Issue 5 Mar/Apr `13 Free
F o o t b a l l , d e s i g n & W IT
“In t he end,
g l o r i f i c at i o n
t h a n g l o r i f i c at i o n
of t he splendid
s y s t e m t h at
makes them so.”
elcome to issue five of Pickles. A team
of writers, illustrators and designers,
Pickles is an alternative look at the
game we all love. Our aims and goals
have evolved and we now have a
platform to collaborate with a wide
range of writers and artists. The positive feedback
has spurred us on to greater things and we are
pleased to present the latest edition.
Along with the talented array of artists that we can
boast, we have some brilliantly witty and insightful
articles. The issue is loosely based around the
theme of the underdog, the struggle of the outsider
and the lovable rogue. But nice guys don't always
finish last. Chris Cooper on the revival of The Old
Lady, Mark Holloway on classic footy films and
Dan Humphry takes a look at the Gay Football
Supporters' Network (GFSN).
We were fortunate enough to feature an illustration
by the fantastic Stanley Chow on the cover of
issue four and we have an equally impressive list
of artists on our roster this time round, including
Peter O'Toole, Paine Proffitt, Minty, The Illustrated
Game and Michael Arnold.
Hope you enjoy the issue and as always, feel free
to get in touch if you've got a story that would suit
our style. And, please spread the Pickles message
and follow us on Twitter.
Words & Pictures
Arnold Bernid & The Pickles Team
Issue five of Pickles features
a cover illustration by Michael
Arnold. A 21 year old self taught
artist from the UK. Mike works
in a decidedly playful PopArt inspired style. His clean
and decisive approach has an
infographic quality, combining
minimalist shapes, patterns and
bold colours. Mike's approach
is iconic and his depiction of
Andrea Pirlo for our latest issue
is pretty striking.
Mike has contributed to a variety
of publications, brands and
art shows around the world,
all whilst running his own
project: The How to Project
(howtoproject.co.uk). His work
has been featured in Digital
Artist and Computer Arts and
more recently his illustrations
have been seen in Fricote and
football, where the focus was on
the whole team and not mega
rich superstars... Something we
can absolutely appreciate.
Spindle magazine. His work
was also on display at the AIGA
gallery in Colorado and part of
the Bordo Bello exhibition.
Although Mike professes not
to be a die hard football fan,
he appreciates the history
and nostalgia of the game and
admires the days of grass roots
The illustration of the Juventus
playmaker and all round cool
dude, Andrea Pirlo, is in keeping
with Mike's style. This issue
features an article by Chris
Cooper on the Italian club and
the controversy that surrounds
her. Pirlo is not the focus of the
piece but he is at the forefront of
Juve's resurgence. A man that
effortlessly oozes cool (seen
the vid of him at his winery?),
impossible not to like and as
iconic as any Italian maestro
before him. Certainly worthy of
a Pickles cover.
printed by the
words by james carruthers
tatistically speaking Paul Lambert is a worse
Aston Villa manager than Alex McLeish.
And Alex McLeish was perceived to be a
train wreck by every Villan by the time he
was handed his P45 the day after the 20112012 Premier League season concluded.
Twenty-four hours earlier, a bright, young, up-andcoming manager had crumpled the last of McLeish’s
battered carriages at Carrow Road. He had been made
to look like the rookie by Lambert, the man who
brilliantly crafted Norwich City’s superb renaissance
year back in the top ﬂight.
Villa fans expected at least a bit of what Norwich
were getting. Villa’s Chief Executive, Paul Faulkner,
demanded a bit of what Norwich were getting. And of
course, there was an easy solution.
With Lambert’s sky-high stock and track record of
pure success he could deﬁnitely be relied on to get a
better tune out of the Midlands giants than Old Man
McLeish and his tired brand of kick and rush football.
Yes, deﬁnitely. Mr Lambert, welcome to Villa Park.
Sound logic. Only, Villa are having an even worse
year this time around and relegation is an all-tooreal possibility. McLeish’s berated boring style had
mustered more points and more goals by the end of
February than his successor’s design this term.
There are dissenting voices around Villa Park and
opposition fan’s cries of “you’re getting sacked in the
morning” have been met with a smattering of individual
retorts proclaiming “we hope so”. But the solitary
voices are yet to gather into a 42,000 strong vitriol
despite the predicament Villa find themselves in.
Alex McLeish will surely imagine Lambert is getting
a fairer crack of the whip. Undoubtedly the question
will be raised; is it because he’s never managed
To suggest such a notion would be unfair on the majority
of Villa fans, if not the entirety. After all, Lambert has
never relegated Birmingham City either. The younger
Glaswegian’s defensive shield – the one that protects
his CV as opposed to the one that protects poor Brad
Guzan – is thicker and wider than the one attempting
to protect Big ‘Eck.
Lambert is still seen as a man on the way up, a man
who revolutionised the fortunes of Norfolk’s premiere
institution after Colchester United had greeted them
to League 1 by way of a 7 goal welcome card. In contrast,
McLeish joined Villa from their relegated neighbours,
the second time he had inﬂicted such treatment on
the poor Bluenoses… sorry, tell me again why he wasn’t
a Villa hero?
Oh, yes, a terrible slide towards relegation.“But Lambert
has spent a lot of his Villa Park tenure actually in the
bottom three”, McLeish might cry. I suppose when
you’re looking towards the trap door, there is a slender
reassurance and a coercion of trust derived from the
knowledge your gaﬀer has not fallen through it before.
The biggest factor aﬀecting success or failure at any
club is the calibre of players pulling on the shirt and this
year has brought some sense of realisation to Villa Park
that the manager, any manager, cannot create a Virgin
Pendolino out of a Chiltern Class 121 Bubble Car.
Whilst acquisitions such as Big Benteke, who will no
doubt have the vultures circling this summer, engender
further faith on behalf of Lambert, the players
appearing from the Trinity Road tunnel represent
a pale shadow of the team from recent history that
boasted ﬁve England internationals.
Sorry, tell me
again why Alex
a Villa hero?
A third year ﬂirtation with the danger zone has
illuminated the dearth of true quality at Villa Park
and the level of expectation from Villa fans is now
in line with the reality of where the club ﬁnds itself.
Instead of looking to lambast Lambert for taking
the team south, there is some realisation that
understanding and patient support is necessary to
rebuild ahead of a long journey back north.
Both Lambert and McLeish were hired to work
under clear ﬁnancial restrictions. The level of
funding available in the Martin O’Neill era has
evidently been revoked as Villa’s ownership has
worked out paying the likes of Habib Beye £40,000
a week to shine the bench with his ass is no kind of
sustainable business model. Professional polishers
are in fact much cheaper.
But Lambert is installing what he sees as a clear
strategy and a philosophy geared towards long term
growth. For better or worse, it is clear, identiﬁable
and relatable. Could the same be said about
McLeish’s intentions? Whatever philosophy it was
McLeish tried to impart, genuine highlights were
hard to come by under his instructions.
