Confessions of an Ageing Football Player: I will be that Bolshevik!

You’re not going to believe this, but it’s true (enough). Me and the lads were out on the park tonight cheering and jeering each other as usual on a Monday night when what do you know but a postman rides up to us on his pre Second World War rickety rackety bike, rummages around in his sack and extracts what looks like a flea-bitten telegram. He looks around us all and our collection of muddy knees, torn shirts and scuffed boots and eventually his quizzical gaze focuses on me.

“It’s for you?” He’s adopted that annoying upturn of vocal intonation so beloved of soap stars from the Antipodes and I nod and reach out for his missive. I rapidly tear it open, wanting to get on with our park kick about but on reading its contents, slump to the ground in disbelief.

You OK.” states the postie, and I nod, partially dazed, semi confused and totally irritated by his inability to know the difference between asking question and making observations. More significantly,  it transpires that our national football team has, on its build up to this year’s World Cup, had to remove several of its lower ranked footballers from its squad due to some mysterious case of food poisoning they have mysteriously picked up from some mysterious source.

The management have been forced right at the last-minute to survey the stats of some our nation’s more modest talent from the league tables that yours truly fills in diligently every week in my capacity as team secretary and have concluded that the best player in our league – as defined by goals, assists, back passes and good intentions – is yours truly. I have consequently been called up to join the national squad to play for our beloved country in what is, let’s face it, the pinnacle of all sporting achievement. Ever.

There’s little time to hang around. My flight tickets are waiting for me at the airport; my bags have been packed by the team’s coach who has had to spend yet more time in the poisoned atmosphere that is the modern jet liner fuselage to collect me and my old socks and my diet from now on will be severely restricted to no less than 15,000 calories a day. It’s going to be difficult to be jettisoned into the stellar attention of international football stardom but I’m as ready for it as I always have been.

I have waited all my life for this moment: it won’t hurt my team to wait that little bit longer for me to arrive and collect what is rightfully mine: the lifting of the Jules Verne trophy on Saturday 15 July in Moscow.

Calling all football fans: Football Beyond Frontiers tours the Balkans

Football Beyond Borders (www.footballbeyondborders.org) is an NGO run entirely by volunteers that aims to use football to tackle political, social and cultural issues.

They are organising a tour to the Balkans this summer (previous tours have taken in Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Brazil and Ghana) to promote racial tolerance with messages through football, one cultural medium which still divides the Balkan countries in partisan, volatile fashion.

The tour will take place from 28th August – 18th September 2013. The group going on tour will be made up of 24 individuals of mixed gender and of diverse ethnic backgrounds. On the tour, they will ravel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, teaming up with local grass-roots organisations. These include:

OSCE – Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (www.osce.org)
Belgrade – Belgrade Faculty of Sports and Physical Education, Balkan Alpe Adrian Project
Sarajevo – Bubamara BC (www.bubamara.ba), The Orhideja Stolac Association (orhideja.org/wordpress)
Mostar – United World College Mostar (www.uwcmostar.ba)
Zagreb – qSPORT (int.qsport.info)

They aim to organise multi-ethnic football tournaments to bring divided footballing communities, especially those from rival fan groups, together and preach our inclusive, anti-racist, anti-sexist stance. Staying at the homes of local families will also help us to integrate deeper into the community.

To raise money for the tour, they have been staging events across London, such as mixed-gender football tournaments, and on 25th August they will be hosting a dinner at Russell Square, London. They welcome all interested parties to the dinner, which will be a 3-course meal at £20 per person, including keynote speakers from those closely involved with the tour and the organisation including Jasper Kain, the founder of Football Beyond Borders.

They also have a sponsoring page which gives full, comprehensive details on the tour, including a promotional video on our work:

http://www.sponsume.com/project/football-beyond-borders-leveling-playing-field

They would therefore welcome any feedback or support that you may have for our work, as we are constantly seeking partner organisations that we can work with to strengthen our message.

For further details please see:

Football Beyond Borders – http://www.footballbeyondborders.org
Balkans Tour Sponsorship – http://www.sponsume.com/project/football-beyond-borders-leveling-playing-field

An Open Letter to Roy Hodgson: please prove the English FA wrong and fail gloriously

Dear Roy Hodgson,

I’ve got nothing against you and happen to think you were on a losing to nothing when you came to Liverpool last year.  We all know the results of that story and there’s not much to add to it now.

The new story you’re now part of though is alarming in the way its already being constructed: you’ve ‘steered West Brom to mid-table safety’; you’re a blazer man who ticks all the boxes; an FA man for the FA.  Well, lets hope your appointment doesn’t’ lead to sweet FA, or that if it does, you fail spectacularly and come crashing out of the football heavens burning on all cylinders.

