Everybody Loves Holland

Holland are one of those teams that have plenty of fans from other countries. The main reason for this is their tradition of “sexy football”, a tradition which goes back to the great Ajax and national sides of the 1970s who scored goals like this:



I first came across them at EURO88. I remember collecting Panini stickers and being dazzled by the bright orange shirts. I was also intrigued by the fact that they had more black players than England. Of course there was Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, but there were also lesser lights like Aaron Winter and the 2nd goalie Stanley Menzo. They destroyed England with a hat-trick the mighty Marco van Basten. Having grown up in England, I was totally ignorant of van Basten, Gullit, the Koemans and watching them was like a revolution.

And then there were the fans! A sea of bright orange was so eye-catching. It was love at first sight. The fact that they really, really seemed to hate the Germans also sat well (although more recently, Germany have turned into a multicultural, friendly, attacking team who everyone loves – until they win something!).



Since then, Holland have usually disappointed at major tournaments, though they were bloody good in France98, only going out to Brazil in the semis. Remember Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!, Dennis Bergkamp!



One thing that the Oranje always bring is in-fighting between their players. This took an ugly turn in Euro96 where there were allegations of racial divisions between the players, but usually, their factionalism is pure comedy.

In truth, the Holland teams of recent years have been pretty dull to watch. In the 2010 World Cup finals, they did give us some cracking goals like this one against Uruguay



But in the final against Spain, they suddenly turned into a hideous cross between the 1980s Wimbledon and the Israeli Defence Force. Nigel de Jong’s textbook karate chop in Xabi Alonso’s chest captured their approach perfectly. I was glad Spain won, despite them being a bunch of racist MFs.



Adios Holland. I hope one day you’ll to the joyful, open free flowing style of old.

Racism in Football: Bilic Shames UEFA



Racism in Football: Slaven Bilic v UEFA

Croatia went out of EURO2012 last night. It wasn’t quite in a blaze of glory but they can hold their heads high. They gave Spain a decent run for their money. Some may say that losing to a team playing with no striker is nothing to brag about. But Spain could play 11 defenders and would probably still beat most teams in Europe.

We should give special praise to the outgoing Croatian national team coach Slaven Bilic. In the days prior to the Spain game, he came out and firmly condemned those Croatians who engage in racist abuse. Normally, players and managers choose to stay silent about racism unless it is done against them. But not Slaven. When asked about the alleged racist incidents involving Croatian fans, he went on the offensive:

“It (racism) is a big problem all around Europe and all around the world and on behalf of the entire nation, not even as a football manager, I want to say that I am really disappointed as a Croatian, a parent, and a sportsman, a person who comes from a modern, open-minded and tolerant state.

Everyone is welcome in our county. I don’t like these kinds of supporters and nor do my players. I don’t want them to come into the stadium.

“I live in Croatia and we really are a tolerant county. We are not a racist country and we are angry at these few crazy supporters. We have to put sanctions on these kind of supporters and stop them forever.” Source

Bilic deserves major props for this. His team was just about to play a crucial Euro2012 match. He could have opted to avoid rocking the boat and distracting his players. He could have just hid behind nationalism and claimed that the problem of racism is exaggerated. But he stayed true to his stated anti-racist principles and condemned his own “crazy” kinsfolk.

If only UEFA could show that they too were serious about racism. Instead, they have demonstrated their priorities by fining Nicklas Bendtner £80,000 for advertising a non-official sponsor after scoring against Portugal last week. This amount dwarfs the fines which they have dished out recently over racist abuse. The message seems clear, doesn’t disturb the corporate sponsors, so it’s not a big issue.

Slaven Bilic is now off to Locomotiv Moscow in Russia, ironically, a country which has serious problems with racism in society and thus in football.

Should be interesting!

Uganda Cranes Close to Ending 34 – Year Drought!

The Uganda Cranes defeated Guinea-Bissau 2 – 0 yesterday afternoon. The victory at Nambole stadium means the Cranes are now clear at the top of their qualifying group for next year’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament in Equatorial Guinea & Gabon. They have 3 wins and a draw from 4 matches, and have yet to concede a goal.