The stats may not be pretty for Lambert, but he
will rightly stick to his principles. And he will have
the backing of the board, in moral support if not
ﬁnancial. They won’t allow him to spend Aston Villa
into the poor house, but he will be allowed time to
improve his numbers.
The pressure on Lambert will increase as May
approaches. The thought of Championship football
is relatively unfathomable in this district of the West
Midlands whilst the embarrassment of a missed
opportunity to visit Wembley will stick in the craw
for time to come.
But there is reassurance to be found that for those
with faith in a discernible strategy, relegation is
not a one-way street. Newcastle, West Brom and
West Ham have all shown how to bounce back from
disaster in recent years. And Paul Lambert builds
clubs. So let’s leave the statistics for Brad Pitt and
baseball, shall we?
“By giving us
the opinions of
us in touch with
the ignorance of
Has our footballing
media created an
for gay players?
w o r d s b y D A N HUM P HR Y
n the same week that the UK ﬁnally oﬀered marital equality to homosexuals, former
Leeds and USA midﬁelder Robbie Rogers joined the select group of professional
footballers to come out. While lauded as a welcome moment for a sport still taking its
sexual politics from 1970s sitcoms, reports were somewhat marred when a blog post
from Rogers left the distinct impression that he only felt comfortable coming out
because, at just 25, he was quitting the game:
“For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show who I really was because of
fear. Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty,
how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you
are gay. “Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagine. I
will always be thankful for my career. [Now] my secret is gone, I am a free man, I can
move on and live my life as my creator intended.”
Fair weather reporting
And who can blame that sentiment? In recent years the football media’s tone has been
less than supportive, perhaps a hangover from Luddite hacks still stuck in football’s
‘golden age’ of pub-born masculinity. Whereas our football reporters could once depend
on the manliness of George Best’s alcoholism and battery; they must now recalibrate to
David Beckham’s underwear modelling and Andre Arshavin’s fashion degree. They seem
confused when handling the modern game’s masculine politics, one day chronicling
premier league penis sizes - “Makelele’s manhood has been likened to a ukulele” (The
Sun, 2007) – while another playing the bully.
Only four months ago, the Mail rubbed its grubby hands together as a particularly nasty
piece by hate-torrent Martin Samuel – which seemingly blamed gay footballers for not
coming out and oﬀered Joey Barton as their gay saviour - raked in the web hits.
While Samuel was no doubt writing oﬀ the cuﬀ, such media pieces only serve to heighten
the ‘us and them’ atmosphere, in one breath making light of the situation: “Could just
one footballer please come out and be gay, so everybody can be really cool about it and
the sport can get on with its life? Just one, it’s not much to ask surely?” While in the
other inventing then deriding the preferential treatment a homosexual would receive:
“instant credibility, instant respect, untouchable by the Football Association or future
employers. His past misdeeds mentally reprocessed and explained.”
Indeed, in a recent interview the current PFA Chairman - Clarke Carlisle - admitted
that of eight gay footballers whom he’d met in his role, seven had cited the media as
their main reason for not coming out. That is a stark admission and tough questions
need to be asked. In 2013 the Army is now a safe place to be openly gay, as is rugby and
the world of business. Just how on earth have we allowed the barracks to become more
progressive than the locker room?
A fresh approach
Fortunately this is not so in every corner of the game as, for the last 10 seasons, the
Gay Football Supporters Network (GFSN) has run an increasingly popular gay and gay
friendly national league. Founded in 2003, the amateur division has now grown to 16
teams and seen over 1000 players through the door.
Speaking to Pickles, League Chair Chris Basiurski says that the league has become
a safe haven for gay players and now even features predominantly straight teams. “A
certain generation of our players will tell you that they came to our league because
they feel disenfranchised from mainstream football.
“I myself used to play for a works team and after they found out I was gay, they didn’t
necessarily stop me playing, but they also didn’t know how to act around me and made
life a little unpleasant there.”
The league hopes that the trend of each generation
coming out at a younger age will lead to greater
acceptance of homosexuality in the mainstream game,
but also recognises that the myth of “gay men and team
sports don’t mix” first needs to be dispelled.
Unfortunately, the league itself has not been sheltered
from the football media’s questionable ethics. A throwaway ‘most lusted player’ poll at the GFSN’s end of year
awards, itself nestled between best player and manager
polls, gained mainstream attention with tabloid
headlines such as ‘Match of the Gay’ and ‘Three Lions
on my Shirt-lifters’.
In a sport which regularly shoe horns scantly clad women
in to the game - see Soccer AM – the GFSN’s poll was
regardless seen fit for widespread condemnation. It
was a stark reminder that in football, what remains
acceptable for straight men does not apply should
your sexual preferences vary, and the league has since
discontinued the poll.
Chris tells of a particularly nasty hit the GFSN took
when in 2005 Four Four Two Magazine joined them
for an interview and mini-tournament. Despite the
interview having seemingly gone well, and the two
parties having gone for drinks afterwards, there was a
big surprise when the issue finally hit the shelves.
“We were devastated when the article came out. It was
full of innuendos, the first page had a picture of Dale
Winton – who obviously has nothing to do with us –
and a cartoon balloon coming out of his mouth saying
‘oh er nice tackle missus’,” says Chris. “There were even
jokes about us eating a hotdog on the way over. We just
couldn’t believe it, we’d been taken for a ride.”
While in recent years it does seem that a more even
handed approach has been adopted, with lads bastions
FHM running positive features on the league and
broadsheets now contacting the GFSN for serious
quotes, Chris says that the experience left all involved
with a cynical view of our footballing press.
Widening the gap?
With gay-straight segregation already deeply engrained
in football there is a worry among some that separate
gay leagues may widen the ‘us and them’ gap. Chris,
however, sees it differently.
“We like to see ourselves as a stepping stone between the
gay community and mainstream football”, he says. “Off
the back of the GFSN league, two of our teams have
now entered mainstream leagues and that is something
“We started because homophobia existed in the
game. If it didn’t exist then there’d be less of a need
for us, but I suspect we still would just because of the
social aspect of football. There are Jewish Leagues,
Homeless Leagues, Muslim Leagues – we can all play
football, it’s just that some people want to play with
The question now is whether the media is willing to
listen to the testimony of gay players and foster a more
supportive atmosphere in which they can, eventually,
come out. Baying for such an event like Emperors
at the Colosseum will help no one as even the most
trusting of player will be all too aware that tabloid
sincerity runs only headline deep. As straight fans and
journalists the prospect of a day when gay players can
grace stadiums openly is something that we should all
be working towards. However, that does not mean it is
our position to dictate when that day is
Keep it under your slightly slanted fitted cap,
but there’s something of a footballing revolution
happening in west London.
No, I’m not talking about the tinkering Russian
oligarch and the changes that are underfoot at
Stamford Bridge. Nor am I referring to Q.P.R and
their managerial magician, Harry ‘Houdini’, in his
quest to prevent Rangers performing their very own
top-ﬂight vanishing act.
