Posts Tagged ‘mixed football’

A report from the first ever Copa America Alternativa, in Jesús María, near Córdoba, Argentina.  January 28th-29th 2012.

Our squad with the lads from Dos de Mayo

This is my kind of football tournament. Before kick off, we present the opposition with our regalia: an Easton Cowboys/Girls FC tour shirt and a Republica Internationale FC scarf. In return they give us a copy of their Revolutionary Party newspaper, calling for strikes and marches against the cuts and tax policies of Argentina’s Kirchner government.   At the tournament’s opening ceremony we’ve been welcomed in the name of Che Guevara to the town of Jesús María, in this corner of Córdoba  province where the great freedom fighter  grew up. Or more accurately we’ve been welcomed in the name of the local football club, Che Guevara FC, a club founded by local hero Monica Nielsen and friends, who are fighting to give an opportunity to the sizeable proportion of local youngsters who can’t even afford the subscriptions to any other conventional local football team. We’re here to help them in their struggle to get a permanent home, their own pitches and clubhouse. For this event, they’ve borrowed the grounds of another local amateur club. It’s the height of a 35-degree summer, and the pitches hold onto some thin, dusty grass, but effectively we’re playing on hard dirt again.

I’ve sometimes been criticised for using too much hyperbole when I write about our footballing adventures. Everything is ‘brilliant’, ‘wonderful’, ‘great’, ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’, ‘fantastic’, etc., and I know that sort of gushing enthusiasm can get a bit boring.  But I’m sorry – this event was, truly, all of the above, especially when you consider that this was the first tournament that Monica and her comrades have ever organised. Their hospitality was just … all of the above again. First the most important things: the food they laid on, especially from the grill, was excellent and the beer, £1.50 per litre bottle, included the unexpected bonus of bottled Argentinian stout!

And of course the quality of football itself, played by the five Argentinian,  three Brazilian, one Chilean and one Bolivian teams, was all of the above too – just outstanding. But they perhaps expected more from us Gringos, in our English ‘Cowpublica’ team and one International All-Star Mixed XI.  A look at World Cup history tells you that Latin American teams always win tournaments in Latin America, and the only Europeans to perform to their full potential in the main tournament here were in fact our Lithuanian friends from FC Vova. Their strategy was to arrive with just a handful of their own players and immediately recruit all the home team’s best reserve players to represent them – an effective ploy, which almost got them to the semi-finals.

For the women’s event, it was a different story. 3 victories out of 3 matches for the Easton Cowgirls/Republica (AKA Cowpublica) Women’s XI saw them covered in glory. And covered in beer as well at one point.

'Cowpublica' met the hosts, FC Che Guevara, in the women's tournament final

But next time, we’ll have to bring some younger male players as well as young women, because in the main tournament we basically got hammered by fitter, younger, infinitely more skilful teams who of course were used to playing together and of course had no problems with the 35-degree-plus heat or the bumpy dirt pitches.

In the group games, the ‘Cowpublica’ XI  lost by  something like 1-4 and 0-4 to the two Sao Paulo sides (Autonomos FC and Lado B), and by 0-9 to the brilliant FC Dos de Mayo from Mar del Plata. The latter club, based in the home port of the Belgrano,  is named after the date of the sinking of that ill-fated vessel thirty years ago. They presented us with a pennant bearing their club badge,  showing the Belgrano sailing into the sunset above a map of the Malvinas.

Meanwhile, the International XI (also mainly ‘Cowpublica’ players, but also including our German, Belgian and French friends) lost  by (approximately)  1-6  and  1-7 in its group games  to teams from Cordoba and from Rosario.

In the knock-out matches on Sunday, our ‘Cowpublica’ XI, now adjusting  better to the conditions, came from two goals behind to take the Rio de Janeiro Lefties XI (“Pelada da Esquerda“) to penalties. Some observers alleged that it was in fact our three local ringers , coming off the bench when we were all getting exhausted and scoring our two late goals, who made the  difference, but this would be unfair on the fourteen heroes, men and women,  who battled back to achieve that glorious draw.

