Words by: Alasdair Cullen
It’s Saturday and for the Clapton FC fans it’s the biggest game of the season. It’s the final of the Gordon Bransted Cup and the Clapton Ultras as always have turned out in force. Many teams in their division have two men and their dog turn out to watch their weekend fixture. Clapton FC, however, regularly have an attendance of 250 fans. This day was no different, as 4 coaches had been organised for fans to travel to the neutral ground.
Their fans optimise everything that’s great about London, they are an eclectic mix of individuals from varied cultural, social and economic backgrounds who come together week in week out to support their mighty Clapton. Looking around waiting for the coaches, conversations in English, Italian and Polish can be heard. London’s community coming together to support a non-league team is what football is all about.
The journey begins 4 hours before kick-off and the fans on the coach are already in full voice, the beers are flowing and everyone is well on their way. Arriving at the Wembley of non-league football: Burnham, the Clapton Ultras are quick to enter the ground. They line their banners along the boarding of the typically Sunday League playing surface. The hand crafted banners highlight the clubs ethos: anti-racism, sexism and homophobia both in and outside of football.
As the game kicks off, the atmosphere created by the Clapton Ultras is phenomenal. They stand and sing for the entirety of the game, led by their Italian capo and a young drummer, watching their side carry out a dominant performance. The intensity is reminiscent of fan culture from some of the best fans groups in Europe, just on a smaller scale.
The away trip is concluded with a pitch invasion to celebrate their teams cup victory. The connection between the fans and the players is extremely evident. With the players leading the chants after the match, as the party atmosphere continued. This connection between fan and player is one that is arguably missing in the higher tiers of the English game. So it was certainly refreshing to see a small club whose fans clearly matter and have a voice. As fans of Premier League teams become more and more disillusioned with high ticket prices, the support of non-league football is sure to rise around the UK.