No al Calcio Moderno – Selling Your Soul

Over one hundred years of tradition melted away for a quick buck…

The Ultimate Sell-Out

I can only imagine what many true Cardiff City Football fans must be thinking at this moment. Here’s some friendly advice… NOT ONE MORE PENNY!

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THE LAST ARGUMENT (ОСТАННІЙ АРГУМЕНТ)

Interesting documentary made by Ultras Dynamo Kyiv about the detrimental effects of growing commercialism on both the domestic and international supporter scene…

Source – http://www.wbc.kiev.ua/argument/

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Photo: No al Calcio Moderno

Against Modern Football

This months No al Calcio Moderno photo attempts the world record for most amount of cretins in just one shot…

If they had managed to get a full frontal of Michel Platini in the frame, such photo would not be deemed suitable for publication.

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Would you go to these lengths for your team? If not, why not?!

Taken from http://www.elbkaida.tv/

Taken from http://www.youtube.com/user/UnionBerlinAFTV

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Vale Park, 1979 : Super Eight Footage

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Alternative Tourism #2 – The Cypriot exclave of Erenköy / Κόκκινα – A glimpse into one of Europe’s last disputed territories.

Okay, so it’s time for the second instalment of alternative tourism chronicling the strangest, ‘off the beaten path’ landmarks that I have witnessed on my travels. Following on directly from the ethos of the first post, I plan for this series to be both informative and thought provoking. I try to be as descriptive as possible, however ultimately the onus is on the reader to investigate further as some of the subject matter can be rather detailed and far too extensive to fit into a blog of this nature.

The Divided Republic of Cyrpus

The subject matter of this post will touch upon historic and deep-rooted disparities that have existed between two differing identities and has become another epitome of the destructive nature of nationalism and extremism, sadly still apparent in modern Europe. For centuries, the conflicts between retreating and expanding rival empires have formed a plethora of differing communities and civilisations within modern nation states, resulting in ethnic, religious, cultural and socio-economic diversity spanning across the continent. Such heterogeneity within societies has, over time, caused tensions or ‘fault lines’, where the tectonic plates of empires have caused friction against one another as their territories displace. An idea promoted by historian Niall Ferguson in his book titled The War of The World, the tectonic plate metaphor has held true for the struggles and tensions we have seen throughout the twentieth century.

Click on the above link for the TV documentary on 4od

Despite Niall’s neoconservative political stance and romanticism of imperial colonialisation, his symbol of causal effects behind inter communal tensions has truly hit a chord with my understanding of modern Europe. It has helped me to understand the destructive role of extremism, nationalism and right wing thinking and their contribution towards conflicts, disputes, wars and even atrocities. After the decline of the last European empire, the Soviet Union and its satellites, nationalism has been both strongly emergent and rife, playing a major role in the formation of the modern nation states we see today. The former Yugoslavia is a perfect example of the impact of dominant nationalist thinking and can be linked back to Henry Kissinger’s US foreign policy; where the ethos was to kill off communism through the promotion of nationalism within the individual European member states. Once empires begin to dissolve, what are left behind are microcosms of diversity within newly homogenised kingdoms. Coupled with the notoriously right-wing paradigms associated within nationalism, it becomes easy to see how inter-communal tensions can lead to social division, exclusion, denigration and ultimately conflict. These traits are apparent in the break up of the former Yugoslavia as certain member states took to nationalism as their prevailing political ideal.

Having never heard of or noticed the unique situation on the island of Cyprus, I visited for the first time in 2004 and completely unbeknown to me would be the overabundance of alternative tourism available. I felt almost ignorant as my lack of understanding of the Cyprus problem truly hit home after a two-week visit that became completely dominated by my thirst for knowledge. After a mere two weeks of driving and trekking into areas that most tourists would not know even existed, I felt that this specific landmark successfully highlighted the current situation faced on the island and was best suited to describe its dark and troubled past.

