Azionariato Popolare AS Roma (Part 3)

OK, so here is another section of quotes that I’ve translated from Walter Campanile’s various interviews, this time from the press conference itself. Again it must be said that if any sense at all is lost from the translation then sorry, but there is no malicious intent in any linguistic fuck ups I make. And in any case, this is mainly for my benefit, so screw you. If you want to get hot off the press Italian news then learn the bloody language yourself. Below is a more up-to-date vision of what they feel the organisation should be about, with the original Italian here, for those of you who wouldn’t mind helping me out a bit. Meanwhile, if you’re at all interested in the structure of the APASR then why not take a look at the informative slides from the conference?

In what concrete way do you want to contribute to the growth of Roma and how does the current owner feel about that?
Mario Sacchi of Envet: The objective of the association is to assist and support the club. It’s evident that we will have to invest in the club, as a minority, obviously.

Is there a representative of the club here? Was one invited? Was the project presented to the club?
(There are a couple of sentences here that I literally cannot make head nor tail of: how depressing – Ed). In Europe we have clubs that were born as sporting clubs in which the member is a ‘socio’ (a member in the true sense of the word – Ed) and they developed on this model. At Hamburg for example, they didn’t need an azionariato, but the association ‘Friends of Hamburg’ nourishes the fan base, helps in the life of the club and of the supporters, and it also brings together thousands of members. Arsenal isn’t in the hands of their fans, but a group has a minority interest that doesn’t change the life of Arsenal, but it gives consent to the participation from and the involvement of those who care about the club. Roma is undoubtedly the object of this project.

Walter Campanile: We invited everyone here today, representatives of Roma and of the institutions. Their non presence doesn’t bother me because as yet we haven’t done anything. I’m sure that the work that we do will eventually be appreciated. Already, with regards to the number of members, we have overtaken Arsenal. This, we still repeat, is only a point of departure. We only want to participate and contribute to the management of the club. To let us help Roma, only that. Like Ranieri’s Roma, we also have to work off the pitch one step at a time. A note to the fans: all fans demand maximum effort from their players, so we mustn’t hold back when there is the opportunity to do something concrete.

How come there are no representatives from Roma here?
There are some (It’s clear who they are; they didn’t make themselves known at the time – Ed). We  have already opened the channels of dialogue and have invited everyone. I’m available to go anywhere to talk about our project.

Is Angelini one of your members? (Note: you might remember from my first post on this subject that pharmaceutical magnate Francesco  Angelini has been wildly rumoured to be interested in buying the club. This has caused many to think that the APASR was a front for various high-profile people to buy it from the Sensis, of whom more later)
Walter Campanile: No.

Will the money collected from members go to the club’s transfer market budget?
By law the money cannot go in the pockets of our associates. Just to be clear there will be specific body that will decide how the money is spent, and it will be possible to verify that through the balance sheet. If come the second year you become disillusioned you will be able to leave and not have to pay the money again. Transparency is guaranteed.

As we saw in the previous post, the group want to contribute financially to the club, with a minority say in what happens, and with the ain – in the short-term at least – of being little more than a community hub for fans. There appears to be a lot of talk about socios, but the comparison with those clubs is moot, as they are owned by their own communities and critically, they elect the people who run the club. This isn’t to say what happens at these clubs is perfect; Lord knows you only have to put in the occasional cursory glance at Sid Lowe’s Spanish football articles to know that the political machinations at Real Madrid in particular can get pretty ugly, frankly I’d be hoping that whatever does become of this project stays as far away from the ugliness that is Real Madrid as possible.

