3G or not 3G? That is the question.

28 07 2014

With the unveiling of 3G pitches (The latest kind of artificial pitch to you and me) in Newtown, Broughton and Llandudno Wales finds itself in the midst of an outbreak of plastic grass.

The FAW, with the explicit support of the Welsh Assembly Government, are responsible for the plastic grass implementation and needless to say everyone is very excited by it all.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) completed a third successful bid for funding from UEFA in April facilities investment initiative. The focus of this third bid – which has created an opportunity to access €3m worth of funds was based on the need to develop a number of Third Generation (otherwise artificial playing surfaces across Wales.

It is anticipated that 3G development will be used by member clubs in order to improve playing surface standards and offer a focal point for the wider community. It is hoped that the right investment will create excellent facilities with potential for year-round use; help develop hubs for community activity; stimulate collaboration with local partners and other users; and deliver wider economic regeneration, social inclusion and health benefits for the communities in which they are situated. It is also hoped that the investment will act as a stimuli to help clubs further develop and become self-sustaining. The FAW strongly believes that this proposed investment will not only help member clubs to capitalise on the current ‘feel-good factor’ that exists in Welsh football, but that it will also deliver a range of additional benefits at all levels of the game and within individual communities across Wales.

It all sounds perfectly logical and there is scope for social benefits. We’ve just had a 3G training pitch laid in Bangor and it’s already being used for social activities.

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I went to Llandudno’s match with Tranmere last week and it was played on one of these new-fangled pitches. If 3G pitches are anything it’s “very green”, which you could regard as an improvement on Llandudno’s old-fangled grass surface. Llandudno also had a swanky new fans’ entrance with swanky new turnstiles. During the match I overheard people discussing plans for the social use of the pitch by various groups and it all sounded very good. It seemed as though Llandudno’s club could become a new hub for community uses.

While this approach undoubtedly creates the potential of social benefits I’m not sure the situation is as simple or self-evident as its been made to look by the WAG / FAW. On my way out through the swanky new entrance / exit I noticed a pile of flyers for an organization known as Leisure Leagues. About an hour later I saw more of these flyers in the general store across the road from Llandudno’s station. I picked one up and had a look;

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The slogan “NEW 6 A SIDE LEAGUES IN THIS TOWN” in differing sizes and fonts hardly seems to exemplify community spirit. Think about the ending of the slogan….. THIS TOWN!!! ……….THIS TOWN!!! Let’s hear it for THIS TOWN!!!!! A cynic might gain the impression that this company produces a generic leaflet for every THIS TOWN they want to colonise. (It costs about five thousand pounds to become a Leisure Leagues franchisee.)

If the 3G pitch’s purpose is to help create a “community hub” then Llandudno’s 3G pitch has already created a community related problem; a 6-a-side league already exists in Llandudno. This league is not new – it’s been in existence for the last nine years – and it’s never taken place in an unknown corner of Llandudno – it’s always been organized by the Conwy County Council owned sport centre that’s literally next door to Llandudno FC’s ground. As I know to my team’s cost there are only a finite amount of people willing to play football on an all-weather pitch.

It’s not only that a rival league has been set up, it looks as though the Leisure Leagues league has been set up as a direct competitor to the council run league; it’s been scheduled to take place on the same night as the council run version. How is acting in a Thatcherite manner – taking business away from a council run facility – going to ensure greater community cohesion?

If all-weather pitches don’t already exist the need for a shiny new facility is self-evident, if similar facilities already exist where is the desperate need? Wouldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? Did I say mention the fact that Leisure Leagues charge people five thousand pounds to become one of their franchisees?

I’ll play Devil’s Advocate now. Suppose everything happens like it should and the 3G pitches help the clubs become self-sufficient community football hubs. Suppose these community football hubs are so successful they attract the avaricious attentions of sharp operators looking for opportunities. Suppose that a sharp operator took over a Welsh club with a 3G pitch for some nefarious purposes. The plentiful revenue brought by the 3G might disappear in to the sharp operator’s large pocket. You can call me cynical but this sort of thing is hardly unknown.

