Few cities exemplify football's tradition of white-knuckled fury better than the Welsh capital Cardiff, where I recently spent a night awash in White Storm malt cider with Valium-veined supporters of the infamous Cardiff City Football Club.
It's the second weekend of December, which means millions of Americans are beginning to get excited for the NFL playoffs, unless you live in Jacksonville. It also means depressed cubicle quarterbacks will soon have to find other limp fantasies to flog, and degenerate gamblers will be trying to find a way to tell their wives that their kids' college fund is gone—especially if you live in Philadelphia. However, nobody could care less about the cycles of the NFL than football fans in the United Kingdom, where the ball is actually kicked with feet for the entire game.
There are, of course, striking differences between our football in America and their football in the UK. We throw the ball; they kick it. American football players are routinely arrested for drugs, assault, weapons, and murder while UK football fans are routinely arrested for drugs, assault, weapons, and murder. Coming off of a painful loss, American football fans are prone to sulk through the week or beat their wives. Whereas win, lose, or draw, UK football fans were already planning to beat the fuck out the rival mob after the match. Few cities exemplify this tradition of white-knuckled fury better than the Welsh capital Cardiff, where I recently spent a night awash in White Storm malt cider with Valium-veined supporters of the infamous Cardiff City Football Club.
They are a fierce group whose loyalty is so unwavering that one of them winced in anger by me simply saying that as a Cockney Rejects fan, I once owned a West Ham scarf. Their legacy is so brutal that they all asked to remain anonymous for this story, so we represent these Cardiff supporters as one voice clumped together. During the course of our conversation, the only common ground we found between American and European sports in general is that with harsher regulations and higher ticket prices, they've become little more than a castrated, rich man's pastimes.
VICE: Don’t you just want to head butt Americans when you hear them say “soccer?”
Cardiff fan: Yeah. Soccer is actually a British word and probably dates back a 100-plus years anyway. It’s the way Americans fucking say it that’s irritating more than anything else. Well, or the fact they look at you all confused if you say “football.” As if they didn’t know we fucking called it that! Pay attention like, ignorance is a very American thing though isn’t it? Like the fact about only ten percent of Yanks owning passports. When you have a country that has everything from sunny beaches to snowy mountains to boiling deserts, you don’t really need to go elsewhere do you? Nor pay attention to anywhere else. Well, not unless your dropping bombs on some poor cunts for more oil. Normally with your partner in Crime, Great Britain - we’ll take some responsibility like.
What was your earliest memory where you knew Cardiff football became an important part of your life?
When you've grown up in Cardiff, football gets more important the older you get. I remember getting dragged there a bit when I was much younger, in the rain, to an empty stadium, to watch a shitty division two or three game with the old man. It almost felt like a chore [laughs], but then you don't feel a part of something really, because your on best behavior. You don't want to piss the old man off and get a hiding like. I think the best thing about football is that it makes you feel really proud to be where you are from. And, growing up in a bit of a shithole you don't really feel any pride much, you know? First away games, are always the one. Being Cardiff City, we are fucking despised most places outside of Wales and in Wales as well. We play in the English Football Leagues, which offends many proud or bigoted English football supporters. Then we have the Hooligan reputation. We used to be really good at that—more so than actually playing football. So when you are on your travels in foreign lands (England) and everyone is baying for you, it's a weird feeling to think, the 2,000-odd Cardiff traveling supporters are “your lot,” representing your city, keeping up appearances and all that. It's fucking important to be proud of where you are from, because where you are from is what influences who you become. Surroundings and people, that's the important stuff, and the football club is the city, well was.
In the eyes of the law in the UK, getting into a fight over football is much different than getting into random fisticuffs in the street.
Fucking right it is, punch some div on a night out in town and get a little fine/maybe a bit of community service. Punch some cunt at the football and your probably serving about three years inside. The treatment of football fans in this country is ridiculous. Pedophiles get away with more, and I wish I was exaggerating. I know of people who have been sent to prison for months for as little as throwing a traffic cone at someone in the street and missing. If the government hates a certain type of person most in this country, it’s the football supporter. In a world where everything has gone PC mental, football fans still have barely any basic human rights when it comes to attending a match. Well as far as the old bill are concerned anyway. Spot the fucking difference innit, punch someone on a night out, punch someone at the football. There is no difference! It’s the same fucking crime. Don’t punch anyone though. That’s mean.
What is the craziest thing you have seen go down at a match?