What happens to any money invested however, is another discussion altogether. Last week Roma’s owner Rosella Sensi had a meeting with Italian bank Unicredit regarding Italpetroli’s €400million plus debt, of which €300million is owed to them. Let’s just say that the meeting didn’t go well. ‘While Roma are flying on the pitch and dreaming of the Scudetto, off it the future of the club remains in doubt’, says Il Tempo (which appears to be a subsidiary of Il Sole 24 Ore, who basically invented the story about APASR that I mentioned above – we’ll skip over that for the time being). Why? well, Unicredit are 49% shareholders in Italpetroli (the company that indirectly controls Roma, remember) and are calling for the cancellation of the debt repayment plan and an  injunction on 13 Sensi assets, for various business-y reasons, including not communicating the company’s net asset value (regarding the 2008 balance sheet) in time. In 2008 the group lost €33million, and if 2009’s losses add up to more than €17million they will have to reduce capital, and as the Sensi’s don’t have any other solutions, Unicredit are adamant that assets must be sold.

The paper finishes: ‘The alternative is a recapitalisation, in which the bank would be ready to participate, but it would probably not gain a majority consensus from the shareholders. When thinking about the sale of assets thoughts shouldn’t go to Rome, the jewel in the group’s crown, made even more appetising in the last few months by on the pitch results that will probably take them into the Champions League next year. If the Sensis do have to give up the club, pharmaceutical magnate Francesco Angelini remains a credible potential buyer, and will be following the story with interest.’

No mention of our boys and girls in the Azionariato Popolare AS Roma yet. Maybe in time.


Azionariato Popolare AS Roma (Part 2)

Ok, so the other day I said that I would be chucking some quotes up here from the press conference and hopefully from a chat with the man himself, Walter Campanile. Well he was in Brussels yesterday chatting with EU big wigs so there was no point trying to get a lengthy discussion going, especially when I’m going to want him to repeat 90% of his answers at least twice. However, I have managed to dig up some quotes of his from back on 24 November last year, when he spoke with a Roma fans site about how the structure of the trust is going to work (NOTE: please bear in mind that any translation may not be 100% accurate, or may lose some of its meaning; contrary to popular belief meaning is not replicated exactly in every language, so just deal with it. The full Italian version is here for those of you who are able to read the language or just fuddy duddy killjoys who want accurate sourcing and that.):

A what point are you in the project?

I’m wary of looking too far ahead. We haven’t yet made Roma fans aware of what the azionariato popolare might be when it comes to pass.

What do you mean?

There are those who believe it to be some kind of subscription scheme, but if it was like this those who live in Saudi Arabia or Argentina would not have any reason to participate. When would they ever see Roma at the Olimpico? Instead, through our project whoever is able to contribute economically will strengthen our club, and from everywhere in the world.

Ok, but in what timescale?

The azionariato popolare doesn’t exist in Italy, in the sense that there is no legislative frame which inspires it. Anyway, in this early phase we have worked to understand if the model used in other countries could be applicable here in Italy.

We imagine so.

Exactly. In fact, that’s what we found and what will be explained later. We also occupied ourselves identify the legal entity that will represent fans based in Rome. (Ed’s note: this bit here is the bit I’m least sure about, linguistically speaking, if anyone wants to offer me a better translation please do.)

Are you not thinking of having a board of trustees (again)?

Of course, but not right away. Our scope to start with will be to get the fans to take an active part in the running of the azionariato, and having a representative in the board will be the next move.

What’s the next stage?

Between December and January we will look to have 80 people from the world of AS Roma involved with us. It will be them, in February, who will form a Constituent Assembly that will busy itself with writing the trust charter, on which the fundamental principles of the azionariato popolare romanista will be written. A month after that, if we are on schedule, we will be able to form the legal structure that will deal with whoever the owner of Roma is.

What characteristics will it have?

It will be democratic, absolutely transparent and not for profit, just as Supporters Direct, the organization that works for Uefa and who assists trusts with the legal support of Cleary Gottlieb, suggested to us.

Then, you said, the rendezvouz with whoever owns the club in March.

We still need to find an interlocutor who will open the door for us.

Even if it’s the Sensis?

The project is independent. It’s not important to us who the owner is.

But if it’s the Sensis you might end up delivering some money in a closed envelope a family who financially are in substantial trouble.