So who’s left, I hear you ask? Well there’s Martin Jol
and his Fulham side, but if that’s your next guess,
you’d also be wrong. Instead it is League One’s highflying Brentford that are causing quite the stir – and
refreshingly, it is for all of the right reasons.
Most people will be familiar with Brentford’s FA
Cup third round tie against neighbours Chelsea
from earlier this season - their first meeting with
their local rivals in 63 years -where the Bees were
just seven minutes away from recording the most
unlikely of victories, only for Fernando Torres to
spare his side’s blushes with an equaliser to level the
scores at 2-2. That goal was enough to earn Chelsea
a replay, which they went on to win, 4-0. But don’t
let the result fool you; Brentford gave as good as
they got for an hour and were unfortunate to have
a goal chalked off at 0-0 for a dubious infringement
- quite an achievement considering it was less than
12 months ago this very Chelsea side were crowned
champions of Europe.
The money-spinning cup tie was Brentford’s
just rewards for what has been years of steady
progression. Off the field, the Bees, like many others
in the lower reaches of professional football, have
had to adapt in order to survive. In 2008, they were
scrapping it out in League Two against a backdrop
of financial instability that was brought on in part
by the economic downturn, dwindling attendance
figures, the mismanagement of club affairs and the
demands of living with a costly London postcode.
Fast forward ﬁve years and the club couldn’t be in
a healthier position. Lifelong supporter Matthew
Benham’s increased stake in the club to become
majority shareholder has seen him balance the books
responsibly, and one of his first major decisions was
to bring in current manager Uwe Rösler. Rösler has
proved an inspired appointment in his two years
at the helm, but changes were afoot way ahead of
his arrival. Coincidentally or perhaps by fate; it is
largely thanks to Benham’s foresight and investment
in upgrading the youth set-up that led to Rösler
landing the manager’s position in the first place.
Under Benham, the vision has always been about
establishing the club’s Youth Academy, which was
approved Category Two status last season.
The club’s new ethos couldn’t have been better timed
too. With the tremendous commercial success of
the Premier League in recent years, it is the lower
league sides, such as Brentford, that are reaping the
rewards of the continuous rising standards within
the English market. Emerging home-grown talents
at wealthy clubs are being forced to seek exile,
plying their trade at a lower level where there is less
competition for places – much to the delight of the
average supporter on the terrace. Could this be
seen as the reason for so many great cup upsets this
year? Nobody could have predicted Bradford’s path
to the Capital One Cup final, or Norwich’s defeat
to non-league Luton Town. Does this mean the gap
between the divisions is shrinking? Or that the sides
at the top are getting worse?
Take the case of Brentford’s attacking midfielder
Harry Forrester, for example. Signed after his
release from Aston Villa two years ago, Forrester
chose regular game time at Brentford over a move
to Ajax, and ironically, it is now Villa that have been
most closely linked to resigning their own academy
product – this time at a price. Forrester is the club’s
second-highest goalscorer this season. It begs the
question: was he always good enough for the Premier
League but was considered too much of a risk to be
given a chance? Or has he simply developed that
much in a short space of time?
Those in the know at Griffin Park will tell you
that fellow midfielder Adam Forshaw, (exEverton) defender Harlee Dean and goalkeeper
Simon Moore (both ex-Southampton) could also
all play at a higher level. So maybe we’re seeing
the positive inﬂuences of foreign imports to the
English game transpire via the quality of football
in the lower leagues?
Throw in several shrewd loan signings and a new
20,000 all-seater stadium to be opening by 2016 and
you can see why it’s an exciting time to be a Brentford
supporter. If things continue to progress as they have
been, it would seem highly unlikely the Bees faithful
will have to wait another 63 years to put the frighteners
on any of their local neighbours
Written by Kieran Smith
words by chris cooper
or those of us old enough to remember
James Richardson’s magazine programme
‘Gazetta Football Italia’, Italian football
will always be tinged with romanticism.
Saturday mornings watching Channel 4
were unbridled joy; a voyeuristic peek into
a continental world, littered with exotic
names, ﬂares and infinitely cooler kits
than our domestic variety. Every now and
then we were treated to a live match (which tended to
be on a Sunday afternoon) and was invariably Perugia
v. Atalanta, never Juventus v. Milan! Thinking of some
of the great Italian sides of the early to mid-90’s makes
me yearn to be at my Grandma’s house, hammering a
McVitie’s Jamaican Ginger Cake for breakfast, (never
sure why) gawping at the Milan side of 94, or THAT
Parma side of 1996. The likes of Baggio, Ravanelli,
Mancini, Baresi, Weah, were all frequent visitors to
Grandma’s living room.
Lady’ looked doomed to ignominy, or as Torino fans
so eloquently put it, during one Derby della Mole;
“You’re uglier than the Multipla*…”
But it was Juventus’ Alessandro Del Piero who has
always held a place in my heart. Captivating me as
a child in a way I can only hope is still possible for
children today. His debut goal against Fiorentina;
89th minute, oﬀ the bench poking home a frankly
outrageous volley with the outside of his right boot
was enough to seal the deal. Once home to some of
the ﬁnest footballers the world has ever seen, the last
few years has seen our beloved Serie A struggle to
keep pace with Europe’s elite leagues. Allegations of
corruption have blighted Italy’s footballing landscape
and its shadowy underbelly continues to warrant
front-page coverage as opposed to back.
Alas, a new Juventus has been born. Just as Fiat has
rejuvenated the iconic 500, Juventus are cool again.
The footballing gargantuan we all knew, burdened by
the weight of inflated player salaries, crippling scandals,
falling attendances, and the expectation fostered
by past glories, has dusted off her Wayfarers and is
rebuilding herself as a club for the present. Whilst the
rest of Italy struggles to adapt to football in the 21st
century, (a country whose footballing infrastructure
has received little to no attention since Italia ’90) the
Old Lady, able to face herself in the mirror once more,
complete with Puccini on the gramophone behind her
and a shot of grappa on the sideboard, is making up
her face with a practiced precision. She is ready once
more to transport us all back in time.
The ‘Old Lady’ has appeared somewhat frail in
recent years, and if proof of her inﬁrmity needed reaﬃrming, we need only cast our gaze at her previous
dwellings… Heavily implicated in the Calciopoli
scandal of 2006, stripped of their 2005, 2006 Serie
A titles, Juventus were relegated to Serie B. The ‘Old
Still, the heart beats strong in this proud club and
their predicament was given an air of perspective by
Juve’s resident stylista Gianluigi Buffon who chirped;
“I would say I’m having less sex now, there is more to
think about in this division…”
Understanding that such goings on is par for the
course in Italian football, even for a club like Juventus,
there was never any question of Buffon – arguably the
world’s best ‘keeper at the time - jumping ship. In
dealing with Juventus’ embarrassment with an air of
cool and measured deflection, Buffon defines what it
means to play for Italy’s greatest team, even in crisis.
Gigi’s faith has been repaid.
