Confessions of a Football Hipster

Only a few months ago, I became aware that I fall into the category of being a football hipster. I was horrified to learn that I was one of those people that I despise. Football hipsters have always been around. They are easily identifiable. They wear obscure jerseys (River Plate anyone?) and adore unusual players who traditionally shouldn’t be popular. But just what makes someone want to be a football hipster and why am I one myself? I wish I knew. This piece will explain the traits and methods of a football hipster.

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The internet has been a major catalyst in more and more people becoming football hipsters. The ability to create a blog has driven the trend more than anything else. Blogging has given football fans who don’t even have an opinion a chance to mimic the opinion of someone who has an one. Everyone is a journalist now, but not your everyday hack, people specialise in the most obscure football subjects. You’re thinking La Liga? No chance, more like blogs on Romanian left backs from the 1970’s.

Twitter is another prime reason for the rise of football hipsters. Along with blogging, twitter helps drive the fad. Everyone must know everything, denounce the norm, be one step ahead of the trend. Social media creates a platform for anyone to talk about how bad their team played. Maybe it’s just that now, because hipsters are expressing their views to a larger audience that people are now more aware of football hipsters.

Many view hipsters as a plague on the game, including me. Unaware to the fact that I am a football hipster, I slate them at any given opportunity. It’s odd, I despise football hipsters, yet I portray so many of the traits. Irish football website Balls.ie recently wrote an article on the top 25 football hipster traits. Some of my favourites were; ‘Buy Inverting The Pyramid. Read it cover to cover. Take shorthand notes to remember important terms like catenaccio, regista and trequartista,’ ‘Set up a blog. Write 4000 word pieces on how Falcao scores and stuff. Tweet every football journalist on twitter and ask for a RT’, or my personal favourite ‘Assert that this Barcelona team is decent but nowhere near as good as Sacchi’s Milan’.

One of the more recent hipster movements was when Real Oviedo began selling shares online. This gave football hipsters a chance to be different to your average fan. They now had the opportunity to part own a football club. I was one who bought shares in Real Oviedo being unaware that I was following a hipster movement. Am I ashamed? No, I merely embrace the life of a football hipster.

As with any trend, there are different severity levels of how far people are willing to push to be individualistic. They refuse to watch the Premier League or La Liga simply because they are too mainstream. Instead, they watch the Belgian League and the Brazilian league, or the Brasileirao as they’ll point out its proper name. Gladly, this is not something that I have to concede to admitting. (I’m not that bad, yet!)

There once was a time when having a Napoli jersey sufficed as being obscure, but not any more. Sydney FC or even a Corinthians jersey would qualify as a hipster jersey these days. (Thus why Pitchside follows Sydney these days) Hipsters are growing to be more ridiculous all the time and are becoming more extreme by the day, or so it seems.

Football hipsters love the Bundesliga and say that it is far better than a league in England or Spain. Atletic Bilbao is another favourite for a football hipster. In fact anything that is not the norm is a hipster movement in my view. That’s not saying that individualism isn’t good, it’s just that trying to be different for the sake of it is just plain stupid.

The only exception to the rule that hipsters favour things aren’t the most popular is Lionel Messi. Even hipsters agree than Lionel Messi is nothing short of magnificent. It’s not Lionel Messi though, it’s just Leo!

Nick-naming players and managers on just their initials is another trait that is just ridiculous in my view. AVB and RVP instead of Andre Villas Boas or Robin Van Persie just don’t fit in football. That’s something I’d expect to see in a sport like basketball.

Sergio Busquets is a huge favourite among football hipsters as is Hugely under-rated South Korean playmaker Yoo Chang-hyun of Pohang Steelers . I urge people to lay off football hipsters. They are just trying to be individuals. This is obviously difficult because football is such a global game. Hipsters are misunderstood in my view. Many find them unbelievably irritating and this may be true. The commercialisation of the game is hated by both hipster and normal football fan alike and I’m sure that both believe that Sky have ruined football, but that’s another matter altogether.

Ps, Jurgen Klopp is god.

