Archive for the ‘Rants in my Pants’ Category

Bullieve it

Posted: November 14, 2015 in Rants in my Pants


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.

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.

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

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 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.”


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!