What CCFC means to me: Clapton CFC fans and members’ stories

Want to tell us your Clapton CFC story? We’d love to hear more from our members around the globe and get to know you all better.

We’ll be featuring members’ stories on this page, the newsletter and programme. If you’d like to be included, send your story  and photos to comms@claptoncfc.co.uk.

JesUs Pizarro

My name is Jesús Pizarro and I live in the province of Granada (Spain).

I’ve been a Clapton member since last summer, one of the things that has made me happier this year. I had been disappointed with football for a long time, as it has become more and more a business.

The day I found out that there was a team in London with a shirt paying tribute to the Spanish Republic, I was thrilled.

I did a quick search, and became a member straight away. It was great to feel close to a club like this one living so far away.

I wanted to understand the story behind the club, and its link with the people who defended freedom against fascism, however this wasn’t easy to find. I then set out to elaborate the history of the club in some way.

I had an idea kept for years, as I had told my brother, who has an intellectual disability, the story of his favourite club in this way. Seeing the wonderful sports values that the Clapton has, I adapted what I did before for him to the history of the CCFC.

What does it consist of? It is a chronological infographic with all the data, titles, and other Clapton CFC information from all the competitions since its foundation until the last year. The interesting thing is that it’s very visual and easy to understand and use.

Check out the infographic here

My intention is to give it to the club, so that it could be kept in the clubhouse and used by the members to find out about the history of their club.

I didn’t want it to end up in a drawer and that it serves for everyone. It’s a pride to wear the Clapton CFC colours, so I wanted to also feel useful in some way contributing with this. I hope all Clapton fans like it.

We are the Clapton. No pasarán! Greetings and a hug to everyone.

Anne-Marie Hickling

With flags and banners that celebrate resistance and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, Clapton captivated me from the first game that I ever went to see.

I’ve been to football games, at all different levels, in quite a few countries and the experiences have varied hugely. The closest I’ve come to The Stray Dog vibe was at Portland Timbers in Portland, Oregon-happy, noisy, exuberant and inclusive.

Hearing “ ’tons just wanna have fun”, at Clapton, makes me smile every single time- it’s exactly the kind of club I want to be part of.

I’m a teacher and a union rep, so my working life is pretty hectic, with politics at the very heart of almost everything I do.

At the weekend, being able to decide, on the day, that I fancy an afternoon watching football, is just so refreshing. The fact that I don’t need to have a spare £40 plus to buy a ticket, that I can stand, sing, chat and actually enjoy the game is great.

I also know that I’m not going to have to put up with sexist, annoying crap being spouted by angry blokes, in a premier league ground. This means that the day is positive, whatever the result!

For me, the best bit about Clapton, is that the intentions are genuine. Donating to the food bank, at each game, makes a difference to the many people who couldn’t manage without the service.

Seeing the flag of the Spanish Republic, honours the memory of the victims and the fight against Franco, as well as anti-fascist struggles in the present day.

And, when a rainbow flag is flown, it signals a real commitment to equality, it’s not just lip service to the LGBTQ community. Women in football, whether they are playing or supporting, often get a poor deal across the board.

Clapton is different. Clapton girls and boys do make all the noise – together! Long may we continue!!!

Jimmie Gregory

I think I was destined to end up following this unique club. The perfect union of football and politics. My family background ensured both would be hardwired into my DNA as I came kicking and screaming into the black and white world of mid sixties Britain.

My Dad, John ‘Jack’ Gregory, a proper geezer raised on the streets of East London, was already a retired professional footballer by the time I was born. He made 24 appearances as an inside forward for West Ham Utd 1951-53 season, as well as 147 games for Scunthorpe, then headed off to Aldershot FC among others. Mum was bringing up seven kids, five of us boys, who would go on to play football at various levels most of our adult lives.

My oldest brother, John, was lucky enough to make it professionally too and made over 600 career appearances for Northampton, Aston Villa, Brighton, QPR, Derby, Plymouth & Bolton, before going on to manage Aston Villa and QPR among many others. You could not escape football in our house!

