Why the world’s best footballer won’t be at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Words by Danny Brown

Can you imagine a World Cup without Messi or Ronaldo? It’s hard to imagine the world’s biggest tournament without it’s biggest players – and even harder to imagine them missing out due to discrimination.

But that’s exactly what will happen this month when Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hegerberg refuses to play in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Here we take a look at why problems with discrimination are still affecting the Women’s Game.

Ada Hegerberg is one of the best footballers on the planet. The Lyon forward has scored 255 goals in 254 games across her career. She was awarded the Norwegian Gold Ball in 2015 (the first woman to do so in 20 years). She’s won six league titles and four Champions Leagues (at the age of just 23). She was named UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe in 2016 and BBC Footballer of the Year in 2017 and 2019 – yet she is still faced with sexism wherever she goes.

The most well-publicised example of this came last year, when Hegerberg was asked if ‘she could twerk’ just moments after she collected the first-ever Ballon D’Or Féminin award. It was an awkward and disrespectful question that stole away the headlines from Hegerberg in the biggest moment of her career to date. The same thing would never have happened Luka Modric, the winner of the men’s award, so why was Hegerberg’s victory trivialised in such a way?

The disparity in pay, conditions and treatment between the men’s and women’s international teams faced by Hegerberg in Norway is the reason why she took the decision to stop playing for her national side back in 2017. She has gone on record to say that until the Norwegian Football Federation gives equal treatment to it’s men and women footballers, she will continue to abstain from playing for her country. Here’s what she said about her decision in an interview with ESPN:

“[In Lyon] it’s the amount of respect and the fact that we’re equal in terms of conditions, the pitches we have, eating in the same canteen and really taking part in the club together with the mens team. I was trying to make an impact [on Norway] for a lot of years and I could see that in this system, in the federation, it didn’t fit me at all. I feel like I was placed in a system where I didn’t have a voice.

It was such a hard thing to do. It can’t be easy when a woman stands and tries to be critical in a positive way. For me, it was really important that [the federation] knew what I was talking about, point by point. When the media asked me what I told the federation, I said, that’s between me and them so they can work on it. But it doesn’t seem like they took it in the way they should have. 

Women need to back women in cases like this, even more than we do today. If each woman stands up and uses her voice, imagine how many voices would be together and how strong a mass that would be. It’s impossible to play football in a world among men and not fight for equality. We’re all feminists. Playing football can be damn harsh, but every day is a fight for equality. That’s a fact.”

So far, Hegerberg is the only player to boycott the World Cup altogether – but that doesn’t mean others aren’t standing up for equality in football. Players from USA have filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation due to “institutionalised gender discrimination” in the form of unequal pay and discrimination, alleging their women’s team gets paid on average 40% of what the men’s team does. Denmark and Ireland have also led protests over pay disparity.

Since Hegerberg first went out on strike, the Norweigian FA have begun to make some improvements. Equal pay between the men’s and women’s teams has been promised – making Norway’s FA the first to do this, however there’s still a long way to go before there’s any chance of us seeing Hegerberg pulling on a red shirt for her country again. Her actions are making a real difference, it’s just a shame it takes the world’s best player sitting out a World Cup for these changes to come about in the first place.

Here’s what Norway’s female sporting directer and former player Lise Klaveness had to say about Hegerberg’s actions in an interview given to the Associated Press: “We are happy for this debate to raise attention and respect for women’s soccer in the world. And I do view it as a big change-maker. But I just wish she was in our team.”

When the World Cup kicks off tonight with hosts France taking on South Korea, million will be tune in around the globe to see what will most likely be the best tournament yet for women’s football. As the sport grows in popularity and more people begin take notice of the talent on offer, it’s only a matter of time before equality in football is finally achieved. But sadly for now, athletes like Ada Hegerberg must continue to take a stand in order to be respected for playing the sport they love.

For more information on equality in women’s football, you check out UEFA’s #TimeForAction campaign here.

Click here to read our piece on the Top 5 Kits from the Women’s World Cup.


We met Spanish football’s craziest fans. Naturally, they were English.

Words by Danny Brown

When most people think of ultras in Europe, they think balaclavas, pyro, smoke bombs and tifos… Not boozed up brits with beer-bellies, sunburnt heads and cans of lager. But in Malaga, one group of British ex-pats are doing things very differently.

A trendy port city on Spain’s Costa Del Sol, Málaga is best known for it’s lush beaches, restaurants and holiday resorts. The home of Málaga Club De Futbol, who have been playing their football on the south coast since 1904, la Boquerones are one of Spain’s more historic and well-supported clubs. Málaga also happens to be home to around 40,000 British ex-patriots who have decided to ditch the doom and gloom of the UK in favour of the sunshine and beaches of España – and when you stick a bunch of footy-mad Brits and a 115-year-old football club together on the same coast, a love affair is just waiting to happen.

Meet the Guiri Army, a rowdy gang of British ex-pats who have followed Málaga CF home and away for the best part of two decades. Loud, proud and typically English in that they never take themselves too seriously, the group represents one of largest and most active foreign followings of any club in Europe. We caught up with the group’s leader, Dave Redshaw, to find out how the group first fell into existence, plus the story behind their unique name…

“We didn’t actually set out with the intention of forming a group. It more or less just snuck upon us. I first started watching Málaga in 1989 and there has always been a good group of us going to game but I suppose it really kicked off when Málaga got promoted in 1999 and people got interested as they could now see the big teams at La Rosaleda after 10 years out of La Primera. The club folded in the early nineties then re-formed, so the fans had been starved of top-flight football for a while.