With shrewd investment in younger players, sound
judgement in the transfer market (recruitment of
Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba), a wage ceiling and a futureproofed stadium with easily facilitated expansion
possibilities, Juventus’ approach is already bearing
fruit. In hiring Antonio Conte, (fast developing into
one of the finest young coaches in world football)
Juventus ensured that fans would exhibit patience
throughout this rebuilding project.
As with all great Italian football stories, however, the
darker side to such fairy tales is never far from the
surface. Juventus’ saviour was himself implicated in
a match ﬁxing scandal involving his time in charge
of Siena. Surrounding what was allegedly a written
instruction to his match-day side to the eﬀect that
“we are going to draw this one”, Conte was found
guilty of match ﬁxing and received an initial 10month suspension. Although this taints Juventus
merely by association, it is still a cross to bear for a
club whose name is as synonymous with scandal as
As a child I was incapable of the cynicism with
which I now view my past heroes, seeing only the
idyllic beauty and majesty of Serie A’s football. Conte
embodies my adult feelings toward Italian football.
Look a little closer and you will always ﬁnd things are
not quite as they seem. After all the man was as bald
as Pierluigi Collina and now is only third in the queue
behind Gigi Buﬀon and Pavel Nedved for bagging
I ask you though, how can we not love this league?
It’s given us some of the greatest players and tactical
innovations we have seen. Let’s hope Juventus’ green
shoots of recovery take for the rest of Italy because the
prospect of Serie A emerging once more as a force in
world football will always be a mouth-watering prospect,
even if Grandma’s house is a distant memory
*The Multipla was a car designed by the car manufacturer
Fiat in 1998 with whom Juventus are historically tied.
when the noise
by Luke Constable
Did I tell you about the best goal I ever scored?
I scored a couple of belters, but this was the best yin
I ever scored. Against Barcelona of Spain.
Messi had a free-kick…
You didnae Granda! You didnae score against Barcelona!
Aye I did. It was when they had the boy Messi playing
for them. What a player he was!
He missed! Big Fraser saved it and leathered it up
the park. Before I knew it, I had the ball, everyone
screaming. So I ran at the goal, and it got louder and
Och, ye never heard of Leo Messi? I cannae believe
that! Ye on the wind-up?
Then it got quiet…
No Granda, I’m no! Wus he good?
No it didnae!?
Aye, he was the best. I couldnae get near him at the
end, I wanted to get his shirt aff him. Only ended up
wi a sock like, but it was still his. Maybe I’ll show youse
Aye, it did. Couldnae hear a thing. It lasted for ages.
I can still remember it noo. But it was only a second.
Mind plays tricks like that. So it was me and the big
keeper, and I can still remember everything in my
Don’t be silly Granda! A smelly sock!
Ah, you’ll be showing it tae your grandkids one day sure
enough. He was the best player in the world. Playing
for the best team in the world. And we beat em. 2-1. We
I was thinking of this. This, here, now. Telling people
like you that I did that one day, that I scored a winning
goal against Barcelona. I knew that if I missed it, that’s
me forgotten, could regret it the rest of my life.
Was this before Celtic joined Rangers?
But you scored!
Oh aye, before then, back when there were still two
teams in Glasgae. Do you know what they used to call
us both back the day?
Aye I did! That’s when the noise came back.
The Old Firm?
Messi scored one at the end, but it didnae matter.
People would only talk about young Tony Watt.
Aye! So they do tell youse something in school!
Yep. The other day we were learning about religion
Ye stopping Granda telling his story or whit? It’s the
best wan I got!
Did he score Granda?
Barcelona were the best team ever. They had the boy
Messi, you’ve heard of him. They had the wee man Xavi.
Iniesta. Three of the greats. Legends they were. The
atmosphere was buzzing, never felt anything like it in
Not even when I was born?
That was special, but imagine 60,000 of youse being
born all at once. Imagine that! I was eighteen and I
came aff the bench. We were a goal up. Ten minutes left.
Indeed it is, young lady! Or it was. That game’s a long
time ago now mind. I wish I could do it all again.
That’s sad Granda.
No really. I never had to buy a drink again. The fans still
sing my name. What more you wanting?
You’ve still got your smelly sock.
Aye. I’ve still got it. Anyway, that’s Granda’s famous
story. Let’s get you off to bed.
Can you tell me about the time you scored the winner
in the World Cup final for Scotland?
Naw, Christ hen, I’m bored of that! Now go brush
words by tom dowding
or over thirty years, football video-games have
been evolving and developing at an increasingly
hyperbolic rate. Far gone are the days of heavily
pixelated graphics, clunky animations and audio
effects that sound like they were produced on a
Fisher Price keyboard. In its place we are now treated to
a galaxy of expensively produced titles; combining stateof-the-art visuals with motion capture dynamics, a glut
of notable endorsements and the salient observations
of Andy Townsend. Surely gamers, like me, should be
delighted with such technological triumphs. But there
is a problem: the undoubted improvements made in
this field have failed to compensate for a quality so
underrated, so nostalgic, that it seldom seems to feature
in the modern lexicon – charm.
Modern games, like FIFA 13, are sold on realism and
a promise of connectivity; the opportunity to test
yourself against the most dexterous mitts in some
other part of the world. In theory it sounds wonderful.
The reality, however, is invariably mired in frustration,
disappointment and it ultimately produces a thick
sense of alienation. The issue with pitting your wits
against incorporeal opponents is that it lacks the
fraternity of playing against someone sharing the same
space as you. Technology, not to be outdone,
encourages you to further your rejection of
the people you have cared for and known your
whole life, by presenting you with the chance to
exchange messages with your fellow gloryhole-gamer.
Such messages can range from civil appreciation to
incoherent abuse and the latter might make one begin
to question if they’re exhausting what precious time
they have wisely.
This is all in stark contrast to more innocent day of
yore, when 2-D gems such as Kick-Off and Sensible
Soccer ruled the roost. What these games may now
lack - in hindsight – in finesse and polish, they more
than compensate for with an abundance of charm
and simplicity. There is an almost intangible quality
belonging to the old classics; a sense of joy and warmth
poured into every facet of their making which is so
absent from the industry-driven produce of today.
These are complaints that might not be shared by
a great many modern video-game lovers, but the
enduring feeling I have – perfectly natural, perhaps
– is that the pizzazz of FIFA 13 offers me no more
satisfaction than the quaint antiquity of nostalgiapolishers like Sensible Soccer.
Of all my gripes with modern football video-games, a
dearth of charm is not the chief offender. A source of
perpetual befuddlement to me is the chronic lack of
imagination applied to the genre. Football lovers invest
and indulge in elements of the game peripheral to the
field of play. We debate with fervour about socio-political
issues and a myriad of cultures encircling the sport, yet
aside from management sims, the games industry has
never deigned to address our interest in these issues
and subcultures. It is surely time for developers to pay
attention to the perennially ignored: the politicians and
With certain misgivings and because I have nothing
better to do, I have thought up several ideas for games
that should never be made as I labour to make a point:
1. The Football Family
This is your chance to make the exhausted, bloodcurdling rhetoric – “for the good of the game” – spouted
ceaselessly by the game’s governing bodies count…
or not. For the first time ever, walk the corridors of
power (and uncertainty) in this convoluted political
stratag-em up where you’ll have to combine duplicity
and political nous to weasel your way to the apex of
the “Football Family.”
