Football and politics meet

Ian Plenderleith investigates the intrepid campaigns of political football fans

I once played in a radical football league in Germany called Outside Left, whose lack of pitch markings reflected its off-field philosophy – “We don’t have boundaries, but we do have goals.” The same slogan drives the Anarchist Soccer Leagues of the US east coast, and if you want to know how to found one, check the webpage of the Washington, DC Anarchist Soccer League. Their other favourite phrase is (reinterpreting anarchist Emma Goldman): “If I can’t play soccer, I don’t want any part of your revolution.” Enjoy the rare sight of goalposts topped by black flags.

Less friendly, and altogether more militant, is the website of RASH Futbol, which claims “to link left and militant anti-fascist football fans around the globe”. RASH stands for Red and Anarchist Skinheads, so if you are one and fancy beating up other skinheads, only right-wing ones, then this is apparently the place to make contacts. Must be confusing in the melee, but I expect they know what they’re doing.

There are more pictures of wobbly goalposts at the Footie Page of the First Church of Chumbawamba website, where you can follow the travails of both Wetherby Athletic U14s (sponsored by the tubthumpers) and the Easton Cowboys – a Sunday football team from Bristol who went to Mexico to play the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas. Revealed too is how the anarcho-popsters came to agree with the Pope, and the full text of the interview every football manager would secretly love to give (Interviewer: Are you worried about your own position as manager now at Newcastle, Bill? Manager: You ever been told to fuck off?) Of course they wouldn’t be anarchists if they didn’t nick things, but they’re fairly discerning pilferers and reproduce a fine article from the Guardian telling parents how to stop their kids supporting Manchester United.

While we’re up in Yorkshire and on the topic of intrepid campaigners, all credit to the fans behind the Leeds United Against Racism web pages. A no-nonsense, all-text site, it monitors racist chanting among fans, advises supporters what they can do about it and keeps an eye on the club’s official reactions and anti-racism camapign. In the light of some fans’ racist reactions to the alleged Bowyer and Woodgate assault, they acknowledge “we still have work to do”. After the deaths of two Leeds fans in Turkey, you can’t help but thinking the challenge will be even greater.

Another group struggling for several years against prejudice, injustice and establishment paralysis is the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, which is to run its own website with the aim of bringing to account the South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and the Football Association “for their part in causing the deaths of 96 men, women and children and injuries to over 400 supporters”. Due to a criminal prosecution surrounding the disaster, the Justice Campaign has agreed not to launch its website until June. In the meantime, bookmark the address.

From WSC 160 June 2000. What was happening this month