If you familiarise yourself with the island of Cyprus’ modern history, you will see that the island is currently divided into two parts; the Turkish controlled north and the Cypriot south. The Republic of Cyprus (RoC), whose population is predominantly Greek Cypriot, is a member of the European Union and is synonymous with tourists for its plethora of destinations and resorts. The lesser-known Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a de facto independent nation formed after the 1974 invasion of the Turkish Army and the partitioning of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities into their respective zones. In 1983, The TRNC unilaterally declared independence, however to this day is only recognised as such by Turkey itself due to the United Nations and the international community rendering the occupation as illegal, imposing trade and economic sanctions in the process. The reliance on Turkey for its financial aid and the development of the RoC into an independent European economy has caused the TRNC to develop at a much slower rate. If you look at the development of the divided capital city of Nicosia, it is clear which side of the island has sustained the most growth over decades.

Aerial View of Nicosia - TRNC to the north and RoC to the south of UN buffer zone

Ultimately, the situation in Cyprus was one born out of inter-communal tensions, brought about by the historic rise and fall of empires and the emergence of extremist, nationalist and dominant right wing ideology. Within the larger Greek Cypriot community, the majority wished for Enosis; a total economic, social and political integration with Greece. Amongst the Turkish Cypriot community, it was widely believed that Enosis would only achieve to compromise their role in society and ultimately cause the inter communal conflicts and social division to intensify. After many years of communal tensions, the nationalist fervour within many of the Turkish Cypriot right resulted in the policy of Taksim (division) becoming dominant within the community members. Such extremist ideals being manifested within both communities resulted in the severe deterioration of political, social and economic parity we have seen in many other areas; most notably Northern Ireland, former Yugoslavia, Israel etc.

The culmination of the inter-communal conflict was the 1974 invasion by the Turkish Army in what was seen as an illegal occupation and peace operation by the respective communities. The majority of Turkish Cypriots, already living in enclaves throughout the island, proceeded to move north, whilst the majority of Greek Cypriots were also encouraged to leave their homes for the apparent safety of the south. The partition of the island of Cyprus runs from Morphou Bay in the West, through the capital city of Nicosia to Famagusta in the East with a United Nations patrolled buffer zone sandwiched between the respective republics. On visiting Nicosia, you cant help but notice the travesty called the Green Line, which divides this fabulous ancient city with an overgrown, unkempt and battle scarred landscape that winds through the urban setting.

Map of Turkish Cypriot enclaves

At the very western point where the two states meet at Morphou Bay lies a feature that epitomises perfectly the current situation in Cyprus. Directly to the west, standing prominent on the Tylliria/Dillirga region is the Turkish Cypriot exclave of Κόκκινα (Greek) / Erenköy (Turkish).

Aerial map of Kokkina / Erenkoy

After a long drive along the northern coastal road in the RoC, we noticed an early start to the aforementioned Green Line as we started climbing into the mountains. The particularly poorly detailed map of Cyprus, that we had bought locally, seemed to exclude any indications of an exclave. After stopping to examine monuments to fallen soldiers, guerrilla fighters and civilians I noticed the UN buffer zone completely encircled a small area on the coastline, with Greek Cypriot checkpoints positioned on the hills on our side and Turkish Army checkpoints directly opposite to them past the UN area. My curiosity hit overdrive, and it wasn’t until I returned home that I could fully research the reason behind such a strange, yet seemingly pointless anomaly. What was the history behind Kokkina? What tactical advantage did it hold? Just what happened there?

After trawling through historical accounts and websites I can conclude that the events leading to its creation were anything but pointless. Erenköy / Κόκκινα was a village situated on the coastline and the only prominently positioned Turkish Cypriot community. For years, inter-communal tensions had resulted in struggles for the Morphou Bay regions’ only port and coastal highway, culminating in the fierce fighting during 1964. Greek Cypriot authorities and their extremist; Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (EOKA) guerrilla fighters highlighted the area as highly significant to the Turkish Cypriots due to it being their only connection with Turkey and a vital supply route for their extremist paramilitary faction; the Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı (TMT).

Both nationalist and hard-line, EOKA and TMT were both self-proclaimed protectorates of their respective peoples, however their political allegiances often rose to the surface irrespective of race or creed. Both factions have been associated with the assassination and intimidation of prominent left wing, progressive thinkers and activists opposed to their divisionary and nationalist policies. Extremists on both sides have played their part in committing atrocities over the other.