Jamie Connor

Calling Time on Ex-Footballers Turning To Crime

98% of 16-18 year old that sign scholarships are either released or dropped out of the game by the age of 21.

Set up by Michael Kinsella who hails from Liverpool, OnSIDE Academy is the United Kingdom’s first football based academy of its kind. It was established to assist released academy players, ex-footballers and disadvantaged young adults to receive adult education, along with the opportunity to return to the world of work. OnSIDE take a pragmatic approach, helping these young men reintegrate into society through apprenticeships courses such as plumbing, electricians and carpentry.

‘‘Onside is a training company in education, and supporting young people’s search for employment after falling into hard times when left behind by football. It’s based at Hope University in Liverpool. It has been running for one year, though in my head for six behind bars’’, said Michael. While OnSIDE began as solely based on helping ex-footballers it has recently began spreading its hand of help to the boxing community too. ‘‘We have boxing going in the city also giving young boxers apprenticeships and a course to get on.

Once a promising talent, Michael Kinsella, like thousands of other young men once dreamed of playing football for his beloved Everton. Sadly, things didn’t turn out like he had once dreamed. Michael’s career led him through the lower leagues and beyond to the semi-professional game for clubs such as Bury, Tranmere and Stranraer. ‘‘What I realised was that I had no real life skills to gain proper employment. I missed an opportunity to get an apprenticeship because that passes you by when you’re trying to get a career in football.

While Michael’s career faded away into obscurity like so many others before – and indeed after him, one thing remained: the need to survive. Lacking formal education finding employment served a thankless task, options were scarce. Nevertheless while Michael may have been lacking the certificates to find proper employment, he certainly knew about one way to make money – drugs. ‘‘I had to survive; I ended up turning to drugs because I knew people from that world growing up in a council estate.

Since Michael’s release from prison earlier this year his schedule has been hectic. Various partnerships have been set up with league clubs across the country, including Blackburn Rovers and even Premier League giants Liverpool. While OnSIDE is finally an established organisation with connections to many clubs its beginnings stem from humbling stories of broken dreams for many young men. ‘‘Seeing lads and families destroyed by the belief they were going to be a professional footballer and didn’t know what else to do in life, falling into crime, and then seeing my brother fail through injuries and depression”, Michael said with a brutal honesty.

Currently there are 135 ex-professional footballers in English prisons. A subject rarely covered in the media, football’s glamour tag disguises the game’s true colours hiding behind the fame in which we are all engrossed. The road to crime and prison is one well-travelled by Michael, in his relatively short life he’s found himself in prison all too often, by his own account. ‘‘I’ve done four prison sentences, one in Spain, one in Holland, and two small stints in England.

OnSIDE has been in the pipeline for some time, although Michael is only out of prison since the beginning of this year he has been working on the project while still in prison. ‘‘It (OnSIDE Academy) has been running for 1 year but in my head for 6 behind bars.

When a friend of mine first spoke to Michael in May as part of a radio documentary we were conducting, Michael said by September they planned to have 25 people signed up to OnSIDE Academy, though it seems things have since escalated quicker than expected. ‘‘There are 50 kids (signed up to OnSIDE) at present – also we currently have 5 full time staff. By year three we plan to have 10 sites set up across the country, because the issue is massive. The help provided by clubs is nominal, they might get them a sports course which considering the overcrowded industry is madness really.

Since Michael’s release from prison, the work with OnSIDE has been hectic: there have been interviews with various national newspapers and even a special feature for the BBC on the Saturday morning football show – Football Focus. Michael has been campaigning for football clubs to set up better ways to prevent so many young men fall through the net into a life of crime. ‘‘For now we’re doing our best to act as a safety net for these players.

OnSIDE has received much support recently, notably from now ex-Liverpool player and current Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. Carragher, who grew up in Bootle, Liverpool, knows too well that many who don’t make it in football find themselves in a life of crime. ‘‘I was one of the fortunate ones. But the statistics will show you that it doesn’t always happen.’’ Carragher said it was hard for senior player to offer advice to youngsters about considering their options without hurting their feelings. ‘‘It’s difficult talking about that type of thing because you don’t want them to think that you think they’re not going to make it.”