You start off as an administrative assistant of your
chosen continental association – your task is to get
noticed, whether it’s through dealing with the burden
of day-to-day admin, making a shit-load of tea, or
simply by stabbing your boss in the back. It’s up to
you. Once you have established yourself as king of
the continent, your focus turns to the International
Football Conglomerate, where your charge is to oust
football’s ‘paragon of transparency,’ Seep Blotter.
There you will need to blackmail, bribe and lie your way
to the top; rig key votes, intimidate smaller countries
and make trusty bedfellows, all the while making sure
you can explain why there’s a large wad of money “just
sitting in your account.” The Football Family is a tale
of skulduggery in a world where you need to keep your
friends close and your enemies’ rogered.
2. Football Administrator
This is, quite simply, the game aimed at that archetypal,
meddlesome, time-sponging nerd that squirms plaintively
within all of us. Football Administrator borrows heavily
from the enormous depth of management sims like
Football Manager and would offer a more sedate, grounded
experience to the borderline psychotic Football Family.
There is plenty to indulge the nerd here: the chance
to sit on local FA disciplinary boards, adjudicate on
dubious goal panels, dish out fines to clubs for not
being out on the field in time and not least – give
yourself the chance to be that self-important, overofficious dick-splash that your cloistered existence has
inevitably ushered you toward, safe in the knowledge
you’ll never love or be truly loved. Enjoy!
3. Modern Cottager
Ask most people over the last thirty years what a videogame involving the life of a football fan would constitute
and they would most likely offer a vision of a bald, angry
bollock swearing and stabbing his way across the Home
Counties in pursuit of opposition fans whilst he himself
evades pursuit for his right-wing leanings. But football
has come a long way in the past thirty years and so has
Simon Hounsby. You take the role of Simon (38) in this
unwinding, rollercoaster narrative - chronicling the
tribulations of the upper-middle class, post Euro ’96
football enthusiast – as he attempts to pluck up enough
courage to follow his beloved Fulham F.C. away from
home for the first time.
Modern Cottager is a story-driven narrative where
the plot unravels according to how Simon juggles the
numerous hot potatoes in his life; these include his messy
divorce with childhood sweetheart Wisteria, being
foisted with his three sons Horatio, Felix and Mike (the
latter named in mistaken homage to his original Craven
Cottage hero, Mark Pembridge) on a match day, and
the stresses of running his own organic food company
(though he does muck in with the roasted vegetable
ciabatta rolls – on a bad day!). Ultimately, Modern
Cottager is a tale of one man’s quest for acceptance as
Simon struggles to understand and be understood.
My yearning for gaming variety aside, perhaps these ideas
represent a cynicism that pervades every corner of our
understanding: instead of football administrators acting
for the good of the game, we see corrupt bureaucrats
lining their pockets with gold; instead of a well to do guy
enjoying a new hobby, we see a middle-class, price-hiking
day-tripper. Charm has been aborted for cynicism in an era
where realism and all its negative connotations prevail
On the face of it, Fulham are quite the enviable bunch
– envy being key among reasons for hating football
clubs. The quaint appeal and riverside proximity
of Craven Cottage juxtaposed with an established,
will-give-any-team-a-run-for-their-money-on-theirday Premier League team is a combination that
would make many a football fan lime-green with the
stuff. Yet an afternoon of meticulous research, the
prime component of which was the trawling of the
imaginatively named Facebook group WE HATE
FULHAM, revealed that The Cottagers are not
considered the repugnant rabble that their enviable
state of aﬀairs might conceivably render them, so
The social media-based hate campaign had only
racked up 375 members, thereby paling in comparison
to the equivalent groups of similarly mid-table
outfits Norwich (679 members), Newcastle (6.3k),
Stoke (1.5k), Sunderland (2.2k), Swansea (672) and
West Brom (815). Though the 6,312-strong army of
Magpies maligners that participated in my research
are part of a group called 100,000 People Who Hate
Newcastle United – something of a gross oversight
by the Mackems in question. So if only 375 people
hate Fulham, and we take it as read that the other
7 billion people on the planet do not (and why
wouldn’t we?), then the club is positively likeable,
and it’s easy to see why. During their 12 seasons in
the Premier League the London club has manifested
itself as an uncontroversial, inoﬀensive institution.
The special dispensation granted Fulham by the FA
to become the only UK team with a neutral fans
area was key to the club instilling a friendly, familyorientated atmosphere at Craven Cottage, making
it a popular destination among away fans and those
with no aﬀiliation.
Then there’s their position in the league – solidly
mid-table, almost predictably so. I imagine working
yourself up into a rage over a team that threatens
neither the relegation fodder nor those with
Champions League aspirations would be far from
straightforward. That’s not to say Fulham haven’t
had their fair share of excitement, though…
The oldest London team (that’s Fulham, I looked it
up) were ﬂoating around in the bargain basement of
the Football League – the perilous fourth tier – as
recently as 1997. The takeover by London’s premier
eccentric Egyptian businessman, Mohamed Al-Fayed,
the same year heralded a rapid rise to the big time by
2001. Everything was going swimmingly in Fulham’s
maiden Premier League stint until Christmas 2007,
by which time the excellently-named Lawrie Sanchez
had not-so-excellently banjaxed any hopes the club
had to play in the top ﬂight the following season, or
so the expert punditry of Match Of The Day would
have had you believe. Sanchez took involuntary
redundancy soon after and was replaced by managerial
journeyman Roy Hodgson, who proceeded to defy
the odds (Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson) and
preserve Fulham’s Premier League status in a trouserbrowning climax to the season.
The excitement doesn’t stop there, oh no! By 2009,
Fulham fans had scarcely ﬁnished re-stocking their
underwear drawers when Hodgson decided he fancied
a crack at the Europa League, though their potential
route into the competition – ﬁnishing 7th in the
Premier League the previous season – meant that
Roy’s boys would have to endure a mammoth 18 games
to get to the ﬁnal. Endure them they did.
After emerging victorious from arduous trips
to Lithuania and Russia just to qualify for the
competition proper, Fulham tangled with European
heavyweights Roma, Shakhtar and Juventus, and
came out smelling of roses on the other side. In the
end, they narrowly lost 2-1 to a relatively star-studded
Atletico Madrid side, containing the likes of David
De Gea, Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan. Fulham,
whose starting eleven read like a who’s who of people
you wouldn’t expect to see in a European cup ﬁnal,
battled well against their superior adversaries, but
when they brought on the prolific Erik Nevland in
search of a late winner, you felt the result would only
go one way.
