two-goal advantage when Alex Baptiste shot from an angle and Donny keeper Button only pushed it into the path of the young Frenchman, Dicko, for 3-1.  The only other time we heard from the home supporters was when a cluster of them voiced their noisy disapproval at the final whistle, but most seemed to slope off home to their sweethearts well before the end. Inexcusable on any night, even St. Valentine’s.  I’ve only been to the Keepmoat Stadium twice, but it doesn’t seem to be somewhere to go for any sort of atmosphere.

Yes, Diouf is still very hateable, but we need a few reliable pantomime villains in the game, don’t we? I still can’t believe that ten long summers ago, when Liverpool signed Diouf after his great World Cup,  I impulsively bought a green Senegal shirt on ebay with his name on the back. Ah well, at least it was a cheapo knock-off one from Hong Kong – I think it cost me about six quid.

By contrast, Blackpool and their fans (well, most of them*) are still very loveable. They kept their average of 3.8 goals up as precisely as possible on this thoroughly entertaining Valentine’s evening. Doncaster stayed bottom of the table, while Blackpool rose to fourth.

*Well, one of them in particular.