Michael’s problems with crime after football are not alone to him, but a family issue too. Michael’s brother, Gerard, 21, started to go down the wrong path when he was released by Everton, though with the help of OnSIDE he is rebuilding his life at Fleetwood Town.

Based in Liverpool Hope University OnSIDE have received support from the Player Football Association (PFA). OnSIDE aims to help young ex-footballers re-enter education and/or employment while retaining their love the game.

Kevin Kelly

OBSCURE XI’S // WEEK TWO – TALL VS. SHORT

After a successful first edition of the feature, Pitchside are back, with our Obscure XI’s. The Balded XI is currently ahead in the voting for week one, though the Bearded side will take solace in the fact ITV commentator Clarke Carlisle tipped the team for victory. This week panelists George Pacitto and Jak Harris go head to head. George will compile a tall XI while Jak will be going with, you guessed it, a short XI. Let’s meet the teams…

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Tall XI – Republic of Heighty – 4-4-2

The Gaffer – Sam Allardyce – 6″3′:

A scarier manager you will struggle to find. Famously described by Jose Mourinho as the manager he would least like to fight, “Big” Sam notoriously turns his football sides into well-drilled, efficient but unspectacular machines. After declaring himself “more suited” to a Real Madrid or Inter Milan in 2010, I’m sure everybody would like to see how Allardyce would handle this team of superstars.

Goalkeeper – Petr Cech – 6″5′:

A mainstay of the Chelsea and Czech Republic goal for many years now, Petr Cech has been a hugely consistent performer who holds the current record for Premier league clean sheets. Although some say he has not been the same since his horrific head injury in 2006, it probably gives him an extra half an inch in height and a nod into my Tall XI.

Right-back – Vedran Corluka – 6″4′:

It’s a tough world for tall full-backs out there, known primarily for their versatility and filling in in the centre of defence. Corluka has not let an abundance of height and a lack of pace allowing him to play at every level within the Croatian national team, and represent the senior side 70 times.

Centre-back – Per Mertesacker – 6″6′:

The BFG (Big F*cking German) gets a place within the Tall XI despite his hideous Arsenal connections. Once derided by expert FIFA-playing pundits for his lack of pace, Mertesacker has become a necessity in a defence that has helped Arsenal to the top of the Premier League. He should hit 100 caps for Germany during the World Cup, a nod to the big man’s longevity at the top.

Yes Per! You are the tallest in the tall XI!

Yes Per! You are the tallest in the tall XI!

Centre-back – Vincent Kompany – 6″4′:

Once the man to buy in earlier series of Football Manager (whatever happened to Anthony Vanden Borre?), Kompany is one of those rare instances when he has exceeded that potential. The Manchester City defence is simply held together by the Belgian. As well as being a terrific footballer and general nice guy, Kompany also owns a Belgian third division side, for “the youngsters of Brussels”

Left-back – Jerome Boateng – 6″4′:

One man who did not quite hold the Citizen’s defence together in his time there was Jerome Boateng. However, since joining Bayern Munich, he played a major role in winning the Treble, with the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League won in one season. He has 36 caps for the German national side, and should be a first-team regular for the upcoming World Cup.

Right-midfielder – Marko Arnautovic 6″4′:

Tall wingers are few and far between, and with this the inclusion of the “bad boy of Austrian football” is justified. A recent move to Stoke City followed spells at Twente, Inter on loan and Werder Bremen. His 25-yard free kick this season against Manchester City is a clear indication of the talent that caught the eye of Premier League managers.

Centre-midfielder – Yaya Toure – 6″4′:

The lynchpin of the current Manchester City side, Yaya Toure is consistently named within the top 20 players in world football, and up there with the very best in his position. His tireless running, box-to-box athleticism make him impossible to mark for many sides who face him, and near enough irreplaceable in both Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini’s sides. Did I mention that he won a Champions League with Barcelona?