I understand where it might go. Ours isn’t a collective like that of Sistina in the 60s. The management of funds won’t be a fan, not of the presidente of the club.

So you’re saying that it would be fine for you whoever owns the club. Even Angelini?

Absolutely. I repeat: we are happy to support whoever is disposed to help make Roma great again.

This interview (despite being a couple of months out of date) is interesting to me on a philosophical level: to me, surely the point of organising fans together like this is so that you can have a large, potentially majority say in what goes on at the club, rather than sort of hang around and talk to the owner, who will tell you to piss off if they don’t like what you have to say. Obviously benefits regarding unity of the fans, organising social night, tickets for foreign fans and creating an all round community for supporters of the club are all great and I heartily endorse them. Obviously it’s early days yet so what form the relationship with the club takes is still up for grabs, but personally I’d like to see a big enough groundswell of support that would eventually put the ownership and the running of the club into the hands of an elected body.

At the press conference they made plenty of allusions to Barca and the Spanish socio model, but that works on the principle of ownership, of a democracy that has real power, or at least as much real power as those running a football club can ever have (This is Italy mind you, where Rome’s mayor, the fascist Giovanni Alemanno made explicit reference to the authorities not letting Lazio get relegated, so maybe I’m underestimating that a bit.). Without that true stake in the club where is it going, and where does the money go once in the hands of the club?

I’ve got a few things still needing translating, including a video interview of Walter talking to a journo after the press conference and some of the question and answer session that was held after the presentation. We also have the results of the Sensi family’s meeting with Unicredit, which was yesterday, so all in all anyone who might be reading will have a bumper amount of content coming you way over the next week or so. After that? Well, who knows readers, who knows.

There are people who take it for some kind of subscription scheme.

Azionariato Popolare AS Roma

*Wipes away cobwebs*

A lot has changed since the last time I bothered to write anything for this godawful repository for my deteriorating brain. I now write every day for a pittance about celebrity crap, music, sport and video games, as well as do a weekly shift translating for La Gazzetta Dello Sport, and various other proofreading jobs. It pays the rent and keeps me in pizzas, so I’m not complaining, but recently the creative urge has been creeping up my spine and tickling the back of my brain, asking me why I know the intimate details of Jordan and Peter Andre’s divorce, and her subsequent marriage to a cross-dressing cage fighter and why I have done precisely nothing with the reams of stuff I have on Lodigiani, the meeting about the Tessera del Tifoso I took eight hours out of a beautiful summer’s day for and Azionariato Popolare AS Roma, which is the first real attempt in Italy for a football club run by the fans, for the fans, and which my own girlfriend is an important part of. Every now and again I get a metaphorical poke with a stick via a blog comment which arrives in my inbox, goading me to do something worthwhile with my time, anything that might give reason to halt the rapid disappearance of justification for the title of journalist with which I deign myself. Well you fucking win, ok?

This is why today I attended the official press conference that Azionariato Popolare AS Roma held to announce its presence to the world (well the Italian press at least), their vision for a brighter day in Italian football. It must also be said that aside from my own thoroughly selfish reasons for being there, I hold the idea and the people behind it in extremely high regard, and if in the long term they manage to organise Roma fans into playing a role in the democratic running of their club it will be one of biggest achivements in the history mankind. I say this as a man who has seen how hard it is for Italians to organise a meeting place and be there on time, so don’t take that lightly.