I started getting a coach for games instead of us driving our cars and we were filling it regularly. I remember about this time that I was walking back to the bar we use near the ground with one of the lads and I said to him it was about time we got ourselves and identity. I’d been watching the cricket and the Barmy Army, so I suggested we call ourselves the ‘Guiri Army’ as a way of poking fun at ourselves – ‘Guiri’ being a Spanish slang word used to describe a foreigner – typically one who is as white as a milk bottle and wears socks, sandals and Union Jack shorts when on holiday!”

With the name decided on, there was only one thing left to do – the group purchased a giant St Georges Flag complete with their new name with the England and Málaga badges printed either side and the Guiri Army had officially been born. Twenty years later, the group (and flag) are still seen at virtually every Malaga match, home and away – but what exactly does a typical match day look like the Guiri Army? (It’s what you’d expect – a lot of drinking and the odd bit of mischief).

“On a match day we meet in the Lounge Bar in Benalmádena before we set off on the coach, always around two-and-half-hours before the game.
We take our own DVDs and beer with us on the coach, the driver Paco is a good friend of mine so he basically let’s us get away with murder. When we get to Malaga we use a bar called Hermanos Madrid, it’s 10 euros and that includes as many bottles of beer as you want, before and after the match. Bargain!”

Part of the Guri Army match day experience is some of the wacky traditions the group have adopted over the years – from fancy dress to doing a dozen laps of a roundabout near the stadium in their coach on match days (to the bewilderment of the Spanish locals), by far the funniest is one bloke who used to whip off his shirt off before kick off and run the entire length of La Rosaleda holding a giant flag. Fair play.

“The roundabout tradition started when we got our own bus, everyone used to stand and look at us. The driver still does it, he goes around it a dozen times some days! A bloke called Rick used to run with the flag, he’d strip his shirt off and run to one end of the stadium and back, with all the fans egging him on. He doesn’t do it now as the police sort of take a dim view – they actually banned him from doing it at Champions League games!

There’s obviously quite a few characters in the group, all different in their own right. Rick is obviously a real character, a funny guy who is always taking the mickey out of anything and everyone. Then there’s Spider (whose real name is Graham Rimmer), at one time he was in the pop group Chumbawamba (“I get knocked down but I get up again”), although he left before they had their big hit. He’s an absolute lunatic. There’s also a guy called Dutch Tom, who is very funny as well.”

Subtlety isn’t one of the Guri Army’s strong points, as you can probably tell from their bus.

For years, at the heart of the Guri Army’s exploits (and making their roundabout shenanigans possible) was their customised bus – instantly recognisable wherever they went thanks to the 10-foot Union Jack plastered across one side. Sadly now-retired, the coach carried the gang on their adventures across Spain (and even further-afield into Europe), and was at the centre of more than a few hilarious tales for the group over the years:

“We’ve put the bus out to grass now as it’s 32-years-old and way past it’s sell-by date. I remember one time we were coming back from a home game on the coach and one of the wheels fell off, rolled past us and demolished a brand new BMW that was parked at the side of the road – apparently it had been in for a service and the mechanic had forgotten to tighten one of the wheels!

When Malaga played Porto in the Champions League we went on the coach and set off at 4.30AM on the Monday as we were staying overnight for the following day’s game. Coming back, we were just south of Porto when the bus broke down, meaning we ended up staying in a service station overnight. We eventually got back around 2.30am on the Thursday – it was a long trip, but one of the best ever!”

Unsurprisingly, some of the Guiri Army’s best times following Malaga was during the team’s remarkable Champions League run under Manuel Pellegrini back in 2013. Malaga made it within touching distance of the final but were cruelly knocked out by Borussia Dortmund – for the Guiris though, it was the adventure of a lifetime, with trips to Germany, Belgium, Russia, Italy and Portugal to name a few.

“We’ve had some fantastic trips over the years. We went all over Europe in the Champions League. The atmosphere is brilliant and Málaga fans always get behind the team, which isn’t always the case in Spain. It was unbelievable when we were in the Champions League. We had some great nights of European football, both home and away we’ve had even more fantastic trips over the years.”

While large groups of drunken Englishmen are probably a common annoyance for the Spanish locals, the Guiri Army actually have a strong bond with the locals at La Rosaleda and happily occupy their own area of the stadium away from the main Spanish ultras group, the Frente Bokeron. To outsiders though, the group sometimes still falls under the typical perception of English football fans as hooligans – until people quickly realise how different they are.

One time we were coming home from Madrid on the train and one of the lads mistakenly put the flag over a steward’s computer. It was wet and the bloke went mad before calling the police to throw us off the train. On the platform the police were waiting with riot shields etc. – I think they were expecting Millwall or something and got the shock of their lives when they took us off and found out we were just a load of middle-aged blokes who had been drinking since 7.30am! They even showed us where the bar was before we bought tickets for the next train back to Málaga.

The Málaga fans love the fact we all support Malaga and I think they’re quite proud that we’re probably the biggest contingent of British ex-pats in Europe who go to watch their local club. We get on really well with them, although we don’t really associate with the ultras as we congregate in one corner of the ground, whilst they are behind the goal. Despite this, we are members of the Malaka Hinchas supporters club (I’m not quite sure why they spell it with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘g’. Mind you, I know what it means in Greek!) By and large we do get on with the ultras, especially now they are behind the goal at our end of the ground, and we know a few of them.”

