Supporters not customers awards 2014
Welcome to the first annual end of year awards ceremony that this website has held, looking back over the good, the bad, and the really bad that football had to offer in 2014.
Awards will be given in the following categories, with five positive and five negative prizes on offer:
- Game of the year
- Rubbish trend of the year
- Worst owner that isn’t Vincent Tan of the year
- Supporter action of the year
- Worst marketing of the year
- Moment of the year – Europe
- Moment of the year – Rest of the world
- Most detestable club of the year
- Special prize – Dickhead of the year award
- Special prize – Never say die award
As usual with any award ceremony, you’ll agree with some of them, strongly disagree with others, and probably have a fight with Liam Gallagher on the way out. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.
Game of the year
Honourable mention – Hartlepool 1 – Blyth Spartans 2 (England – FA Cup 2nd Round)
The result which proved the magic of the FA Cup is still very much alive, as seventh tier Blyth Spartans defeated League Two Hartlepool to reach the third round. The non-league club took over a thousand supporters away on a Friday night, before getting absolutely dominated for the first 45 minutes. However, it was a different game after the break, with the visiting minnows quickly equalising through a tremendous free kick. Every great FA Cup tie needs a bit of controversy, and Hartlepool’s questionably disallowed goal certainly provided that. Then, the grand finale – a last minute winner for Blyth in front of their own supporters, leading to wild celebrations and a pitch invasion. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Champions League is the best club competition in football while the FA Cup still exists.
Runner up – FH 1 – Stjarnan 2 (Iceland – Úrvalsdeild karla)
In 1989, Arsenal won the title in England by defeating Liverpool with almost the last kick of the game in a title decider at Anfield, the 1st and 2nd place sides meeting in the final game of the season at the home of the leaders. In 2014 an almost identical scenario emerged in Iceland, and somehow managed to be even more dramatic. Stjarnan had never won the title before in their history, while FH had lifted the trophy six times in the last ten years. The visitors needed a win to lift the title, and took the lead after 40 minutes. However with 30 minutes left, it looked as if the game was surely up. First, Stjarnan were reduced to ten men when their captain was shown a red card, then FH found an equalising goal to restore their position at the top of the table. The home side then proceeded to batter Stjarnan for the rest of the game, looking for the second goal that would secure the title. 92 minutes on the clock, and an FH defender commits attempted murder in the penalty area. Up stepped Finsen for a penalty that would decide the destination of the league title. He casually rolled it in, and send the stadium into simultaneous scenes of unmatched joy and despair.
Winner – Brazil 1 – Germany 7 (Brazil – World Cup)
An obvious choice perhaps, but it really couldn’t have been anything else. With FIFA seemingly intent on ruining the best World Cup for years by providing referees who might as well have been wearing yellow and drinking Brahma, they were swept away by arguably the most incredible performance in the history of football. I believe that Germany knew they would be cheated out of the victory if they held a one or two goal lead, and as a result ensured that it was put beyond all possible doubt. Not even FIFA could find a way to give Brazil eight goals, and the sporting integrity of the biggest competition in football was kept intact, even if the political side of it was tarnished long ago.
Rubbish trend of the year
Runner Up – Selfie sticks
Would humanity have bothered evolving from apes had we known that doing so would directly lead to the invention of the selfie stick? I don’t think we would, and with good reason. We need a hero to step up and throw a selfie stick at a linesman to ensure they are banned inside football grounds, before it’s too late.
Winner – Applauding in the (blank) minute for (blank)
In the latter part of 2013 and throughout 2014, it has become fashionable for people to show their respect for everything bad that happens in the world. In reality, holding a minutes applause for so many causes is not respectful at all, but instead diminishes the value of genuine tributes. The best example is the recent Newcastle vs. Sunderland match, when there were three minutes of respectful applause for different causes in the space of about 15 minutes. All genuine meaning behind the tribute was lost, and it instead became a stadium full of people frantically clapping so they would look extra respectful if they were caught by the television cameras.