So a bit of background then. The Sensi family is currently finacially crippling the football club through their siphoning off of club money to service the €300million debt of their Italpetroli, as evidenced by the preposterously large €20million Liverpool paid for the summer transfer of Alberto ‘sicknote’ Aquilani. Usually a football club would be laughing all the way to the bank with that sort of money, but instead the fee magically disappeared into a huge black chasm. Anyone who has read The Beautiful Game? by David Conn will probably already be familiar with the sort of thing I’m talking about. Anyone tomorrow Roma president Rosella Sensi, Italpetroli and bank Unicredit will be meeting to discuss repayments of a debt that is nothing to do with the club. Got that? With this in mind APASR has sprung up, offering a different way of running a club in a country where local magnates ruling private fiefdoms is the common model, pumping in unsustainable millions while hiring and firing managers seemingly on a whim. It’s rallying call is partly for this sort of nonsense to end, but also for more fundamental change. As it says on their website (which has also been translated into English for the benefit of Roma’s worldwide fanbase):

Barcelona’s motto is ‘more than a club’, which helps explain their culture, and in thier own way, greatness. Maybe the moment has arrived to think of constructing our own future together for a Grande Roma, which could be an example in Italy and Europe and that could become, like Barcelona, more than a club.

As much as I am loath to praise Barca for their pompous slogan, their is little doubt that the socio model is the best way for a football club to be run if you’re interested in it being a force for social good.

The idea has certainly gained some traction, if the press conference was anything to go by. In fact not only were various Roma blogs reporting live from the scene, but big national newspapers like Il Messagero and La Repubblica were there (and have already produced stories for their respective online audiences), giving the movement a potentially huge boost. Having met Walter Campanile, the main man behind the scheme, and watched him deal confidently with Italy’s assembled hacks, I have to say he’s a very confident, convincing presence, prodding and cajoling any doubters, laying out the arguments and the structure of everything in detail. If he were less morally upright he’d do a fine job of selling you hooky clothes down the market, or encouraging pensioners to part with their savings because they had the cowboys in their bathroom. Mostly though, you can tell that he and his colleagues know they are right, and that they’re not about to give in to those who say ‘this can’t be done in Italy’.

It was standing room only today, partly due to the radical idea APASR is selling to the public, but also because of a furore kicked up by the press earlier in the month, when respected Naples-based business daily Il Sole 24 Ore claimed that the organisation was a front for a group of Italian celebrities who wanted to take the club from the Sensis without presenting any evidence, a story that was repeated also in La Repubblica. There had also been rumours doing the rounds that they were a front for medicinal drugs magnate Franco Angelini, which while raising the profile of the movement, presented them in an appalling light. Thankfully both of those were quickly swept out of the way.

Ah God it’s late, and in my head this post is already turning into bad facsimile of a Hunter S. Thompson screed, while the text remains resolutely tangent free (up until now at least). How much needs to be said about a press conference when the most important thing about today is an idea, one that needs pressing home and support from the wider fan base? All we’re looking at is a collection of suits and scruffily dressed photgraphers relaying the same quotes, when I’ve got access to better, original material at my fingertips. I’d already know whether we are looking at a new model of ownership or merely a union of fans that have the ear of the owners, loud but mostly powerless? Now that Roma are second in the league and doing well in the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, do the fans care enough to embrace radical change? In essence, is Roma doing well now a bad thing for the club long term?

Tomorrow we (Why I am writing this as though anyone is reading is anyone’s guess) will hopefully have some unique quotes from representives, as well as wonderfully translated stuff from all over the Italian press.

Things Fall Apart

It’s often said that Britain is a broken country, with transport problems that are worse than anything in Europe, a NHS that’s at breaking point, rampant immigration bursting the nation at the seems and a political class disconnected from the public. Britain, we’re told, should take it’s queues from super efficient Europe, where public money is spent properly and people engage with their political processes in an educated, enlightened fashion. This is bullshit. I can tell you right now that in Italy, nothing fucking works.