I interviewed my pal, Calum Butler, for a Fulham
fan’s perspective on the Europa League run and other
aspects of the club. He is actually a Fulham fan, by
“Our assault on the Europa League sort of brought
everyone together. Liverpool were knocked out in
the semis so we were the only English team left in
the competition. We were big underdogs as well, it
was very impressive that we got to the ﬁnal – beating
the likes of Juventus en route. We were getting lots of
praise from other British managers, for example Sir
Alex Ferguson, saying how Hodgson had done such
a great job and that they were all behind us. While
it was excellent, it also exacerbated the fact that we
have no real rivals. If it had been one of the big clubs
in the ﬁnal I’m sure there would have been a lot less
unity among football fans in general”.
When I inquired about Fulham’s local rivals, he was
quick to play down the significance of their derbies.
“We should, on paper, have loads of rivalries. Obviously
there’s Chelsea and QPR, and all the other London
teams as well, to a certain extent. Though we don’t
really have any history with any of them, plus the fact
that we had been in the lower divisions for so long,
we couldn’t really be mentioned alongside the likes of
Chelsea. Even since we’ve been in the top ﬂight we’ve
never challenged them, position-wise. A rivalry has to
be a two-way thing and I don’t think there’s any real
anticipation among Chelsea fans when they play us,
despite Fulham having made life rather difficult for
Chelsea on a few occasions”.
“I guess we should be ﬁerce rivals with QPR, but
maybe the general character of Fulham fans inhibits
any sort of ill-feeling towards them. If Football
Factory or Green Street were ﬁlmed in Fulham, I
don’t think they would have had quite the same
impact. We’re more like posh-boy rugby fans than
traditional football fans!”
It was around this point he remarked on the bottle of
Pouilly-Fuissé we were quaffing at the time…
“I would personally recommend, if you’re not
interested in becoming a die-hard fan, Fulham is
a great team to support. It’s a nice way to spend a
Saturday afternoon without getting bottled - although
you won’t be able to bottle anyone yourself, either.
Swings and roundabouts”.
“If a result passes me by, for whatever reason, no one
ever gives me stick for not keeping up to date with the
team. As a Fulham fan, no one expects you to! You have
a certain place in the football pub-chat hierarchy.”
“I’ve never really been made fun of for being a Fulham
fan either, apart from being given the occasional
‘boring mid-table team’ jibe. I suppose that’s the byproduct of being an established Premier League team
with no rivals, although the UEFA Cup run, the Jacko
statue and the Berbatov signing are threatening to put
us on the map!”
While the Fulham faithful are occasionally perceived
as unthreatening daisy fans (Calum’s words, not mine),
it must be nice not to be ridiculed by every United
fan this side of the Watford Gap. Not finding yourself
in a red-faced frenzy defending your manager’s
questionable forays into the transfer market, or trying
to explain the point of players like Gervinho…”
For those of you who have been with me from the
start, the answer is no: nobody hates Fulham. If you
think you do, you’re wrong. Every aspect of the club
is genuinely likeable, making them excellent ‘second
team’ material, I would say.
Though it is precisely this that separates them from
other teams, particularly their would-be local rivals.
They seem to exist in their own bubble, and for
better or for worse, rivalry is an intrinsic component
of football. The crushing lows and euphoric highs
that it deals you, are what make the beautiful game
so much more than just a game
Written by Bob Treasure
The Illustrated Game
he words ‘sleeping giant’ are often banded
around in football, but the term ‘sleeping
super power’ should be used when referring
to football in India. With a population of
over 1 billion people, surely the laws of
probability would mean that India is home
to some genuine untapped talent. But what’s holding
back football from becoming a mainstream sport in
India? Why don’t we see more Indian players in major
leagues throughout Europe?
Football in India can be traced back to the 1800’s,
introduced by British colonials as they brought their
pastimes to India – and when the football league
was formed in England in 1888, there was already a
thriving league underway in India.
Football has always had to compete with cricket for
popularity in India. Cricket was seen as the gentlemen’s
game, played and enjoyed by the elite. Cricket clubs
would ﬁnd it easy to raise funds for pitches compared
to that of football teams. Parents were keen for their
children to pursue a career in cricket, with football
often banned. These attitudes to football still exist
to this day, where footballers with dual nationality
can’t play for the national team, turning their backs
on established English-based players such as Michael
Chopra. The Indian F.A. have surely missed the boat
in utilising a player like Chopra who could have
helped grow the sport in India and within the Indian
community in the U.K.
A watershed moment occurred in 1978 where the
Indian nation was able to watch the World Cup finals in
Argentina. This meant that Indian football fans could
watch the beautiful game at its peak and the difference
in class, technique and tactics between the Indian
game and internationally was laid bare. Fast-forward
to today and television is still massively influential on
the Indian football fan, with the Premier League being
shown and the middle classes now embracing a game
that traditionally was seen as working class. A study
conducted by TAM Media Research between 2005
and 2009 concluded that India’s football audience
increased by 60% within this four year period. This
growth in popularity has not gone hand in hand with a
rise in the fortunes of the Indian national game or that
of the national team.
India last qualiﬁed for the world cup in 1950 and due
to its surrounding countries not being particularly
strong, it’s often hard to arrange competitive matches
to allow the national team to grow in skill. If India
could achieve something internationally the game
would surely attract more of the nation’s attention
and along with it, money. However India struggles
to arrange matches on designated FIFA match days
which adversely impacts its ranking. India’s Dutch
coach Wim Koevermans said “It’s very difficult
to create an international calendar for the team,
It’s tough to play an international match on every
(FIFA) date and it also becomes tough for the clubs
to release players.”
Even if a youngster in India wants to start playing
football there is a lack of good coaches and
infrastructure. There are only two academies in
India, the Tata Football Academy and the Mohun
Bagan SAIL Football Academy. Apart from these two
academies there is no way for the young players to be
brought up to the necessary standard to compete on
the international stage. Even these academies lack the
dynamic technical staff. In addition to this, stadiums
in India are owned by either state or local municipal
corporations, leaving the football authorities at the
mercy of bureaucracy when trying to update facilities
which often leads to them being neglected.
FIFA has invested around $10 million to develop
infrastructure and Sepp Blatter has even suggested
that India could be a possible host for the 2026
World Cup. This may seem like a pipe dream, but if
the investment continues and the popularity of the
game grows, we could see the biggest football event
taking place in Delhi and Calcutta.
Rangers recently set up a Hindi Twitter feed to expand
their growing number of fans in India. However for the
game to truly grow there needs to be more exchange
programs between Indian clubs and their European
counterparts. This would enable Indian players to
gain experience and coaches to learn new techniques.
If India could create a franchise-based competition
based on the cash rich IPL, then it may create some
excitement among local fans and attract them to
local games rather than watching European football.