Because Roy, your appointment has all the hall marks of what is tired and miserable about English sporting culture and indeed our public life in general.

Steering your team to mid-table respectability has an air of desperation about it, its risk averseness wearing its heart on its sleeve or on another respectable part of your anatomy.  Respectability?  So that we can look forward to saying things like “unfortunately we just missed out on scraping into the quarter finals but second place in the qualifying qualifying group stage is no mean achievement?’ Is that the extent of the endorsement we can expect from your boys at the FA after the summer?

Because those boys at the FA, Roy, are trying to anoint you as one in the image of themselves: Blazer Men, the stalwarts of the English sporting club tradition. We all know a Blazer Man. He’s the bloke on Saturday afternoon who kicks you off the tennis court cos you’ve not got your membership card with you. The bloke in the bar holding forth on all things, unctuously and loudly. The bloke in the car park who has driven his Jag up the back side of your Ford Orion and driven away, oblivious to the trail of damage behind him cos he’s as pissed as a Friday afternoon lunch time fart. The bloke who will lead us to mid table security making sure his blazer elbow patches don’t rip and tear at the strain of it all.  The Blazer Man. As exemplified by Trevor Brooking and his collection of gold plated carriage clocks. Cuck-bloody-oo.

Beware all those carriage clocks Roy! It’s no wonder you’re in danger of ticking all the boxes. All of them. Hoo bloody ray. A box ticker! We’re all living with box tickers every day Roy, they make up almost every department of every large organisation everywhere in England at the moment; they sit there in the neat and tidy offices, underlining things in red, covering their audit trail arses and ticking their boxes with a rapidity which puts the fastest PC to shame.

We don’t need box tickers Roy in our public life Roy,  we need our sports heroes to tear up the boxes and start again. We need our public figures to show us there’s life after the box, the target, the service level agreement.

We don’t need you to tick the FA’s boxes for them., Roy. We need you to win convincingly, after much struggle, heart break and living on the edge of our collective nerves; but failing that, please fail gloriously and utterly.  Please prove once and for all that the FA Blazer Men and their ticking clocks and ticking boxes should be thrown into a container and carted off to the South China Seas for them to live the rest of their lives in Rousserian decadence.  For Gods sake, for all our English public lives’ sake Roy, go and fail properly: disasterously,  noisily, embarrassingly.

However you do it, just do it with conviction.  We may not like the results but it will be infinitely better than being steered to mid-table respectability. No one wants that in their lives, never mind in their football team.

Pitch a (football) film on a Friday: Fifty Years of Hurt! A football fantasy film with fun for all the family.

A rough and ready premise for a football rags to riches jumpers for goal posts toad turned prince naturalistic mythic saga about four ordinary lads who set out to do the extraordinary – taking a lower division football team to the heights of the premiere league, the league cup, the FA cup, European championships and world domination in Mexico city – and then management of the England football team in just one extraordinary, ordinary season.

Tom, Rick, Dave and Sally are four ordinary football punters – going down to their local team every Saturday, sitting through intolerable football matches played against intolerable opposition on intolerable Saturday afternoons in the wet rain snow sunshine fog and hailstorm, week in week out. Their team – Onthe’ead United has been suffering in recent years with a lack of money, gates, management, players and the final straw is the imminent take over of the ground by the devious property developers Snout Grubb and Lovely who are making no bones about their collective desires to buy up the ground and turn it into a multipurpose sports, shopping, leisure, youth justice community and DiY centre with optional allotments.

Our four heroes reckon in a drunken binge that they would be far more capable of running a football club than any of the erstwhile owners are obviously capable of. In a rash new years resolution they decide to take on the forces of the football association and law and order and make a rash attempt to take over the club. They offer anonymously through a third party New York financial executive who is in the process of bringing down the whole of western capitalism, a paltry sum to buy up the club, its players, grounds, assets, liabailities and club mascot – a mingy terrier called Jimmy Hill who has just been slung out of the kennel clubs’ regional annual dog show rounds, the finalists of whom will be making it to Crufts at the next international show. Jimmy Hill, a miserable little specimen is aggrieved at his rejection and plans, at the next available opportunity to take his revenge.

Much to our gangs surprise and chagrin their offer s snapped up by the clubs owners. Before the first week of the new year is up, the four have moved in and carved up the responsibilities between them. Tom fancies himself as a coach, only having ever been rejected by the school football teams when he was in primary school all those 40 years ago. He has a bone to pick with Stanley Unctuous, the teams centre forward who rejected him all those years ago but who has since fallen on hard times himself, turning into a semi part time alcoholic who plays football as a means to salvaging his credibility with his family who look askance at him from the side of the pitch every Saturday afternoon.

Fifty Years of Hurt! Your Saturday afternoons and English football will never be the same again.