Some of my earliest memories are of my mum phoning my primary school and pretending I was ill, so we could jump in the car and head off to a midweek cup match in Exeter or Newport and watch my brother play for whichever team he was signed to at the time. There was always a match that seemed more important than school. I laugh about it now! Those were the days of hooligans in butchers aprons, swapping ends at half time in some rickety old wooden stand ringed with barbed wire and yes, Bovril!

Politics too has deep roots in my ancestry. And despite growing up with the memories of the male footballing heroes in my family, it’s my Great Grandmother Alice Jones that I’m most proud of. She was a street fighter and active Communist Party member back in the day. She was arrested in 1936 near Tower Bridge whilst confronting Oswald Mosley’s fascist Black Shirts and was active with the Aid Spain movement too, which coordinated relief to victims of the Spanish Civil War.

I joined the International Brigades Memorial Trust some years ago and felt privileged to visit the battlefields of Jarama, just outside Madrid, where some 20,000 anti-fascists lost their lives defending the ideals of the Spanish Republic.

I’ve travelled throughout Spain and visited the mass graves in Malaga and Oviedo where so many republicans, anarchists, feminists and union members were murdered and dumped unceremoniously into huge pits.

I also took part in the memorial service at the graves of fallen International Brigaders at Taracon, which happens annually and is organised by comrades from Asociacion de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales, based in Madrid. It leaves a lasting impression on you. It never leaves you.

So when I see the colours of the Spanish Republican flag fluttering in the breeze at the Stray Dog, or the change kit flashing down the wing on the back of Joshua Adejokun, (boy is he fast!), I know I’m among like minded people and at a community club with a big beating heart.

I’ve found my place on the terrace of the Stray Dog, a refuge from the corporate greed and predictability of the Premier League. Everyone involved in the hard work behind the scenes at Clapton CFC deserves a huge amount of respect.

I’m proud to be a member and part owner of the club. I seriously cannot miss a game now! Football and politics. It was supposed to happen. I feel I’m home.

One day all of a sudden, I really did fall in love with you!

 

Martin Silver

I first visited the Old Spotted Dog on a Saturday when I was wandering along Upton Lane with a group of mates in around 1944 and we came across the football ground by chance and we decided to go in and watch.

There was indeed a game going on with around 500 to 1000 spectators all taking the game very seriously but not making any noise.

Clapton lost.

After that I went whenever I was able to but on each occasion the result was the same

Clapton lost.

I couldn’t fathom why the results were so bad, although I was told that the other teams were mostly putting a 10 shilling note inside the players boots and getting the best player whilst Clapton kept to the best amateur principles.

When I went to College I had to work weekends and was conscripted into the Army and finally ended up working 7 days a week for many years but always kept and eye on the results and tables of the Isthmian League.

Usually we ended up neat or at the bottom although if I can recall we won the London Senior Cup.

When I retired in 2000 I decided to attend regularly.

The first game I missed the first half as the floodlights were not working and the attendance was around 10 or 12.
Clapton lost.

I was told at my first game back by the under 18 coach that the team would never get anywhere whilst a guy called Vince was in charge.

Soon after he disappeared.

There was a young lady called Jenny who looked after the clubhouse but she left after a few seasons. When I phoned her up she’s aid that she had had enough.

At one time the alcohol licence was lost.

There were lots of managers and a chairman called Colin who ploughed lots of money into the club.

Then one day there was a crowd of about 20 who appeared at the scaffold having read i was told an article in Metro about the history of being the team playing senior football on the same ground for the longest period of time.

The rest is history.

Adam Druett

There comes a point in life when you realise you need to take a stand against something you previously supported your whole life. I very nearly walked away from football completely. Having held a season ticket at a professional club for over 10 years of my childhood, football was a big part of growing up as a British kid.

In my early 20s however I was becoming increasingly ethically minded and concerned about where my money was going. This coincided with being a bit more selective about the kind of people i wanted to associate with politically as i’m sure many of you Tons fans can relate.

