Playing to the Cameras

The infamous match between Ireland and England on 15th February (1995) provided the fascists with a previously unimaginable propaganda coup. The greed of the FAI, added to the incompetence of the policing, combined to make Combat 18 a household name in Ireland and England. Headline news in all the papers, and even the C18 death's head symbol displayed as a backdrop to the BBC news, was publicity that money could not buy.

Aware of the fascist following of the English team, AFA in Ireland set about countering their presence. We stickered the centre of Dublin and the area surrounding the ground. In the days before the match we kept a look out for known fascists among the English fans and for any fascist paraphernalia. On the night of the game we were outside the ground selling the anti-fascist football fanzines Tiocfaidh Ar La and Red Attitude. We were unchallenged all night.

The scenes displayed on TV screens from Lansdowne Road seemed to indicate a full scale riot, when in fact the level of violence was quite tame. Apart from the initial attacks on Irish fans in the immediate vicinity of the English section there were very few clashes between Irish and English fans. The English never attempted to get onto the pitch, even though there was nothing to stop them. They were quite happy with their achievement of disrupting the game and adding to their 'fearsome' reputation. What the TV viewer didn't see was a crowd of Irish supporters, including AFA members, get onto the pitch and attempt to get at the fascists. The police didn't hesitate in batoning the Irish fans in an attempt to clear them off the pitch, while allowing the English fans to continue breaking up seats and attacking people in the stands. In fact the first arrests of the night were Irish fans trying to get at the English. At one stage there were about 100 Irish fans on the pitch trying to get at the English fans.

With no chance of confronting the fascists at the ground AFA went into Dublin city centre to check out the English fans for any obvious fascist presence. Contrary to Charlie 'Fat Bastard' Sargent's interview in the 'News of the World' neither he nor any known fascist 'faces' were openly in the city centre. The police in the city centre stewarded groups of English fans from place to place, ensuring that no one got near them. Apart from a few minor scuffles there was no trouble, a situation no doubt helped by the buses coming from areas surrounding the city reportedly being stopped and any 'likely lads' being removed.

Even given the massive publicity and hype that the fascist received there were moments of amusement for anti-fascists in the following days. Seeing some of the English 'hard men' crying and even begging the judge not to send them back to Mountjoy jail was one. Another was the arrested English fans being put in with the perverts in Mountjoy, only to be attacked in the special section. This puts fascists on an even lower evolutionary scale than child molesters.

Another interesting aspect of the affair was the different strands of the media and the agenda to which they were working. From the mainstream newspapers hyping the whole thing in an effort to sell more papers, to the likes of Gerry Gable claiming the whole thing was a pre-planned attack on the Irish Peace Process. Don't create the hype, Gerry! We had the 'Socialist Worker' Irish paper desperately trying to convince themselves that the fascists involved were 'middle class mobile phone carrying thugs' despised by the rest of the English fans. This was also a point picked up by other 'leftie' groups, a small minority (1% according to 'Socialist Worker' 5/3/95) causing all the trouble, much to the annoyance of the 'genuine' English fans. Obviously none of the groups had anyone at the match itself, if they had they would have seen that the vast majority of English fans in the Upper West Stand were involved in the trouble. Just because people are not in fascist groups doesn't mean they are not fascists. We also had 'Militant' call for 'a serious campaign... launched in Britain to stamp out racism and fascism at football' ('Militant' 5/3/95). Ever heard of AFA, Celtic Fans Against Fascism, Red Attitude.... comrades?

Of all the Irish media coverage of events at Lansdowne Road only two papers commented on AFA's campaign around the match, with 'Trinity News' acknowledging our 'significant presence' at the ground. This lack of attention to the fightback should not surprise us. For the mainstream media admitting that there were Irish fans willing to fight the fascists would damage the much hyped 'best fans in the world' reputation of Irish supporters. For the 'leftie' press admitting that the fascists can be beaten by physical as well as ideological methods would mean having to abandon their talking shops and lollipop protests in favour of action. No chance, Comrade!

Fighting Talk Issue 11
May 1995 Back to FOOTBALL

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