Archives for category: Sport

People often go on and on about what it is that separates those born amongst those united states they collectively call America, and those who happened on being born in the fractious barely-united-anymore kingdom. These seem people often note it is language, a shared tongue that somehow became corrupted.

This is indeed true, and people emphasise this point by highlighting the english “become” and the american “gotten”. Both different words, as I’m sure you’ll attest but one is a more correct version of the other. Where this point is really emphasised though, is in connotation.

Take sports teams. In the US, the refrain is “Let’s go X!”, whereas in england it is “Come on X!” and if you’re incredibly well-travelled and versed in the nuances of supporting a team in the uk, you’ll hear “Come oan tae fuck X!” if you’re en ecosse. Let’s delve into this. It’s semantics, and also a question of anger. Of psychology. Of mentality.

The american way of showing a support of one’s team “Let’s go!” is really a polite request. “Let us” is not as assertive as the variations found in the british isles. It is, on a subconscious level; asking – “let” is the speaker seeking approval for what they’re about to do. Quite quaint really when you consider what an amusing juxtaposition this is. This is also a nation that has no problem forcibly spreading their form of governance using the sword and the unmanned drone.

The english way, as is ever so often the case; appears to be offering annoyance, that the team has not already performed such perfunctory tasks as keeping possession rather than playing to win and ultimately lose. “Come on!” is a shout of rage, of disbelief of pure snobbery. The fan finds it incomprehensible that the team is yet to acquiesce with their demand of scoring or defending or clearing or passing the ball. It is contempt for anybody not tuned into the same tactical frequency. They therefore must be stupid, because as anyone who has watched sport in england will attest; there is no better qualified expert to discuss the nuances of the preceding match than the fan.

Ironic too, is this cry as the english person is not one whose stereotype indicates a churlish, crass character; but instead one of reverence. Of stoic protestant ideals, of keeping schtum, of doing what is necessary to get by and not much else.

“Come oan tae fuck”. This is the best cry to your sports team. Whilst being a little bit intentionally uninterpretable, what does “come on to fuck” actually mean…; it is also incredibly aggressive and assertive. Everything for which the scots acquired their reputation in the past. And they make no bones about it.

Unambiguous, unifying, alienating.

Now, if you’re no gonnae read any moor, get ye tae fuck.

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You know sometimes when you get the feeling that something or someone isn’t being entirely honest with you? They are probably aware that you know you don’t trust them, and can not rely on them to be there for you; so instead of admitting it- they just ignore your problem and try and force down your throat a completely unrelated topic?

I’m pretty sure that’s what is happening with these olympics. The ever-so-inept “bastard Tory” governmnet knows it can no longer fob people off with “it was Labour! Blame them! shut up !” so they distract everyone by making the state-run television broadcaster report ceaselessly on whether or not anyone who gives a fuck can get to Stratford.

(The answer is yes. But at the cost of everybody who gives precisely 0 fucks).

It’s not that I am anti-sport. I love sport. There are few more socially inclusive and rewarding experiences than going to a park and taking a football. I am anti this olympiad. I am anti the fact that it is enough to get you evicted from your home for raising the idea that having SAMs on the top of your flat is maybe a bit absurd.

Think about the “security” aspect. Surface to Air Missiles; Destroyer class war ship docked (I’ll say this in italics, so as to convey my astonishment) in Central London; more troops on the streets than I have ever known; 3 hour searching procedures at the venues; a combined effort by G4S, the police AND the crown forces to “secure” the games.

Against whom or what, are the games being protected? The rationale is that the SAMs etc are merely a deterrent to “anybody who is protesting, or trying to make a point” as I saw on the BBC News Channel recently. So the olympics are not only “politically neutral” (ahem bollocks) but they infringe upon the right of the Human which was set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”

So LOCOG and the IOC really mean to say that they are happy to break Human Rights Law, so that what? Visa and McDonalds are happy? This is absurd. The truth of it is there is no “terrorist” threat. Only once have the games ever been attacked. The real threat, or perceived threat, to London 2012 is branding. The Ministry of Information refuses to accept that people may wish to pay by cash, or eat something OTHER than the shit McDonalds throw at you. At a time of great economic hardship, as we are constantly reminded weekly on the tele-screens that we can not turn off and which monitor our every reaction; when there have been and will continue to be massive ideological cuts to ensure the poor stay where we are and the rich never get investigated again- was it so wise to be so opulent? The billions wasted on a stadium that will never be re-used in its current form could have “helped reduce the deficit” as our Dear Leaders are always telling us we must do. The quaterly reduction of the deficit has not yet met its required quota, Comrades!