What’s more English than getting your teams crest tattooed on your arm? Not much.

While recent times for Málaga have been tough both on and off the pitch, with the club spending the last year playing in Spain’s Segunda Division following their relegation from La Liga and familiar financial troubles looming once again, you’d think it’d be all be doom and gloom amongst the Málaga fans, but think again – for the Guri Army this season has been one big holiday, with their support showing no sign of fading, no matter how much the team struggles.

The current situation doesn’t look too good as I think the only way Málaga will go up this season is via the play-offs. There is also an ongoing court case with the owner Sheikh Al-Thani and Blue Bay Resorts, who claim he promised to sell them shares in the club which would have meant them becoming the new owners, but the mood amongst us that we are not overly bothered if they don’t go up as they’d more than likely come straight back down, as the Sheikh has not put any money in now for over six years.

We kind of like it in this division at the moment as we have a number of relatively near fixtures we get a bus to: Córdoba, Almería, Cádiz and Granada. And this year I’ve been to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, Mallorca and Tenerife, so we get a holiday for a few days at a time! In fact, when we went to Tenerife at the end of January there was 76 of us, including some who came over from the UK, so that was a bit chaotic.

Dave has also written a book dedicated to the turbulent history of Málaga (available in both English and Spanish) which is well worth a read if you’re interested in learning more about the club. Check it out on Amazon here.


Viktor Fischer, the footballer standing up to homophobia in Denmark.

Words by Danny Brown

Meet Viktor Fischer, the Danish footballer who is single-handedly standing up to homophobia in his home country.

Fans in England, like myself, may have only vaguely heard of Viktor Fischer from his brief time playing on the wing at Middlesborough. A graduate of the Ajax’s famous Jong academy, the winger signed for Boro for £5 million in 2016 but his stay in the Premier League was a short and unremarkable one. It was barely headline news when he transferred to German club Mainz at the end of the 2016/17 season, following Middlesborough’s relegation.

Now back in his home country playing for FC København following another unsuccessful stint in Germany, Fischer has finally started to recapture the bright form that made Boro sign him from Ajax. With 14 goals in his first 31 games in the Danish capital, the 24-year-old has re-earned his place in the national side and looks to be going from strength-to-strength on the pitch. It’s off the pitch however, where the drama surrounding Fischer has occured.

Earlier this month, during København’s away win against Odense Boldklub, Fischer had anti-gay slurs shouted at him by sections of the home fans as their team was defeated 1-0 by Fischer’s side. Following the match, the winger didn’t remain quiet and was brave enough to call out the OB fans. Speaking after the game, he argued that homophobic chanting should be looked upon the same way racist chanting is. And he’s exactly right.

“Homophobia must not be accepted and should be looked upon the same way as racism. I hope that if the league don’t do anything about it, OB will. Some would say one should look the other way, but I chose not to. Now I hope this will enlighten people about the chants.”

Following his statements, Fischer was, rightly, met with a huge amount of support from fans, fellow players, politicians, and LGBT+ groups. Huddersfield Town’s Mathias Jørgensen gave his support to Fischer, claiming he had heard a whole stand at OB’s Odense Stadium singing homophobic chants towards him. OB of course, apologised for the chants and denounced any discrimination from their own fans.

But to show just how bad the problem is, Fischer was the victim of homophobic abuse again, just a day later. In a match he wasn’t even involved in, fans of København’s rivals, Brøndby IF, began singing anti-gay chants directed towards Fischer. In footage from the match, a large section of the fans can clearly be heard singing “Fischer, he is gay. Allez Allez.”

Brøndby of course denounced the homophobic chants after the match, but Fischer wasn’t willing to stop there. He did an interview with Danish TV network TV 2 Sport and again condemned the fans for the homophobic abuse, particularly and the use of “homosexual” as an insult:

“I experienced specific songs against me by name, saying I was homosexual. That’s not the problem at all. I don’t have anything against been called one thing or the other. In this case, the problem for me is the the word “homo” is used as an abusive curse. It’s a really bad culture for young people and everybody in general who come to a football stadium to watch football.

There is a culture in elite sports, that players should get used to these things and get on with it and be a strong athlete, but that’s not what this is a about. It’s about improving the culture at stadiums, it’s that homosexual should not now, not ever, be an abusive word, especially not in 2019, in Denmark.”

Fischer of course, isn’t gay but he’s spot-on when he says that is irrelevant and not what this is all about. Homosexuality is too often used as an insult in football, not just in Denmark but in countries all around Europe and it’s using such words in an abusive way that is completely unacceptable.

Spurred into action by Fischer’s comments, the Danish FA fined both Brøndby and OB 25,000 DKK (€3,000) – the first time any clubs in Denmark have been fined for homophobic chanting, with a warning that if any similar chanting is repeated, it would be met with another hefty fine.

Karma has a beautiful way of coming back to bite biggots in football, just look at the cases of Raheem Sterling and Moise Kean in recent months if you need examples, so of course that’s exactly what happened in the Derby between Copenhagen and Brøndby last weekend. Fischer scored the winning goal, giving Køpenhavn a 2-1 win over their rials and putting them on course to win the Superliga title.