Where do you begin? One of the best things about football is the shit that happens on an away day. A lot of drugs and alcoholic beverages can be consumed on those long journeys to other towns. Home games are pretty crap in comparison. One of our boys head butted a fucking over-zealous steward at Wembley and got away with it recently! Probably the maddest thing was Chelsea away in the FA Cup a few years back. That was pure madness. The police pretty much set the whole thing up for the hooligan lot to have their fun, then kicked some doors in afterwards for some nice newspaper headlines condemning football fans as thugs yet again. Chelsea are notorious for hooliganism and are one of very few clubs that ever came to Cardiff and took over the place. And lets face it, Cardiff were never well-known for good fucking football either were they?
The two teams hadn’t met since like 1983 in any competition so you knew something was going to happen. Some horrible looking characters milling around before the game, then as soon as it finished (we got stuffed about 4-1 obviously, just in case you cared) the police let the Cardiff fans leave the stadium at an exit that opened onto a pub that was full of fucking Chelsea nutcases baying for blood. Obviously there was no one stopping them colliding so a two-hour riot ensued in one of the poshest districts of fucking London. Missiles being chucked about, punches being thrown, riot-police running round with no idea what to do. Some shops were even getting turned over that day – I remember going in a supermarket near the ground to get more beer and there were two or three sensible Cardiff fans queuing at the counter patiently and this lad just walks in grabs a crate of beer and shouts at the queue ‘’The fuck you queuing for? It’s all free.’’ He laughed and walked out. Brilliant, not to condone being a robbing cunt, but like, maybe you had to be there.
Describe the rivalry between Cardiff City and Swansea City?
Pure hatred. We have one of very few derby matches in the whole of the UK where both sets of football fans are not allowed at any point to walk the same streets. We are bused in under full police escort to theirs and they are to us. So you can imagine what’s gone on before. The problem with Cardiff and Swansea is a weird one. I don’t think Cardiff has any irrational hatred for people from Swansea. It’s purely football: the fact they do better than us a lot and so on and so forth. In my experience, people from Swansea generally hate people from Cardiff regardless of a bunch of over-paid drama queens kicking a fucking ball about. Cardiff gets a lot of investment, the city center has changed so much in the last ten-odd years. We were the capital city of culture for Europe or something.
Swansea gets fuck all! The place is a bit of a shithole and they resent us for it! The best example was when we all had to vote for a Welsh Assembly (giving the people of Wales it’s own government away from London) the people of Swansea voted yes for it, Cardiff voted no. And who got that assembly building? Cardiff mate! It’s funny, when I go to Swansea people talk to me like shit because of my accent and I’ve got quite a strong Cardiff accent. You wouldn’t do that to a Jack here. In fact I hate to admit it but I don’t mind a Swansea accent on a girl.
What are some positive and negative changes that have been made in football over the last couple of decades?
There are very little positives mate. The whole experience of attending matches has probably got progressively shitter and shitter over the last two decades if anything. Since Hillsborough at least. They pretty much nowadays want you to sit down, shut up, have no fun whatsoever and pay 50 quid for the pleasure. Most historic old stadiums get fucking bulldozed for shit new sterile as fuck and atmosphereless new grounds. In fact, fuck modern football all together. I was definitely born in the wrong decade. If you remove working-class culture from football by pricing out real fans for the wealthy and tourists, you are pretty much tearing the soul out of the whole game. And that’s what has been happening here. Also, when you strip football down to its basics, it’s just a bunch of blokes kicking a ball around a field. It’s not even that interesting half the time. Football here is a culture not just a sport.
Why is American Football such a boring, wussy sport?
Wussy? I wouldn’t call it wussy, massive dudes who have probably done too many steroids obliterating each other on a field. The problem with it, I’d say, is the problem with most other American sports. Basically that it’s mindnumbingly fucking boring! You’re Canadian neighbors really fucked you in the better sport department, because Hockey is brilliant. All that stopping for ten minutes then having 30 seconds of action before another ten-minute wait makes no logical sense at all really does it? It’s basically just a glorified game of chess! Also why the fuck is it called football? The foot barely ever touches the ball in the whole fucking game. Not sure on all that body armor either. Rugby lads can fuck each other up on a field without protection, so I don’t know why they can’t. Baseball’s the same too really, I guess it has more of a charm and tradition about it, but nothing really happens for half of it. Americans must love being held in suspense for huge lengths of time, all for several seconds of enjoyment. Each to their own though, I guess. What you’re brought up on and all that.