Centre-midfielder –  Nemanja Matic – 6″4′:

Discarded by Chelsea as part of the deal to bring David Luiz to Stamford Bridge, the Serbian international has gone from strength to strength at Estadio da Luz. So much that he is being linked with transfers to clubs such as Manchester United and, ironically, Chelsea. Denied trophies last season due to Benfica’s impossibly bad luck, it is hard to see Matic not filling his medal cabinet up in the next couple of years.

Left-midfielder – Jérémy Mathieu – 6″3′:

Included not only because of his heroic exploits for me back in the good old days of Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (nine Champions League’s in nine seasons), Mathieu is an unorthodox winger, who can play at centre-back. Currently standing at two French caps, his versatility is a key asset in this Tall XI. And there wasn’t anybody else that was tall enough. But enough of that.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6″5′:

One man who certainly does not make up the numbers is Zlatan. In fact, if he had picked the team himself, there probably wouldn’t be anybody else in there. He has a league title in Holland, Italy, Spain and France, will surely surpass the Swedish goalscoring record (he needs two), and scored probably the best goal I’ve ever seen in a game against England. No team is complete without Zlatan.

Striker – Fernando Llorente 6″5′:

Llorente is a man with a smaller ego than Ibrahimovic, but with no less striking ability. A [former] legend for Athletic Bilbao, and once the most sought-after player in Europe, he incredibly ended up moving for free in the summer to Juventus. A partnership with Ibrahimovic would surely scare every defender in the world football.

And the opposition…

Short XI – Oompa Lumpa Athletic – 4-1-2-1-2

The Gaffer – Gianfranco Zola – 5″6′:

A team this talented needs a manager who possessed the same world class ability during his playing days and so Zola gets the nod. A Chelsea legend and voted their best ever player in 2004, Zola progressed into management with West Ham United.

After a shaky start, he developed the Hammers into a side that played with flair and also integrated youth into the side. However, after a disappointing second season, his contract was terminated two days after the end of the season.

His second managerial position, at Watford, brought more early success with his team scoring for fun and playing attractive football. Zola led them to a third-place finish and a Wembley Play-Off final appearance against Crystal Palace; unfortunately they lost to an extra-time penalty from Kevin Phillips.

Goalkeeper – Óscar Pérez Rojas – 5”7’:

Currently playing for Pachuca, in his native Mexico, Rojas has been capped 54 times for Mexico and was their first choice goalkeeper at both the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. He made 416 appearances for Cruz Azul and has also scored two stoppage time equalizers in his career, one for Cruz Azul against Estudiantes Tecos in 2006 and the other for Mexico U-23 against South Korea in 1995.

Right Back – Paul Parker – 5”7’:

Credited with two assists in England’s loss to Germany in the 1990 World Cup, Parker was the unfortunate player who after deciding to charge down a Germany free kick was struck with the ball which ended up looping over Peter Shilton to give Germany the lead. He later made amends with a long ball forward which found Gary Lineker in the German penalty area, allowing England’s main man to poke the ball into the goal. Parker came into the World Cup as back up for Gary Stevens, but left as first choice and one of England’s tournament successes.

Signed for £2 million by Manchester United in 1991, Parker was United’s main man at right back until frequent injury and the emergence of Gary Neville called time on his Old Trafford career in 1996. He went on to play for Derby County, Sheffield United as well Fulham, Chelsea and Farnborough Town (All in 1997). He later managed Chelmsford City and Welling United.

Centre Back – Roberto Ayala – 5”9’:

Don’t let his nickname ‘el Raton’, which means The Mouse, fool you. Regarded as one of the best central defender of his generation, Ayala captained the Argentine national side a record 63 times. He appeared in three World Cups and made a total of 115 appearances for his country as well as playing for sides such as Napoli, AC Milan, Valencia and Villarreal. While at Valencia he was named UEFA Club Best Defender of the Year for the 2000-2001 season.