In the final that evening, the Dos de Mayo team from Mar del Plata, clearly the best footballing side at the tournament, were held to a dour nil-nil stalemate and then beaten on penalties by the team who had played throughout the weekend with the most heart and the most desire to win – our Sao Paulo friends Autonomos FC, whose player-manager Danilo had been such a catalyst for the whole event in the first place. Most importantly, though, this tournament confirmed the birth of a network of radical grass-roots football clubs in South America. We shared each other’s  stories of the struggle to establish grass-roots  football clubs with a social and political consciousness, and hopefully inspired each other to keep on believing that, as one of my favourite slogans puts it,  “Another Kind of Football is Possible.”

The event  finished with  a free concert in the town square, where flags, banners and speeches called for the town authorities to grant our hosts, CSAD Ernesto Che Guevara, a real permanent home. The next morning we just wanted a chance to thank Monica Nielsen for all her hard work in organising this – but she was already out and about, organising support for a council workers’ strike. The spirit of Che certainly lives on in this corner of Cordoba province!

Paulius (FC Vova, Lithuania ) and Rafa (Autonomos FC, Brazil) join Claire & Nigel at the bar

We’ve heard that the favourite to host next year’s version of this tournament is a club based in Montevideo, capital city of Uruguay. But those wonderful Rio rebels, Pelada da Esquerda  also fancy hosting an event of their own – so watch this space folks.

More photos of the event will be added over the next few days.


We’re on tour for 3 weeks in South America with a combined Easton Cowboys/Cowgirls & Republica IFC team, heading via São Paulo, Brazil, to Jesús María, Argentina.

Autonomos, Cowboys, Cowgirls & Republica combined into mixed friendly teams

Three or four years ago our friends from Bristol, the legendary Easton Cowboys & Cowgirls FC, made internet contact with a Brazilian anarchist football collective, Autonomos FC from Sao Paulo, and took a team to Brazil on tour over there  in May 2009.  In summer 2010, these ballsy Brazilian punks  accepted our invitation to come to our very own ‘Yorkshire’s Alternative World Cup’, and finally, in 2012, some of us are now able to accept their reciprocal invitation. We’ve formed a joint team under the Cowboys/Cowgirls banner, and Sao Paulo is the first footballing stop on the way to a tournament in Argentina (which you’ll hear more about next week).

We arrived in Sao Paulo late last night, into the middle of a fund-raising  gig organised by the Autonomos at their self-funded social centre ‘Casa Mafalda’. This would be our HQ for the weekend, with mattresses piled up in adjoining rooms for us to crash out on after the gig. It’s an oasis of alternative culture in the Lapa district of this immense concrete jungle. Quite a contrast from the tropical beaches we’ve been holidaying on for the last few days, but brilliant hospitality from the Autonomos.

The late, great Socrates, an important icon for Autonomos FC

At noon today, we were off to an informal mixed football tournament on a dirt pitch a couple of miles away. We managed about an enjoyable hour of friendly football before the skies opened and the mother of all storms was unleashed. Or so it seemed to us, but apparently this is nothing too unusual here, even though the pitch was soon semi-submerged.

By mid-afternoon, we were drinking some post-game beers at a bar next to the pitch when another team arrived, some of them friends of the Autonomos, trying to recruit a few more players for a friendly match, they said. The only volunteers were Claire and I, as everyone else was already organising lifts back to HQ. We thought that we were about to carry on playing some sort of informal match amongst friends, but little did we know what we’d let ourselves in for – quite a serious 11-a-side pre-season friendly between two competitive amateur  league rivals. Our opposition, Uniao Marechal FC, were a young, skilful outfit with four substitutes available. We, playing for the veteran XI of Lado B (it means “B- side”, as in the B-side of a single, rather than a football club) had just 10 players in total. And did the opposition lend us a player to make up the numbers, as you might expect for a friendly? Did they f*ck.