Classy as ever, after the game Fischer claimed he heard no homophobic chants during the game and praised the Brøndby fans. However, in one incident during the match it was reported a Køpenhavn fan received abuse from a fellow FCK supporter after they took a rainbow flag to the game as a show support for Fischer.

After this game Fischer also addressed the impact of his original comments following the abuse at Brøndby: “I’ve seen and heard what’s happened on TV and radio, and that it has spread wider than just football and that’s great. I think that’s necessary among other things, so all I can do is be happy about it. I haven’t started a campaign, and it’s not me who’s the hero in this.”

While Fischer’s incredible actions have clearly had a massive impact in bringing attention to homophobia in Danish football, further incidents continue to occur, showing that there’s still a long way to go. Friday’s match between Køpenhavn and Midtylland was again marred by homophobic chanting, this time outside the ground after the game.

More education is clearly needed to stop discrimination in football and brave professionals like Fischer, Sterling and Kean speaking about their own experiences is just the first step needed towards dealing with the minority of people who ruin football for others. It goes to show that not all heroes wear capes, and that’s certainly what Fischer is.

I was inspired to write this article after seeing a thread on twitter from @navidjaan,so make sure you go and give him a follow.


Imagine you wanted to recreate football in a board game. I mean the actual game of football, not a Monopoly-esque move-and-collect thing.

Words by Colin Webster

Imagine you wanted to recreate football in a board game. I mean the actual game of football, not a Monopoly-esque move-and-collect kind of thing.

What would your rule be for a player who had just competed for a header How many players get to move when a corner kick has been awarded? Can a player shoot at any time or is a defender allowed to get a tackle in first How do throw ins work? Well, I made a football strategy game and it was bloody hard work. And I have answers to all of those questions… apart from the one about throw ins.

First, a little about me. I grew up in the 1980s in Inverness but now live in Edinburgh. I’m a fan of Inverness Caley Thistle, a Scottish Championship side (and one-time Scottish Cup winners). I’m a dad, I have a girlfriend (check me), a cat called Timmy and I love football probably a little too much.

I reckon I’ve played every football management game that’s been made. Highlights were Football Manager (the original), Tracksuit Manager and Player Manager. Then came ChampMan and it seemed like something had changed; football management games had moved into a new era of immersion, and we bought it in our millions. Of course, Football Manager (the new version) followed on, and now we all play that.

But the problem with these games – all of them – is that they are unsociable ventures. Sure, you’ve got mates who will (to some extent) tolerate your story of how your 3rd division team rose up to conquer the Champions League, but, honestly, they think their team is better than yours. There hasn’t been a good way to settle the question of which of your mates is the king of football tactics. Until now.

It was in 2014 when I started to work on my football strategy board game, spending forever designing the thing and writing up the rules. All those questions I posed earlier – and more – were swirling around my head when I probably should have been thinking about more important things. I printed off pitches, made little player pieces and even devised a rudimentary app to accompany the game. But then something happened that killed the game dead: I played it against a mate. It was obvious within 5 minutes that the game was shit, and we both knew it. My enthusiasm plummeted and I almost forgot about it for four years.

Fast forward to last August. I’m chatting with my workmate Marco about football things and I bring up my failed experiment. Marco’s an inquisitive chap so he wants to know more. He recommended we strip the game back to its basics and then built it up step-by-step. So, one night, that’s what we got started on. Using four sheets of paper to represent the pitch and some rudimentary counters for players, we played a simple version of the game. And we loved it. The dream was back on! I immediately got excited about the project and started to think about how to balance fun with realism.

Football is a dynamic sport. It’s true to say that no two real games of football are the same, but neither are any two moments. There are so many variables at play, making football a terrific illustration of emergent behavior at work. As you can expect, it turns out this can be tricky to recreate with a piece of board and 22 little wooden pieces!

To try to meet that dynamism, there were two elements I wasn’t willing to shift on. Firstly, I was keen that the pitch would be large, so that managers could use the space to execute their favoured tactical strategies. I didn’t want a frantic tackled-at-any-second affair, I wanted the game mechanics to reward thoughtful strategists. Secondly, I wanted all of the players to be unique, just like in real life. Players having their own set of attributes would force managers into strategic decisions. You’re not going to put a slow tackler on the wing, after all.

The basics were in place. What followed next was copious play-testing. Alongside a set of (very patient) friends, we worked out how long balls would work, how many people could challenge for a header, where and when you could shoot…everything. But we just couldn’t fathom throw ins. So we ditched them. The game needed a name, so, after discarding some awful ideas (‘Tiki Taka’ was obviously in the mix), I came up with ‘Counter Attack’. I was well chuffed with that, especially given the players in the game are represented as counters.

I finally got to the stage where I thought that people I didn’t know might want to play the thing. So I set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and invited folks to have a look. I figured that if there was enough interest in the project that I’d take it to a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter to test the appetite for it. I researched board game manufacturers and found one that fits the bill. And now, guess what? Counter Attack launched on Kickstarter on April 10th! Let’s see who’s keen on this thing.

When it boils down to it, Counter Attack is about having a good time around the kitchen table with a mate or three. It’s about getting away from screens (I killed off the app) and being able to indulge in some face-to-face gloating. Who doesn’t love a bit of that on a Friday night?

Check out Counter Attack for yourself on Kickstarter.