For instance, everytime I nip out to the cashpoint to get some money I end getting fucked around by at least one of them; they’re either broken, refuse my card or tell me my pin is invalid (it isn’t). Usually this involves me screaming at the machine ‘YOU FUCKING PIECE OF USELESS FUCKING SHIT! GIVE ME MY CUNTING MONEY’ to the shock of everyone in the queue behind. My girlfriend is right this second trying to work out how to pay her taxes online, a process so complicated it’s encouraging Italians to choose the traditional option; just don’t bother. Then there’s the metro A-line, which will be shutting at 10pm because of the new C-line they’re building – every day until 2010. In Naples the streets are piled high with rubbish because the Comorra has control over of all the waste disposal contracts, meaning that toxic waste is being dumped any old place. Even democracy itself is on the verge of eating itself; with cruise ship crooner look-a-like Silvio Berlusconi trying to push through a law that renders himself completely immune from prosecution as long as he remains Prime Minister. Within the same legislation he has proposed a banning of wiretap evidence unless used against recognised members of organised crime syndicates (thereby collapsing a couple of pesky lawsuits against himself) and the prosecution of any journalist and media outlet who publishes the transcripts. NIce eh? And as if this wasn’t bad enough, how about the racist, facsist and deeply unconstitutional act of fingerprinting Gypsy children as part of a national census?

However, at least over here there is an ingrained interest in politics and activism at grass roots level; the casual erosion of civil liberties that is happening under the current Labour government has raised barely more than a few sniffy letters to the broadsheets, but over here Burlusconi’s actions warranted a demo in Piazza Navona, a huge public square, complete with speakers, politicians, journalists and intellectuals. The crowd shushed itself so it could listen to poetry. Seriously. Hell, even I showed up to lend my support (and to write a piece about it for the Guardian, which showed up some four days late).

The event was organised mainly by the Antonio Di Pietri and his IDV (Italy of Values) Party, and if he did set it up as a way of focussing anger with Berlusconi into votes for him, he made a pretty good show of hiding it. Never have I seen a politician so reticent to make himself the main act at a political rally. We got there a little bit late and as punishment we ended up round the side of the stage, with a lovely view of the scaffolding and people’s heads as they shoved past us, but neither that nor my relative lack of language skills didn’t stop me from recognising that there were some very impressive public speakers on display, including Di Pietri himself. It was absolutely heaving and boiling hot, not that nice when you’re tightly packed in with your (somewhat sweaty and smelly) fellow man. We were right up against the lame tape barrier, with a  huge space behind us that was completly empty apart from coppers and Caribinieri hanging around looking bored. As the day went on this dam started to leak and in the end the police gave up trying to stop people flooding in.

a good journalist gets there early

Note: a good journalist gets there early

‘This is real democracy here, not what is happening in government’ said Di PIetro. ‘What is happening here is a crime of political extortion… all of Berlusconi’s first actions were about protecting himself. He is killing the political process for his own ends.’ The crowd, festooned with IDV and Communist Party flags, roared their approval and continued to do so from one speaker to the next; Moni Ovadia, a Jewish musician who was born in Bulgaria but settled in Milan with his family in his early childhood brought the house down by comparing democracy to a plant that needed taking care of while a popular crime novellist called Andrea Camilleri compared his cupboard to the Crypt; ‘it has more skeletons.’

But the day wasn’t really about the speakers (which is just as well given my hazy grip on Italian), it was about the people. It was good for me to see a range of political opinions that weren’t just thinly veiled excuses for racism, or homophobia, or expressed by the daubing a swastika on the wall of a trainer shop. There are people here who are bothered that their Prime MInister is a man who owns a substaintial chunk of the nation’s mass media and the blatant way he’s taking the piss out of democracy, who don’t like to assualt Romanians in the street and who don’t twitch at the eyebrow at the meerest mention of the homos. They expressed this the only way they know how; by getting a permanent marker out and scribbling it amateurishly onto a big piece of card, or maybe one of mamma’s bedsheets. Preferably like so;

Nope, not even my Italian speaking Girlfriend knows what this means

Nope, not even my Italian speaking girlfriend knows what this means

Or thusly;

'Anto, it's hot but we're still here.' Bless.

'Anto, it's hot but we're still here.' Bless.

