Algerians celebrate 1-1 draw with England in the 2010 World Cup, June 2010, Ravish London

London Geezers Love Their Football

Football eases conversation.

During the last World Cup it was 'what did you think of the last match?' 'what do you think of your chances in the next game?'

The Turkish, the Greeks going like mad.

One girl I know from Finsbury Park told of Turkish men, working on a market stall, going absolutely hysterically happy because Greece lost to South Korea...

In 2006 Spanish fans were proudly and jubilantly waving their flags around Picadilly Circus; even though their team had just lost to France....

In 2010, England played Algeria, and around Finsbury Park, tasty geezers, and blokes, working class blokes, were supping on Stella, and watching the big TV screens mounted in the Twelve Pins; an old guy with a Sainsbury's shopping bag, was sat in the corner, irate that all these guys in front of him were stood in his way. Meanwhile just forty metres away in seeing and listening distance, Algerians were spilling out of their scruffy looking coffee and cake bars; urging their team on; both teams Algeria and England were woeful; but for Algerians living in England, getting some kind of result mattered a lot more; at half-time Algerians came out of their bar to chant and sing. Looking up towards the Twelve Pins all they would have seen is English fans subdued by Stella and shit football; and far too lacking in aggression to care; a few came out to have a look. As the Algerians were sucked back into the cafe, I knew that it was time to return to purgatory; during the second half, fans began to shout "get the lanky bastard on" referring to Peter Crouch, the six foot six England striker. England were woeful and the murky atmosphere of the Twelve Pins began to comatose people, you'd suddenly wake up and realise you were watching a football match. As full time approached and with neither side looking like they were going to score a goal; there was only one thing worth doing, and that's head down Blackstock Road to watch and join in the Algerian celebrations; they act quickly the Algerians, no sooner is the full-time whistle blown, than a hundred or so Algerian men spill out on to the streets, a drum appears, a trumpet appears, chants of various types in Arabic and English can be heard; the police were there; trying to prevent the Algerians from spilling on the road, but the Algerians, were stood on traffic bollards, waving Algerian flags, photoing and filming each other. as an England fan, i was feeling down, depressed on a mix of stella and shit football, i knew the Algerians could cheer me up, I just mixed into the crowd, took a few photos, and soaked up the atmosphere, with a mate of mine, we found ourselves next to a particular group of boisterous lads, all dancing up and down. To hell with it I thought, it being English pride, and I jumped up and down like one of the Algerians, with a big smile all over my face. I saw this sixteen year old jubilantly walking past with a spring in his step, smiling at all the dancing and celebration, until he saw me, the smile dropped, he seemed greatly disturbed that an Englishman seemed to have infiltrated the set-up, he was confused, but man I just needed a bit of joy, a shot of joy.

During the World Cup I saw alot of St George's Flags out adorning bars and hanging from windows all around Hackney; interestingly its not just white English people or English people who have taken to St George. I walk down Angel street, and see the Besiktas convenience store, the Turkish team founded in 1903, it has the colours, and yet inside an array of small English flags, I see English flags in various ethnic places, taxi ranks run by Asians, here there everywhere, as if to say we are with you, we aren't against you, we are with you. I've seen agressive looking Africans walking up Dalston High Street, wired, alcoholic, geezer like with black sun glasses, thin slim Nigerian African bodies, wearing St George sunhats. I've been huge muscular Black guys, in sporty cars, with huge bass coming from them, looking pretty damned scary, with England flags flying from the back of the car. These experiences were making me think, at least in London, supporting England is no longer about being white; it is and it always has been to some extent a male thing about being aggressive, tribal.

I knew that things were changing a few years back when I was sitting in a pub down Kingsland Road, watching Man City assert themselves against Chelsea one Saturday afternoon. An African guy, dressed in a leather jacket, enjoying a pint, spat out his beer on seeing Manchester City awarded a free-kick. I saw him throw his fist at the TV screen and get ready to unleash what I thought was going to be a tirade of foul mouthed abuse, when instead I heard him protest:

Its an injastice!