As you chat with your neighbour on the terraces, conversation has a tendency to stretch beyond football talk. Football in Europe is so entrenched in culture that political views inevitably creep in.

At times I heard things i really didn’t want to hear from anyone’s mouth. Sometimes the expectation that the hundreds of people around them have the same views breeds a confidence to shout such extremities. Although football was such a big part of my life.

I was determined that i would not let the opinions of certain fans shape who I was as a person. I started going to fewer games, whilst mentally having an increasingly bleak experience of the kind of people that enjoyed the sport. Still, it was hard to turn my back on the game i had loved so much in my childhood..

I struck up a bit of a friendship with a group of guys I met at a game. We started meeting in the pub before games and having a few drinks. One Day, pre-match, one of the group made a throw away comment about female sports people which was sexist, homophobic and disgusting all rolled into one.

For me it was the final straw, I didn’t want to associate with people who hold such views. Some might say it was cowardly not to say something, but not being a particularly confrontational person, the best protest for me is to walk away.

I started to follow non-league football for a while, but something was missing. It just didn’t match that camaraderie that I’d felt as a kid. The idea of Anti-Fascist clubs had just entered my consciousness, upon reading further,

A little club in a small district of Hamburg stood out to me for obvious reasons. I thought to myself, wow, 30,000 people, every match, coming together with a collective voice, super powerful!

Then I found Clapton through word of mouth! I managed to catch the last 3 games at the OSD at the end of a very successful 16-17 season, needless to say football was back in my heart. Within 30 minutes of arriving at the match I was singing in the scaffold, and made to feel really welcome. By the end of the game my voice was well and truly lost!

The Clapton trials and tribulations since have been enthralling. The boycott against the McBean regime and the formation of Clapton CFC shows that the fans hold the real power.

I’ve since moved to Taiwan for both work and love, (quite a long way for a home game, sadly) but I hold you all in my heart and hope to see you in the not too distant future!

Davey Nellist

I’m originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne but have lived in East London for 25 years. I was looking for a team to support and Clapton is where I live but I wouldn’t break the picket line at Clapton FC, or give money to the owner.

I was delighted when I read about CCFC and signed up for my membership straight away. The away shirt was ordered soon after, I’m afraid that being a huge Newcastle Utd fan I wasn’t enamoured with the idea of wearing the red & white stripes of the home strip, especially if I was working on Tyneside.

I love the whole ethos of the football club, the ability to get involved and the special relationship between the players & fans. I’ve been to several games at the Stray Dog and to half a dozen away matches.

I’m currently unlikely to share the joy of attending either of the two cup finals, as I’m an actor and we’re touring with Much Ado About Nothing until June.

My CCFC scarf hangs over my dressing room mirror. I have been taking it everywhere, taking a photo in each city we visit.

I’m very honoured to be part of something as special as CCFC and the team and management have done us proud, especially in our first season. Proud to be Ton.

Marijam Didžgalvytė

It was Emma Goldman that once said ‘If there’s no dancing it’s not my revolution!’. The left may use this quote a lot, but it is rarely apparent in its activism. Until I was introduced to CCFC by friends, I scarcely knew any examples where political organising felt so joyous and as a result, sustainable and only growing in its potential.

I didn’t know the ins and outs of the Premier League when I started my weekly chanting for the Tons. Did I know such terms like Out Swinger, or Goal Mouth? Nope. I still don’t, actually but it does it matter? CCFC may be the one football club where I haven’t felt like it does. Newcomers are welcome whatever their knowledge of the game, as long as they’re happy to support the community and team in whichever way they can.

Once you’ve got the CCFC bug, it’s there to stay. What better way to end a week of work, activism and our endless anxieties than surrounding ourselves with like minded comrades, ready to back our team, win or lose, whilst also actively expressing our antifascist, pro-migrant, LGBTQ+ friendly stances. Our politics don’t have to be preachy, they have to be fun.

