Archive for the ‘Football Campaigning’ Category

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).

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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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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.

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.

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!