McMahon, M., & Simpson, W. – Freedom Through Football Book

Freedom Through Football coverDon’t be put off by the title, for this book is about much, much more than football (which, incidentally, is now just one of three sports currently played by the various club teams). The Cowfolk, as they are collectively known, are a community-based sports and social club from the heart of inner-city Bristol, who have helped redefine what’s possible when you get a group of amateur sportspeople, professional drunks, activists, misfits and ne’er-do-wells (alongside a few ordinary, decent, everyday folk such as your humble author) together.

The book charts the first 20 years of the club’s history from 1992 to the present day, warts and all. There are tales of dodging army check points in Chiapas during a visit to play teams in the Zapatista communities, taking part in cricket matches in Compton LA against ex-gangsters, heading to the West Bank and literally leaving their mark on the Israeli apartheid wall, and organising Alternative World Cups attended by people from as close as Bedminster to as far away as São Paulo (via Lithuania and the South African township of Diepkloof). There have been a few sad losses during the journey (and quite a few happy additions too), the occasional harsh word, partings of ways, fallouts, fall-ins, love affairs, babies and hangovers. But mostly, it’s about being a part of something that exemplifies everything that is good in human nature.

The book is 229 pages, nicely supplemented with plenty of images (many previously unseen) and extra info, with an additional 32 pages of colour pics (including a couple of that Banksy fellow hanging out with the Cowfolk in Chiapas and doing some rare hand-painted pieces in the villages).

I could be accused of a certain bias with this review, for this book is about my adopted family. And it’s true that the friendships and love I’ve found among this loopy bunch have enriched my life enormously. But I think these tales can be enjoyed, and and the ideals embraced, by anyone who believes that life can be different if we dare to be free.

Iron Column Records have a few copies for sale at cover price (£9.99), including FREE postage in the UK, with all proceeds going to anti-fascist causes.

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