Alongside this, Indian football needs European clubs,
media corporations and advertisers to continue
funding football in India in the hope that the game
Written by Chris Butcher
if you would
like to advertise
please send an email
to [email protected]
for specs and rates
“The sure way
w o r d s b y r o s s m a nd e r
f you watch football on TV, you’ll have seen
them; Ray Winstone on some kind of football
pitch spaceship. Chris Kamara in the shower,
harassed by a shouty, Latin John Motson. Victor
Chandler, harassed by a shouty Dennis Pennis
and, more blandly, Robbie Savage in an oﬀice
environment, acting about as convincingly as
you’d expect Robbie Savage to act. They are
all trying to part us from our cash, enticing us
into the noble art of football betting.
Where once you had to enter a betting shop – a smoky
snake pit, frequented by unsavoury characters, who
would not take kindly to outsiders entering their
domain. (In reality, it was a bunch of pensioners,
trying to break the bookie, one 10p bet at a time) –
now we have the internet. We have the laptop and
smartphone. We can bet from anywhere. From the
sofa, to the toilet. Whilst at work, whilst driving,
whilst we sit down to eat. Punting on the football
has become easy. And because it’s easy - it’s become
commonplace. Part of the Saturday ritual.
Once we’ve put our 10 team accumulator on, we can
watch Sky’s Soccer Saturday (How do they get away
with using ‘soccer’?) with complete legitimacy. We
can hurl abuse at the screen as one of Sky’s regional
reporters relays an early Rochdale goal over a crackly
phone line, and it is acceptable. Goals in our favour are
met with a fist pump and a ‘get in’. In between news
of our all-important matches, we will have to listen
to non pertinent information. Matches not carrying
our money. Pay attention though, for these matches
may give up clues for next week’s bet. Some weeks
you will have a match that is covered in the studio.
By one of the big boys – ‘Le Tiss’ or ‘Mers’, ‘Thommo’
or Charlie (Chaz? Chuck?). This is very exciting. Early
in the piece you will find out who is on your match,
and automatically your ears will scan for his voice.
When you hear him groan, or yelp as if in great pain or
shout ‘Gooooooaaaall’ – you know you’re in business
– and you’re ready to receive their news, for better or
worse. This can be thrilling – a tiny, momentary jolt of
adrenaline over a match or a team, which, last week,
and probably next week – you could not care less
about. But this week, they’re yours.
The traditional endgame of this Saturday afternoon
dance, is bitter defeat. Stabbed in the back by a
late equalizer, usually lower league Scotland. People
walking back from matches, in pubs or at home,
wise-after-the-event, asking ‘Why did I put fucking
Cowdenbeath in?’ There is often someone else to
blame for your crushing defeat - ‘My Dad’s cousin
text me on Thursday and told me there was a bout
of gonorrhoea going through the Cowdenbeath
squad, and they will have to play the youth team” is
a typical refrain.
Even when you win, you lose. So proud of yourself,
you cannot resist telling the world of your punting
genius, how you beat the odds, how you just knew
that Bradford would beat Villa. Well done. You have
is bitter defeat.
just revealed to your other half, or your mates down
the pub that you are ﬂush with cash, and to their
minds didn’t really earn, or deserve it. You will now
be expected to buy drinks for the evening or the new
garage door, which does sort of need replacing or
something equally mundane, which is not deserving
of the money so daringly won. Defeat, though, is
the most likely outcome. And you’ve got to just take
it on the chin. Don’t go chasing your losses. Accept
that you’ve been bested this time and that you live
to ﬁght another day. As long as it’s a fair ﬁght, what
can you do?
It’s a fair fight, though, right? Last month, Europol
held a press conference, announcing that they
are investigating an alleged large-scale criminal
conspiracy into ﬁxing football matches across the
world – from The European Championships, to
a Champions league match, played in England to
matches in South Africa and Latin America . The head
of Europol said “It would be naïve and complacent of
those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy
does not involve the English game”. Of course –
you can’t imagine greed and stupidity won’t make it
past our borders. But there is good reason to hope
that match ﬁxing won’t be widespread in our game.
Unlike in many other countries, our players tend to
get paid well, and on time. This risk of losing it all
should be enough to deter one of our players from
taking a bribe.
But then there’s greed and stupidity. And footballers.
And criminal gangs. What could go wrong?
It has to be expected that somewhere along the line,
there will be some major match ﬁxing scandal in the
UK. Then we’ll have something else to blame our
losing bets on
Headline quote: Wilson Mizner (1876 – 1933). An American
playwright, raconteur and entrepreneur.
©Tom Groves / In the Box
alive & flicking
Subbuteo. For most, an iconic manifestation of the 1980s and 90s, now a
nostalgic throwback. A competitive table football game where kicks were ﬂicks,
the collective height of the team reached 33cms and an entire World Cup could
take place on the kitchen table. However, for a small but signiﬁcant group of
Subbuteo fanatics, the beautiful game never died out.
‘In the Box’ documents a serious sporting world that few realise is still out
there and yet it exists with the same sincerity and fervour as any other sport.
Tom Groves’ wonderful photographs capture the highs and lows of competitive
Subbuteo with real ﬂair and respect. ‘In the Box’ guides us through the bizarre
yet fascinating oddities of the sport which is thriving across Europe today.
Images of the euphoria, passion and dedication of the world’s top Subbuteo
players feature as well as quotes, providing personal insights in to why Subbuteo
means so much to them.
Printed by the world renowned EBS print house in Verona, Italy, the book,
designed by Thomas + Thomas, will feature a fabric hardback cover, replicating
the feel of a Subbuteo pitch.
Available to pre-order from intheboxbook.co.uk
by greg holmes
death or glory?
beautiful phenomenon that is the lives – and deaths - of football clubs is as everpresent as it is intriguing.
Football clubs being bank-rolled by a rich owner is nothing new. Glossop North End
were promoted to the old First Division in 1899 following substantial backing from
a local wealthy businessman, Samuel Hill-Wood. After a couple of years of scouring
the country for the best players, Glossop gained promotion but only lasted one
season and were relegated. They fought on in the Second Division for a few more
years before Hill-Wood pulled out and moved to London (he later became Chairman
of Arsenal and his grandson Peter Hill-Wood is still on the board today).
For years though, in Britain, most football clubs were owned by local businessmen.
We all know this is very diﬀerent today but the essence of how and why clubs are
owned has stayed the same – usually for profit. What has changed now though is
the numbers involved. Yesteryear saw most Chairmen and owners as parsimonious
individuals. Yet since the inﬂux of billions of pounds of television money into English
football, we’ve witnessed the ultra-rich from across the globe turning up to get a
slice of the football pie, spurting their vast wealth all over the place like hot gravy.
With such absurd amounts of money involved today it has attracted some people
who may not have quite enough dough to fully back the club to success. Some
owners, who are rich to the average man in the street, are not as wealthy as Roman
Abramovic or Sheikh Mansour, owners who have massively raised the stakes. When
the poorer businessmen make a few gambles to accumulate it can unsurprisingly
back-fire, and badly. Portsmouth, since being promoted to the Premier League
have had quite the roller-coaster existence. Despite different owners in the last few
years, all of whom seem to have either been fraudsters or border-line inept, it was
Milan Mandoric who racked up their debt. At one point it was £138million and with
administration and points-deductions, relegation was inevitable. They are currently
bottom of League One and look set for back-to-back relegations.