Whenever you force people to pay tribute, it is not a tribute at all. For the best examples of a sincere tribute, I believe there are few better examples than how Swansea supporters marked the death of Gary Speed, turning the minutes silence into applause and chanting his name. Or you can look at Feyenoord, and how the death of a long-term supporter or player is marked by chanting and pyro in the 12th minute of the game. There is certainly room in football for respectful tributes to be paid, but the current trend of ‘look at us and how much we care about everything’ is absolutely not the way to do it.
Worst owner that isn’t Vincent Tan of the year
Runner up – Zdravko Mamić – Dinamo Zagreb
The actions of Mamić could (and eventually will) fill a complete article by themselves, and it would be impossible to list all of his crimes in such a small space. To provide you with just a small insight into the way that one of the most famous clubs in the Balkans is being ruined by this man, earlier in the season the Bad Blue Boys (the ultras at Dinamo) were boycotting games due to his dreadful leadership and threats against supporters.
So, how does Mamić react? Rather than meeting with supporters to try and resolve their differences, he simply paid hundreds of people to turn up at matches and pretend to be the Bad Blue Boys so he could say there was not a problem.
Winner – Tommy Agombar – Hereford United
With Hereford United on the verge of becoming fan-owned, in came Tommy Agombar instead. He promised to bring with him investment and success, but instead he was responsible for the murder of a once proud and well supported football club.
A convicted criminal and a deluded fantasist, there really are no words that can do justice to the crimes that Mr. Agombar has committed against football in his short but brutal reign at the Bulls, with the self-acclaimed “football man” proving that he knows nothing at all about the game. If you are interested in a full timeline of the demise of Hereford United, fan website Bulls News has done an excellent job here – http://bullsnews.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-saga-of-hereford-united-hereford.html
Supporter action of the year
Honourable mention – Rayo Vallecano against Monday night matches in La Liga
Rayo Vallecano supporters are perhaps the best, and certainly one of the most active, when it comes to standing firm against modern football in Spain. Perhaps their finest work yet came in their league match against Eibar, which they were forced to play on a Monday night. For the opening stages of the game, the section of the ground occupied by the ultras was left mostly empty. A flag depicting the living room from The Simpsons was put up, with supporters dressed as various members of the famous cartoon family sitting on a replica sofa watching a television. The point they were making is that football is not a TV show, and it should not be scheduled as though it is one.
As the protest went on, more Simpsons related banners appeared, including Helen Lovejoy asking the LFP to “Think of the children!” while bus driver Otto was displayed in the away section complaining of the long drive on a Monday night.
Runner up – Legia Warsaw vs. UEFA
You’ve probably all seen it by now, but Legia Warsaw’s magnificent anti-UEFA tifo is worth not just a second look, but also a third, fourth and fifth. Following a minor discrepancy in their 6 – 1 victory over Celtic, Legia were booted out of the competition and replaced by the team they had just thoroughly dismantled. As you might expect from a support as passionate as Legia’s, they did not take this so well. A gigantic tifo was displayed at their first European match following this decision, depicting UEFA as a pig clutching several bags stuffed full of cash. The message (in English) below read ‘Because football doesn’t matter, money does!’ When it comes to the corrupt and outdated organisation that is UEFA, never a truer word was spoken.
Winner – Torcida Split (and others) vs. The Croatian FA
In late November this year, an estimated 35,000 people took to the streets of Split to demand the resignation of Davor Suker, the current president of the Croatian FA. Under the banner of ‘Protiv mraka, protiv sile’ (English – Against the force, against the darkness), Torcida Split were joined by supporters from several other clubs to protest against the way that football in the country is being run. This is not the first time that Croatian supporters have come together like this, but it is certainly the biggest protest so far. Torcida were also involved in another exceptional display of unity last year, when away supporters were banned from the derby between Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, one of the fiercest rivalries anywhere in the world. Despite the hatred they have for each other, Torcida and the Bad Blue Boys came together for the first time since the Balkan War, standing together on the same stand and protesting against the new regulations which were being introduced to clamp down on active support. Despite this historic action, the Croatian FA continues to try and turn Croatian support into the boring and sanitised product seen in England and many other countries.
