Tag Archives: Football

Conflict

Last week my mind was on conflict off the pitch.  I grew up listening to my parents talking about the second World War and the D-Day anniversary brought back memories of that.  On Saturday, I saw Captain Corelli’s Mandolin at the Rep, a story of what happened on a Greek island during that war.

On Sunday I went back to town, to look at the Knife Angel sculpture in Victoria Square. I’d passed it on my way to the Rep but didn’t have time to stop and wanted to see it again.  The sculpture was made from 100,000 knives retrieved from the streets of this county and took four years to make. It’s part of a campaign started by the British Ironwork Centre, to address the dangers of knife crime.

Also in Victoria Square on Sunday, there were a group of Sudanese people protesting about the people killed, injured, arrested and raped in their country.  Then I came home and watched news about the protests in Hong Kong. So, I was reminded of two of the many conflicts in this world.

Against this background, the contests on football pitches were a relief; it felt good to have conflicts in which nobody died. I listened to the penalty shootout as England’s men came third in the UEFA Nations League and then watched England’s women win their game against Scotland.

I think that’s what sport is meant to be – a relief from the more serious side of life. We can enjoy the excitement of a contest, without the violence of war or crime. Supporting local clubs can help hold communities together. When I go to Birmingham City matches, there are people there with opposite views to mine on just about everything apart from which team to support. Learning to accept them helps me to accept others who hold different views. Being a fan is not the most important aspect of my life but I believe it has value.

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Commitment

I don’t think that hating other football clubs is a good way to show commitment to your own club. I’ll be at the game on Sunday, hoping desperately that Birmingham beat the Villa but once the game is over, I’ll calm down. I’ll remember that if my dad had been born three miles further north, I’d probably be a Villa fan myself.  

Most Blues and Villa fans have some connection with Birmingham and the two groups have much in common. Fans from both sides agree on many issues such as the Justice for the 21 campaign. The view that Villa are more middle class and Blues more working class is an opinion not a fact.  A thesis on the rivalry between the fans of Aston Villa and Birmingham City Football Clubs stated that: “the fan groups were actually relatively homogenous in terms of their demographics and their location”.   

This week, Blackpool fans have shown their commitment in a positive way, by cleaning up their stadium following the neglect of the Oyston ownership. Birmingham fans have helped in a similar way in the past. I can remember a game against WBA on December 28, 1993, when it had snowed before the game and the club asked fans to come early and help clear the snow so that the game could go ahead. 

Not every fan can get to games; some are prevented by distance, infirmity or other reasons. I hope that those of us who can be there will limit our aggression to non-contact competitions such as who can shout and sing the loudest. I would like both the Blues fans and the police to go home with smiles on their faces.

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Inequality

We live in a crazy world.  Lionel Messi, the highest paid footballer last season, received $111,000,000. Does he deserve that much? More and more people in this country are relying on food banks. If you think that they deserve that, try watching I, Daniel Blake on BBC iPlayer and see if you change your mind.

Yesterday evening, I went to a performance of Commonism, at the Rep.  It’s a conversation between two men, one British and one Norwegian, talking about the world today and imagining how the future could be better. At the end, they hand out copies of their manifesto. This suggests a maximum limit on the economic resources any one individual can possess and a universal basic income. I imagine that it would be a lot easier to get poor people to accept a basic income than to get rich people to limit what they own. The performance was thought provoking and I had much to think about as I walked back to my bus stop, past all the rough sleepers.

When I got back home, I saw the news about the latest Brexit squabble in Parliament. It seemed a far cry from the conversation I’d just listened to, about learning to disagree well. There was also news of Burton’s heavy defeat at Manchester City and the nightmare journey to get to Manchester experienced by some of their fans. The result was not that surprising when you consider the value of their squads. Sky reported that,

“Burton Albion’s squad value this season is around the £6m mark   … Manchester City’s current squad is valued at just over £1bn, with their most expensive acquisition, Riyad Mahrez, joining the club last summer for £60m.”

In other words, one of Manchester City’s players cost 10 times more than Burton’s squad. That enormous inequality just doesn’t seem right to me, with most of the TV money flooding into the Premier League. I can understand why owners of clubs lower down the pyramid pay out too much in the hope of getting promotion.  Birmingham City paid out too much; we are still waiting to find out what price we’ll have to pay for that. We are not the only club with financial problems. The situation feels more serious than just a few clubs breaking some rules; it feels as though the whole system is broken.

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Elated and exhausted

It has been nearly a week since Birmingham City ended their season with a memorable win against Fulham. It was an incredible game, with a full St Andrew’s providing loud support from before kick off to the post-game players parade around the pitch.  It was absolutely wonderful and I felt elated.

But I also felt exhausted, worn out by the rollercoaster emotions generated by an end-of-season escape from relegation. Continue reading

Hope fulfilled

Birmingham City won a game, after losing 7 League games plus a Cup game.  And it wasn’t an ugly win; it was beautiful. Blues had 8 corners, 8 shots on target and scored from 3 of them.  Stockdale only had to make one save. It was hard to pick a man of the match because the whole team played well. Continue reading

Hope for Hull game

At this stage of the season, I think most Birmingham City fans would prefer winning ugly to losing better. The stats in Garry Monk’s first two games looked better but you don’t get points for possession or passion. In the game against Cardiff, Birmingham had 16 shots, with 7 on target, but one of Cardiff’s shots ended up in the goal. Continue reading

Snow, fog and not casting the first stone

The last edition of the Made in Brum fanzine had a good question on its cover: “Has Cotterill broken Blues or have Blues broken Cotterill?” For me the question is unanswerable because it isn’t either/or but both/and.  Blues handed Cotterill a near impossible job and he didn’t manage to do it. Continue reading

Millwall

Last year Millwall won the Family Club of the Year award but fans still chant, “No one likes us.” Some of them probably deserve their reputation as hooligans but the majority go to watch the football not to fight. Many feel that their reputation is not deserved and one fan, Bill May, blames the BBC. Continue reading

Friday thoughts

It was freezing cold on Tuesday night and we lost 1-4 but I didn’t regret going to the game. Birmingham City played well for the first 90 minutes though they ran out of steam in time added on. The attendance of 13,175 wasn’t brilliant but it was good to have Blues fans in the Tilton as well as the Kop. Continue reading