So, yeah, enjoy the sport by all means. But, if you’re willing to accept the drug taking, the tax avoiding, the lack of promised development, the stifling of free speech, the monopolising, the great behemoth of utter wretchedness that is “The Olympic Games”, then by all means continue.

I just want to see sport without all the suits.

Never before had i been so excited to just see a football ground. But it wasn’t just that. It was everything. The bars. The flats. The graffiti. The record shops. The people. The politics. Sankt Pauli, i love you. I don’t ever want to leave. Even St. Georg feels like a different country…

Today? U3 bis Millerntorplatz. Auf geht’s, Jungs.

Yesterday was supposed to be a great day. A friendly between my beloved Watford FC and AFC Wimbledon. If you don’t know the score, then AFC Wimbledon are the team founded from the ashes of the deceased Wimbledon FC, moved by an unscrupulous owner to Milton Keynes.
So, AFCW recently had a play-off final to get into the Football League. Brilliant, fans have beaten the establishment- and the team they had to beat? Our ever more irrelevant rivals and enemies from up the M1- Luton Town.
These, plus many more links made me head to a football game with a smile on my face. However, what I didn’t expect, was to hear some fans from Watford’s club-sponsored Yellow Order group espouse racism towards former manager Malky Mackay, and also towards Rene Gilmartin.
Again, to cut a story short, Malky Mackay left Watford in the summer to join Cardiff City. The aforementioned Mackay is an affable Scottish bloke who used to play for Glasgow’s Celtic FC. The Yellow Order, self styled as “based on” Rangers’ “The Blue Order” were present at the friendly against Wimbledon. One of its key and most vocal supporters at this game, during an idle lull, said to a friend “how about the ‘Billy Boys’ for Malky at Cardiff?
The Billy Boys is an infamous, and illegal, Rangers song with lines about “[being] upto [their] knees” in the blood of Irish immigrants.
What confused me about this, is that Watford FC has always prided itself on its reputation of being a family club, one which has always been pioneering in terms of anti-racism and anti-hooliganism. Why my club? Why the bigotry? Why in 2011?

I just don’t get it. Yeah, numerous pub fans and armchair pundits- what I like to deem Skyfans- will tell me it’s the best prize on Earth. I just don’t get it. Where’s the excitement in being on itv every other tuesday as your team plays mind-numbing, ultimately, pointless matches against inferior teams for astronimcal ticket prices? I don’t want my football matches brought to me by Mastercard, or Ford or Heineken.
I just want some football. 22 players, a muddy pitch, poor decisions. That kind of football. I want to be able to sit with the same people I’ve had around me for years on end, I don’t want to be blinded by the flash bulbs as tourists take a photograph of the moment “i was in the third tier and ACTUALLY SAW HERNANDEZ!!!!!!!” It’s not for me.
If this is what football has become, has to become, then I want no part in it. I’m 19, and I feel the nostalgia and pranging for a bygone era people like my Grandad saw. This cancerous monstrosity bandied about by UEFA and FIFA is not football. It is as farcical as professional wrestling- a foul is verified by the endless reams of know-nothing pundits by saying “well, there was contact”. Why is that, Mr. Pacified? Oh, you mean to say that football is in fact a contact sport?
As I’m writing this, Manchester Red or whatever they’re called in overseas “markets” are 6-1 up against Gelsenkirchen’s FC Schalke 04 in a Champions League semi-final (not for champions; not a league) and whose fans can I hear singing, proudly? No, it is no those of “The Red Devils”, it’s those of the gritty, mining town of Germany. Where is the passion from the superbrand clubs? Where are the cauldrons of noise? Where are the football fans?
I know this is a rambling, disjointed, hideous piece. That’s good- that’s the brand of football I want to see. I don’t care for Barça’s or Arsenal’s passing game, the craftsmen are undeniably good, but where is the fun in that? It is pure snobbery. There is nothing noble about “glorious” football.
The game is beautiful, because it contains ugly facets.
I mean the late tackling, bad mouthed kind of ugly. Not the abhorrent kind- the pre-season tour to the US and/or the Far East. Did Albert Camus say what he said about keepball, or football? It was the latter. Football, when played as the ordinary person plays it, is a perfect political system in action- everybody working for the mutual benefit of the whole. No egos, no Cristiano Ronaldos, no Michael Ballacks.
I’m not bemoaning the lack of “hard men” in football these days, I despise Ron Harris and his ilk, what I bemoan is that football has become such a parody, such a disgusting, twisted, sickening vision of what it was that it hurts. I look out onto a field, and I don’t see football. I see capitalism.