The pitch had largely drained, apart from the odd few remaining lakes and ponds, notably in the two goalmouths, where the mosquitoes were already settling in to raise their new families. ‘In Brazil,’ Danilo from the Autonomos  explained, ‘the rich can afford to play on Astroturf, or sometimes even grass if they play at a high level. We have to make do with this dirt, and when it rains we play in this sludge. If you fall down,  please don’t swallow anything – the drains always overflow here.’

When I fall down,’ I corrected him – Claire and I had only brought Astros, but had already noticed that most of these players sported moulded studs.

Like the water, the opposition came at us in waves from the start, but we kept a tight 4-4-1 formation, giving them few clear chances. The ball boggled on the uneven surface or got stuck in the mud; they shot over the bar several times, and our keeper performed heroics in the mud. Soon he was covered head-to-foot in the chocolate-coloured sludge.

Up front for us was Claire; a breakaway attack, a quick one-two and she slotted us firmly into a 1-0 lead against the run of play after 25 minutes. The opposition were visibly shocked, and we held the lead for at least 10 minutes. Even after they equalised with a cross-shot, I myself could and should have put us back in front again, sneaking up at the far-post to meet a free-kick. I just couldn’t force the ball through the sticky swamp of the goalmouth and their keeper gratefully smothered it.

At half-time, our chocolate-coated goalie was still keeping our spirits up at 1-1

At half-time, the opposition must have thought they had spotted a weakness in the oldest player on the pitch, the left back…. i.e. your humble correspondent himself. They brought on their young substitutes and the extra player always seemed to be overlapping on my side. The waves were now a tsunami. They ran me into the ground, and then they just kept on running. I think at least four of the seven goals they scored in the second half came down my side of the field.

We had chances too, and Claire could have scored again from one of several good breakaway moves as  the game stretched out, but, after what seemed like a hundred and ninety minutes, it finished 8-1.  I’d always dreamed of playing a match in Brazil. But when you imagine yourself in your nightmares, thrust into a scenario you have no ability to control, taking an exam in a subject you know nothing about, having to fly a plane with no idea how… well that’s how this match felt at the time. To cap everything, I think I was actually starting to come down with a stomach bug during the afternoon, but I say ‘at the time’, because of course looking back now I’m just glad I had the chance to play in the match and to have another story to tell … so  BIG THANK YOU TO ALEX & THE LADO B LADS!

So I’m afraid it looks like I’ll have to rule myself out of most of tonight’s partying, and I’ll be sitting on the sidelines during the 5-a-side games that have been arranged for us tomorrow. Not due to the humiliation or the exhaustion, you understand – just those stomach issues, which only surfaced just before kick off !

But would I like another caipirinha, did you say? Oh, go on, after all it it’s only about 45% proof, and the vitamin C in those limes might just do me good. Just one more, then…



mmm, yes please

A blog about the biggest and best football event we’ve ever organised.

Thursday 5th August

It’s coming up to midnight on a freakishly chilly night for this time of year, and I’m outside the tent staring at the starry night sky because on the radio they’ve  said conditions may just be right for an incredibly rare chance to see the Aurora Borealis flickering in the night sky above  the countryside in the north of England.  But the only strange lights I can see are coming from the next field, where even at this late hour a giant combine harvester is still finishing the marathon harvesting job it started at dawn. I can imagine how anxious the farmer must be when he sees a year of hard work and investment jeopardised by the wet, windy weather forecast for the next couple of days, so he’s taking no chances. Anyway,  he’s probably heard tht 500 renegade footballers are going to be descending like hungry locusts on the field next door and so he’s trying to save his precious wheat crop while he can!

At Republica Internationale FC we’ve put in  a year’s hard work too, organising this massive event: Yorkshire’s Alternative World Cup. I’m guessing that personally I’ve put well over  a thousand hours of work into this,  looking for a venue, pricing equipment and suppliers, holding about thirty meetings of one kind or another, writing bloody minutes, financial projections, proposals, e-mail-outs  and and above all organising fund-raisers to try to make sure we won’t lose money on all this.  My partner Claire’s put in at least another thousand hours, and we’ve had to put some of our own money behind this too, as have several of our friends.

