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Friday, 14 March 2014

Falling for Football IV: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Football

Yeah I thought my piece on inverted wingers was mint too actually

The second part of our mammoth list of contributors is below. What a lovely and talented bloody bunch they are and all. Give them a follow, check out their websites, never read a newspaper for your football fix ever again.

USA 1994 – Brooks Peck

Seeing that physical manifestation of acceptance for a sport otherwise reflexively mocked by large herds of the population was a legitimising moment. It was also the start of what remains the highest attended World Cup in history. Clearly Striker deserved a promotion.

Brooks is editor and co-founder of Dirty Tackle, his description of which as ‘Football. Culture. Nonsense’ makes him very much a man after our own hearts. He’s also written for World Cup Blog, BT Life's a Pitch and Howler Magazine.

Liverpool 1988-90 – Alex Bingle

Back in the day, when Super Sundays meant a double bill of Sharky and George, I remember going into our living room where my Dad was watching a game on terrestrial television. I’ve got a feeling Liverpool were playing Aston Villa that day. I was mesmerised by one player in particular and his ability to run at – and past – players had me gripped.

Alex regularly complains about growing up as a Liverpool fan in a place full of Manchester United supporters. This is something of a misnomer as he still lives nearer Manchester than Liverpool and I’ve definitely seen him enjoying a few prawn sandwiches in his time. Make of that what you will.

The Netherlands 1988 – Richard Hall

You may think that I was proud that one of the Dutch team had played for Ipswich Town. Not so. I was mortified that an ageing player that had represented a by now much-reduced Ipswich Town could make it into my Dutch team. “They can’t be that good if he can still get in the team,” said the playground.

Richard is the former managing editor of House magazine and a semi-regular contributor to the critically acclaimed Magic Spongers football blog. His wonderful article for the Spongers’ ‘What If’ series on Yugoslavia and what might have been at Euro ‘92 is among the blog’s most read and best received pieces.

Middlesbrough 1996-97 – Daniel Clark

Yet this team spoke about much more than just flair and football that was easy on the eye. It represented a watershed moment in the Premier League’s history, epitomising its aspirational quality. It married the industrial with the fantastical. It said if you want to attract big names and play exciting football then it is possible with ambition and desire.

A bachelor of arts and a Buddhist, Daniel now commits his not inconsiderable talents to social work after starting off as a wannabe journalist, but he can still be found contributing the odd excellent article to Magic Spongers.

France 1998 – Laure James

Maybe it was the cultural element. Not the way France swelled with fervent infatuation, not the way this bordered on mania. Not the way France, for the first time, was represented in a multicultural sense.

Laure is a prolific freelance journalist who has written for the Daily Mail, the News Letter, The Sunday Times and the Daily and Sunday Mirror. She also hosts the excellent Social Club, Northern Ireland’s best football podcast.

Juventus 1996 – Stefano Gulizia

Every action unfolded like an ellipsis of violet, buttercup, lavender and lime. The result was not just knowledge of a strange footballing object perceived, but rather a blend of joy and fear: pleasure in the sense in which Nietzsche discusses the term Genuss“perhaps it was only in this way that mankind first learned to take pleasure in the sight of existence.”

Stefano is a writer and academic who lives in New York and this is one of the most mind-bendingly brilliant pieces of football writing you will ever read. He also edits verbunkos.org

Olympique de Marseilles 1991 – James Longhurst

Two of my favourite players from Italia ‘90 were playing for the same team, alongside a player so good he was nicknamed Pele, so when the 1990-91 season started, a small boy in south-west London became an avid Marseille fan.

Among James’ passions are politics, publishing, cycling, socialism in sport, and he still finds time for a ‘bit of day job stuff for the Guardian’. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that he has yet to finish his supposed two-part feature for Magic Spongers on why he gave up watching Premier League football for a season, which he started in February 2013.

Brazil 1982 – Rob Langham

With the midfield quintet about as interested in defending as they were in that year’s inauguration of The Weather Channel, chances would always be afforded – and so it proved against the Italians.

Rob is one half of the magnificent Two Unfortunates, now the internet’s stopping point for all things Football League-related. Another Guardian top 100 blog in 2011, as well as a nominee for Independent website of the year in the Football Supporter’s Federation Awards 2013, Lloyd and Rob have created a measured, comprehensive gold mine of content.