Amazingly, if the Cranes qualify for the Afcon finals, it will be their first appearance in 34 years! The last time they were there, they lost 0-2 in the final to the hosts Ghana. Since then, the Cranes have failed, largely because of a tyerrible record away from home. Although they have a terrific home record (last home loss was in 2005), their win over Guinea-Bissau earlier this year was their first away win in a decade.

The Cranes have two more games to go – a trip to Angola in September and Kenya at home in October. If Kenya and Angola draw in their match later today, then Uganda need only a point from their last two games to qualify. If Kenya win, then Uganda need one more win to be absolutely sure. [UPDATE: Angola 1 – 0 Kenya. This means a point in Luanda will see the Cranes through!]

A football-crazy nation awaits!

Uganda 2 – 0 Guinea Bissau – Goals

In the crowd!

1978 Afcon Final – Ghana 2 – 0 Uganda

Racism in Football? Ba!


West Ham were relegated from the Premier League after they did ‘an Arsenal’, and let a 2-0 half-time lead at Wigan turn into a 2-3 defeat.

I’m sad that West Ham have gone down. See, I’ve always had a lot of time for the Hammers. I grew up round the corner in Hackney and Leyton, and for years I worked 5 minutes from the Boleyn Ground. As an Arsenal fan, I love the fact that West Ham seem to really hate Tottenham. The hatred is so deep, that a few years back, they apparently allowed Arsenal agents to poison the Spurs players’ food so that they lost their last match of season against the Hammers, thus allowing Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League.

Today’s papers are full of stories of a how the brawl at West Ham’s recent end of season ball started after striker Demba Ba was racially abused by a West Ham fan. This incident reminded me of a part of West Ham’s history that I’m less excited about. Ask any African or Asian person over 30 years old, and they will tell you that during the seventies and eighties, West Ham was a club with some of the most racist supporters in England. Africans who played against West Ham in those days testify that playing at the Boleyn Ground was a horrible experience. They would face boos and monkey chants and would have bananas thrown at them by the locals.

Down the years, many Europeans have tried to play down this kind of abuse. They say that John Barnes being subjected to monkey chants is the same as Gordon Strachan being called a Ginger b*****d. These people think that racism is purely about appearance, and that Africans are only abused because we look different to Europeans. So we should get the ‘chip off our shoulders’ (what does this actually mean?) and stop moaning. But the abuse is just the tip of iceberg.

Behind every monkey chant is centuries of political, economic and military domination of Africans by Europe. The fans who made the monkey chants are signalling that they are proud that “Britons never, never, never” had been slaves – unlike Africans. The Liverpool supporter who threw a banana at the African footballer in his own team affirmed his belief that he is a member of a proud ‘superior race’ while the African is a part of an accursed race of slaves. When that European player called an African opponent a ‘mono’ (Spanish, for ‘monkey’) he sent a message to him that his people are nothing but poverty-stricken wretches and they should be thankful that Europeans came and ‘civilised’ them with slavery and colonialism.

Racist abuse is a reflection of the ideas of racial superiority. European Capitalists deliberately constructed these ideas to justify their brutal and relentless exploitation of Africa and Africans through Slavery and Colonialism. They fed these ideas to the European working class to foster racial solidarity and to help prevent revolutionary ideas. Having accepted these racist ideas, the European working classes happily enjoyed the fruits of Africa’s trampling (the cheap consumer goods, exotic food imports and high wages at the expense of African workers and labourers) and they also willingly fought in Imperialist wars to ‘pacify’ the Africans. And these ideas continue to be useful to this day, because Europe has never stopped dominating and exploiting Africa. This era is what is known as neo-colonialism. So, far-right groups like the BNP and more recently the EDL have grown in popularity, while mainstream parties take every opportunity to attack the terrifying threats of (non-European) immigration and multicuralism.

I’m really glad that racism in British football is far less of a problem than it was back in the day. Clubs like West Ham have successfully stamped out overt racist abuse in the grounds. They have also made great efforts to build links with their local communities which have high numbers of Africans and Asians.

But the fact that the incident at the West Ham party surfaced on the same day that two men go to trail for the murder of Stephen Lawrence shows that as long as racism has a function in society, it will persist in football.