On one hand I can see how the 3G revolution might prove to be something that leads to stronger links between the WPL clubs and the communities in which they are based, on the other hand the entire scheme seems to be similar to the approach that’s been adopted by the club with the weakest community links in the WPL, do we want to follow their lead if we’re trying to strengthen community links? I’m not sure I do. We’ll have to see how all this pans out, let’s hope it all works out.





How not to win the When Saturday Comes writers’ competition

25 07 2014

I entered the following piece in the When Saturday Comes writers’ competition. Despite the fact I’d clearly mined my fragile soul for the piece the judges didn’t place it in either of the top two places. Ho hum, there always next year………..

No country for young men?

How does it feel when you and your country split up?

February’s draw for the qualifying rounds of Euro 2016 caused me to wonder whether I had finally lost my country. I didn’t leave them you understand, they left me.

I suspect that some people would feel rudderless if they were deprived of a national team to follow and I might have been in danger of feeling like that if I hadn’t remembered  a comforting university anecdote. A lecturer once told me and my enraptured fellow students about the difference between “Welsh socialists” and “socialists from Wales”.

My lecturer’s simple words drew attention to the uncomfortable inconsistencies that I didn’t want to confront. I could see the clear clash between an internationalist class-based outlook and a more parochial national-based outlook view but I chose to overlook it. I saw the tension between being a socialist and being a fan of the Welsh football team but I also knew it was possible to both hate Thatcher and love Ian Rush at the same time. I also noticed that there was clear red water between me and those people that liked to sing songs about not surrendering to a set of initials at international matches.

It was also the first time that I had thought clearly about the tension between being Welsh and being a socialist. Until that point I’d instinctively placed “being Welsh” in the radical tradition; I knew Welsh was the true language of poets, I lived by the evocative mist shrouded area of Snowdownia and Wales had a stack of Labour MPs. At the very least I thought being Welsh was a refuge from people like Thatcher and the BNP.

My reminiscence caused me to wonder about my time as a Welsh fan. Was the draw trying to tell me something?  Had I let down socialism? Had I wasted my time? I wasn’t sure that I’d wasted my time as I’d really enjoyed my experiences as a fan of the Welsh football team, sadly I suspected something was coming to an end.

Here’s my story of finding and then losing a team. At first I had a team. I became an avid Wales fan in March 1985 when I went to the classic Racecourse encounter with Spain.

Then I became a fan. My age, and lack of money, precluded my attendance at most Wales matches until the late 1990s,  however all Welsh matches were broadcast on the BBC so I could follow the proverbial rollercoaster. The feeling after Ian Rush’s winning goal against Germany was as good as anything football has to offer whereas the morning after 1993 defeat by Romania was as depressive as the morning after the 1992 general election.

Then I became a diehard. In the early 2000s I was able to put my own money and knowledge of public transport to use; I became a regular at Wales matches, even though it took me at least 4 hours to get to Cardiff. I was such a regular I only missed one home qualifier between  between March 2001 and September 2006. I even went on fantastic away trips. It’s difficult not to enjoy Welsh away matches as Welsh away fans are generally a hardy and friendly bunch that like drinking..

2006 was my annus mirabilis. On St. David’s Day I managed to leave work in Ellesmere Port and arrive in Cardiff in time for a friendly with Paraguay, I was even able to sit in the same row as the Super Furry Animals. On the Whit bank holiday weekend I travelled for virtually thirty six hours straight in order to watch Wales play a friendly with Trinidad & Tobago in Graz and on my birthday I became part of Brazil’s world tour at Brazil v Wales in White Hart Lane.

Then I became a lapsed diehard. 2006 is now a footballing age ago. n the last eight years I have been to five home matches and a single away match in Dublin, I’ve missed the hopeful train journeys to Cardiff and the away trips that resonate when you subsequently bump in to your away trip comrades. To explain why I became a lapsed diehard I need to use the parlance of our times, “stuff happened”, or to be more exact; “incremental stuff happened”.