But it’s too late to be worried now. The main “Big Top” marquee is up and the beer’s been  delivered ! Trying to keep things as non-corporate as possible, and hoping to educate a few drinkers this weekend too. Keeping it real  thanks to John at Blue Monkey Brewery !

The bar’s been built and, while I was fiddling around with the barrels, someone had spontaneously decorated it by the time I looked again !

The stage and lighting rigs are in place !

(together with palatial backstage  area )

Banners have started to arrive ! Some of them are real works of art.

We’ve spent most of the day shifting van-loads of stuff from Leeds and assembling the site.  Our 500 guests, consisting of 36 football teams from at least 9 different countries will be arriving tomorrow, so it’s time to lean back on our newly-built bar and toast the fact that after 12 years going all over Europe to such brilliant football tournaments, we’re finally ready to host a big one of our own. So FFS let’s have a pint – we deserve it !

Friday 6th August: day one of  YAWC

Our wonderful catering volunteers have got things up and running smoothly by lunchtime…  no outside catering or crappy burger vans here, just good healthy nosh at non-rip-off prices from volunteers who want to help our event to break even. We might  maybe make a few quid for our good causes.

But just because we’ve been preparing for this all year long,  it doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t have an undignified last-minute scramble to get things ready … like our  cocktail bar … Wait a minute ! What are those 13 year-old lads doing in the bar ??

Ah, that’s alright, they’re just playing on the table footy.

The bloody  wind keeps blowing our decor all over the place – I’ve certainly got more important things to be doing than continually re-attaching banners to fences …

…. and I think we were still building these benches when  all the teams started to arrive !


But now, ladies and gentlemen boys and girls, Yorkshire’s Alternative World Cup really has begun !! Because the squad of twenty-five Brazilians are here !!  Wecome FC Autonomos all the way from Sao Paolo !!

Welcome too to our Polish team, Boys  Łęknica

………..the Vikings FC from Norway… via Bradford

… last year’s hosts, I.C.E. from Stuttgart !

… and even the Irish have put in an appearance ….

OK, so you get the idea. 36 teams from 9 countries….

and now that the portaloos are here ….

………….the party can really start !

Saturday 7th August: Day Two of YAWC

We’ve got sixteen mens’ eleven-a-side teams in four groups, twelve women’s seven-a-side teams in two groups, eight men’s eleven-a-side teams in two groups … did I mention by the way that because of a local cricket match on the Saturday taking up some of our footy pitch space it meant we had to start our group games on Friday evening ?

…then at least two knock-out matches for every team tomorrow, Sunday...That’s a lot of football, so you’re probably expecting a lot of results or something. But personally I was so busy re-stocking bars, washing up, clearing rubbish, and chairing  a discussion  about our footy tour of Palestine last May that I can’t tell you any of the results.

The results aren’t important because, apart from working hard, this Saturday was really about finding out about what the other clubs in our network have been doing, finding out about the causes our tournament is supporting, with stalls or information points set up by (please click on the links to find out  more)  The Palestine Solidarity Campaign The Justin Fashanu All Stars , Kiptik health projects , St. Pauli Fanladen , The White Ribbon Campaign , and the Football Supporters Federation

Many thanks to all of them for their presence during our weekend.

Thanks too to everyone who entertained us, e.g. the FC St. Pauli women with their surreal sketch:

And our bands, like mod rockers Metro and  clashy skapunksters The Ratistas

One a.m.  saw a not unexpected visit from the council’s environmental noise people, who’d had a complaint from the village and threatened to take away our licence for tomorrow if there were any more complaints tonight! So we took things down a notch or two and just carried on. Meanwhile as the night got chilly again outside, there was a good old barbecue to warm us up ….   and the merchandise stall was doing good business in hoodies if not quite as well as we expected on t-shirts:

Even more importantly from a break-even point of view, the hip-and-happening, down-and-dirty dive known as the “Cocktail Baaa” carried on doing its roaring trade almost till dawn.