The standout moment of the day was Sabina Guzzanti’s hilarious rant at pretty much everybody, including the current Minister of Equal Opportunities, (the seriously hot but rather dim Mara Carfagna, who doesn’t like the gays at all) who she accused of only getting her position in Berlusconi’s cabinet ‘by sucking his cock’. However the highlight must surely have been her statement that; ‘In twenty years time I want to see the Pope in Hell being tormented by gay devils,’ which I can’t help but think must have come from a stoned session watching South Park: The Movie. It’s also a peculiarly Catholic way of showing off her anti-ecclesiastical politics; why, if you don’t believe in the dogma of the church, would you want to see the Pope in Hell? Surely that would confirm that God is Great, Beelezebub exists and that we should all get down on our knees and renounce our sins, lest we swim in a lake of fire for all eternity. Surely she meant in that twenty years time she’d like to see the Pope rotting in a coffin, slowly disintergrating into nothing like everyone else on this planet? Now that would be a victory for petrified aetheists everywhere, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Most of the day’s speeches focussed on the actual issues, thankfully. One of the biggest ones, pointed out during a fantastic speech by journalist Marco Travaglio, is that due to electoral reforms brought in by Berlusconi in 2005, over 1.5million Italians who voted for left wing parties have no political representation, and on top of that the sheer brazenness of the government’s disregard for human rights and the judiciary is a threat to the constitution of Italy. Di Pietro garnered himself some rapturous applause when he said; ‘when there is a democratic emergency, we all have to take a stand’, but it remains to be seen if a country where in conspiracy theories are rife, distrust of authority is total and corruption in high places is expected, even tolerated, can be roused to force change. I’m certainly not holding my breath.

Vieni a provarci se ti credi abbastanza duro!!

It’s easy when you live in a country where you don’t speak the language very well and don’t have many friends, to become a bit of a hermit and spend your days looking a porn or playing online poker, your self-esteem dribbling away from you with each passing pump. This is a bad idea. You need to get out and about and experience your new environment, meet new people and all that bollocks. So a couple of weeks ago my girlfriend took me out to Trastevere (about 15 minutes walk from the Vatican) to meet a friend of hers who speaks pretty much fluent English. ‘He’s bringing a few friends with him,’ she said. We met him by the River Tiber with his mates; three quite hot girls and one male friend.

Now like most people I like to pay lip service to not judging people by the way they look, but really that’s bullshit. If someone’s walking around all in black, with platform boots on and smothered in foundation and mascara I’m just as likely to think ‘looks like a tit’ as I am at someone wearing a shit pair of gold trainers and rocking the latest variation on the Euro Mullet. However, this young chap didn’t belong in either of the style brackets I’ve hastily constructed. He was wearing English style jeans, a shirt that only reveals itself to be a Burberry number when the sleaves are rolled up (they were), Nike Classic trainers and a tight fitting baseball cap, which gripped his shaven head in a manner not unlike a when a cartoon character – lets’s say, Daffy Duck – gets a plunger stuck on his skull. My first thought was ‘plastic football hooligan’, simply because they are even easier to spot than they are in England. Back in the UK, every knob with an attitude problem has got some kind of hoolie gear on, but in Italy, and particularly in Rome, they really stick out. This is because your average Roman dresses like he’s a hairdresser on a night out in Preston; ripped distressed jeans with silver or gold things emblazoned all over the arse, pastel coloured t-shirts with wacky logos and the aforementioned gold abortions on their feet. Just think Cristiano Ronaldo and you’ll know what I mean. Meanwhile the boys of the Curva Sud have a fetish for English hooligan gear – and English hooligans. Every Roman football fan has heard of Chelsea, West Ham and Millwall, and their opinions of all three of those clubs is stuck firmly in the terraces of the 1980s; upon revealing that she had a Chelsea fan boyfriend, an acquaintance of my girlfriend’s immeditely asked ‘Lui è un Headhunter?’ in an expectant fashion. Around where we live, near where the Tuscolana and the Appia Nouvo (the two main roads leading south-east out of the city) meet, I have seen five different people wearing Chelsea merchandise – three of them wearing the full tracksuit. Frankly I don’t think it’s a great coincidence that there’s a fascist youth club near by, but regardless of the supposed politics of both sets of fans, there is a respect and admiration for those London clubs with a big hooligan reputation.