Firstly I haven’t been able to go to matches. Since 1991 Wales have played virtually all qualifying matches in south Wales. The preponderance of south Walean matches might be understandable because of the practicalities – about 2/3 of the Welsh population and all of Wales’ FIFA/UEFA complient grounds are found in south Wales –  but their location doesn’t help the north Waleans that watch to watch Wales play, especially with the nature of  Welsh road and public transport networks. Four hour return journeys after tame defeats tend to chip away at your enthusiasm.

Matches have also been gradually scheduled at more and more inconvenient times. I work in education and as Eric Morcambe might have said, “I have the right amount of  time off but not necessarily at the right times”  At first I had to miss midweek matches but this was fine when there were still matches on Saturdays, then there didn’t seem to be as many home matches on Saturdays, then UEFA opted for a Friday-Tuesday international matchday combination in 2010.

Secondly I refuse to watch Wales play on television. I refuse because the Football Association of Wales have had a broadcasting deal with Murdoch since 2004. The first few years of the deal with Sky didn’t matter as I was usually at the match, now that I don’t go the deal really matters. While my outlook means that I feel less connected to the Welsh team – I’m not entirely sure what Simon Church, Hal Robson-Kanu and Joniesta (Jonny Williams) look like –  it’s a price I’m willing to pay for purer televisual experience. I’m happy to say this attitude is a hand me down from my dad.

As I’ve  already hinted February’s Euro 2016 qualifying draw convinced me that something was up. Thanks to UEFA’s latest brainwave the only day upon which Wales won’t have a game over the next eighteen months is the traditional midweek matchday, Wednesday.

There are two matches on a Saturday but they’re both away and one of them takes place in Israel, a location that my conscience won’t allow me to consider. How can I enjoy a football match when I know what’s happening on the other side of the “Peace” Wall? Wales will also have home matches that kick off at five o’clock on a Sunday and half past seven on a Monday evening. I sensed that fate was trying to tell me something, it would probably be easier for everyone concerned if I declared my international retirement.

When I remembered the words of my lecturer, my mind was calmed, if the Welsh team don’t need me, I certainly don’t need them! I’m a socialist from Wales rather than a Welsh socialist. Now I could stop living a philosophical lie and democratically centralize my life. I have nothing to fear, the workers of the world have no country!!





Retiring from football the Jet Set way

24 07 2014

I, and my team, retired from football three weeks ago. We only told the league yesterday.

What did my hands do before they were encased by these foul-smelling creations?

Jul 23 018

Our à la mode resignation e-mail might have looked like this.

Dear c***s in charge of the Llandudno 6-a-side league,
 
After 9 years of toil, effort and various names The Intellectuals would like to announce our resignation from the 6-a-side league.

There are three reasons that explain our decision.

Firstly, we’ve reached the age where we’ve decided to respect our bodies.

Secondly, our misanthropic ways mean that we are unable to find enough people to replace our walking wounded / permanently disfigured. We can’t trust younger people as they are too irritating and everyone we trust and respect has moved to the bright lights of civilisation.

Thirdly, the other teams have become insufferable. We have finally reached our limit of pointless alpha male aggression, nasal whining and injudicious use of The Banter.

The last reason is perhaps the most important because during the resigned post match car park analysis it has become clear that at least three quarters of our usual matchday squad have become intent on remaking Falling Down,  as in Michael Douglas’s understated tour de force, on the streets of our delightful seaside resort. Worryingly none of my teammates  have mentioned employing a filmcrew.

I’m sorry we have to resign but we seem to have reached “that age”.
 
Thanks for everything down the years,

Yours Cheaply,

The footballing wing of the Llandudno Jet Set


Our adventure began in the more innocent times of 2005. Back then we were just a group of friends looking for a little fun on a Monday night and the Llandudno 6-a-side league looked to be just the thing. That little moment of human joy was nearly a decade ago.

They say you instinctively know when it’s time to stop and my epiphany came in what turned out to be the penultimate match of my 6-a-side career. The precise moment of my epiphany arrived milliseconds after an anti-social prick with a hipster beard scored past me and then shouted “Fuck Off!!!!!” in my general direction. When people are too angry to celebrate a goal in a 6-a-side league that don’t amount to a hill of beans in this goddamn world there’s something wrong.