I want my sport back.

Bah! Being a couple indeed. Silly things like, going to friends’ dinner parties, or sunday shopping, or to the flicks silly things like that. That is what couples do.
Except there are an odd few couples who do (actual) fun things together, like going the football on a warm tuesday night. Yeah, that’s what I signed up for. Fun stuff. Going the football. Going Watford.
The match, it has to be said, started in heart wrenchingly predictable circumstances. Barely a touch in anger on the ball, before a shot sails past the consistently shaky Loach and into the back of the Vicarrage Road End net, to the volumous delight of the travelling hoardes (literally, this was against Naaaaaritch).
So, so far so Watford.
But something happened. Something the likes of which I thought was slowly becoming a grainy, sepia, banished to history relic of Watford FC. We fought back. We did. I saw it. This was a completely different team from the ones that “turned up” against Cov and Citty Ull, except it was exactly the same names on exactly the same backs. Something had gone drastically awry recently and the efforts of Cowie, majestic on the right, were pulling us up by our throat. The inclusion of Sordell was a pulse quickening one, quite what Weimann had done to get dropped is beyond me- but “Sords20” looked invigorated and out to prove a point. A potential disaster seemingly averted by Malky’s astute man-management.
So, we were playing relatively well. We equalised. Then, the unthinkable. We scored again. We had come from behind to take the lead! We’re Watford, this just does not happen anymore. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, our defence for the most part was a masterclass in ineptitude, Hodson’s superb performance notwithstanding. That Doyley can be so out of position, so often after so many years is a testament to his willingness to never learn how to defend nor attack with any oompf or acumen. But, heyho, this is Watford right? All we need is a player in the mould of Sir Tommy Mooney- he puts in a shift does Doyley.
Inevitably, we concede the equaliser and the jitters creep in. The players are completely knackered by the end of it- most armchair pundits would laud such a display as one of a true footballing team- look they’re exhausted, they must ahve played well. Er, actually, no. It reeks of poor conditioning, poor fitness and poor management. The team should not be so collectively knackered so quickly. Whether it be diet, training, poor substitutions or just generally poor players it needs to change. I remember seeing an article in the Independent around this time of year four years ago saying that, had matches lasted only 80 minutes then we would not have been relegated from the top flight, but we would have sat comfortably in mid table. That’s great, but matches don’t last 80 minutes- if the players you pick to start the game cannot finish it, then switch three for players who slot into the spine and see the game out.
We were much improved last night, but with the uncertainty surrounding new owners and their intentions/money etc and with the very real possibility of a fire sale in the summer then it is clear to see we need to be blooding the likes of Mingoia, Bryan, Assombalonga, Bonham etc now. They will determine our future from next season. But this is Watford, we’ll amble through, no doubt.

“Nothing like the magic of the FA Cup” etc etc, yadda yadda- the mind numbing, endlessly repeated line sprayed forth from mediocre ex-player pundits over the weekend, no doubt.
It’s just not true. The FA Cup is not exciting until the “business end”, by which time there’s only 4 teams left, and the odds are the team you support is not going to be invited up to the top table. No disrespect to Hartlepool, but there is no excitment surrounding this fixture. I do not care. I would much rather we were playing a league game today. The Cup has no relelvance for me or my club. Occasionally we punch astoundingly above our weight and garner a semi-final appearance. Other than that, it’s just an excuse to lose a game in Januray against a boring, obscure, mediocre team (Ed- that’s the second use of “mediocre”, am I making this clear…?)
That the FA Cup has turned into a prodcut which enables the FA to remind everyone “look! We knew what we were doing over a hundred years ago! OUR game is exciting when we let in the rubbish teams!” is a sad thing indeed, the magic is gone. The good teams don’t care because it is too easy for them, and as such the “rubbish” teams become disinterested and play their reserves too.
I’d much rather go and watch non-league football, to be perfectly honest. I hope the Ultras are out in good voice today, somehow, I doubt it.

