Thursday, 28 March 2013

We don't care: football's militants fire a warning signal

We recalled the joy of summer as we drove past the Olympic stadium, chatted about the recent problems of Paul Elliott as we parked the Quattro next to the block of flats where he grew up, turned the corner - and walked into the 1980’s .

Defiance personified
Riot police with snarling dogs postured beside armoured vans, horses and a helicopter hovering overhead. The atmosphere was tense as we made our way into the stadium where thousands of white men shouted at us to fuck off. There was no thrilling, first glimpse of green because the pitch was a waterlogged, brown pudding and it was no surprise when the Championship game between Charlton Athletic and Millwall quickly degenerated into hoof ball.

The south London derby had seemed like a good idea at the time my Addickted pal suggested we go but its charm was fading. Rapidly.

It would've been more intimidating but for the 10,000 empty seats, a reminder there's more football than demand in these austere times. And you can call yourself a supporter without going anymore.

We football fans are resilient though and despite the graphic, aggressive and repetitive abuse from self-appointed pond life the game had its moments.

By the Tower Block behind the Jimmy Seed.
The home side’s 19 year old left winger Callum Harriot caught the eye with his pace, balance and delivery and veteran centre half Danny Shittu was magnificent for the visitors who were fitter and more skillful and deserved to take the lead with substitute Jermaine Easter’s first touch of the ball on the hour. Shane Lowry’s 30 yard free kick six minutes later was Balesque and ended the contest.

After the game both sets of fans were let out simultaneously and we had to take a long detour to avoid the corralled and smug, but no less defiant, visiting fans.

There is always something, even a flick or a tackle, in a football match that makes attending worthwhile for this enthusiast but the scowling Met policemen hungry to restore morale after the riots of two years ago, the thugs among those who follow Millwall and the demise of Charlton who were that rarity, a community focused and well-run Premier League club until double dip relegation, put melancholy one up over pleasure that day at the Valley.

It was how football used to be with its intimidating atmosphere, crap pitches and long balls.

Nah, you might say, that’s just Millwall; their fans have always been the roughest, it was a wet day and Chris Powell has Charlton going in the right direction despite not having a bean to spend.

Maybe.

But reports of some of the old faces, their banning orders having expired, turning up for the England game in San Marino is another reminder that the people who made going to football such an ordeal are still here and, as witnessed at Charlton, there is a disaffected and disadvantaged younger generation who don’t care that no one likes them.