Was I in goal merely to allow cunts that weren’t quite sure why they had grown hipster beards to vent their solipsistic anger? When I remembered one of Danny Glover’s many lines I realised that I come to the end of the road in 6-a-side football; I was now too old for “this shit”.

I have been able to deal with the post match physical discomfort – a back that feels like teak, ankle and knee joints that seem to have the consistency of shortbread biscuits – through familiarity and the inherent joy of playing football in the fresh air. I really loved playing football. I really loved playing in goal. I really loved preventing goals, I really loved frustrating the feckless and the irritating with another display of goalkeeping elan, exasperated voices and contorted faces were my elixir. Then the twats became oppressive.

I’m only a reasonable man, there’s only so much attempted show boating I can take. To be used as a canvas for condescending art is bad enough but these self-penned Ronaldos, Neymars and Ibrahimovics were awful at showboating. One only had to stand in the right place during their second attempt at making you look stupid and they would fail, yet they continued to try and make you look stupid. Did I mention that they wore the same coloured boots as their heroes?

The shouted banter was another bugbear. The swaggering demeanours and loud matey exchanges told us that another evening’s sedate football had been ruined; The Banter had arrived. Something in my head fell on its side when I saw swaggering opponents. Their primeval demeanour screamed “This is my domain, I am the king of all I survey”. I’m positive that I once saw one of them urinate against a goalpost.

These people were even more insufferable when they were winning. In the event of a goal or two they’d use The Banter with each other as they were playing, that’s right, AS THEY WERE FUCKING PLAYING. Few things that were more satisfying than scoring late winners against teams acting like twats. Luckily we became specialists at scoring late winners against team acting like twats.

I grew to despise of one particular team of cunts above all others, let’s call them the über-cunts. Firstly, their name was a bad pun. Secondly, they wore a set of full kits complete with squad numbers and unfunny nicknames. Thirdly, they were the distillation of the Soccer AM generation; The Banter quite literally flew across the pitch. Lastly, they were rude and arrogant. For example, they’d never let a little detail like a match in progress put them off warming up. They’d happily pass the ball to each other across the pitch and then try to score past the nearest  goalkeeper with curling shots whilst two other teams were running about. You could tell they were happy with themselves because they used to laugh derisively about their antics. To top it all when they once scored against us the goalscoring cunt shouted “BOOM!!!!!!” at the top of his voice.

The über-cunts seemed to be anti-social all the time, 24-7 as they probably say. One Thursday Dan happened to be playing football on one of the pitches used by the league. After the casual match someone happened to ask how we were doing in the league. “We’re doing alright yeah” replied Dan. A member of the über-cunts squad happened to be walking behind Dan at the time – he’d been playing on another pitch – and chimed in with the self-satisfied “Yeah but you’re not top of the league like us though are ya!!!!!”.  I’m not sure karma exists, the über-cunts won the league twice.

Having said all that we did have some good times. We left on a high. Five of us turned out for what turned out to be our last match and we held the other side to a draw. We also once beat a team that contained some of Llandudno FC ‘s first team players. Simple words can’t adequately express the satisfaction I felt at beating those preening metrosexuals, oh how they hated being beaten by people that were beneath their contempt. My personal highlights were developing cordial relations with Llandudno’s Slovak community via FC Barakuda and our respectful matches with the team that was a combination of ex-Llandudno players and ex-schoolmates of ours.

I realize that I’ll never wear my padded goalkeepers pants again.

Farewell  3 /4 length padded goalkeepers’ pants!

Farewell technicolour shirt!

Farewell cut-price gloves that inevitably made my hands smell like cheese ‘n’ onion crisps!

Farewell Sports Direct, for I’ll never visit your crinkly warehouse of polyester for cut-price equipment again!

Farewell football, we’ll leave it to the über-cunts from now on.

