The average stereotype of a London football fan is not pretty. He might be a broad cockney middle-aged man; perhaps a skinhead, perhaps a Millwall supporter, and possibly racist or homophobic.
One Clapton football team seeks to change all this. In 2015, the ‘Clapton Ultras’ set up the first annual ‘Proudly East London’ football tournament, with a mantra of celebrating “everything racists hate about east London – its diversity, multiculturalism and greater tolerance… the reasons why we are proud to call it home.”
It featured teams from all over London playing including, Hackney Wick FC, Stonewall FC and Football Beyond Borders, in a 5-a-side tournament in the heart of Mile End.
It’s not just through football that the group seek to celebrate diversity. In a statement, the group said: “Whether it involves combating racist violence, opposing bigotry against new immigrants or challenging discrimination by public bodies, [our] activism continues to this day.”
Two years on, the ‘Proudly East London’ 2017 football tournament has just been announced for Saturday July 15, with Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls being one of the first teams announced to be participating.
A spokesman from Clapton Ultras, who wishes not to be named, said to EastLondonlines: “Clapton Ultras wanted to set up the tournament so there were affordable games for fans that feel priced out of professional football. We also use the tournament as a way of networking with other supporters groups who share our values.”
When asked what prompted the creation of the tournament, the spokesman said: “In 2014/15, the country was in the run-up of the European referendum vote, UKIP were rising to prominence, and there was a general demonisation of migrants in the media.
“There is a proud anti-fascist tradition in East London and we hope to reflect this in our tournament.”
This year’s tournament promises to be bigger and better than ever before. With a renewed focus on including more mixed gender teams, the tournament’s organisers are practising what they preach:
“We’ve made a conscious effort to include more mixed gender teams, as well as youth teams and teams including LGBTQ players,” the spokesman said.
The inclusion of LGBTQ players is an issue that has also plagued football in it’s history; Anton Hysen, the first active gay player in Europe, only came out last year, telling the Daily Mirror: “I couldn’t give a s*** about the people who thought less of me. To be honest, any abuse I did get said far more about the people that said it than me. It just illustrated how uneducated they were to have such bigoted views.”
This year’s tournament also has a renewed focus on creating a positive party atmosphere; there will be “a big after-party with music and bouncy castles for the children,” according to a spokesman for the tournament.
The Clapton Ultras are seeking to alter a negative view of football, and hope to inspire all generations of footballers and fans alike to evaluate their own attitudes towards those in the game.
The tournament is on July 15 and more details can be found at here.