• James Russell

You don’t fuck with Football

It’s thirty minutes before kick off, the vibrations outside are fiery and dangerously quiet. The entrances are barricaded by security guards and depending on the opposing team, a sizeable police presence. On the front door is the sign that appears on every pub in the vicinity, “Home Supporters Only”. The warning is there for a reason, Football in the UK is a territorial and embedded phenomenon, you can fire shots at someone’s haircut, their clothing, their beliefs, their political leanings or even their choice of lager—but you never question a man’s team pride.

The wooden floors of the Bell and Hare (which is now known as the No.8 Tottenham) still stand resilient despite years of spilled pints and the constant stampede of passionate supporters. Standing next to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium entrance, the pub has liquored up and brought together Spurs supporters on match days for generations. The pieces were set for this particular day, the Spurs were playing a historic rival— Arsenal, the name that sends shivers throughout North London. The season was coming to an end and the points were vital to keep the Spurs on their way to the finals.

The smell of pride and alcohol was dancing in the air as I ascended the stairs to begin another shift, no matter how many times you work a match day, it’s always a new animal. All throughout the pub you could hear passions cannonballing, the early afternoon match was competing with the cheers and jeers from the crowd. It was like seeing MDMA come to life, everyone was jumping from one hug to another, the police kindly asking us to close the curtains to the front of the pub, out of sight out of mind after all.

“OH FUCK OFF CHELSEA YOU CHEATIN' TWATS!”, I remember his eyes, the look of absolute revulsion and frustration as he berated and flipped off the TV— all while his arm was wrapped lovingly around his wife who was screaming alongside him, they looked like the innocent parents who'd run a shoe shop on any other day. After the fire had burned out, they shared a kiss and politely asked me for another round. The entire bar was packed to the brim, a sea of proud fans holding their pints defiantly in the air as the pre-match came to an end. Suddenly, the Tottenham playlist [4] began to shoot [5] out of the speakers, each song triggered a different emotion for every fan in the building as they sung along to every word in unison.

I headed out to the back garden for a bit of fresh air. The kitchen was still slinging burgers and sausages as fast as they could, the good ol boys were hitting each other on the back as they reminisced on previous games and players. A group of kids in jerseys were near the back laughing as they played their own match on the asphalt with a half deflated ball as their parents sat sipping their pints exchanging stories and catching up.

The funniest moment came from a group of international fans, one from Germany, a few from Spain and a bloke from Tottenham, found themselves dancing together drunkenly spilling booze on their matching jerseys singing out of time and out of tune. Slowly more and more of the fans joined in until every head in the garden was jovially singing loud and proud into the air. The Match Day is more than a sporting event here, it’s a community event. It didn’t matter how much money you’ve earned or where you were from, if you were here to support the Spurs, you were family.

The mixture of cigarette and BBQ smoke was interrupted by the sudden BANG that shook everyone’s attention towards the front of the pub. The billowing red flare was a smoke signal that the Arsenal fans were here. I’d never seen a 300-pound security guard run with such purpose to close and block the side gate. At this point it didn’t matter anymore, it was only minutes before kick off and the war cries from the Spurs fans were at their peak. Inside, the sticky wooden floors were now littered with plastic cups, ticket stubs and liquor residue. As the final fans walked through the front door into the army of riot police barricades that separated each team, there was an odd silence that hung in the pub.

The scarves from Spurs fans all over the world were still swaying from the energy that had just left, I pinned up the Iceland scarf that had fallen and walked out the back. My fellow bartenders were sprawled out with food, pints and cigarettes. The match was just beginning but you didn’t need to pay too much attention— thanks to the 5 second delay on the TV’s we could always hear when a goal was coming.

Born in Australia a quarter decade ago, trying whatever I can to experience new adventures. Currently residing in a hostel in London and working on putting that degree of mine to work. I’m addicted to celluloid and caffeine. I never know what to put in a bio so forgive the lack of wit and hilarity boys and girls, I’m working on it!

21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All