Needless to say, I’ve had the last laugh,





European Football 2014 style

21 07 2014
UMF Stjarnan 4 Bangor City 0,
Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 1st Leg,
3/7/14

Hope was in our bones, we were definitely going to get something tonight, we were going to have one of those “great European nights”. You can tell I was gushingly positive from my facebook status;

As I can’t watch Bangor City in Iceland I’ve decided to do the next best thing and listen to Radio Bangor in the Prestatyn Branch of the Iceland supermarket chain. It wasn’t easy but I’ve managed to secure a lock in with full access to one “Savoury Pastry Assortment” and a single portion dessert of my choice. I can tell it’s going to be one of the great nights…..Bangor in Europe…… The blue army in full voice…… Unfettered access to some partly defrosted food……… and most importantly…….. I’ll be doing it all in comfort, Iceland’s freezers provide the optimum height for laptop stability and safety. Actually, now I think about it it’s going to be a great night. ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave’s ingenuity gave us both a live match commentary and pictures via a webcam. Tonight was the first time I had watched a match via a webcam. It was all fine to begin with, Dave’s words were clear, the pictures were sharp and most importantly Bangor were comfortable on the ball.

Aug 20 001

Then the buffering kicked in, then an anonymous killjoy from Colwyn Bay used the chatbox to remind us that UEFA run minute by minute reports in their match centre. I couldn’t resist clicking on the killjoy’s link.

The spell was broken, anyone that clicked on the link immediately knew that Dave’s feed was about 10 minutes behind the action. Yeah thanks for that you anonymous killjoy from Colwyn Bay, thanks for diluting my sense of excited anticipation, thanks for ruining my evening.

Having said that without  UEFA’s match centre I would not have found out about the innovative formations that Bangor and Stjarnan were deploying. Stjarnan favoured the Pitchfork whereas Bangor opted for the Circle / Piggy In The Middle.

Aug 20 011

I can’t say for certain that our anonymous killjoy from Colwyn Bay caused Bangor to concede two goals but it clearly was his fault. If we’d all just carried on watching the images from Dave’s webcam Bangor would not have conceded those goals. These anonymous killjoys from Colwyn Bay ruin everything, and with my evening already ruined it was no surprise that Bangor conceded two more goals.

When the people that were there reported back, via our main message board, it seemed as though Stajarnan’s first goal was a highly disputable penalty and their second goal was directly preceded by a foul on Johnno. This may not have been one of those “great European nights” but photos posted on facebook showed that it had been a good trip, how many times will travelling fans use a walkway between tectonic plates?

Bangor City 0 UMF Stjarnan 4,
Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 1st Leg,
3/7/14

Most Bangor fans seems hopeful that we could get something out of this match but then humans are resolutely positive, we generally hope for the best.

As long as the score remained goalless the hope remained, and we’d had a couple of good chances in the first half and who’s to say we would score five second half goals. By the by, the Icelandic fans seemed rather loud, friendly and drunk.

Sadly Stjarnan scored their first goal in the first minute of the second half. By the end of the half another 3 goals had fallen in the gap between semi-pro fitness and Icelandic professionalism. The Icelandic fans sportingly took their shows off as they left to generous applause.

Aug 20 014





Yeah it’s like soooo been the “best world cup EVER”

13 07 2014

A few days ago I saw, or was it read?, that this edition of Blatter’s world cup was the “best world cup ever”. It was like Italia ’90 like never happened.

Here are the “best world cup ever” lowlights of a moaning cynic.

The worst team - Brazil

My choice isn’t based on their mistakes or disappointing lack of relative glamour, it’s their demeanour. Brazil managed to combine an unsubtle tendency to throw their weight around with an ability to dive while wearing a look of sweet innocence. David Luiz, Oscar, Fred, shitbags the lot of them. Lest we forget, this bellend supported Brazil.

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The worst kit - Brazil home

Seeing the granddad-esque collar was a trip back to the Primark ubiquity of 2012.

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The worst presenter – Adrian Chiles

It’s the hope I can’t stand. The gap between the end of the adverts and hearing Adrian’s words has become a horrible time.  We’re only seconds away from incredulity wrapped in a matey demeanour replacing the hope of something uplifting again. Despite the obvious clues I began to think that Adrian wasn’t actually sat beside a world famous beach in a country that’s hosting a world cup.