In the modern day, this iconic location shows the scars of battle with almost complete destruction to the old village. With its isolated location, Erenköy / Κόκκινα is nothing more than an outpost for the Turkish Army with several monuments and graves commemorating the deceased defenders of a community and ideal. Erenköy / Κόκκινα has, in my eyes, become an important symbol in my justification that extremism and nationalism is clearly the most destructive element in society and the main obstacle of peaceful communal living. Not just in Cyprus, but other parts of the world we witness similar right-wing approaches to heterogeny and diversity, resulting in increased tensions between communities. Such regressive attitudes promote fear and mistrust within society causing communities to be displaced, persecuted, divided and homogenised. Ultimately it is disparity within the balance of power and economics that are the main causal factors of inter communal struggles and violence. Preservation of the inequalities and social division only promotes further violence, delays any possible reconciliation and inhibiting economic growth.

The only reconciliation for Cyprus would be the re-unification of the island and its people under a shared Cypriot identity, devoid of nationalism and extremism on both sides. The pooling of public resources and encouragement of economic parity through a lightly regulated free market may just ensure that Cyprus can once again embrace multiculturalism. Since the opening of further checkpoints, the RoC and the TRNC have made further ground towards possible re-unification as money and labour starts to be traded. What lies in store for the future? Only time will tell. I sincerely hope nationalism and extremism are beginning to be appreciated as the growth deniers that they clearly are.

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There is a plethora of information available on the situation in Cyprus and, like myself, if you are inclined to know more then please take the opportunity to learn about its history in more detail. It is also worthwhile to note that there will be many differing viewpoints and the documents you will find will be no exception to this. Try to remain open-minded and fully appreciate from which stance each article is written.  Here are some starter resources for your perusal….

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Take me home… Willows Road. The end of 110 years of Salford history.

The Willows

One could be forgiven for challenging my purported love of all things Rugby League and Salford RLFC by pointing out a distinct absence of articles or postings over the year since the formation of this blog. There is a distinct reason behind such hesitancy and my sudden decision to change emphasis. As some will be aware, Salford RLFC fans are themselves embracing (both willingly and reluctantly might I add) a major change, ironically on Sunday September 11th 2011. By 5pm on this guaranteed emotional day, Salford Rugby League Football Club will make that long awaited transition to their new ground; The City of Salford Stadium. The curtain will finally fall on The Willows, a venue that despite its modest appearance by modern templates has served up some of the most fantastic memories and with its impending closure a loss of traditionalist charm.

“Later on in life when I look back on my career it will be good to tell the kids that I played in the very last game for Salford at The Willows.” Luke Patten

Without covering old ground and the reasons for my discovery of Salford RLFC, experiencing the rapturous atmosphere from the Red Army in the infamous Popular Side (Shed) was enough to rekindle the feelings of both passion and belonging that escaped me after witnessing the moral and ideological decline of Football governance in the UK. Standing for the first time, in what has come to be the new home of the ‘Stoke-on-Trent Branch’, and witnessing the incessant, unrelenting and frankly eye opening qualities of the greatest game of all, new die-hard supporters were born on a certain Friday night in 2004.

The Shed

Along our seven-season journey we have experienced a plethora of both highs and lows with trophies, relegations, historic victories and crushing defeats. New followers, some permanent, some temporary have all experienced The Willows. Some have never quite appreciated either the sport itself or the limitations and frustrations of following Salford RLFC. Some have walked away with good memories, others have admitted that it ‘isn’t quite their bag’. The strange thing about introducing new people to the old lady was the ability for Salford to deliver a piss-poor performance and/or the atmosphere to be markedly flat, only for the complete opposite to happen in their absences. I guarantee that some people to this day believe I am exaggerating when I describe some of the explosive experiences I have had in that ground. Last Sunday proved again to be the case, with over ten thousand supporters watching yet another ‘rabbit in headlights’ performance from a team capable of so, so much more.

The hardest thing for everyone will be the altering of the age-old pre-match routines and the sudden break in familiarity. The usual Friday practice of a swift escape from work in West Bromwich back home to Biddulph, Staffordshire through the heavy traffic of the M6 motorway may all be coming to an abrupt end (dependant on the clubs decision on future gamedays). The subtle nuances that offer such fantastic memories; the arrival at Weaste Lane (in the usual parking space of course), utilising the pre-match hour for fast food or ultimately deciding on death burgers* from inside the ground if time was more pressing. The short pilgrimage to the ground past the converted end terrace acting as our club shop and up the alleyway to our regular turnstile before gaining entry and the resulting utilisation of the beer outlets. The best thing about buying beers from the small vendors inside the ground was their ability to pour six, below average beers in such a short space of time. That would get us through to half time anyway.