The fight for the soul of Croatian football goes on, but it is certainly not one the supporters will lose without a fight.
Worst marketing of the year
Dishonourable mention – Rangers FC
Rangers fans have suffered an unprecedented amount in recent years with the club being forcefully relegated to the bottom tier of Scottish football, and the shambolic way the club is run has not helped them to feel any better. So it was no surprise that after drawing Celtic in the League Cup semi-final, the club found some way to ruin the excitement for them – with the release of commemorative t-shirts to mark the game.
That’s right, the club with 115 trophies to their name has now been reduced to selling t-shirts to celebrate being able to play against their rivals. It is a very sad state of affairs at Rangers, and one that does not look like being resolved in a hurry.
2nd place – Real Madrid
It was first noticed by Spanish newspaper Marca in 2012, but became official this year when Real Madrid’s billion euro UAE resort was officially launched. The mega-rich club from the capital have removed the Christian cross from their official club badge for use in Islamic countries, becoming yet another example of a club who are willing to cast aside their tradition and identity for a few extra quid.
Winner – Cardiff City
Purely for sending the below ‘offer’. Who at the club possibly thought that this was going to work? I try not to talk about the Malaysian rebrand situation anymore as it makes the people on the Cardiff City messageboard want to murder me , but this level of ineptitude had to be commented on.
I won’t post my reply to this email, but it did include the terms ‘red shirt’ and ‘up your arse’.
Moment of the year – Europe
Runner up – Atletico Madrid win La Liga
I’m sure most people in the world, never mind fans of Atleti, had given up on anyone other than Real Madrid or Barcelona ever winning La Liga again. The dominant pair have taken 54 Spanish titles from a total of 83 seasons, and the last time one of the other clubs got their hands on the trophy was in 2004 when Valencia enjoyed a few golden years before fading in to the distance once more.
Not only did Atleti take the title away from the big two, but they did it in Camp Nou on the very last day of the season. They had held a comfortable lead at one stage of the season, but suffered a bad case of nerves and very nearly threw it away. As a result, they played Barcelona in the last game of the season knowing that they had to avoid defeat to take the title for the first time since 1996. They fell behind in the opening stages of the game, but instant hero Diego Godín scored a tremendous goal early in the second half to secure the crown. As the players and the small allocation of away supporters celebrated deliriously, the Barcelona fans also applauded. At a club which has been so damaged by football, it was a beautiful moment to see that the supporters recognised they deserved to be beaten on this occasion. Real Madrid will probably win the title this season, but Atleti showed the rest of the Spain that it can be done, and inspired millions of supporters to at least dare to dream.
Winner – AFC Wimbledon defeat Milton Keynes
Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, Rocky Balboa beating Ivan Drago, Piers Morgan getting fired. Until this Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie, these were the greatest examples of good overcoming evil. And then along came Adebayo Akinfenwa in the 81st minute at Milton Keynes, stunning the home customers by scoring the decisive goal in a 3 – 2 victory for the true Dons. Of course, the real victory that AFC Wimbledon enjoyed over Milton Keynes came in 2002, but it was about time they also enjoyed a footballing victory as well as a moral one. As I always add on this site when writing about the franchise club, if you are a Milton Keynes customer and this offends you – good.
Moment of the year – Rest of the world
Runner up – Al Ahly win the CAF Confederation Cup
Al Ahly are officially the most successful club in the entire world, having won 130 trophies in their 107 year history. This might not make them an obvious choice for a Supporters Not Customers award having enjoyed such incredible levels of success, but the way in which they clinched their most recently trophy was particularly spectacular.
Having lost the first leg of the final 2 – 1 to Séwé Sport of the Ivory Coast, they knew that only a win would do if they were to triumph once more. The team from the Ivory Coast were massive underdogs (in comparison to Al Ahly’s 130 trophies, they have 7), but it seemed as though they had done enough with the score at 0 – 0 in the 97th minute. Then, this happened:
(Warning – this video is LOUD!)
