GENTRIFIED: 
Chelsea fans

I was having a conversation with an old mate the other day, Nic, a fella I used to go to football with for years in England.
Of course we’re both middle-aged men now, with families, regular jobs, and jaded with a good dose of cynicism.

We were recalling those barmy days of the late 70s and 80s and how much things have changed, not least football, which, like pretty much everything else has been overrun by the power of corporate greed.

Back in those days - yep, I’ve reached that age - despite the iron rule of Margaret Thatcher, there was always Saturday afternoons.

Like junkies avoiding life on the end of a syringe, the mundane, hopelessness of everyday existence in urban England was punctuated with football, the lawlessness and excitement of a big day out, the drinking, fighting and explosiveness that came with an infamous fixture.

Coaches, cars and trains heading to Liverpool or Mancheste, service station mayhem as travelling fans from other clubs stopped for a piss, pie and a pint.

Then teaming up in a watering hole in enemy towns and cities waiting for the inevitable to happen.

This was football culture, a lifestyle that was dangerous yet so rewarding for those in it.

Of course, I’m not condoning this kind of behaviour, but those who were there will never forget it and those who weren’t will never understand.

We chatted about our beloved Chelsea and how, despite supporting our club for 45 seasons - since the age of seven - going to games at Stamford Bridge was becoming less and less appealing.

PASSIONATE: Soweto derby is massive

Yes, they’re still there, proper fans, but the majority of those attending matches are there as a pastime, kind of like being into car shows or antique markets.

Away games are a bit different, the tourists, corporates and families fall away and you get left with a bunch of fans that genuinely follow the club for the love of the club.

Even so, my last away game at White Hart Lane felt embarrassing - in the away end - with what felt like a bunch of loud-mouth kids.

I realise that what I’m saying seems alien to most, especially those who kit themselves out from head to toe in club colours.

Of course smart alecs will reply: “If you are so passionate about football and the growth of the game, why would you want the old days back when fewer people watched and stadiums were dangerous?”

I think, as with life generally, the notion of unity and community has had the bottom ripped out from underneath it.

As Madiba so insightfully said: “Sports can be a diversion. Sports can be a hobby. And, for a fortunate few, sports can change the world”.

PASSIONATE: Soweto derby is massive

Of course, he wasn’t referring to a bunch of pissed thugs slugging it out in the back streets of London, but, in the case of where football was and where it is today, it mirrors society as a whole. A microcosm of the way the world has gone.

The corporate “cleansing” less power and organisation amongst the working class, overtaken by the business elite, whose interests lie solely in profit.

The Premier League has to be the most glaring case; not dissimilar to high street/ community shops becoming a thing of the past as national and multi-national chains steamroll the retail market.

While we don’t want violence and, of course, we can’t have mobs causing mayhem up and down the country, we all need passion, belief and excitement in our lives - something to support and fight for.

A truly worthwhile cause right here right now would be the mobilisation of people to bring an end to the criminal governance that is crippling our country.

In the meantime however, I’m gonna try getting into watching synchronised swimming or something!

Anyway, the international break has come and gone and it’s back to business this weekend. Kicking off with a massive one the North London Derby!

For more of Nick’s banter tune in to Feinberg on Football (on Heart FM), Wednesday’s at 15h35. You can also follow Nick on Twitter @thehonestnick.

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