I am also feeling incredibly excited and privileged that Callum McCarthy and I will be able to expand the CCFC mission soon by introducing a video games committee that will be able to find new audiences, provide more socials for the team, members and staff and hopefully be able to establish the world’s first antifascist esports team.

Many traditional football teams already have esports wings to them so we’ll follow suit, but in a manner that is coherent with CCFC values.

In my work as a games journalist I have often covered the attempts by the alt-right to infiltrate gaming communities so it is really important for us to offer an alternative to that.
Sometimes city life can be a bit much, but my wonderful CCFC Saturdays have allowed me to see London in a new light.

The opportunity to marry my love for video games, activism and communal celebration all via CCFC has been quite an antidote to my political depression. CCFC chants are stuck in my head all week long and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Well, maybe except for the inevitable Sunday hangovers and the fact that the season has to come to a close (sorry team!).

Nick Cooper

Some of you may recognise Nick (pictured above) and his story. We tweeted about the campaign to save him from deportation back in November last year. Here it is in his own words.

Becoming a member of Clapton CFC has been an amazing experience for me. I was recently deported from Canada for things I did and believed in my past. I had to leave my daughters behind as they still have to finish school.

A large part of my younger life was spent in hate groups but I’ve been out of them for 16 years now. I received so much love and support from CCFC fans after an online campaign was started to recognise how I’ve changed and help keep me and my family together.

People who at one time would have seemed like natural enemies have shown me and my family nothing but kindness, understanding and love.

Coming to my first game I was made to feel at home instantly, I loved the family friendly atmosphere, there’s a real sense of community and love.

Everyone is welcome even someone with my past. The fans have seen me for who I am now and not who I was, something for which I’ll forever be grateful.

The foodbank collections at each game are something very close to my heart too, I did lots of work with the homeless in Chilliwack, Canada and it’s amazing to see the donation boxes fill up at each game.

The atmosphere at CCFC games reminds me of the game I fell in love with as a young kid before all of the money came in and changed the sport.

I’ll always be a member of Clapton Community now, I wear my shirt and scarf with pride and will forever be a Ton. Love to everyone at the club
Nick and family

Dave Clinch

 

I first heard about Clapton CFC via the club’s now famous away shirt. Commemorating the end of the Spanish Civil War with the ‘No Pasarán’ International Brigades shirt was a brilliant idea. It also made me curious about the way that Clapton Community Football Club was organised.

For me it’s about more than football. When we emigrated from Dublin in 1957 I was six years old. We moved to Tottenham in 1959 or 60. Tottenham is my other team, since then. They could learn much from Clapton CFC.

I taught Physical Education in two Lewisham secondary schools for twenty years. I never saw a separation between sport and daily life.

This led me to find out more about Clapton Community FC and inspired me to join and get my own International Brigades Away Shirt.

The club is about genuine community, actively anti-racist and also for LGBTQ+ and other important areas of life such as supporting the local food bank and also the Stansted Fifteen. I’ve since bought the First Team shirt!

I’m working on making it to one of the home games in April. I’ve fallen on my feet with Clapton CFC on so many levels!

I think the club is such an inspiration, your ethos is very much what I believed in as an educator. “What do they know of football, who only football know” to loosely paraphrase CLR James.

One comment

  1. Dear Clapton Team,

    We are amused about all these histories, this is why it gives us immense pleasure to invite you to our tribute to the International Brigades on Sunday 31st of March.

    We would be very honoured if any members of your club joined us in our tribute to republican and community values by walking with us.

    We also wonder if you would like to bring some of your away shirts to sell.

    Considering the overwhelming support and attention that your team received in the social media from Spain, we think it will be a great opportunity for the Spanish people attending to our event (at the moment more than 110 people have confirmed their participation) and for the Spanish people that will follow this event on social media to know more about your team and the values it represents.

    Hopefully some of them will be join your ommunity club.

    We are looking for your kind reply.

    Podemos Londres,
    Event organization Team.

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