Football Casuals Art by SPARKIUS | Commissioned by Football Hooligans Banter in aid of the Make a Wish Foundation.
Football Casuals Art | SPARKIUS | ©2019

When I received an email request for an artwork project from an online group called Football Hooligans Banter, I was more than a little intrigued.

Back in the mid-eighties, as a testosterone fuelled teenager, my whole world revolved around wearing the right tracksuit top and following my home-town team around the country. The Football Casual culture is still close to my heart, so I was interested to hear what the group were looking to achieve?

A little bit of history...

To understand the Football Casual culture, we have to travel back to the late 70's, early 80's when English teams like Notts Forest and Liverpool were conquering Europe on a regular basis followed by thousands of testosterone fuelled young men keen for adventure.

When Liverpool fans returned wearing French and Italian sports brands like Fila, Tacchini, Lacoste and Kappa, it saw the birth of a fashion sub-culture that spread like wild fire across the terraces and beyond.

An unexpected request...

On reading the email it became apparent that Football Hooligan's Banter was a Facebook group with around 6,000 members. I have to be honest and say the 'hooligans' element of the name is probably a little ill-advised and attracts the occasional moron but, on the whole, the group seemed a pretty decent bunch?

The email was from 'Moose' one of the Group Administrators who explained that the group asked all of its members to donate money each year to support the Dreams Come True Foundation. One of their members had posted an example of my football artwork and they wondered if I would be interested in creating a bespoke artwork that could be auctioned in the group?

Once I'd got my head around the dissonance of a group of football 'hooligans' raising money for a children's charity, I went back to Moose and said I'd be more than happy to help.

The people behind the project...

Over the next week or so, I spent some time in the FHB group and got to know a few of the characters who regularly contributed to the page. The majority of members appeared to fit into the thirty and above category and most of them had enjoyed an adventure or two whilst following their respective teams around the country.

For the forty-somethings (like me) the group offered a nod back to times gone by during the eighties and nineties, with stories of specific games being shared, good humoured banter and the occasional argument over bragging rights. The humour in the group was bawdy, the banter was fierce and most of the content matter would definitely not be considered as PC in a society where the words 'Ladies and Gentlemen' is now considered considered offensive but, apart from the occasional idiot, the group seemed to be frequented by your every day football fan?

I was surprised to find that there was quite a large number of female members within the group. (I know! I can hear the tuts already. I'm a sexist pig. If a dinner lady wants to identify as a football hooligan, who am I to judge?).

One of the regular female contributors to the group was called 'Jules81' hailed from Edinburgh and was a staunch Hibernian fan who knew her footie and wasn't afraid to make her point. I spoke to Jules outside the group and she explained that it was her father who introduced her into the whole football casual culture. As a young man in the late 70's, he'd become a slave to the fashion and it had never left him. As a young girl in the late eighties, Jules had been taken along to games and her interest in the game and the culture had been formed.

Jules' partner in crime in the group was 'Bhoys83', a female Celtic fan called Tracey who's banter was cutting but always respectful. It transpired that Jules and Tracey had become firm friends through the group and now met up with each other for nights out and shopping sprees.

Planning the artwork...

After a few emails with Moose, I had a good idea of the type of image I needed to create for the charity auction. Due to the diverse mix of teams and supporters in the group, the image needed to be generic and convey a backdrop to today's young football casual.

Creating an image that illustrated today's football casual style was not a problem. The subtle inclusion of a Stone Island logo and large hooded jacket would ensure the clothing was up-to-date but what about the background?

I wanted to create a backdrop that provided nod back to the days when football grounds were nestled right in the heart of the town surrounded by tight streets and an element of urban decay. The need to include a football stadium in the artwork was obvious, but it needed to be generic enough so as not to pigeon-hole the image to a particular team of set of supporters.

In the end, I selected a ground that's been around for a long time but I'm keeping the identity a secret. (If you recognise the stand and the stadium, you get a gold star?! Feel free to post your answer in the comments)

The finished artwork...

The completed artwork shows two figures set within an urban backdrop of graffiti adorned buildings with the corner of a football stadium sitting centrally in the background.

The left-hand figure wears an 80's-style bucket hat brought up-to-date with the hint of a Stone Island logo, whilst the right-hand figure sports the hooded jacket and face covering scarf that has become synonymous with today's football casual.

In recognition of the hard work FHB do for the Dreams Come True Foundation, The Football Hooligan Banter tagline is featured as graffiti on the right-hand side of the image.