The Champions League is just over. The season ends with an English dominance after almost a few decades. At last, football comes back home. But is that all for the football fans? The country remains always divided. Divided by the cities, football, the clubs, races and so on. The ‘Together for England’ tag only works once in every alternate year, during the Euros and the World cups. Apart from that, it is blank. Arkaprabha Biswas leafs through the underlying tension of the footballing nation. . .
‘There’s no reporters down Kensington High Street when we pull scousers off the train and kick them into next week…The commentators don’t sit in a block of flats with their camera crew zooming-in when we steam Geordies at King’s Cross. They’re editing highlights and pocketing the wage packet. Suits us fine. Who needs the hassle?’
The Football Factory is all about the mundane and the vulgar. The dull London streets, Sunday leagues, derbies, racism, drinking, blowjobs- everything that goes deeply against the famous British image we often tend to draw as sub-continental English Majors. It will hurt us not only because it is quite an unlikely England, but also because it hardly gives a room to our so-called literary comfort zones. It is crude, raw, and a not-so-delicate snap of the decay of the land. Mostly episodic, this pragmatic piece of writing stands exactly where modern day England is- in the transition between its glorious heritage and a decaying future. It’s not only about the game of football itself. It has never been one either. The game extends to a deeper level of regional anxiety that often boils down to a social and consequently a political one. Football, here, is a game of pride. And it is the game of disgrace too.
Being an ardent follower of English football, I know many of these deals very closely. The club stances. The fan club politics. The sense of competition. Disrespect to each other. Everything. Because these are the business under the table. And an outsider will never know any. We, the football fanatics know the equation between the Mancs and the Scousers, have seen many fights to establish the colour of London- Blue, Red, or White. The city riots, duels, police patrolling have always been a part and parcel of the game in England. As I already said, this game has entered into deeper veins of the civilization, affecting the social, the individual, and of course the political. Football stands for vote bank, for the race, for the region, but never for religion. ‘This is a chronicle of a lost tribe- the white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual who is fed up with being told he is crap. It is the story of a flight from fear by a group of Londoners who have seen the present and know it does not work.’ Is that the end to the battle? Does it remain mere supremacy on the field? The answer is a big ‘No’. The Football Factory shatters every stable aspect of the game.
‘We run towards the van and the coppers are shitting themselves. Even the sergeant leaves the kid alone… They’ve all got their numbers covered so there’s no chance of identification and you know that any complaint you make against police brutality comes to nothing. They love football fans because they can do what they want. We’re lower than niggers because there’s no politician going to stand up for the rights of mainly white hooligans like us. And we don’t want their help. We stand on our own feet. There’s no easy place to hide…’
The country remains always divided. Divided by the cities, football, the clubs, races and so on. The ‘Together for England’ tag only works once in every alternate year, during the Euros and the World cups. Apart from that, it is blank.
King’s book is special not because it talks about the ever exciting game in greater details, but because it occasionally transcends an episodic journalistic writing to a social documentation of contemporary England. The outlook is fun, and so the language. But there lies a deeper note within. And thus this becomes a writing of two lairs. It is a social history in its making.
Feature Photo by Frantzou Fleurine
Other Photos from Google Images