Follow Counter Attack at


Words by Dominic McCearney

There are a multitude of things to consider and plan for when moving to a different country; employment, where to live, learning the language and most importantly, which football team to support.

When I decided to move to Catalunya from Scotland, after accepting a job offer in 2018, I barely spoke a word of Spanish – never mind Catalan. It probably says a lot about myself that choosing a team took place before I could even string a sentence together. Supporting Barcelona, or even Espanyol, seemed too easy, so I started doing some research on teams in the lower Segunda and Tercera Divisions. My plan was to go to the matches of a few local teams and see which one felt like the best fit.

I first came across Unio Esportiva Sant Andreu when their ultras visited Celtic Park for the Glasgow Derby in September earlier that year, and after attending my first UESA match, I became completely besotted with the club. Simply known as Sant Andreu, the club was founded in June 1909 under the name Club Z, later being renamed Andreunenc Football Club. By a weird quirk of fate, El Campo de las Medicinas, the stadium where the club formerly played their home games, was on Carrer d’Escocia, which translated into English means ‘Scotland Street’.

The Andreuenc won their first match in this guise 2-0 in the Copa Cataluña Junior wearing striking yellow and red vertical stripes, akin to Les Quattre Barres, the famous flag of Catalunya. In 1925, following a merger between two local clubs, they became Unio Esportiva Sant Andreu. The club now plays it’s home games at the Estadio Narcis Sala, holding just over 6500 people.

The club have enjoyed a relatively modest history, their most successful period coming in the 1970s and 80s when a feeder club agreement with RCD Espanyol saw the arrival of a new coach and a dozen Espanyol players. As a result, the team coasted through the Tercera Division and remained in the Segunda Division for 8 years, reaching the semi final of the Copa Del Rey in 1971 and the quarter finals in ’72, ’73 and ’74.

However the last few decades have been wracked with uncertainty, due to multiple owners and financial troubles. UESA are now languishing in the Tercera Division B, the fourth-tier of Spanish Football, and a division which is notoriously difficult to escape from. Despite this relative fall from grace, the Sant Andreu fans are still as fucking loco as ever when it comes to supporting their team.

My first experience of the Estadio Narcis Sala was for Sant Andreu’s Wednesday night cup fixture against CD Calahorra in the third round of the Copa Del Rey. Making the the 25-minute metro journey from Plaça Cataluyna, in the heart of Barcelona, to Onze de Septembre Station, less than 300 yards from the Estadio Narcis Sala’s ticket office. There I was informed there was no charge for entrance to the stadium’s Gol Nord section, the stand inhabited by UESA’s rowdy ultras, Desperdicis.

When I took my place in the Gol Nord, 15 minutes before kick off, the ultras were already in full voice with chants of Dale UESA” ringing out all around the 6500 capacity stadium. Everywhere you looked there were yellow or red flags, some emblazoned with the iconic Antifa motif. And scarves emblazoned with the words “This is not Barcelona. This is Sant Andreu”.

The slogan is a reference to the fact that, prior to the construction of the Eixample district and the subsequent expansion of the city of Barcelona in the 19th and early 20th century, Sant Andreu de Palomar was once a town in its own right.

Desperdicis appear to have an extremely good relationship with the club itself, with Entradas del Gol Nord being significantly cheaper than general price trickets. A season ticket in this section costs a measly 30 euros, which to put that into context, is the same price as entry and two drinks at Razzaamatazz, one of Barcelona’s most famous nightclubs.

Nine tines out of ten, the club actually negotiates a deal for away games where UESA season ticket holders pay a discounted price to gain entry to the home team’s stadium. However, when such a deal is not in place, such is their dedication to the team, they refuse to enter the stadium, instead watching the game from outside. I was told by a member of Desperdicis that this happened in the 2017/2018 season for an away game against Cerdanyola FC. The travelling away support made clever use of some crates found nearby, peering over an 8-foot concrete wall to watch their team romp to a 4-1 victory – they are dedicated, but mad, bastards!

There was an image in my head when I thought of football ultras and what they looked like, but this was completely shat on by Desperdicis. Think less Stone Island jackets and Adidas trainers and more Doc Martens, shaved heads and tattoos. Almost punk-rock. Not surprising when you find out they take their name from 80s Catalan punk band, Desperdicis Clinics.

The game itself was a tense affair, with both sides threatening to break the deadlock on several occasions. It was the home side that finally managed to make the breakthrough in the 95th minute of extra time, speedy number 9, Kuku, running through onto a dainty flick-on from Oscar Muñoz to calmly slot the ball past the goalkeeper, sending the Estadio Narcis Sala wild. Flares were lit and the noise was amplified as UESA held on for a 1-0 win.

Drawn against Madrid giants Atleti in the fourth round, St Andreu slumped to an unsurprising 5-0 aggregate defeat. But it was the UESA fans that made headlines, displaying the logo of Proactiva Open Arms, an organisation who’s mission is to “rescue from the sea those people who try to reach Europe fleeing from war, persecution or poverty.” Oscar Campos, the organisations founder, later said the “generosity of Sant Andreu in showing our logo in their most important game was priceless.”

Sant Andreu share a fierce rivaly with CE Europa, hailing from the city’s Gràcia district. In promotional material for the derbies, both clubs bill it as “the authentic derby” in reference to the high number of tourists that frequent the Camp Nou for El Clásico and El Derbi Barceloni.