Queens Park Rangers have spent masses recently and as they currently lie
bottom of the Prem, many are tipping them to be the next victims in the modern
On the continent however, things are handled a little differently. In Germany
for example, it is tradition for every club to be at least 51% owned by members.
There are some clubs which are exceptions to this rule with Wolfsburg and Bayer
Laverkusen being owned by massive companies, Volkswagen and Bayer respectively.
However the clubs were set up by workers of the companies so they are allowed to
keep their affiliation.
The Bundesliga seems to be reaping the rewards of frugal spending with the league
gaining popularity worldwide for its amount of quality football teams, their league
pyramid throughout the country, high attendances and cheap tickets, not to mention
the fruitful national team set-up. As more clubs tumble in this country, and more
clubs try and buy the Premier League title, it seems supporters are starting to realise
that maybe we don’t have the greenest grass.
és que un club” or “more than a club” when translated into English, is an open-ended
motto yet it is unparalleled in its explicitness. The club that belongs to this motto
is of course F.C. Barcelona. Did I just say “club belongs to this motto”? Surely that
should be the other way round?...
Look at it this way, Barcelona have a philosophy that is ingrained in all their actions.
Do other football clubs share this way of thinking? This way of existing? Should
they and does it even matter?
When football clubs are born, the founders usually have a strong belief that what
they are doing is for the greater good or for the good of a group of people. Some
clubs continue to live by their founding philosophy, some clubs gain new ways of
thinking depending on the current political or sporting landscape, and some simply
forget their values, fade away and die with only a few souls around to care. Why?
Over the years football clubs prosper, others are ripped-apart and some just drift
around going nowhere. It must also be said the supporters’ and media’s role in the
In a recent table of the top 20 highest average attendances in Europe, German clubs
made up the largest proportion with eight. England had four, Italy three, Spain
and Scotland two apiece and Holland with one. So what does this tell us? They
have quite a few large stadiums that are quite often full. Fair enough, England has
a few too. Ticket prices however, are where things start to differ. Bayern Munich,
Germany’s top dog can offer a standing (yes, safe standing, no seats – it’s legal there)
adult’s season ticket for just under £100. Arsenal infamously charged their fans £126
for their cup game against Manchester City, with the away fans getting asked for
£62 of their cash. The ‘quality’ argument can’t be looked at either, as Bayern were
runners-up in last season’s Champions League and look set to do well again this year,
having just comfortably knocked out Arsenal to reach the quarter-finals.
Most modern Football Clubs are businesses, with profits and outgoings and all
the rest of it. There are few professional clubs that still have that ‘club’ feel.
However, regardless of how monopolized a club is, who its owners are or how it’s
run, there will always be a consistency at its core: the supporters. “Més que un
club” really hits the nail on the head; it may only belong to one team but ask any
fan in the world and they will undoubtedly liken its sentiments to their own club.
More than a club - it’s life (and it’s death)
words by mark holloway
t 19, Michael Owen had won the
Premier League Golden Boot
twice and was one year away from
winning the Ballon D’Or. And he’d
never read a book. He revealed
this, ironically enough, while being
interviewed at the launch of what
some might call his premature
autobiography, Michael Owen In
Person. Not only this, he’d only
ever seen the whole of ONE film,
and that, bizarrely enough, was the Jamaican bobsled
comedy classic Cool Runnings. Michael, you should
have managed a couple of football films at least. You
like the number 7, so here are 7 things you could
1. Nobody wants you to become a professional
footballer. You and all your potato-faced mates have
supported Sheﬀield United since forever, and you’ve
got a once-in-a-lifetime make-or-break trial first
thing in the morning, but what’s more important?
Playing football for your beloved Blades and
becoming a wildly successful millionaire footballer,
or drinking some more pints right now. It’s a nobrainer. Neck it Sean. When Saturday Comes, we
want you hung-over like the rest of us.
2. It’s all about dribbling. Good footballers dribble.
They dribble from one end of the pitch to the other
and then side-foot the ball into the net. Close control
has no role to play in the dribbling. Watch Dorothy
in Gregory’s Girl weave her way through a typically
sprawling Scottish defence, the ball never more
than a metre away from her toes. And she’s a girl!
In America, not only girls, but weedy boys (Kicking
and Screaming) and Soccer Dogs can achieve similar
glorious success with lame dribbling montage after
lame dribbling montage, believed to be known in
the industry as “the Wanchope sequence”.
3. Substitutes take penalties. Your debut will be as
a substitute, quite possibly only days after having
a successful trial. If you get on the pitch and the
ref points to the spot, it doesn’t matter that nobody
in the ground knows who you are. You’re taking it.
(To see this work really well in a movie, hunt out
the Brazilian ﬁlm Linha de Passe. You’ll end up
forgiving the implausibility and possibly wanting to
watch The Italian Job again).
4. Sometimes you’ve got to take one for the team.
The team needs Sylvester Stallone to go in goal so
that he can help us all escape at half time. All you
need to do is rest your arm between two planks while
Michael Caine stamps on it. Your response? “Try to
make it a clean break”. That’s the spirit.
Even in bitterly cold
weather with a ball that
stings, in spite of all
the inherent injustice,
a game of football is
a joyful event.
5. Nazis are evil. Look at the way they cheat in
Escape to Victory. The constant fouling, the bribing
(or similar) of the ref. Pele’s broken ribs. There’s
something sinister about those Nazis.
6. Stoke City are worse than the Nazis. OK, so
this is inference, but if we’re ever going to get
anywhere in life, we all have to agree that what
Stoke City want to do to our beautiful game is just
as bad as what Hitler wanted to do to Europe. At
least the Germans don’t try to throw the ball into
the Allies’ nets. At least the Nazi major stands up
and applauds the beauty of Pele’s bicycle kick. Not
even the Nazis would boo a player for having the
audacity to get his leg broken by Ryan “not-thatkind-of-lad” Shawcross.
7. Football is joyful. The games lesson scene in Kes
captures it perfectly. Even in bitterly cold weather
with a ball that stings and a sadistic bully of a
teacher, in spite of all the inherent injustice, a game
of football is a joyful event. See the magical scene in
the Swedish ﬁlm Tilsammans, when the entire hippy
commune is out playing football in the garden.
Everyone can join in, no matter how hairy or sadfaced they are. It’s truly joyful. Compare this with
any orgy scene in any ﬁlm and you’ll see that yes,
football is better than sex, and unlike sex it actually
improves once children become involved.
And this is what you should have learned from
movies Michael Owen. It’s not about your huge
salaries and your helicopters, properties, racehorse,
and your embarrassing prospectus. It’s deﬁnitely not
about ending your career in the reserves at worsethan-the-Nazis Stoke City. It’s all about the joy
Michael Owen in Person is available from £0.01 used on
Amazon, where readers have awarded it 4 �⁄₂ stars.