Tony Higgins, long time friend of The Football Pink, has just released his first self-published e-book, Homage to Murcia: A Season of Football Anarchy, the title largely borrowed from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and chronicles Tony’s experiences of following Spanish lower league club Ciudad de Murcia, home and away, through the 2013/14 season.
Immediately apparent in this book is his sense of disillusionment with modern football, something an ever-growing number of weary devotees are experiencing as corporate avarice continue its rampage across the values of the supposed game of the people.
The author himself is in his late forties and having moved away long ago from his native Tyneside and eventually relocated his family to southern Spain, the once avid Newcastle United supporter from the days of the Leazes and Gallowgate terraces has, to a certain degree, consciously uncoupled from the club he followed passionately in his younger days. In a quest to shake his apathy and disdain for the game’s over-monification and questionable new moral landscape, he embarks on a journey of rediscovery and education via his local fan-owned club. Politics and football seem to be very closely linked in Spain – likely more so than here in England – and at regular intervals, Tony seeks to outline the often paradoxic complexity of their relationships, especially against the backdrop of 21st century social change and the country’s continued economic travails.
The spectre of Spain’s civil war in the 1930s and the subsequent decades of Franco’s fascist rule are never far from the story, and while one might imagine this to be an easy crutch with which to lean on when introducing Spain’s recent history into the book, the Geordie exile insists its influence pervades the nation’s psyche even now, 40 years since the restoration of democracy and the monarchy.
The football itself is neatly interspersed in each chapter without ever really threatening to dominate what this book is really about, which is a godsend, as long winded reporting of action (or lack thereof) always leaves me bored and of the opinion that the writer has little else with which to fill the picture they are trying to conjure up. Tony’s brief recounts of what happens on the pitch throughout Ciudad’s ultimately unspectacular season only serve to highlight what he has been trying to find all along; a rekindled love of following football, of being a fan, and not necessarily just the passion for the game itself.
Personal experiences of new friends and old, family excursions across the historic and beautiful Murcia region and beyond, with fascinating tales of Romans, Moors, fiestas and saints, usually with the football club’s vocal and dedicated City Boys supporter group central to the narrative, suggest that the thing he was looking for was a feeling of belonging to something with football at its heart. As we discover through certain clubs’ fans’ political and ideological sympathies, supporting a club in Spain can often define you as a person as much as your taste in sport.
In Ciudad de Murcia, their fans and the area, Tony finds a spiritual home, something he has long felt without. Homage to Murcia is part journal, part season retrospective, part history lesson and part travelogue in which none of the ingredients ever overpower the other, providing a satisfying overall flavour in what is a pleasant and informative snapshot of life on the fringes of Spanish football.