Suffice to say the boy – who we shall call Daniele Daia – didn’t disappoint. The first thing that struck me about him, apart from the wannabe way he dressed, was his English, which was pretty much perfect, right down to the way he said ‘sorry?’ when he didn’t quite catch what you said. This was despite having never even visited England, which led me to presume he could have only learned the language via repeated viewings of Green Street.  My predictable response to his question of ‘who do you support?’ was enough to get him in full ‘banter’ mode. ‘I’m a MIllwall fan!’ he loudly proclaimed, mock-cowering beneath me, half-expecting some kind of violent response, or at least a joshy kick in the bollocks. Instead I looked at him in the only way I knew how; perplexed, embarrassed and completely unsure of what do with myself. However, that didn’t stop him from mining for great tales of clashing with Tottenham thugs on their manah, or making old ladies cry in provincial supermarket car parks while throwing shopping trolleys around and bouncing up and down like a caged chimp. ‘I like to fight after the match’ he explained to me, with an expectant glint in his eye, before doing that weird shoulder shuffle that wannabe hardmen do that’s supposed to be almost putting up your dukes but actually looks like you’re about to break out into the robot, Peter Crouch style.

Despite me offering nothing particularly interesting for him to latch onto he persisted; first with the ‘I also support West Ham United hahaha’ before launching into a cring-inducing ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’, then by calling LIverpool fans animals and talking about how he hated Man United. ‘I was there when those Manchester hooligans tried to take our cafe,’ he said, in what must be one of the lamest hooligan boasts of all-time. ‘but they weren’t proper fighters, they just wanted to attack women and children.’ As someone who during his short career has had more than enough hooligan thug memiors plonked on his desk, this sort of self-mythologising balls is easy to spot. Just scanning Suicide Squad, the memiors of an octogenarian tosser from Burnley called Andrew Porter will give you a fair idea of what I mean; From ‘Fair play to Carlisle, they came and had a go’, to ‘There were 10 of us and 120 of them, but we still gave it to ’em’, or ‘why are we getting banged up when muggers and rapists (you can almost hear him whispering ‘blacks and pakis‘ at this point) are being let out after two days and given £10,000 for good behaviour’, to ‘he was coloured, but all right with it’, most of what they say is exaggerated beyond any notion of reality, with thinly veiled hints of racism underneath. I doubt that any English ‘lads’ would brag about trashing Barry’s Greasy Spoon, mind you.

We manage to get ourselves sat down at a bar next to the river and he progresses onto bragging about his drinking exploits. ‘I’m an alcoholic’, he announced loudly. By this point I wasn’t sure if he’d mistaken me for a 15 year old teenage girl hanging around the swings in a park. ‘When go out I love to drink as much beer as I can, you know? Getting drunk and falling over the place. You need to drink like a man if you fight after the match like I do.’ An amusing comment in itself, made more so by the fact he was waving a pink cocktail around. Herbs and little wooden umbrellas all over the shop, you might say. I just about managed to keep a straight face, but the missus had to turn away for fear of spitting her sea breeze right in his face. ‘You know, normally I like beer, but it gets really gassy, so I like to drink these instead.’ I’m sorry, but HAHAHAHAHAHA. And then Hohohohoho for good measure.

By now the sheer disappointment in his face was obvious. Here I was, an English football fan, with a shaven head, who supports Chelsea, and I don’t like to punch people or stab them in the arse while driving past on a scooter? What a fucking pussy. All of which is true. At the end of the night we shook hands, but the sparkle in his eye had gone. I was the equivalent of Fergal Sharkey singing ‘A Good Heart’; a pansy, a sap, a sell out. How could something that was once so great become so wet? In my own roundabout way, I’d managed to spread my own disillusionment with English football abroad.