Sunday 8th August: third and final day of YAWC

Well, to cut a long story short it was a day of triumph for Easton Cowboys FC, who were really the inspiration behind this whole thing in the first place. It was at their Alternative World Cup 1998 that we first dreamed of organising such an event in Yorkshire, and with a lot of help from friends like the Cowboys and like Bradford’s 1-in-12 club, that dream had finally come true.

Everyone gathers to watch the finals of 3 separate tournaments

Two separate Easton Cowboys teams defeated ICE Neckarstrasse of Stuttgart in the 11-a-side final and OHV of Berlin in the 7-a-side final. The women’s tournament was won by a Bradford Vikings team who defeated Republica women in the final. An emotional ceremony in which all 36 teams picked up a trophy was then followed by a brilliant (and very moving) gig by our friend Attila the Stockbroker

Then we had punk classics from Leeds veterans Radio Partisan

and a set from Brazilian youngsters Zine, before Claire (aka DJ Blue) took over once again till the small hours… thankfully with no further visits from the council noise people.

Things got messy of course. Casualties were strewn all over the marquees, the playing fields and the campsite.

The next day would see fifteen solid hours of dismantling the site, cleaning up and transporting stuff back to Leeds. But tomorrow was still another few hours of partying away …

And if I look wrecked in this picture you should have seen where and how I finally lost consciousness at 6.30 a.m. Not  a pretty sight site !

Monday 9th August: Post-script and thanks

The fund-raising programme that floated our tournament, as well as a small surplus on the event itself, made sure that YAWC 2010 raised over £3,500 for good causes including a school in Palestine, water and sanitation projects in Zapatista communities in Chiapas,  a social-inclusion-through-women’s-footy project in a Nairobi shanty town, and the White Ribbon Campaign in the UK  (men against violence against women). Everyone involved can be very proud !

Once again, please click on the links to find out more about the causes we supported and will continue to support:  Kiptik health projects, The White Ribbon Campaign, Old is Gold Slum Youth Project and the Khalet Zekariyah School in Palestine.

Thanks to Ruffoth PFA for hosting us. Friendly people, excellent facilities. Thanks to the Football Supporters’ Federation and to Football Against Racism in Europe.

Thanks to all the teams who took part in YAWC 2010: FC Vova (Lithuania),  Old Firm United (Glasgow), Autonomos FC (Sao Paulo, Brazil ),OHV (Berlin), Hebden Bridge Aliens & Old Gits (Yorkshire), Boys Leknica (Poland),  Lunatics FC (Antwerp,Belgium), Kampfende Herzen (Freiburg, Germany) )ASV (Filderstadt, Germany) & ICE (Stuttgart)Wessex Allstars (Wessex, England)  The Yard re-United (Devon, England) Red Star (Bedminster, England),  Refugee World XI (The World), Justin Fashanu Allstars (Brighton),  Abfahrt Bambule (Hamburg), Boca Vale (York ), St Pauli Skinheads & Fanladen (Hamburg & Easton),  Werder Woodhouse (Leeds) Bradford Vikings (Oslo), FC St Pauli Women(Hamburg), Hex Pistols (Freiburg), Easton Cowgirls (Bristol), Die Letze Held (Hannover),  Roter Stern (Leipzig) Justin Fasahnu All Stars (Yorkshire),  Rude Lions (Copenhagen), Republica Internationale FC (Leeds), Easton Cowboys (Bristol) & 1-in- 12 AFC (Bradford).

Paul from the Easton Cowboys,  Degs from Boca York and Rob, Dom and Andy from the 1-in-12 deserve special mentions for their help.

Thanks to all the bands and performers. Massive respect to Joe, our guest chef  from Hearty Sandwich cafe, Leeds.

Thanks to Realize Events of Harrogate for their flexibility and hard work.

Thanks to Pat and his team from Eco Events of Colne for everything, especially the wonderful Big Top that encapsulated the spirit of our event

Thanks to everyone who brought creative ideas. Thanks for not being sheep ! So goodnight campers ! We hope to see you all at another brilliant event somewhere else in Europe next year!