International Writers Magazine:Football
Winning at Portsmouth
1-0: Who really loses Cardiff or non-football fans?
Alex Hillman examines Portsmouths reaction to the FA cup final.
So Portsmouth win
the F.A. cup and I couldnt care less. If winning football always
means celebrating in the way football loving residents of Portsmouth
(apparently the vast majority) celebrated on Saturday 17th May then
I hope they never win another match. People I know have said that it
is better for the city and better for safety that Portsmouth won rather
than lost. Is it? I suppose that it is good that Portsmouth is a happy
city but happy in the way that only a native Portsmouth resident
can be. With violence and intimidation. Quickly looking over the towns
papers, I see no mention of any violence or unacceptable social behaviour.
I didnt hear of any arrests made. Journalists and officials seem
to take the dim view that as long as the violence is happy violence,
it is OK. Like when I saw some yob hurl a dustbin lid against the side
of a car on Saturday its alright, because he had a smile
on his face.
Let me put some things into perspective here. My girlfriend and I were
both working on Saturday 17th May. It turned out that when we finished
work (both 5pm) it coincided with the end of the football match that
heralded Portsmouth FCs biggest victory since the thirties. I
had been keeping an eye on the match throughout my time working and
already had an idea of what to expect. Walking through town and up to
Elm Grove, throngs of people emerged incessantly tooting those air horns
moronically, much like Homer Simpson in The Simpsons though without
the writers wit or irony. Walking up Elm Grove the semi-comprehensible
wails of "Play up Pompey, Pompey play up", the ridiculous
mantra for the insane, issued from drunkards hardly able to stand. Children
screamed from balconies, the aforementioned dustbin lid was thrown,
and as cars waited at the lights, one-track minded tossers leant on
the bonnets and forced the occupants to beep their horns (if I had been
driving, I wouldnt have done). As I walked past the Deco pub one
bloke screamed in my face, "Cheer up! Weve just won the F.A.
cup!" Expressing my lack of enthusiasm at this time would perhaps
have been unwise. My girlfriend and I both got home in the end unscathed.
Football truly is the new war.
Why do I have to care about football? Why am I made to feel like I dont
belong just because I like things like theatre and writing? Dont
get me wrong I dont hate the game of football. Since the
age of 9 I have always taken an active interest in World Cups, European
Cups whether or not England play (usually better for the nerves when
they dont, I find). And I am not one of those annoying people
who pretend to enjoy the match just because England are playing. I just
find it more exciting when different nations play each other, as opposed
to clubs. Club football doesnt mean anything. The majority of
the players are foreign and I genuinely believe 99% of footballers dont
have any emotional attachment to the club they are playing for. Its
all about money. Football is tolerable in its simplest incarnation;
parent and child going to watch a match played well and with grace.
I remember reading a book entitled Topsy and Tim at the Football Match
where Tim and Topsy engage in wholesome activities such as cheering
the team on and waving rattles(!). Now, the book doesnt
exactly indulge in a huge amount of what we would term plot
(and lets face it, activities that can be covered in a picture
book are pretty limited Jean and Gareth Adamson are unlikely
to pen an edition entitled Topsy and Tim Visit The Abattoir, are they)
but the book does have the notable virtue of being believable as a nostalgic
piece, documenting a time when families went to football matches without
their kids being forever indoctrinated into a game where it is customary
to insult the ref and to jeer obnoxiously as much as is humanly possible.
The fact is, football is fine when it is presented as important only
to the people who find it important. Sports pages, football channels,
Merlin sticker collections. All fine. I, like other non-fans, hate it
when it is forced on me. How would Portsmouth fans react if I yelled
in their face "Cheer up! We just premiered a successful new musical!"
Knowing them, probably violently.
© Alex Hillman. May 21st 2008
Alex is a graduate of Portsmouth University Careate Arts Degree.
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