Friday, 4 September 2015

Good old fashioned football

This piece is authored by Dulwich Hamlet fan James Portland. Originally posted on his blog, he has kindly allowed us to repost here. It should be read as a response to the tripe recently published in the Guardian.

There’s a lot of stuff in the media about the growth in Hamlet’s support, and how supporting the club is about fighting fascism and eating bratwurst. It got me thinking about what attracted me to the club.

I’ve always been left wing, and it’s nice to know a sizable contingent of Dulwich fans are likely to share my views on a number of social issues. That’s not always been the case when, at Premier League grounds, you can find yourself surrounded by furious men shouting their way through questionable ditties.

The club and its fans laudably strive for positive action within the community and, well, stickers bearing a fist bashing Nigel Farage’s face are always going to be a winner.

But what about the actual football? The Communist Party of Britain has its headquarters in Croydon, and the Socialist Party of Great Britain is based in Clapham. If you’re purely looking for left wing political movements to join, it would make more sense to contact one of those groups and get involved in their activities.

If the media reports are to be believed, the new wave of fans at Dulwich aren’t interested in football, they’ve just seen another facet of working class life that can provide a bit of fun for a while.

Quaffing “craft” ale (when did it stop just being ale?), and penning slogans about the coming emancipation from wage slavery, are noble pursuits, of course, and the “H word” has quickly been drained of all meaning by the late-to-the-party mainstreamers who, seemingly unaware of the irony, now dispatch it indiscriminately against anyone they want to disparage in order to feel better about themselves.

But is there any truth to the notion that people start following the club simply because it seems trendy, or because they just like the idea of waving Pride flags around and getting smashed on Buckfast?

Well, who gives a shit?

Perhaps it’s not really for a newcomer to say it but, if people are attracted to the club, let them come. If they enjoy the feeling of being welcomed into a community more than they care about the quality of the football or the results, who cares?

There is always a large number of salt-o-the-earth supporters at Premier League grounds who complain about the numbers of “day trippers” and yet get so smashed in the pub before the game, they barely register what happens on the pitch. Do the journalists write about those fans? No, because there is no story there.

And even if there was, no middle class journalist is going to write an article that draws a caricature of working class fans as boorish drunkards who can barely stand up straight during the match.

But there is a story to be had when the journalist hears about “hipsters” suddenly turning up in their droves to chant about socialism while watching a team that wears pink and plays in Dulwich, because “hipster” is a buzz word that the journalist has recently learned, and those middle class lefty types won’t be up in arms if you dismiss them in such an ignorant way.

It’s the journalists themselves who are the hipsters, isn’t it? Jumping on any cultural meme they think they can get a bit of currency out of, using it for their own benefit without a fuck given for the accuracy of their articles, exactly as they accuse the new Dulwich fans of doing the same to the club.

But if those Dulwich fans are turning up to games regularly, perhaps even getting involved in activities organised by other supporters, then they’re doing a lot more than this dictionary definition of “hipster” suggests:

1. a person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.

In fact, following a football club is by no means a latest trend, and it isn’t outside of the cultural mainstream. Unless, that is, you read “cultural mainstream” as “corporately commandeered cultural pastime that has become little more than a means of exploiting working people for every last penny you can squeeze”.

In which case, yeah, non-league clubs in general are outside the cultural mainstream.

And what about the Hamlet fans who aren’t there for the politics, and happen to support Dulwich the same way (or, more likely, not the same way) that the journalist supports Arsenal? Supporters who, irrespective of class, turn up each week solely for the enjoyment of watching the team play football?

I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of the new wave of Hamlet fans have turned to the club because they became aware of an alternative to the experience as a customer of Premier League clubs.

Fifty quid for a ticket, fifty quid each year to be a “member”, entitling you to the square root of being a mug, crowds that bitch and moan all the time unless they’re winning 5-0, players strutting around the pitch looking useless, safe in the knowledge they’ve just stashed another fifty grand in the bank, and the constant barrage of football “banter” that permeates every aspect of life, an endless stream of people who never actually watch the club they “support”, but will bend your ear eight hours a day in the office about Man United or Liverpool.

Yeah, watching Nyren Clunis tear down the right wing at Kingsmeadow in front of 442 of us was much more fun, actually. If that makes me a hipster, sign me up.

As mentioned, this piece is James' own and was originally posted on his blog. He echoes many of our own views and as such, we stole it. Because we're lazy.


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