*A certain member of the group is ideal for informing us if the so-called ‘beef’ burger was cooked sufficiently with his distinctly higher metabolism. If he had stomach turbulence then the rest of the group could fear the worst on Saturday morning.

I will forever struggle to describe The Shed to someone without painting an image of a small, cramped run-down, half length terrace with a less than average view obstructed by supporting pillars. This particular description has even caused some people to turn their noses up at the prospect of standing in such an environment. To our group and many Salfordians, what The Shed lacks in modern amenities and aesthetics, it sure makes it up with its unrivalled acoustics, intimidating atmosphere and imposing location close to the touchline and players dugouts. Ask any Salford fan of lengthy service and they will recall tales of noise so loud, opposing players have simply given in to the heat (and abuse), playing right into the hands of the Reds. Salford players have on many occasions relayed how motivational and inspirational our verbal renditions are to them, as we will them on to victory with our voices. You could say a very unique atmosphere for a sport literally hell bent on relaying the family image. The heckling of the public announcement “Rugby League is a family game…” portrays the general idea of the Shed dwellers attitudes towards the ever changing face of the sport. Strangely enough I have not heard that message this season? The Shed famously became the focus of the national sporting media when in 2001, Andy Wilson wrote this piece in The Guardian;

“That’s why I love this game,” beamed Adam Thomas, a converted Welshman who joined Salford from the city council as community development officer last year. Thomas is the man with the unenviable task of telling the Shed to watch their language. “I get lampooned, but I don’t mind that,” he said. “The supporters we have coming in are the best in the game.

Savouring The Willows for that final time last Sunday was a strange yet emotional experience, something that honestly I wouldn’t appreciate going through again in my lifetime. Seeing the reactions of fellow supporters, many of which have infinitely more memories and experiences of The Willows than myself, would be enough to provoke emotions within the most steely and hardiest of characters. With the emotion clearly lost on some of the playing staff, it was a day that will definitely live long in the memory as, regardless of certain inept performances, I managed to visit areas of the ground that would normally be out of bounds and walk across that hallowed turf for the first and only time. One particularly peculiar observation is just how easy a forty-twenty kick could be if there wasn’t the small factor of performing it at lightning speed with numerous, seventeen stone athletes running at you, all hell bent on breaking every bone in your body. Sitting in both the dugouts and the hospitality areas evoked a feeling of fascination and belonging as this was true testament of the approachability and accessibility once enjoyed in football yet still apparent within Rugby League.

The final goodbye was without a doubt one the most gut-wrenching experiences a sports fan will ever have to go through. All thoughts of a supposed bright future, in a modern arena were quickly put to the back of my mind. I suppose at this moment I felt an alarming feeling of homelessness, as I still cannot envisage Solly plying their trade in another abode that I could call home. Will all future games at the City of Salford Stadium feel like away games? Only time will tell.

Standing in The Shed for the very last time, saying the usual impermanent goodbyes to the fine friends I had only come to know through my association with ‘the old girl’ and walking out onto Willows Road I could not help to turn around and get one last glimpse before walking away to Weaste tram stop, yet another tradition enjoyed for that very last time. A deep sense of pride seemed to overshadow all other emotions as the memories came flooding back. I felt a certain satisfaction in our decisions to walk away from familiar surroundings all those years ago and walk headlong into the unknown, looking for a sense of sporting belonging. I began to evaluate the person I once was prior to starting my Salford RLFC adventure to the person I see today and concluded that its impact has been nothing short of inspirational. I have come to learn and appreciate that there is life beyond your own geographic and personal boundaries, so unless you get out there into the wide world; events, experiences and chances of self-betterment end up passing you by with each day of hesitancy.

A big thank you to the Red Army and our new found friends. A nod of utmost appreciation goes to our chairman Mr Salford (John Wilkinson) for ensuring a future for Salford RLFC. 

And finally, the biggest acknowledgement goes to The Willows for 110 years of thrills, spills and certainly no frills. A true part of Salford heritage and tradition, it has been a pleasure to grace your famous terrace.

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Rest in Peace our dearest old girl and many, many heartfelt thanks for the memories.

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