War In My Heart: Childhood Memories of Sport #3

(Last week I started exploring how three separate and seemingly unimportant childhood experiences of sport went a long way to forging me, both politically and as a man. To complete the trilogy, it’s attending an especially profound game of football…)

Comrades. This is difficult for me to write. In today­­’s article I go back to the night I realized South London needed to change. The night I realized weeds needed purging. The night I realized the wonderment of an international influence. And the night I realized my love of the nocturnal flip of huimanity…

After this event, football was never the same for me. It expanded. It grew. It matured. It became erect. Glorious. Huge. Profound Multifaceted. Interesting!! Interesting enough to hold my interest, my fascination out of the simplicities of childhood and into the complexities of adulthood.

At the age of 13 I went to a football match in South London with my dear old mother and a few other children.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United. 25th January 1995.

I was at this game. Aged 13. My George Best-obsessed, United-supporting mother had managed to get hold of some tickets – amongst Palace fans, in their dreary hole of Selhurst Park. Their bitter jealousy of United electrified me, made me proud. I was only young but I knew resentment like that was a compliment. I was always slightly embarrassed by United being the best supported team in the land, but always exhilarated by them also being the most hated. Ridicule is nothing to be scared off, it’s a source of energy to nourish you soul’s most outlandish excesses.

I really feel the paranoid arrogance of that identity helped forge the person I’ve grown up to be, for better and for worse.

The Palace fans’ hostility towards United manifested itself most spectacularly, most venomously, most complimentary, in their seething jingoistic hatred of Eric Cantona – the figurehead and catalyst of United’s recent and long awaited success (strange to think nowadays in these times of absolute sporting hegemony, but they hadn’t won the English league championship for twenty-six years, between 1967 and 1993).

That was the night of the Cantona “incident”…

…the splendid kung-fu attack, the madness, the red mist, the Kicking Of Racism Out Of Football. It happened after he’d been sent off for what I believe was a second bookable offence – a nonchalant little kick out at some anonymous waste-of-cultural-space Palace player. He was walking off the pitch, Matthew Simmons, mouth bomber jacket wearing Palace fan, ran down the stand to hurl abuse at Cantona, who then landed not only the above flying kick but also this rather tasty jab to the face…

… This was followed a predictable moral panic, a lengthy ban (9 months), rumours of transfers to continental clubs or even retiring from football, and of course the brilliant “Seagulls” line:

My favourite experience of the night came after Cantona’s event. Myself and two similarly young friends stood on our seats amidst the increasingly hostile Palace fans and heartily sang “Oooh-Aaah, David May!” and then, “UNITED! *clap clap clap* UNITED! *clap clap clap” repeatedly. In response HUNDREDS of enraged Palace fans turned their backs on the game to respond “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” A number of policemen rushed over to shut us up as we were on the verge of sparking a riot. To feel such hatred was an incredible buzz (an ecstatic feeling that I’m still yet to better).

But I was disappointed at the role South London had played in this farcical but exhilarating spectacle. South London’s representatives on this knight-of-nights had been the cultural rump, the baying mob of great unwash’d and the frenzied village idiot – namely, Crystal Palace, their fans, and the high priest of provincial cuntness, Matthew “should’ve been aborted” Simmons. I wished South London had a big football club. Not even a United, but something bigger. Something that would dwarf even FC Barcelona. A monolithic mothership of a team.

Alas, no. But I have grown up, grown wiser. Realised there is more to life & death than football – well, perhaps not – but certainly there is more to life than having a huge hypercapitalist football club whoring its soul and other orifices out for loose millions in your patch..

But because of the pettiness of South London on 25th January 1995 – showcased lest we forget in what was probably the most famous match of the entire decade! – this was the night, ultimately, that I realized South London needed an El Salvador. A revolutionary, heroic figure, a lone warrior, a Cantona-esque je ne sais quoi embodiment to flying-kick the unacceptable face of South London, so that it’s many other faces – for it is a multifaced beast – can represent themselves

Ladies & Gentlemen. This was the night Wolfgang Moneypenny was born. Wrenched in a splatter of gore from the vagina of possibility.

Let us harness what is good about South London with what is great across the rest of the world. Whatever we choose, it will be inherently South London.

My position on international influence is a bipolar one. Reject – visciously, loudly – anything forced on us. Embrace – warmly, energetically – anything we so desire.

And when we do have our independence, I call on the as yet hypothetical Minister for Sport to make Eric Cantona the Republic of South London’s first national team manager.

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2 Responses to “War In My Heart: Childhood Memories of Sport #3”

  1. Shouldn’t we just be campaigning to bring Arsenal back to Woolwich? Possibly – and this might be contentious for some – in exchange for Millwall going back tot the Isle of Dogs?

  2. Indeed! I have set Woolwich Abandonists FC in my sights already: https://freesouthlondon.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/brazil-v-ireland-holloway-road-protest/ And plan to keep up the pressure…

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