Arte have just broadcast a beautiful new documentary Rebellen am Ball, where Eric Cantona discusses the lives of his favourite footballing rebels. There’s a bit towards the end where Ken Loach, the laureate of miserablist English cinema, is talking about the demise of the collective, particularly in England, and how this rush for Tory-style individualisation over the last 30 years demeans all of us, cheapens our efforts and weakens our strengths.
This was just after the final section of the film, the section on Socrates, and how his Corinthians team redefined the way that Brazilian players thought and lived, particularly at a time of military dictatorship. They formed the collective out of the collective. They knew from football that they were stronger together than they were apart. It was simple, effective, powerful and led a beautiful example to the people.
Socrates was the greatest, anyone who comes here regularly knows I think that – Sam Cooke didn't sing “If I could just touch the hem of his garment” about him, but he could of – but his story was just one of many moving, impressive and brave ones that reduced this grown man to tears on more than one occasion during the film.
You see, I was already thinking about rebels in football, about groups trying to make a difference through their collective strength, after learning about the astonishing story of Partizan Minsk in the wake of a couple of their representatives attending the friendly between St. Pauli and SV Babelsberg last week.
This club exists on very little, but is determined to build a football club owned by its fans and members in the heart of corrupt and dictatorial Belarus. It is an example to everyone, a beacon of hope. It is a little humbling reading their first, proudly announced, accounts since the fans took over in the face of catastrophe.
Salary coach, administrator, director: $1000
Medicine (buying ointments, etc.): $22
Making of printed materials: $23
Tournament ALF international: $253
Rental of the field: $141
State duty for the opening Ltd.: $25
The authorized fund: $100 (the money is on the current account)
Wash the form after the tournament: $ 10
Ultra (for the tournament ALF international): $100
Water for the tournament: $5
Printing of documents: $5
I’m not sure what Ultra is, or the "washing of the form after the tournament", but it clearly means a hell of a lot. Partizan are determined to remain independent, committed to their club, traditions, roots and their fans. For what it’s worth that $1684 comes in at €1372.86, not far off what Zlatan Ibrahimovich is currently haggling to earn at Paris St. Germain. Per Hour.
Pauli and Babelsberg fans have done loads already for their shabby neighbours. Without their fans' influence, I'd have never have heard of Partizan.
This wasn't meant to be a political tirade or diatribe. I’m not recruiting here, but it is heartening when people stand up for themselves, for their principles in a game which seems to have so few scruples anymore.
This is not just in football, naturally – football is just one reflection of society anyway. When football fans are getting screwed one can be sure that they are not the only ones.
It is with this in mind that it was heartening to see 1. FC Union alone among clubs in the top three flights in not attending the DFB organised conference on football security yesterday in Berlin. They were asked to sign up to a sweeping mandate which they said they couldn't endorse without having discussed it with those who it would affect most, their stakeholders, the true owners of the game – the fans.
It wasn't for the club's bosses to say exclusively what they stood for – the club belongs to a hell of a lot more people than that. Their absense was as eloquent as their statement was damning.
Socrates would have lit up a fag and cracked a beer in a toast to them all – whatever their individual politics, this was about what is best for the collective. He would have been proud.