The type of joy which only football can provide, and if you can watch that video without being willing to sell your own grandma to be in the stadium, you’re a better person than me.
Winner – San Lorenzo (finally) win the Copa Libertadores
Founded in 1908, San Lorenzo are one of the most famous and successful clubs in Argentine football history. They have the fifth most titles of any club in Argentina, with only giants Boca and River significantly ahead of them. Despite that, they had always fallen short of the biggest prize in South American football, the Copa Libertadores. This had caused them to be nicknamed ‘Club Atlético Sin Libertadores de América’ by rival supporters.
In 2014 they reached their first final in the 54 year history of the tournament, taking the lead in the away leg of the final before conceding an injury time equalizer. This meant it was all on the line in the deciding match at El Nuevo Gasómetro in the second leg, and San Lorenzo were able to take the title despite the nerves with a 1 – 0 victory secured from the penalty spot. Decades of hurt and mockery were over, and the celebrations went on not for hours, but for weeks.
Most detestable club of the year
Dishonourable mention – New York City FC/Melbourne City FC
Clearly inspired by the success that Red Bull has enjoyed with football club marketing, Manchester City have begun to do the same thing with a string of franchises around the world. Having succeeded on a small scale by forcing Hyde United to drop the ‘United’ from their name and change colours from red to blue, they have now created puppet clubs in the United States and Australia. Where will be next?
2nd place – Milton Keynes
The football club equivalent of somebody sending you an important work email at 4:55pm, or those people who put their bags on the seat on a crowded train. They only exist because it’s not yet legal to throw them inside a volcano full of snakes. Hopefully the day is coming when the whole company will come down in ruins, and the customers of Milton Keynes will return to supporting Chelsea or Manchester United.
Winner – The Red Bull Franchises
With Red Bull Leipzig threatening to win promotion to the top flight in Germany, there is no better time to remind yourself of the dangers of these ‘football clubs’. They exist purely to make money for a fizzy drink company, and their success is the biggest threat to the survival of football culture that supporters have ever faced.
Special prize – Dickhead of the year award
Perhaps the most hotly contested award this year, with strong contention from Vincent Tan, Sepp Blatter and Assem Allam to name just a few. However the winner this time around could only be Ergin Ataman, the head coach of Galatasaray’s basketball division. Following the murder of Crvena Zvezda fan Marko Ivkovic, Ataman described all of the visiting Serbian fans as “terrorists”, and indicated that he had no sorrow over the fact his supporters had murdered an innocent man while he was walking away from trouble. Congratulations Ergin, in a world where sport is filled with truly awful people, you are the worst of them all.
Special prize – Never say die award
The Holmesdale Fanatics – Crystal Palace – England
The Holmesdale Fanatics (HF) divide opinion like almost nothing else in English football, with this passionate group of Crystal Palace supporters very much falling in to the ‘Marmite’ category. That is, you either love them and their efforts to bring organised and constant support to the Premier League, or think they are an embarrassment whose style of support is in total contrast with English football culture.
The problem with that second viewpoint is that English football culture barely exists anymore. The HF may not always get it right, but it cannot be said that they are not fighting against the kind of thing which almost everyone else has accepted. They have stood up against the owners at Cardiff and Hull City, they have protested police brutality against supporters, and taken action against Sky Sports and high ticket prices. All of this has taken place with very little backing from their fellow supporters, with only Liverpool really making an effort to join them in their protests against the modern game. I have been to Selhurst Park several times, and before the success of the HF it was just another dull and uninspiring English ground. Once their actions had taken off, I returned for the Crystal Palace vs. Cardiff City Carling Cup Semi-Final in 2012, and witnessed the best atmosphere I have ever seen at an English game. The Holmesdale Fanatics have proved that organised support can work in England if you have the dedication, and if more clubs took their lead the country could once more inspire the rest of the world with its support.