The worst co-commentator - Andy Townsend / Robbie Savage

Thank the fates that these two are on different channels. Come the revolution one of our first duties will be to cast Townsend and Savage in to exile on St. Helena. During their extended stay they’ll be able to angrily dissect each other’s behaviour, like why the chores aren’t being done as they should be, to their heart’s content.

The worst pitchside adverts – Budweiser

If you’re involved with a company that’s been accused of trampling over local customs and traditions at previous world cups because you’ve served fans weak piss that’s masqueraded as beer don’t worry, you can always make up for it. All you need to do is advertise the local beer of the markets that feature in a televised match. Hey presto, you’ll have convinced the world that you’re a cynical multinational that seems to produce most of the world’s beer rather than a heartless multi-national conglomerate that produces alcoholic drinks.

The worst feeling – Cynicism

The adverts, the branding, the people, the players, the brightly coloured boots, the stage managed spectacle, the blue sheeting that covered concrete, the slogans, the special ball for the final, the words, the criticism, the words, the words, the words. FIFA’s slogan was actually “Football For Hope” which as someone said to me on twitter, is not really a slogan more of an offer from FIFA; “We’ll swap your hope for our football”.

I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy a world cup ever again. I’d love to be able to just watch the football and relive van Persie’s header or Rodiguez’s volley but I all see Blatter’s fucking face.





The banter doesn’t work – THE FACTS!!!!!!!

9 07 2014

Last night’s 7-1 football feast definitively proved that “The Banter” doesn’t work.

Cast your mind to the day when Spain were knocked out knocked of Blatter’s world cup a couple of weeks ago. If you’re like me you can still taste the bile that rose when this twat and his fucking tablet appeared on our television screens;

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If anything’s an avatar for what’s wrong with that modern football it’s him.

Last night I prayed that the camera would capture him rocking slowly backwards and forwards in his seat, his once prisitine yellow shirt ruined by a dripping mix of tear water and facepaint. This scene would have been the highlight of my world cup. Sadly the camera didn’t find him, and to put it frankly, I feel cheated.

Last season two things happened amongst many other things. Firstly Manchester United managed not qualified for Europe for the first time in ages. Secondly Aberystwyth Town managed to qualify for Europe for the second time in their history. Naturally the person that controls Aberystwyth Town’s official twitter account saw an opportunity to use “The Banter”.

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Those with a sense of humour proclaimed legendary banter, those with an ability to use polysyllabic words despaired. Having said that Twitter doesn’t have the space for;

 “Manchester United had a tough transitional season under two different managers whereas Aberystwyth qualified for Europe mainly because they were lucky enough to draw a third tier team in their Welsh Cup semi final and then play the already qualified for Europe Welsh champions in the Welsh Cup final”.

Twitter obviously can’t handle the truth. Anyway, Aberystwyth lost 4-0 away to Derry City, you know just like Manchester United would not have done.

Judging by this banter-driven bollocks Aber’s officials need to be more careful with their time.

 





Looking on the bright side, thanks to Bangor City in the UEFA Cup

3 07 2014

I can’t watch Bangor City in Iceland tonight so I’ve decided to do the next best thing……listen to Radio Bangor in the Prestatyn branch of the Iceland supermarket chain.

It wasn’t easy but I’ve managed to secure a lock in with full access to one “Savoury Pastry Assortment” and a single portion dessert of my choice.

I can tell it’s going to be one of the great nights………….Bangor in Europe…………The blue army in full voice…………Unfettered access to some partly defrosted food…………..and most importantly…………..I’ll be doing it all in comfort, Iceland’s freezers provide the optimum height for laptop stability and safety.

Actually, now I think about it it’s going to be a great night. ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

See Platini, you may stop me watching my teams, you may stop me going to other countries to watch my teams, but you’ll never get me down.

I’m free in my head, and you can’t buy that lad, you can’t buy that.








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