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Suitcases and Sanctuary

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 I was reading about the Spitalfields Museum,
The Museum of Immigration and Diversity,
And its exhibition, “Suitcases and Sanctuary”,
An exhibition that looks at our traditions of migration,
Of incomers leaving their homes to come and settle here,
Raising the questions of just why particular individuals did just that,
And just what did they bring and just what did they leave behind –
So what’s this got to do with football?
Well, I thought about when a football match was a sanctuary for me,
Whether playing or watching – but especially playing -,
When it enveloped me and kept me free
From all those teenage workaday cares of homework,
Examinations, tests, revision, rows, spots,
Family arguments and confusion:
For football was a refuge, a sanctuary,
A place where I could be me.
I didn’t have a suitcase then, just a battered old duffel bag,
But I’d pack all the kit I needed to find perfect freedom,
Perfect happiness and perfect self expression –
And all that happened on a football pitch,
For here was the perfect society,
With rules and order
For the individual and the collective,
In that perfect dynamic of rights and responsibilities,
That constitutes a football team –
And I thought of this today,
Coming up for air on a suburban May Day Sunday,
Cutting the privet hedge,
Church bells ringing,
With a voice drifting in on the wind,
From a P.A. half a mile away,
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the second day
Of the first Rodborough five a side competition,
Thank-you to our sponsors, enjoy the bacon butties for breakfast,
And now Rodborough “A” will play Whiteshill.”
And I drifted away,
Remembering those end of season tournaments I used to love so much,
Perfect May time childhood afternoons,
With endless football, sandwiches, crisps and train spotting,
A perfect society and sanctuary with no suitcase, just a duffel bag;
And I thought of it, too, a couple of hours later,
When high up on the prehistoric Ridgeway,
Collecting some flints for my mum
And placing them in a bag as a keepsake from her perfect day,
A day spent gazing at the big sky views
High on the racing cloudscape picnic downs of Wiltshire,
And driving round the streets and lanes of memory,
Where she was born, christened, married and had her children,
In that perfect reverie of memory fused with present being;
And I remembered it when reading the Observer’s feature
On Big Ron Atkinson’s inventive lexicon,
With its mention of his “robust” views on asylum seekers,
While I listened to the radio and its usual story
Of the usual cosmopolitan football match;
And there I sat, in that perfect reverie of reflection and review,
Thinking about the power of global capital,
And the power of the nation state,
And how crossing state boundaries can have such different meanings,
For different people who migrate
And for different people who receive such incomers;
So what would you pack, if forced to leave your country,
And hurriedly forced to stuff present day needs
And past joyful memories into one small leather rectangle?
And how would you feel, locked out of the stadium,
Wearing the wrong and foreign colours,
Speaking a different language ,
Understanding a different tongue –
Would you find sanctuary or despair in your strange new home,
When the football crowd surges past you at the end of the game?
To a great degree, that depends upon the people in the football crowd,
Doesn’t it?

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Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/suitcases-and-sanctuary/