May 21, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith
My house is about 200 yards from one of the Millennium Stadium entrances. Cup Final day was like a party on my doorstep.
Val usually goes to Cardiff City because her husband Mark is a fan, but she’s West Ham at heart, just like me. So off we all went with another Hammer-for-the-day, Marco, and watched the game in a bar in Mill Street
Football, yea sport as a whole, is sublimated war. As Gavin Hills says, it “reduce[s] … hatred into a highly ritualised state whereby nobody gets killed anymore.” That’s one of the great things about living here. Most of us don’t have to do crazy stuff like kill. We can just sit in a boozer, watch a match and get off on good vibes instead.
Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this the world over? If we could settle scores over a match and a few pints, then…..!
I have never been much of a footie man, but I’ve always known where my loyalties lie. Mr. Jones from next door where I grew up in East London laid it on the line: “Hammers are your team. You can’t ever change that.”
He had a three-legged dog called Pongo and used to make me and my brother laugh by hiding behind hedges when he was doing the gardening and pretending to be the Gooseberry Bush Fairy. So when I was about five or six and he offered to take me and his boy Neil to Upton Park, I was right up for it!
We sat in the Arsenal stalls because in those days there was lots of heavy fighting between rival firms. Ours was the notorious Inter-City Firm, and it usually kicked off badly in the West Ham stalls during matches.
That particular day I could see people were taken out of there all though the game with messed up faces and smashed glasses stuck in their heads. And being the sensitive sort, I never went back.
But I watched the 1981 FA Cup final on TV religiously and I still have the picture freeze-framed in my mind when Bonds crossed the ball over to Brooking who stuck it in the net.
Now, years later, and in the bar I’m taken on a mad journey of hope, despair, pride, class, roots and culture. It’s more than a game. It runs that deep. Even for me in my culturally skitzoid world where I change alliegences like socks, it hurt badly when we lost.
But I mananged to assuage my anger by kidnapping the FA Cup shortly after the presentation and taking it to Callaghans. Check the photo!
A few fights kicked off, but not that many. Certainly things like that are not as bad as they used to be.
When people from the Continent come to the UK for the first time, they look at us Brits guzzling lager, puking and fighting and wonder what the hell…..? Their drinking culture is so different. But when it comes to footie violence, it seems the Continentals are catching up to that point the Brits used to be in the bad old days.
When Barn and Paul came down to gig in Cardiff the other week, (see last entry!), we were discussing why the UK even now still has a bad rep for soccer violence. Barn reckoned it was because of the old colonial days. We did empire better than anyone else on the Continent, we were harder than everybody else, and this seeps into our footbal culture even now. Hmmmmm…..
It seems all too often for us that the world beyond our little island is something to be feared, fought or fucked over.
Time for some more Gavin Hills.
We must stop switching channels and fight the fools who fight for flags.
A chav with a heart! Fuck it, this review from Amazon says it better than I ever could:
As The Face magazine’s star writer of the 1990’s, Gavin Hills was known and loved by a generation of club-kids, skaters, style fiends and starry-eyed, socially disaffected youth everywhere. His tragic death in 1997 denied British journalism one of its most original voices. Along with Sheryl Garratt, editor of the The Face, he was responsible for reinventing the magazine and shaking off its dated 80s poseur image. His writing spanned a breathtakingly eclectic range of topics, from El Salvador to ecstasy, football hooliganism to Sarajevo, but the uniting factor in everything he wrote was his compelling passion and involvement. In each of these pieces, Gavin’s voice and personality loom large. You can feel the elation, irritation or excitement bursting through the words. His dreams and obsessions capture the zeitgeist of an age which already seems distant and nostalgic: those rose-tinted summers of the early 90s when it seemed as if the entire nation was waving their hands in the air and stomping their muddy trainers to acid house in a field somewhere outside the M25. But what sets Hills aside from the other euphoria merchants are his political and social convictions and the way he managed to get those same hands-in-the-air kids reading, and caring, about the war in Angola or famine in Ethiopia. Bliss to be Alive is a quirky, heartfelt record of an era. Read it wistfully and then parcel it for your kids.–Rebecca Johnson
He died just after his 31st birthday, btw. Buy his book Bliss to be Alive!!!! It is one of the reasons I blog ferchristsakes!!!!
BUT don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a nostalgia-fest. This is going to turn into lots of quotes now, but it’s all good stuff. I’m going to leave you in the more-than-capable hands of the man himself:
Look at Britain today and look at Paliament and you will see two different worlds. And it’s no longer just where are the workers, where are the women, where are the black and the young? It’s where are the disillusioned, the dope-heads, the independent thinkers, the single parents, the stylish, the sarcastic, the radicals, the reasonable, the everyday folk who make Britain what it is? It is quite possible that in about twenty years the unelected House of Lords will be more representative than the House of Commons. A bunch of aristos could speak for the people more than some squeaky-clean career politicians.
Prophetic or wot?!! Check this inspired use of the semi-colon. Aside from a few dated cultural references, this is IT:
The United Kingdom splits into more than the four home nations. There are different Britains to be found in north London and south London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, or in the Bengali community and the Cypriot; and except for when the idiot rhetoric of bigots whose sense of the nation is stuck in the (mythical) nineteenth century intrudes, they exist side by side and have done for hundreds of years. The disparate nature of our culture cloaks our genuine connections. And the more our sense of Britishness remains rooted in the fading glories of yesteryear, the more alienated the entire populace becomes. There are many asking not what their country can do for them, or even what they can do for their country – more just what is my country, and do I want any part of it? The answer is that those parts of the country that are worth having have little to do with Michael Portillo. Guinness, Twigets and jungle on a Sunday morning might not be what build the empire, but they all build a patriot.
Despite its tangled meaning, most of us are actually patriotic in the sense that we love our country. For ours is the country we have grown up in, have mates in and generally fucked around in for the past few decades. Ignore Portillo and Neo-Labour. We are new Britain. Searching for its soul.