I love Sankt Pauli, everything the club means to its Abhängers its players etc etc. You get the picture, it’s a fantastic club. But I always feel like a fraud. I’m a Watford fan by birth and have been a season ticket holder for the last 16 years, so I’m used to the jeers of fans who had never been to see their sides play- the ManYoos, the Arsenals and other armchair fans, who could not grasp the concept that I simply did not care that Watford weren’t a “good” side, or a big side.
I always had the edge over such people with the knowledge that I’d go and see my team week after week and that I was in someway connected to my boyhood club. Yet, with my recent and profound link with Fc Sankt Pauli 1910 of Hamburg.
My problem, is that although I will be doing a degree in German, and hopefully visiting Hamburg over new year; I am most definitely not from Hamburg. They are not my local team, I have no links with the local region or its people. For years I have sung, defiantly at opposing fans “we support our local team” ’til my lungs were at bursting point and my throat grating like an oxygenated piece of iron.
I feel like an impostor, declaring an affiliation to an entity so beautiful and welcoming as Sankt Pauli; although I too feel such an inexplicable desire to consider myself one of those wonderful people who fill the Tribüne singing their hearts out.
The only viable solution to my problem is to move to the Kiezclub‘s backyard and become one of them.

I’m a World Cup man, I love it really I do. What I really hate about the World Cup and its broadcast, is the incessant number of adverts declaring in some way to be linked to football. The one ad that is really getting on my nerves at the minute is the ridiculous Pringles advert. The one with Peter Crouch and some other players. I think the fact that Peter Crouch is the key man says everything.
But Pringles has no real connection to the world of football, in the field of crispy potato snacks, I’m sure they know what they’re doing, but when it comes to football, it’s not their forté. Why do they have to dump their normal advertising in favour of an awful play on the words “pringle” and “goals”.
Another thing annoying me at the minute, is the level of armchair punditry the competition brings out. I’m all for the forum/message board prediction league. But when people who have never been to a game start claiming intimate knowledge of the form of Cote d’Ivoire at previous African Cup of Nations of tournaments, it’s clearly gone too far.
Anyway, come August and no-one will care again.

The opposing flanks in terms of football’s “intelligentsia” in Britain are rarely united, but this summer they’ll have two uniting wills: 1) to see England win the World Cup and 2) to see “safe standing” in English football grounds. Now, I’m sorry to say that I am not and never will be for this idea in this country.

It’s obviously an horrific thought to entertain, returning to the bad old days of the 70s and 80s in this country, with metal fences ramming in the supporters who made things worse for themselves with the cancerous waves of hooliganism that ransacked our cathedrals of the beautiful game. Yet for some it is the one thing that can unite a Leeds and Manchester United fan. But why?

The oft cited examples are the USA and Germany, when either Premier League fans hop over to the States for the requisite pre-season tour they return exclaiming “they let you have beer at your seat!“; when the less obviously wealthy fans return from Europe to see domestic matches, they’d also remark that there’s standing. Now if any of you know me, you’ll know I’m quite fond of our Teutonic near-neighbours, I believe they’ve taught everyone a thing or two about football (from “Fritz-Walter-Wetter” to Gerd Müller, via Jens Lehmann) but English fans take this out of context.

In England, historically, the game was about “the lads” meeting up for some bevvies in the local boozer at about noon, with a sing song to boot; then head to the ground sing more, fight, and generally be rowdy- this leads to the common association of football as no longer being a “working man’s game“. But this is where the problem lies, the people demanding the return of standing are the people who were they the first time to witness the Heysels and the Hillsboroughs; nobody of my generation who goes to football regularly that I know, wants a return to standing. I stood at a game once last season, away at Barnet. It was fun, I admit, but I would not like it, say in the Stretford End or on the Anfield Road Kop. The Germans, on the other hand, have a different mentality. They go to a game as a social event, it is more focussed on the idea of getting together to watch the game, with a casual beer and some food. Much like the US sports’ “Tailgating” parties and linked sections in stadia.

There’s just something about the English psyché that means that, unless there is a seat, specifically pre-bought; “we” run amok. Even when there are seats, they have a tendency to be ripped out by irked fans. I’m not saying that English football is by any means perfect in its current state, the infectious hooligans are rearing their filthy heads once more, and a return to standing would surely exacerbate this. Yeah, the FSF say that with seats there is a general lack of atmosphere. There is no need for it to be this way, we don’t need “standing” sections, we need “singing” sections, like Toronto FC’s “Red Patch Boys”.

I’m all for standing, do not assume I’m not. I’m against the notion of safe standing. Standing in seated areas is already safe, at every away game I have been to, we have stood amongst seats. The seats act as a safety precaution, they (usually) stop a crowd surge towards the pitch in such numbers as previously seen and feared. They are also a barrier against personal space, I’m sure it does create a sense of belonging having a pissed bloke weeing in you pocket, but I’d rather be in the 21st Century with a seat to sit on, or to stand in front of. Remember Charleroi in Belgium when the fans complained of the gradient in the stands? Oh, what, that’s a safe standing ground…?