I’ve never seen armed police at any football match back in Scotland, never mind a game in the fourth tier. But there we big meathead vans patrolling along side El Mossos d’Esquadra (the Catalan Police). I received a more-than-enthusiastic pat down on my way through the turnstiles, the first time I’d been to a UESA match where the sale of alcohol was prohibited (not that that stopped the away support from smuggling their cans of Estrella into the ground).

Sant Andreu took an early lead and the away supported exploded. Limbs everywhere. So much so that a club official from Europa, an elderly man donning a club blazer, stopped the match and had to walk over to the away end to tell the travelling support to calm down. My Catalan is terrible but in a derby as fierce and as volatile as this, I can only imagine what sheer vitriol was sent his way from the UESA fans.

The game eventually ended 1-1, with Europa equalising in the second half and Sant Andreu finishing the match with 10 men after a straight red card for midfielder David Lopez. Interestingly, this was the fifth match in a row between the teams to end as a draw. All in all a frustrating night.

After an indifferent start to the season, Sant Andreu were sitting in 11th position in the table. However, at the time of writing, a 10 match unbeaten run has rocketed the boys up to 5th in the league – within 5 points of the playoff places. The storm of a run has included highlights such as an injury time winner away at, then leaders, Llagostera. There’s a feeling around the place at the moment, that San Andreu can beat anyone, do anything and, god, I hope this carries on.

But no matter what happens in the rest of the season, the club did themselves proud in the Copa Del Ray and have the final of the Copa Catalunya to look forward to (having dispatched three higher-division teams already). I like to think of myself as a good luck charm – I’m yet to see the team lose.

When people from back home ask me “Are UESA any good?” I tell them they’re the best team in town. “What about Barça?” they say.

I reply “Sant Andreu is not Barcelona.”


Words by Danny Brown

A soggy fanzine seller, groaning under the weight of a huge bag, latest issue clutched in hand, bellowing ‘Get your fanzine, just a quid!’. A sight as common at a football ground as long hair and short shorts were 20 years ago. But sadly (not so much in the case of the shorts), it’s also a sight that’s vanished in today’s game.

Despite this, there’s still a small army of creators spending endless hours each week writing, editing and producing their ‘zines – just to stand in the pissing rain on a matchday, hoping they can flog enough issues to cover the costs. Dave Wallace, founder of King of the Kippax is one of these creators.

A lifelong Man City fan, Wallace was a prominent member of the Football Supporters Association in the eighties and decided to start his own fanzine, in order to give a voice to fellow blues’ supporters. In pretty standard City fashion, the ‘zine was born out of a cock-up on the opening day of the 88/89 season.

“I intended to start King of the Kippax in the summer of 1987, but we were moving house at the time so instead I decided to contribute to the first City fanzine, Blueprint, instead. However, there were some editorial differences and the final straw was when the fanzine missed the start of the 1988/99 season, meaning my perfectly presented article was hacked and chopped.”

Deciding to take matters into his own hands, egged on by his mate Martin Gordon, then editor of Sheffield Wednesday’s ‘Just Another Wednesday’ fanzine, Wallace put together the first issue, printed a few hundred copies and plucked up the courage to sell it on the terraces. On 24th of September 1988, King of the Kippax was sold for the first time, away at Barnsley. City won 2-1.

“When we started the ‘zine we dedicated it to Colin Bell, the real King of the Kippax!”

The inspiration for the name of the ‘zine was Colin Bell, the shining diamond in a dominant City side that hoovered up trophies under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison in the sixties. Crowned the ‘King of the Kippax’ by the City faithful, Bell’s nickname referenced Maine Roads famous Kippax stand, one of the largest and loudest singing sections in England at the time.

“I’d always written to the papers, won competitions in the programme and together with my wife Sue produced topical cartoons which we sent to local radio presenters and the club which were well received under the pseudonym ‘King of the Kippax’. When we started the ‘zine we dedicated it to Colin Bell, the real king!”

As anyone who followed the sport at the time will know, the eighties was a bad time to be a football fan in England. Marred by a series of tragedies, the rise of hooliganism and the persecution of football fans under the Tory government, it was through this dark period the need for a new method of fan expression was born.

“1985 was a watershed for football, marred by the Bradford Fire, Heysel and the death of a fan at Birmingham when a wall collapsed. In fact, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Fans didn’t have a voice and the reporting in the media was very fan negative and didn’t reflect the humour and camaraderie of the majority of ordinary match-going fans.”

“Fans didn’t have a voice and the reporting in the media was very fan negative and didn’t reflect the humour and camaraderie of the majority of ordinary match-going fans.”

“At the time hooliganism was rife, policing and stewarding left a lot to be desired and football grounds were antiquated. Away fans were banned at Luton, English teams banned from Europe, Maggie Thatcher wanted ID cards, Ken Bates wanted electric fences at Chelsea and Bernard Halford (City’s club secretary) thought that hooligans should be birched!”

“The total content of a fanzine is provided by ordinary fans who have a passion for our club and understand the match going experience, whereas football journalists, general speaking, usually have to toe the party line, and see things from within their bubble. We wanted to know about the support, the humour, the songs, but journalists only concentrated on the actual match.”

