Beyond the Field of Play Returns

Photo from www.bbc.co.uk

Photo from www.bbc.co.uk

The 6th of January, a bank holiday for many across Europe celebrating Epiphany while at the same being a day which evokes a certain poignancy as it marks the official end of the Christmas festivities.

This is just a short and sweet post which first and foremost heralds an end to my own indulgent season and a return to focusing on all the cultural nuances that the world of football brings. Not that we have been deprived of the beautiful game recently. In England we are fortunate to have the munificent gift of double the helping of football during the festive period and I have to agree with Barney Ronay and his message in the following article – Christmas: a time for football, television and arguments about meat, that Christmas without football would be shoddy to say the least.

That said I also wanted to take this opportunity to point you in the direction of the weekly Ultras guide I am currently working on. As you may have noticed over the last few weeks I have started on a quest which will take me from A-Z of Serie A.

However this is not your run of the mill club guide which trawls through the generic team nicknames, coaches, players, and stadium’s. No myself and Richard Hall are embarking on a journey into the cryptic world of Italy’s Ultras with the aim of shedding some light on one of Calcio’s most beguiling and contentious features.

In this country we often associate the word ‘Ultras’ with ‘hooligans’. It is understandable given the history of football related violence in Britain, especially during the ’70’s and ’80’s where the terraces and streets became battlegrounds. Stories like Filippo Raciti’s and the recent escapades of the Ultras from Nocerina produce a gut reaction – ‘mindless football thugs’. Don’t get me wrong this is not without justification and all too often the dark side of the Ultras is exposed for all to see. However to view them as one homogeneous mass of hooligans would be myopic and there in lies one of the reasons behind our desire to partake in this Ultra journey.

You can find your weekly dosage of the Ultras on Richards website – The Gentleman Ultra which has recently earned a deserved spot on the Guardian Sports Network. I have also created a page which you can find at the top of my blog labelled – Guide to the Ultras of Serie A containing the links to the pieces I have completed so far.

My latest article is on the Ultras of Fiorentina, a group who epitomise what I find most fascinating about the powers of football, powers which combine the volatile passion of the sport with various political and historical connotations. Be sure to check it out and I will be back on here soon with a new feature for you all to mull over.



A Prologue: James Richardson, Gianfranco Zola and Broadening Horizons

Sunday afternoon, 2pm, about 16 years ago. My father would sit down at this time every Sunday to watch the television. Why?  It was time for his weekly dose of Channel 4’s Football Italia presented by James Richardson (a man who I now fondly associate with my youth). That is my first vivid memory of football.

At first this 2-3 hours of live Serie A coverage was an inconvenience to me, one which took my fathers sole attention as he sat with his eyes fixed on the unfolding action. I would soon join him. Just a couple of years later I was bought my first Chelsea shirt, Zola 25 on the back staying true to my Anglo-Italian heritage. I say shirt, it was of course the full shebang (shorts & socks), an unwritten obligation for young children attending football camps across the country.

From that point on I had unwittingly taken the imaginary vows that many a football fanatic subconsciously take. That is to rejoice and suffer through the highs and lows of the beautiful game.

Times change. Horizons broaden. No longer does my sporting world revolve around the Chelsea result on a Saturday afternoon (so I try to tell myself). No I have come to realise that winning and losing is just a sub story. A sub story in a never ending plot which encompasses the thrills and spills of a blockbuster.

This blog not only delivers news, opinions and coverage on what happens in between those four white lines but also the social and political connotations outside them. While predominately focusing on my two greatest passions English and Italian football (grazie papá) I will also cover other social issues which are often magnified under the sporting microscope.

As interesting as the pre-match gossip, mid-match drama and post-match shenanigans are, it is often the political, social and historical nuances which add that extra bit of spice to games like El Clasico, Il Derby della Capitale (The Rome Derby), The Old Firm Derby (Rangers vs. Celtic) and numerous other rivalries.

Tensions run high as Real Madrid and Barcelona clash

Tensions run high as Real Madrid and Barcelona players clash back in 2010. (Photo from http://worldfootball.dailymail.co.uk/)

The Olympic Cauldron..Roma-Lazio

The Olympic Cauldron…Smoke, Flares, Passion and Emotion – all ingredients of the Rome Derby. (Photo from http://provenquality.com/)

Divisions in Glasgow go way beyond football as tensions run high between Celtic and Rangers fans (picture from lateam.fr)

Divisions in Glasgow go way beyond football as Celtic and Rangers fans face off in Old Firm Derby (picture from lateam.fr)