Hangleton Juniors 1989-90 – David Hartrick

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some old pro lamenting a future life away from a game that became my day-to-day, but I have now been playing for teams on a regular basis twice a week for the best part of 25 years. I’m at the point where my knees are basically made of sawdust and Murray Mint wrappers, while my ankles perform a perfect Wilhelm scream every time I walk past the football boots I leave in the hallway. The mind is still just about willing, but the body? I’m just not sure anymore.

Dave is the author of the excellent 50 teams that mattered and one of the co-founders and editors of the undeniably amazing In Bed with Maradona. He’s also the main man at publishing house Ockley Books so we’d best be nice to him or he’ll pulp all our copies.

Tottenham Hotspur 1981 – Ian King

Furthermore, while the likes of Hoddle, Ardiles and Villa had more than a flash of elegance about them, the same could hardly be said for Graham Roberts, for whom the kindest thing that I can think of to say is that he looks like exactly the sort of player who would lose three front teeth during an FA Cup Final and refuse to leave the field of play.

Ian is editor of the incomparable Two Hundred Percent, which began in 2006. The site was a gold winner in the 2009 and 2010 When Saturday Comes webwatch awards and a silver winner in 2011. It was nominated for FSF website of the year in 2011 and won the award in 2012. It was also nominated for independent website of the year in the 2013 awards, while Ian was nominated for blogger of the year. All of which makes us feel rather inadequate.

Chester City 2008-09 – Richard Bellis

Not wanting to phone up/annoy our Dad, who had agreed to drop us off and pick us up, and also hoping we would get in at some point, we sat on top of a van parked near one of the stadium’s corners so that we could see in over one of the walls.

Richard is editor of the excellent Blue and White, a print fanzine all about about Chester FC, football and other stuff like that. The Blue and White was also nominated for fanzine of the year in the 2013 FSF awards. Richard has also contributed to When Saturday Comes, In Bed With Maradona and The Two Unfortunates.

Switzerland Schoolboys 1982 – John Dobson

Months later, Spain hosted a World Cup with those magnificent Brazilians, a not-half-bad England side and Paolo Rossi, who I once dressed as for a church fancy dress thing, number 20 sewn onto the back of a generic blue shirt by my loving mum. A gangly youth with similarly thick eyebrows, I might have passed for the equally gangly Rossi’s much younger brother, but I didn’t win and still bear a grudge against the Catholic Church for this oversight. Still, as crimes by the church against young boys go, I got off lightly.

John, to use his own words, ‘sometimes writes stuff’ and is seemingly the only York City fan besides Adam Bushby and the official York City Twitter feed on the internet. He has contributed on many occasions not least to these fair pages, but also to the Two Unfortunates and In Bed with Maradona. He also hosts Hi-Fi Curious, details of which you can find on their website.

Lewes FC 2008-09 – Stuart Fuller

All of a sudden my world changed. I no longer cheered when a centre-back hoofed the ball out of the ground, knowing that if it didn’t come back then we were £20 down. All of a sudden I was no longer able to bet on the FA Cup by law. Was it fun? Hell yes and I was more in love with football than ever. Some nights in board meetings at 1am discussing the toileting provisions may not have been as glamorous as planning a trip to the Emirates, but it was far more rewarding.

Stuart is not only the author of Passport to Football and the Football Tourist but also a director of Lewes FC (that story’s in the book so we won’t go into it here). And even though the last entry to his blog, The Ball is Round, was bloody ages ago, it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.

Sheffield United 1988-90 – Ian Rands

Growing up in a two-team city is tough, more so when, for your formative years, your club is the lesser performing of the two. Seemingly in the minority; the playground jibes and hidden envy of relative success combined to make the 9:00 to 3:15 life of a Blades-supporting schoolboy in 1980s Sheffield much less fun than it should have been.

Ian is the proprietor of the superb A United View on Football, which proves a brilliant sounding board for his musings on the Beautiful Game, as well as the occasional post on his footballing love, the Blades. 2012 was a particularly fruitful year for Ian when he was shortlisted for FSF Football Blogger of the Year and was runner up in When Saturday Comes’ Writers’ Competition.

Swansea City 2000-01 – Abigail Davies

The turbulent times at Swansea and those first, early memories of watching them during some of their darkest days are what makes our rise through the divisions, envied style of play and recent success so encapsulating and enjoyable.

