THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Ian Plenderleith looks at a few fan sites

There are a handful of good reasons for visiting another club’s independent website, such as checking for neanderthal-free pubs, or the hosts’ opinion of the 34-year-old, injury-prone defender who is about to sign a two-year contract with your own already struggling team. The other main factor likely to send non-partisan visitors to alien cyber-territory is humour. Not witless abuse of the team from the next town along, but something with the spark to earmark a webzine from the endless screenfuls of hackneyed bile hashed up in the name of rivalry.

Steve Marchant’s cartoon strips at the Cardiff City section of the Urban 75 site are a good place to start, particularly Splott Girl (feminist, beer-sinking football fan), Dai Whist the Optimist (chirpy terrace dweeb who never complains), and Soccer Stan the S&M Fan, a little part of whom is probably in all of us. Reports in the lethargically updated match section deliver prosaic gems such as: “A goal for the away side, however sumptuously executed, was not part of the script, but did eventually kick the sagging butts of the Bluebirds into synchronising their stylish brand of football.” Sumptuous indeed.

A different kind of match report altogether can be found at the unofficial Huddersfield site HTFC World, involving a montage of captioned mock-ups and cartoons interspersed with a commentary that is refreshingly unbiased. The accounts conclude with an exposé of the blatherings and prejudged agendas of local newspapers, or ridicule at the rhetoric of the defeated parties, such as Forest coach Dennis Booth’s excuse after losing 3-1 at home to Huddersfield that the latter “came here with tactics designed to stop us winning”. Each report takes six hours to post, reflecting the thought and effort that has gone into creating an outstandingly original site.

Painful as it is to offer praise to anything connected with Arsenal FC, the rectally christened Up The Arse! webzine deserves credit for tackling the besuited goons at the Football Association for trying to subject such words as Leeds v Derby (ha, come on, sue us) to the laws of copyright. Its letter to the FA is a masterful parody of legal pomp as they warn Lancaster Gate against reproducing UTA’s posted fixture list for next season, which contains all possible permutations of Arsenal’s matches. Check out too the bumptious letter from Hewlett Packard’s solicitors threatening to sue them for a spoof advertisement, and UTA’s gleefully derisive response.

It was a long and chortle-free search to find a source of football-related humour after the above, and it came from a surprising source at Football Culture On-Line , the home page of artist David Sant, who has been using football shirts, pennants and scarves to influence his output.

Working with a combination of oil on canvas and potato sacks, Sant claims that his work serves as an intermediary between a working-class culture socialised into supporting a local club, and the culture of international and middle-class supporters who are absorbed into the new football media.

He says his images comprise details that reference some of the superstitions, heresy, colloquialisms and figures of speech associated with a distinctly Latin interpretation of football culture.

But is it football? Visit the site and decide for yourself. Could be he’s just havin’ a larf.

From WSC 168 February 2001. What was happening this month

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