Wallace wasn’t the only one frustrated by the lack of opportunities for ordinary fans to have a voice on the issues of the day. Coinciding with the birth of the FSA, fanzines began springing up on terraces around the country. Around a dozen general fanzines came into existence at this time, plus around fifty club-based ‘zines. These numbers rose into the hundreds at the peak of fanzine culture.

“Most of all we intended to provide a platform for fellow fans to express themselves with humour. And they did.”

Walk into any pub on a match day and you’ll find no shortage of opinionated football fans ready to share their ‘expert’ rantings, opinions, analysis and conspiracies with anyone who’ll listen. In the days before Twitter, it was fanzines that gave the wannabe managers, armchair pundits, and terrace prophets a platform to share their views with fellow supporters.

“Our original intention was to publish regularly, with up to date and balanced views, hitting the major issues, reflecting on events with comment and opinion, supplying information, and most of all providing a platform for fellow fans to express themselves with humour. And they did.”

“Some contributors have stayed with us more or less from the start, others have dropped off and been replaced and we now have sons of contributors joining the gang. We always encourage new writers and are especially pleased when aspiring sports journalists join us then go onto bigger and better things. Our current youngest match reporter is just fifteen.”

“There is some duplication of subject matter, but all with different angles and styles of writing. Fanzines differ from the mainstream as we have license to say things as they really are, or how we perceive them, and we can ridicule our opponents and rivals (within the realms of human decency).”

“We don’t get told to ‘stick it up our arse’ as much when selling after games we’ve lost!”

When it comes to change, City have seen more of it than most, both on and off the pitch. Once a self-professed ‘comedy club’, City fans of a certain age will remember the age of dodgy managerial appointments, relegation, derby defeats and that fateful day when goalkeeper David James got a run-out up front. If they didn’t laugh, they probably would have cried.

Nowadays, the club is more likely to make headlines for winning another trophy than their latest on-pitch calamity. The ‘Typical City’ curse seems to have lifted, but the sense of humour remains an important part of the City psyche. Even in the age of money and trophies, City still find the time to laugh at themselves – and King of the Kippax is perfect evidence of this.

“The main difference for us has been the fact that we can be much more positive, and whereas in 1999 our front cover was an ironic shot of Nicky Weaver holding up ‘a trophy’, we’ve been able to celebrate our recent title and cup successes with joyous front covers. Additionally, we don’t get told to ‘stick it up our arse’ as much when selling after games we’ve lost!

In the early days the running of the club was the major issue, and whilst there are still some gripes, it is the misrepresentation in the media, the bitterness of the established clubs, and the strangeness of UEFA which dominate the pages.”

Nowadays, fanzines hold up in quality even against the glossiest club programmes, but that wasn’t always the case, as Wallace testifies: “Originally articles and letters were handwritten (one was written in crayon on a piece of cardboard from a cornflake box!) and sent to us by post, then typed up by my mother-in-law on a typewriter borrowed from work.

These were then cut and pasted (with actual scissors and glue!) into an A4 format then put onto A3 sheets and hand delivered to the printers. A few days later, the finished zine was delivered, by me, to the outlets around Manchester then sent out to subscribers and sold outside the ground by us and some willing friends at future home and away games.”

“We now receive articles by email; they are checked, corrected, headlined and highlighted with cartoons added. They’re then sent to Graeme, our layout fella, who adds any pictures and puts together the final ‘zine, which we give the last edit. Over the years, we’ve built a network of loyal subscribes worldwide, which continues to amaze us.”

However, while the internet has made the process of writing and editing a fanzine easier, the rise of social media has inevitably caused a decline in readership. In 2019, many of these fanzines have disappeared all together as United’s Red Issue did back in 2015, citing ‘the stench of modern football’ as the reason for doing so.

“Whilst it’s fun interacting with fans, it’s not much fun selling on the street in the wind, rain, hail and snow these days.”

“It’s had a massive effect. Sales peaked in 1991 and since then there’s been a steady decline. With regard to football there is much more instant information on social media, and visually on the vlogs, so that has affected the fanzine which generally reflects and anticipates ‘goings on’ in a more measured way on a roughly monthly basis.”

“We started over thirty years ago, and during that time we’ve established a loyal readership because of the quality of writers and, I think, because we have never missed a deadline and have always strived to print most of the contributions. We’ve lost quite a few sellers recently, and whilst it’s enjoyable interacting with fans, it’s not much fun selling on the street in the wind, rain, hail and snow these days.”

It’s a testament to the graft put in by Wallace and his wife that King of the Kippax is still alive and kicking after thirty (that’s right, thirty) years. With the social media revolution showing no signs of slowing, the future for fanzines looks relatively bleak. But Wallace thinks there may be hope yet, and believes the younger generation might play a big part.

“Though going on-line is probably the future, our regular readers tend to prefer a paper magazine and, as it has been reported recently that people are returning to books in preference to reading on kindle, whilst vinyl records are also making a come back, so maybe the times are a changing and diversifying, but not yet over. Watch this space!”


Words by Neil Boardman

Let’s set the scene. Its 1976, the world is a lot different to what it is 2019. Some would probably say that the world was better in 1976 than it is in 2019 and maybe it was, but that’s a conversation for another time because 1976 was the year that should be remembered for one certain thing. No, it wasn’t the formation of the Toronto Blue Jays, the fact that The Ramones released their first album or the Eurovision title being won by the UK. It was something that occurred in Belgrade on the night of the 20th June.