An aspiring sports broadcast journalist, Abigail is one of our youngest contributors but that hasn’t stopped her from penning regularly for a number of websites, including The Ball is Round and Jack’s Banter while also writing a weekly column in the South Wales Evening Post.

Linfield 1988-89 – James Young

That was my introduction to football. Linfield were losing and my father was going to break somebody’s legs. Things looked bad.

James is a Belfast lad cut adrift in the slightly more exotic surroundings of Brazil. He has written brilliantly about Brazil and Brazilian football for The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Howler, The Blizzard, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, The New York Times Goal Blog, World Soccer, In Bed With Maradona et al. He’s currently at work on a novel about "love, death and futebol" in Recife.

Bulgaria 1994 – Adam Bate

That year my mother and father had a brainwave. As working-class parents in the 1980s they had played their own small part in turning Benidorm into the cliché-riddled dystopia that it is today. But this was the 1990s and that meant a brand new start – we were going to Bulgaria. I’d love to think it was out of an intrepid sense of adventure or an emotional desire to visit the Eastern bloc after the falling of the Berlin Wall. The truth is that they’d heard it was cheap.

Another of the football blogging pioneers, Adam used to be at the helm of Guardian top 100 blog Ghostgoal until the bright lights of paid writing shone too bright to ignore. He now writes marvellous features for Sky Sports and is contributor to ESPN, Football365, FourFourTwo and When Saturday Comes.

Manchester United 1992-93 – Ryan Keaney

I had never seen the man or his wife before and I have not seen them since. Struggling for conversation with a seven- and nine-year-old, he quickly turned to football. Even quicker, he (a Liverpool fan) was soon berating the club for signing a buffoon like Cantona and daring to spend more than one million pounds on a disaster waiting to happen.

Ryan is editor at Opta Sports by day and co-editor of In Bed With Maradona by night (or by day if it’s a slow news day). His excellent scribblings on all things football can be found at The Football Project. 

Oxford United 1995-96 – Sam Macrory

We’d sit in the family stand, with Dad quietly reading his Guardian – embarrassing for his teenage sons, but not as much as when my mother, on a rare foray to the ground, was spotted leafing through Good Housekeeping during Oxford’s 5-3 win over Swindon – before repeatedly asking me to identify John Byrne, apparently his favourite player of the time, or Jim Magilton, an elegant Northern Irish midfielder.

Sam is another of that surprisingly common breed – a man who occasionally finds time to contribute to award-nominated Magic Spongers, while managing to hold down a successful career (as editor of Total Politics). His majestic piece on Championship Manager for Spongers provides a glimpse why he is held in (semi) high regard.

Real Madrid 1990 – Elliott Turner

We settled on a place just outside the Town West Square Mall that showed the games. We became regulars, even though the restaurant committed the cardinal sin of Mexican cuisine: serving nacho chips before the entree. If you ever want to eat authentic Mexican cuisine, a server brining you an endless supply of nacho chips is a tell-tale sign you are in Tex-Mex territory. Be prepared to ingest unholy quantities of cheese.

Elliott has written about football, or ‘soccer’ as he bizarrely calls it, for the Guardian, the Blizzard, Howler, and the Classical, among others. And his brilliant Futfanatico website is well worth checking out too.

Tooting & Mitcham 2008-09 – Chris Nee

Tooting & Mitcham was different from the moment I squeezed my bloated Premier League ego through the turnstile, and very much love at first sight. More than that, though, my experiences at the club taught me more about what football is really all about than I would ever have learned even higher up the Non-League pyramid. But by god, I wished I’d taken a pair of gloves.

Making it an In Bed With Maradona hat-trick, Chris is the other co-editor of the critically acclaimed site, as well as the host of the Aston Villa Review podcast. In a previous incarnation, Chris created the excellent Guardian top 100 blog, Two Footed Tackle, which covered all aspects of the game between January 2008 and the end of 2011, as well as The Stiles Council, a blog on the England national team.

Yugoslavia 1990 –Dominic Bliss

So, aside from trying to work out why Yugoslavia was pronounced the way it was when it was spelled with a ‘J’ on the stickers, we also gained an allegiance to the teams whose players we had each been introduced to at random by a box-stuffer at Kellogg’s.

Dominic is the creator of, and regular contributor to, the fantastic Inside Left, which provides original stories and exclusive interviews that are all very, very good.

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