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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Not Art - A Story of one woman's football obsession.

The irresistible rise in the importance of the role of women in football, has to date been largely reflected by their participation in the game. This is understandable given it was only in 1971 that the FA lifted their ban on women's matches being played at any affiliated club, a jealous measure originally introduced in the face of crowds of over 50,000 being drawn to watch Dick Kerr's Ladies team in the 1920s.
The lifting of the ban had been preceded in 1969 by the formation of the Women's FA and quickly followed  by introduction of the Women's FA Cup and national team. In more recent years the astoundingly obvious move to introduce the game into schools to replace the likes of hockey has led to the current, more equitable, state of affairs with extensive media coverage.
Increased participation has naturally been reflected by a greater presence in all aspects of the game, with writers such as Amy Lawrence following the trail blazed by Julie Welch, but despite the boom in football literature a paucity exists in telling the stories of women, such as Helen 'The Bell' Turner, who have watched the game throughout it's history, in contrast to the shelves of memoirs detailing the male experience. 
Fortunately, with thanks to blogger Beyond the Last Man, I found one such example, Not Art by renowned Hungarian author Peter Esterhazy. An autobiographical novel, it tell's the author's story of the relationship with his mother who is obsessed, more so than her son, with football. Unlike his preceding work, Journey to the Depths of the Eighteen Yard Line, Not Art has been translated into English by Judith Sollosy, although in line with the Hungarian language's reputation as the most complex in Europe, it is quite a difficult read as the writing jerks jazz style from the narrative to the author's present day thoughts on often unrelated topics.
The novel begins with Esterhazy talking to his mother on her death bed, where she insists on him talking her through the intricacies of the offside rule. We quickly learn though that it's the son who has spent his life as a student of the game, taught by a woman with an epicurean appreciation of the Hungarian footballing values established by the Magnificent Magyars of the 1950s.
With the help of footnotes, the novel paints a picture of life growing up in post war Hungary and its troubled status in the Soviet bloc represented by a father distanced by his relationship with the secret police and an aristocratic mother working in a factory. The latter's dominant voice is constantly projected through the prism of football, peppered with references to the likes of Jozsef Bozsik, Zoltan Czibor and of course Ferenc Puskas who we learn is known ubiquitously in his homeland as Junior.
The joy of the novel is perfectly captured in the retelling of a family anecdote where mother comes across teenagers Puskas and Bozsik playing with a rag ball on a patch of wasteland next to a factory. Spotting the poor state of the ball she insists the boys turn around whilst she whips off her stockings to refashion it, thus demonstrating her absolute commitment to the game which would be rewarded when the boys became prominent members of one of the greatest national teams the game has ever seen.

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