Centre Back – Fabio Cannavaro – 5”9’:

Given the name ‘Muro di Berlino’, which means ‘The Berlin Wall’, Cannavaro is regarded as the best defender of his generation. Cannavaro was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2006 becoming only the second defender to be awarded the title after Lothar Matthaus, and also the oldest recipient of the award. Due to Juventus being found guilty of match fixing, the two Serie A titles he won during his time at ‘The Old Lady’ were revoked meaning the only league titles Cannavaro won were the two consecutive La Liga’s won during his time at Real Madrid. He is Italy’s most capped player with 136 appearances to his name and he captained the side from 2002 through to 2010, taking over the role following Paolo Maldini’s retirement.

Left Back – Roberto Carlos – 5”6’:

A return to Pitchside XI’s this week for the bald and very short Brazilian. Part of Real Madrid’s ‘Galactico’ era, Carlos spent most of his career with the Spanish Giants. A master of set pieces – ask Fabian Barthez – and the proud owner of blistering pace, Roberto Carlos won trophy after trophy during his ten seasons with Madrid. Described as “The most offensive-minded left back in the history of the game”, the little Brazilian almost joined Middlesbrough from Inter Milan in 1995 along with Juninho, but opted for the Spanish capital instead (I wonder why??).

Currently managing Sivasspor in Turkey, Carlos played over 600 club games in his career scoring an impressive 75 goals from left back. If you haven’t already seen them, then I suggest you watch his ‘bannana’ free kick against France in 97’ and also his by-line volley against CD Tenerife in 98’.

CDM – Claude Makelele – 5”7’:

As one of my favourite ever players – I class Owen Hargreaves as another, so you can see his appeal – I’m yet to hear of another player who has a position named after him, the ‘Makelele role’ – sat just in front of the defence – is a tribute to one of the finest defensive midfielders to ever grace the turf. A king at breaking up opponents play, a quick mind and positioning sense were keys to Makelele’s success.

Following his transfer to Chelsea in 2003 the then Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez claimed that Madrid would not miss him due to his “average technique” and the fact the jobs he did weren’t basically Galactico worthy… Zinedine Zidane however, had a different take on it, saying “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the engine?”

Makelele was overlooked by the hierarchy at Madrid for not possessing the same attributes as Zidane, Raul, Guti etc. but was held in high esteem by his peers, his absence showed as following his sale, the Galactico-era started to come crumbling down.

RCM – Mathieu Valbuena – 5”6’:

Released by Bordeaux after two seasons playing in their U-18 squad with the likes of Rio Mavuba and Marouane Chamakh, Valbuena spent three seasons playing amateur football, first for Langan-Castets in the fifth division of French football and then Libourne who played in the third tier in the French footballing pyramid.

He signed his first professional deal in 2006 with Marseille, where he has been ever since. He has been given the nickname ‘Le Petit Velo’ which translates into ‘The Small Bike’, a reference to his size and also Marseille’s home ground, Stade Veldrome.

Mathieu Valbuena makes the short XI a full foot shorter than Mertesacker.

Mathieu Valbuena makes the short XI a full foot shorter than Mertesacker.

Deployed as either an attacking midfielder, wide midfielder our out and out winger, Valbuena offers searing pace along with dribbling ability and the attributes to be used as a playmaker for the team.

In a time when all young footballers are given what they want to them on a plate, Valbuena deserves credit for the fight he put in to have a career in the professional game. From rejection at Bordeaux he has fought his way onto the world stage and has become a key player for not only his club but for his country too.

LCM – Edgar Davids – 5”7’:

Dubbed “The Pitbull” by then Netherlands manager, Louis Van Gaal, Davids used to roam the centre of the park sporting his distinctive shades due to suffering from glaucoma. Easily at home, either tenaciously breaking up opponent attacks or creating chances for teammates, Davids was a fine centre midfielder who was chosen by Pele to feature in FIFA’s Top 100 Living Footballers.

Currently manager at Barnet where he is unfortunately making a bit of a fool of himself with erratic behaviour – naming himself captain and giving himself the No. 1 squad number – it would be a shame for his latest exploits to cloud over an illustrious playing career with Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Spurs and ummm Crystal Palace….

CAM – Xavi – 5”7’:

The little Spaniard is a master with the ball at his feet; calm under pressure and a razor sharp footballing mind make him a dangerous opponent.