Czechoslovakia took a 2 nil lead in Belgrade within 25 minutes. In the final of the ’76 instalment of the European championship against World Cup holders West Germany, the side must have been confident. However, in typical German football style, the Nationalelf pulled it back. A quick response to Karol Dobiaš’ lovely effort from just outside the box, from Dieter Müller saw the game go into half time at 2-1 to Czechoslovakia.

The final carried on as you would imagine a 1970s international to do so. The two sets of players are kitted out in the way you would imagine players who were playing in a 1970s international, to be so. The red shirt of the Czech national side, coupled with the red and white Adidas shorts (that are obviously pulled up way above the knee and Adidas will obviously be re-releasing, much to my delight, when an international competition comes around again), cannot help be intimidated by the classic white and black attire of the West German team.

You can never back against Germany in international tournaments. I don’t care what anyone says about this matter – backing Germany to lose a game is daft. The people of Czechoslovakia on the ‘Nacht Von Belgrade’ may have just been thinking the same. Was the inevitable going to happen? When will Germany score? Yet the Reds were not breaking. For 44 minutes, West Germany failed to equalise, the hopes of a nation were on a high – the celebrations were starting back home in Prague, then it happened. In typical German fashion, they bagged an equaliser. In the 89th minute, Bernd Hölzenbein rose higher than the rest to head home a German equaliser.

The nation of Czechoslovakia went from the high of seeing their team 2 nil ahead in the final of an international tournament, to the low of seeing the game go to 2-2. We all know the feeling, don’t we? Seeing our team up in a big game, playing well, cruising. It’s a great feeling at that point, no doubt about it. But the feeling doesn’t always last for long, does it? Next thing we know things aren’t looking good. You’re soaking up the pressure, things aren’t looking good, everything is shaping up to the inevitable equaliser. Then it happens. Always has to be a scrappy goal doesn’t it? From a corner or tapped in by their poacher, something like that? It is one of the worst feelings in the world.

Of course, chances are if you’re reading this, it is likely that you can relate what has just been described to a mid table league one game as opposed to an international final. I know they all hurt but just imagine that. It must be painful mustn’t it. As extra time went on, the wounds of the Czechoslovakian team grew more open in preparation for the salt, of West Germany, to be rubbed in. As extra time went on, confidence amongst the reds can’t have been getting any higher. After all, who on earth is backing themselves against Germany on penalties?

However, there was one man in that Czechoslovakian XI that was unphased by the prospect of a penalty shootout. The same man, who had his penalty thought out long before the penalty shootout was confirmed, long before the game had even kicked off. ‘I will give it to Maier in the middle’, he had told keeper Ivor Viktor before the game. The man being described is no other than Antonín Panenka.

As extra time came to a conclusion, it was time for the shootout to take place. The first three penalties were all successful for both sides. A fourth positive effort from the Czechoslovakian side, courtesy of Ladislav Jurkemik, gave the Reds the advantage in the shootout. It was now time for Uli Hoeneß to step up for the West Germans, hopes of a nation on his shoulders. Little was he aware, at this point, of the plan in the head of Panenka. Hoeneß missed his crucial spot kick, making it 4-3 to the Reds – Panenka was now well aware that the fate of a nation rested in his feet.

Antonín Panenka stepped up to the penalty spot with a plan, a plan that wasn’t going to be altered or changed by anyone. With a run up as cool as you like, West German goalkeeper Sepp Maier would’ve been completely unaware whether the Czech number 7 was going to put the ball to his left or right. Maier guessed left. Maier guessed wrong. Panenka’s right foot had just chipped a ball down the middle of the net to win a European final. Watch it here:

The penalty was unbelievable, to many football fans across the world it was a thing of beauty. The celebration of Panenka showed just what it meant to him and the people he was representing. With his arms raised in there, as he runs away from the goal in ecstacy, the spectators couldn’t quite believe what had just happened – Antonín Panenka probably couldn’t either.

That penalty had just secured a win in a European final for the Czechoslovakian team, but that wasn’t the only thing it did – this penalty cemented Antonín Panenka as a figure in the football world. The Panenka penalty is one of the most beautiful things to watch in the world’s favourite game. Now, when we see a penalty that resembles that of Antonín Panenka’s, it makes us experience a different emotion to how we usually view a penalty. The Panenka style penalty is satisfying. It makes us laugh to ourselves a bit and think ‘fair enough’.

It takes a certain calibre of player to pull this form of art off. The poet, Panenka, was one of those players who had a certain charm that surrounded his game, which allowed him to pull such a thing off. You’ve probably seen your mate trying to ‘do a Panenka’ in an intense penalty shootout on the park after school; your mate probably failed. You have definitely seen your mate trying to pretend they know how to take penalties on FIFA, punting the ball down the middle of the goal and claiming they were attempting a Panenka penalty.

Zidane. Messi. Pirlo. Hazard. Aguero. All names that we associate with greats of the modern game. Also, names that can boast a famous example of a Panenka-style penalty on their CV. It goes to show just how far, one second of a game played in Yugoslavia, can travel. Antonín Panenka retired in 1993, at the time playing in the lower leagues of Austria. Now, at the age of 70, his time is spent looking after Bohemians 1905 in Prague as club president. His decision in 1976 to take a penalty in an unusual manner will cement his legacy for years to come and we can all enjoy the underrated spectacle of one of our favourite players chipping a penalty down the middle of the net.