I hope you will forgive me for straying off the central topic of Newcastle United this week but the events in Paris over-shadow our grand obsession with the football club at St James’ Park.
It is often the case that those of us who make political comments in the fanzine world and attempt to demonstrate that how clubs are run, managed and operated as well as the issues in the wider game all fit into the wider social economy we live in irritate some who see no place for politics in what is a diversion from the every-day hum-drum of life and who value its escapism. I can understand that sentiment and would love to share it but it is sadly, wholly without substance and reality intrudes into that escapist longing all too often.
That was true on Friday night as deluded, heartless, death-loving fanatics attempted to take their pointless hatred to the Stade De France, not to mention other venues where life is lived and loved. But let me stick to the football for obvious reasons. The World Champions, Germany were playing the hosts France in one of Europe’s grandest stadiums in one of the world’s most beautiful and cultured of cities. The stadium was filled with the joy of sport and the unity of two great nations in competition. Regardless of religion, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, politics or whatever else, that stadium symbolised some of the best of modern society and is an event I’m sure many of you will recognise as something special.
Into this joyful celebration came young men whose heads have been filled with the hatred of an ideology based upon a determination to take humanity back to the stone-age. Their ideology is anti-culture, anti-civilisation, mono-theist and it hates life. How a sentient human being can turn their mind over to this vile belief system escapes me but then again, I’m a determined atheist who turned my back on the Catholicism of my childhood with absolute, unsentimental and complete certainty that what has been a binding faith for my family going back generations is complete bunkum. I’m no longer indifferent to religious belief I absolutely deplore it and as is required maintain a weary tolerance of its role in modern society with growing resentment. That applies equally to whatever brands of Christianity being punted by some snake-oil salesman in a frock or the peculiarities of Judaism and Islam. I know there are good people who follow those religions but they would probably be better if they didn’t.
But I’ll come back to the football. Nothing would give these mad men sitting somewhere ghoulishly celebrating the deaths of innocents greater solace than to know that we, their enemies were cowed and frightened, giving up our lives and where we were once confident are now anxious and fearful. That cannot be allowed to happen. That is why when I heard the England v France friendly international at Wembley was going ahead this Tuesday evening, I was absolutely delighted. I’m delighted because it demonstrates our determination not to be afraid, not to be bullied and intimidated by a monstrous and murderous terrorism that is simply, stripped down bare no different to the death cults of Nazis, Fascists and many others throughout history. England v France at Wembley is business as usual. Fuck you.
I’m further thrilled to hear that encouragement for the singing of La Marsellaise by England fans before the game appears to have gone viral on social media. It’s a fantastic anthem in any event filled with emotion but sung lustily by Rosbifs at their national stadium following Friday’s atrocity should send a message to our French brothers and sisters, you are not alone, we are with you on these islands.
But Newcastle United has its part to play also. We have forged substantial links with French football over the last few years and we have had a succession of French players who have worn our colours and we still have numerous on our books. Whether United will dismiss this because it has come from this fanzine which is by and large persona non-grata at SJP (to no great concern of mine to be honest) would be depressing but Saturday’s game with Leicester should mark our club, our city and our support showing solidarity with our great friends across the channel. The French players we have in our squad should understand we, the people who support this club in the far North East of England are with them and if that gives them even the smallest comfort it will be worth it. It will take the football club to organise it, bt organise it they should.
In the last week we commemorated the great losses of two world wars, the personal tragedies of which I have in my own family’s story but which I’m absolutely certain is within yours reading this too. In those Remembrance Sundays we solemnly mark the sacrifices of previous generations and for me particularly WW2 where those from the North East of England joined the fight against a Nazi tyranny which threatened to switch the lights off of humanity. Those previous generations made their sacrifices to give us the freedoms and liberties we hold dear. Our government holds the responsibility for developing strategies and security to defend us and defeat these deluded monsters and how they do that is maybe not to be discussed here and definitely for another day but as football supporters, as people, this Saturday should demonstrate our defiance not to feel the fear that is their goal.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …