Friday, 11 May 2018

The end of childhood: How Hillsborough politicised me

Justice for the 96

This is a guest post by our footballing correspondent Ap Dafydd.

As a young lad growing up on the Welsh border I was always Wrexham daft. Joey Jones was my hero along with Dixie McNeil, Bobby Shinton, Les Cartwright and pretty much most of those great players to wear the red shirt in the late 70s and early 80s...but Joey was special.
As a result of this, Joey acted as a sort of gateway to Liverpool FC and due to the fact that we didn't live near Wrexham when I was growing up and Liverpool were on telly from time to time (there wasn't much football on the TV in the 80s) so I therefore developed a real affection for Liverpool FC.
Kenny Dalglish was an incredible player and the team that he built when he took over with Barnes, Beardsley and Aldridge were absolute poetry, more artistic and easy on the eye than the previous Liverpool sides but still imbued with a genuine toughness at its core with the likes of McMahon dismantling teams week in week out very much in the Souness mould.
By 1989 the Wrexham side I adored and knew inside out had long broken up and we were fighting for our lives to stay in the Football League, for a 14-year-old kid the sheer drudgery of watching some of the cloggers at Cae Ras in this era was utterly soul destroying, so Liverpool was like a torrid affair with an exotic woman. We both knew it could never last.
On the day of Hillsborough the old man was in work (we watched all games together on telly, it was always a bit of an event) so the fact that I was on my own trying to take it in made it even more traumatic. I watched it unfold in front of me, disbelieving the scenes of abject horror and the spiralling figures being announced. I believe I was in shock for a long time afterwards and in hindsight I see it as the end of my childhood.
What happened afterwards was cruel beyond words and helped to politicise me from a very young age. I’m from a mining family, so a distrust of the State was in me from a young age and a strong distrust of Tories (perfectly natural for a working-class lad) was certainly a part of my DNA.
After a period of disillusionment with the game I drifted back to Cae Ras with my friends a few years later and enjoyed the brief renaissance under Brian Flynn, beating Arsenal and winning the league. Great days indeed. Home and away my cards were dealt and, just like certain diseases are hereditary and get handed down through the males in a family, so does following CPD Wrecsam.
Of course, I always kept a look out for how Liverpool were getting on and will always be happy to put anyone right who thinks they can espouse the line that the S*n put out along with other right-wing rags intimating the same slander. We know that that your average punter doesn't do his own thinking, so the majority of them always thought to themselves that ‘the Scousers were to blame’.
If you know your history, you know that the Thatcher era brought about the biggest changes to working-class life and culture in over a 100 years. We were reeling. Communities were decimated, our institutions were under attack, the systematic dismantling and deconstruction of working class life was well under way.
 Orgreave brought it to the nation, but make no mistake the Toxteth riots were not just racial, they were class riots too. Into this toxic atmosphere Liverpool as a city was despised by the establishment because of its left-wing Militant-led council and the press took every opportunity to portray scousers as thieves or idiots.
 The media/state/establishment was doing a number on the proletariat on Merseyside make no mistake and by the time Hillsborough happened it was almost a perfect storm. Don't forget that football fans were deemed ‘the enemy within’ along with the miners and Irish Republicans.
The irony of that period is that although Liverpool suffered terrible poverty and deprivation throughout the 80s, the football team swept the board year after year, dominating the domestic scene and filling the cabinet with silverware earned by hard graft across the continent.
The attempted stitch-up by Duckenfield and South Yorkshire Police was a disgrace. Subsequent enquiries immediately exonerated fans, the Taylor report immediately refuted any wrongdoing on the part of fans but, due to the nasty smear campaign of the media and Margaret Thatcher and her cronies, the legacy of Hillsborough was that the image whole swathes of Football supporters and the general population have of Liverpool supporters is that they were in some way culpable and that Scousers aren't trustworthy and are ‘never to blame’. If I had a pound for every time I heard that one I’d have Murdoch's money. If you said these kinds of things about other communities it would be a hate crime these days.
Last week thanks to the lovely people at Total Eclipse of the Sun I had an opportunity to try and put some of my own ghosts to rest and try to help educate and enlighten my fellow fans. We had got some ‘CPD Wrecsam fans against the S*n’ stickers done and decided to raise funds for an Anti Sun banner, really to show solidarity with the victims of Hillsborough and to let the world know where we stand. It meant a lot to me to do that and thankfully a lot of my comrades feel the same.
I belong to a group of fans called Partisans CPD Wrecsam, we are left Republicans and want to promote our club as progressive inclusive and as much as we possibly can push a socialist agenda and help to raise awareness amongst our fellow supporters.
The huge bonus after Partisans raised the money was Total Eclipse offering to do banners for us if we donated a certain amount. To say I was delighted would be the understatement of the year and the way things moved so quickly and effectively is a credit to the organisation and the folk involved. I worked with Ian Grimes, a man I now consider a brother, he kept me in the loop and sorted out flyers and stickers for us to distribute while showcasing our banners outside Cae Ras.
By this stage I had decided that flags were not enough. I wanted to try and engage people gently, to give them a leaflet or to have conversations. The beauty of this was that, on the day, I spoke to people who had been at Hillsborough and they were moved to tears to see that their fellow CPD Wrecsam fans had gone to such effort to promote a cause so dear to them.
Peterloo, Tonypandy, Toxteth, Orgreave, Hillsborough and Grenfell - all part of the struggle.
The day went brilliantly, we were received with warmth and positivity from our fellow fans, it was truly humbling and that night I dreamt I was with King Kenny, we were walking through Liverpool City Centre, I could see the Liver Birds but there was no one around, it was quiet. Me and King Kenny walking round in the early hours collecting our thoughts.
Love and Solidarity
Ryan ap Dafydd of Partisans CPD Wrecsam
JFT 96

No comments: