I’ve spent the better part of the last few days contemplating which of the tens of thousands of football-oriented blogs from around the world to include in our “Guide to Global Soccer Blogs.” I thought long and hard about writing on an Arsenal blog like Arseblog, but the relentless complaints of Gooners echoing across every continent are already well-documented. I also considered writing on a US soccer blog like Stars and Stripes FC, but the pain associated with missing the upcoming World Cup was too much for me to force myself to think about too much. In my search, I wanted to find a blog that covered more than a specific team or country and did more than discuss results in the here and now. I was looking for something that captured the beauty of the game, the lasting impact of its history, and its cultural/sociopolitical significance. I discovered the perfect blog in The Football Pink, a collection of writers, bloggers, illustrators and photographers who bring stories, opinion pieces, and observations from all over the world to admirers of “The Beautiful Game.” The blog, which won the best established blog award at the 2015 Football Blogging Awards (yes, that’s a real thing), is edited by Mark Godfrey, who has contributed in the past to The Guardian, World Soccer, In Bed With Maradona, and When Saturday Comes. What sticks out to me most about Football Pink is that it offers the perfect combination of current storylines and nostalgic musings about the game’s history and where it’s evolved from. I will discuss the impact of this combination in the following paragraphs.
Before reading any content, one of most fundamental things to understand about a football blog is who its writers and contributors are. For The Football Pink (hereafter abbreviated as TFP), there’s no shortage of contributors. First and foremost, the blog’s “contact us” page encourages those wishing to have their content included on the blog to email editor Mark Godfrey. In other words, the blog is open to contributions from anyone, so long as they’re approved by its editor. By clicking a link on the “contact us” page, you can find a twitter list of all contributors to the TFP website and magazine. According to the list, there are 284 contributors from a number of different geographic locations, professions, and footballing backgrounds. These writers include James Evans, a part-time essayist and Plymouth Argyle supporter with “a fondness for reinforced concrete; Margaret Brecknell, a freelance writer, copyrighter, and quiz setter with a fondness for history, cats, and “vintage items;” Peter Coates, who writes primarily about Argentine football for Who Scored, Gazzetta World, and the Independent; and Jim Keoghan, author of Everton’s Greatest Games and other Everton-focused titles. What I’m trying to get across is that if the sheer number of contributors was not enough, the descriptions of these individuals demonstrate that the collection of people who write for TFP is incredibly diverse and representative of the scale and scope of the global game. None of these individuals are paid for their work. Rather, they write because of their own passion and their own interest. For the most part, they are not professionals, but fans of the beautiful game just like you and me. For that reason, I think it is clear that the blog’s intended audience includes those around the world who have been touched in any way by the game of football in any way.
TFP is not for fans of the lifestyle, luxury, spectacle, and business of the game in the modern day. Instead, the blog has a strong emphasis on history and nostalgia for the past and the way things used to be. Such an angle is evident through titles such as, “Battle of the O’Neills Opens Up Old Irish Wounds,” “Fleeting Heroes: When the North Koreans Burst From Their Bubble,” “Conquering Conservatism — Italy Must Return to Basics to Recapture Glory Days,” and “Racing to the Bottom — RC Paris and the Failed Quest for Glory.” This strong emphasis on the fleeting past is further evidenced by the blog’s book review series, which unsurprisingly has chosen to review titles that lament the current state of affairs in some way or another. These titles include Kevin O’Neill’s Where Have All the Irish Gone, which focuses on the demise of Ireland’s relevant footballers, and Euan McTear’s Hijacking La Liga, which discusses the way that the Spanish top flight turned into a duopoly between Barcelona and Real and highlights Athletico Madrid’s efforts to form a triopoly of power. It seems that the overarching theme of all of these pieces, no matter the geographic or team-specific focus, is a dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in football and a yearning for the “glory days” of a club or country, or the days when there existed great parity, or the days when the game of football was not dominated by money and tabloids and endorsements. In this sense, TFP is not for those who glorify the game in its current state. It’s not for those who are learning to learn about all of the stars and their fancy cars and lavish lifestyles. Moreover, it’s not for those looking for up-to-date and in-depth analysis of current games and teams. For those things, there are much better blogs to visit. TFP is for true, hardened and experienced football fans, who wish to understand something of the game’s history and how it has evolved into its current form. That being said, the blog is probably much more suitable for the older generation of football fans, who will react strongly to TFP’s appeals to nostalgia.
One of the blog’s most interesting features is an entire section devoted to coverage of the 1978/79 English First Division season, which updates as if the season were happening today. The most recent update, a Saturday evening roundup following the Saturday, March 4th 1979 match day, includes such storylines as Trevor Francis’ debut for Nottingham Forest following his one million pound move from Birmingham City (as well as a discussion of that match, which ended in a 1-1 draw), Yugoslav goalkeeper Petar Borota’s debut for Chelsea after a 70,000 pound move from Partizan Belgrade (a 0-0 draw with league leaders Liverpool), and an overall “First Division Round-Up” that takes us around the league and discusses all of the important matches and moments. At the end of the piece, we find a list of First Division results following that match day as well as the first division table, which looked like this:
West Brom near the top of the table? Leeds United are not only in the First Division but fighting for a place in Europe? Chelsea battling relegation? Who the heck is Coventry City? I’m a football nerd, but I think that stuff like this is so cool. The 78/79 First Division feature allows avid fans of the game, and especially avid fans of English football, to compare the league in its current state to what it used to be like. They get to see the parity that used to exist in football and the nowadays unfathomable teams that used to compete for titles. They get to read of all the important matches, players, and transfers, and they get to follow the season as if it is happening in the modern day. For fans that lived through that historic season, I’m sure the memories that such a feature brings back are absolutely amazing. Godfrey and his contributors should be praised for their research and work in finding and summarizing these storylines and arranging them in a way that makes the reader feel as if they’ve entered a time machine.
Another interesting series on TFP is its “Grounds for Closer Inspection,” in which James Evans (remember, our friend with the admiration for Plymouth Argyle and “reinforced concrete”) offers an in depth examination of the evolution of pairs of stadiums across the world. In his most recent post, Evans discusses Barcelona’s Camp Nou and Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu. The cover photo for the post looks like this:
The post discusses in great detail his own experiences with Camp Nou, which he describes as “thoroughly disappointing” on the outside and breathtaking on the inside; the stadium’s history, architecture, and construction; its expansion for the 1982 World Cup, which gave it its notorious third tier; and plans for the future of the stadium and the surrounding area. He then goes on to describe Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu using the same structure and lacing comparisons between the two grounds in between. I think that this series is incredibly interesting and important in the context of a larger discussion about world football. Many people hear about the stadiums that belong to famous clubs and the games that take place in them, but rarely is the stadium’s own history discussed. Even more rarely do we consider a juxtaposition of the stadia of rival teams, which allows us a unique insight into the way in which different physical structures inform the behavior, culture, and traditions of a club’s fans. As a lover of all things football, I think that the history and in-depth research done here is truly astounding.
Another small thing I love about TFP is that it includes a gear section, where you can go to find classic football shirts from classicfootballshirts.co.uk; t-shirts, sweaters, and prints from Art of Football that feature classic football moments, players, and goals; classic shoes and boots from Infinities Menswear; and vintage football artwork from Paine Proffitt. In other words, not only do you get to hear about the history of the game and the teams and players that shaped it, but you also get to take a step back in time and support these historic entities as well. I’ll definitely be looking to buy a classic Ireland or Celtic FC shirt in the coming weeks.
TFP makes a wonderful contribution to the global conversation about the beautiful game. In an age where many hardened and older fans are jaded and disillusioned by the game and the way in which it is dominated by money and lacking in parity, the blog offers a step back into the past. It gives us a glimpse of what the game used to be and, for those who think there is something to fix, can potentially play an important role in helping us discover what went wrong. As a fan of the game and its history, TFP is the perfect blog for me because it offers such a wide array of rich and in-depth material. I look forward to continuing to read the blog and using it as an impetus for my own research into the game, and I encourage everyone with an interest in football’s past and a desire to understand how we got to where we are to do the same.
Follow the link here to reach the blog’s home page: https://footballpink.net/