Worked his way through Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and has progressed to be one of their greatest ever players, also holds the record for most trophies won by a Spanish player in their career.

Part of the trio, alongside Iniesta and Messi, that started of the recent domination by the Catalan club.

Striker – Lionel Messi – 5”’7:

As a child, Messi was told that he would never make it as a footballer because he was too small. Six La Liga titles, Two Copa del Rey’s, six Supercopa de Espana’s, three Champions League’s, Two Super Cup’s, two FIFA Club World Cup’s, one Olympic Gold Medal, one U-20 World Cup and four Ballon d’Or’s says differently, eh?

Striker – Romario 5”7’ :

One of the few to surpass the 1000 goal mark in their career and is the second most prolific goalscorer in the history of the game, Romario is a true Brazilian great.

Spent a vast amount of his career in Brazil but also had success in Europe with PSV and Barcelona.

Currently a politician back home in Brazil and has spoken out against many FIFA members including Sepp Blatter. Is one of many who believe the World Cup in 2018 was ‘bought’ by the Russians and ‘stolen’ from England.

and of course…

The Chairmen – George Pacitto & Jak Harris

Andros Townsend // The Myth

Usually, when I’m watching England, I only have to put up with one Andy Townsend, and that’s nauseating enough. Now though, with the ‘emergence’ of Andros Townsend, the repetitive drivel spreads down onto the pitch.

There seems to be a feeling that Townsend will be the emerging talent that England need for the World Cup next year. Being a Spurs fan, and watching Andros Townsend so far this season, I’m writing this to tell you that he won’t be.

A hugely successful loan from January last season at QPR (he won their player of the year) led to speculation over whether the 22 year-old would have a place in a Tottenham side selling Gareth Bale. The problem lies in that not only has he seemingly taken Bale’s place in the side; he seems to believe that he is Gareth Bale himself.

I put his start of the season form, where he followed his now, traditional pattern of get ball, run with ball, shoot ball, down to a player looking to impress a manager with £100m worth of new talent at his disposal. But this pattern keeps happening. It’s been happening so much that, with a quarter of the season now gone, Townsend has already been found out by defenders. He wasn’t given a sniff against Newcastle United last weekend.

Even a quick look at the stats backs me up. Since the start of the season, Townsend has had 45 shots, and a grand total of one goal scored. Ironically, that goal wasn’t even a shot. To put that into perspective, Aaron Ramsey (often shifted out to the right this season) has six goals from 25 shots. Eden Hazard, four from 23. For a club like Spurs, looking not only to get into the top four but showcase their new talent, it doesn’t make good reading.

If Townsend is ever going to prove himself as something more than a flash in the pan, he needs to work on his game. He needs, essentially, to become more like the bafflingly peripheral Aaron Lennon. The winger has been a mainstay of the Spurs side for eight seasons before this one, and over that time he’s learnt how to evade challenges from left-backs, and most importantly his crossing, once derided by most fans and pundits. Just ask Patrice Evra what he thinks about facing Lennon; twice a season he’s given the run-around by the number seven.

Andros Townsend, England’s saviour? Not quite says George…

However, Andre needs to be teaching Andros. If Villas-Boas keeps picking Townsend when he’s in this false vein of form, Townsend will be missing the opportunity to develop his game to the next level. One-dimensional players that can’t adjust their game to the highest level don’t stay there too long. If Townsend isn’t dropped, and given impetus to actually pass the ball to Soldado, Eriksen or Lamela, he could end up playing in the Championship again before you can say ‘Jermaine Beckford’.

This is not me writing off Andros Townsend, nothing like that. It’s just to calm the hype of those, including maybe Andros himself, who believe he is the proverbial answer to Tottenham and England’s worries.

He’s still very young for a footballer at 22, he’s got the experience of being loaned out to ten different clubs in his career (a great pub question) and it’s clear that, as his irritating commentator sidekick might say, “The boy’s got talent.” But talent isn’t enough at this level, and it’s time Townsend realised that.

George Pacitto