Values article taken from Issue 52

“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football”
Albert Camus

It’s funny that of all the books I read whilst in Vaynor school the only one that meant anything to me was The Outsider written by that goalkeeper Albert Camus. It’s not exactly a book to take on holiday with you but it did inspire the Cure for one of their earliest songs. There is a narrative through it about what humanity means to us and from that the wider issue of values. We have listed one of his most famous quotes at the start of this article.

So is it true that football can shape our values and even our political beliefs? My forty years plus at Penydarren Park must have provided me with some lessons in life even though I probably absorbed them without thought at the time.

My dad brought me up supporting Merthyr from an early age and I learnt more about life watching the Martyrs then I ever did at Ysgol Y Graig or Vaynor & Penderyn. The ground was a safe haven to play and mix with other kids from the town so my horizons were broadened almost immediately by interacting with lads from outside of my council estate. The visiting teams were from far away over the border which intrigued me and started my love of travel. The safe environment brought me my first taste of independence as often I arrived with my Dad, got my £1 note spending money, then disappeared to play football, taunt the away fans and generally mess about until time to reunite with him either in the Jubilee Club or at our car which was always parked behind the club on match-day.

The Jubilee Club also provided me with my earliest example of my Dad’s values too. If you know Dave Evans you’ll recognise that he is a quiet man, always ready to support me and my sister, and never one to raise his voice unless absolutely required. This would be the mid-seventies, a different time and as the saying goes definitely another country, and the appearance of a black player for the opposition was sure to antagonise some on the Wank Bank. I remember such a Saturday. A team in red; maybe Dudley Town, a black full back getting some racist nonsense from a couple of blokes next to me. I’m standing next to Dad who is obviously uncomfortable with the situation. We move away. Post-match we’re in the Jubilee Club, my Dad’s one pint of the weekend, I’m enjoying a nice warm can of Top Deck and probably a bag of crisps when the opposing team walks in. After a while my Dad turns around to the next table and loudly asks the two blokes sitting there if they would like to confront the full-back now with their racist nonsense, face to face. The pair try to laugh it off but my Dad continues. They leave. Racists are to be confronted that’s what I learned that day.

My first solo away day was October 1979 to Barry. Where else? I walked down the Brecon Road straight from school to catch the bus from the Catholic Church. Already travelling independently, my Dad comfortable that the wider MTFC family would look after me if any problems arose. Barry was not for the faint-hearted in those days, it was close to Bonfire Night so the fireworks were flying around in their shit stand full of railway sleepers. But we survived and the travel bug was already under the skin. Once again it was a different football world back then and at non-league level it could be very lively, it was sometimes a case of survival of the fastest. Valuable life lessons learned on the road with the Martyrs.

The chance to travel was widened of course after we won the Welsh Cup in ’87. Bergamo. Italy. An opportunity for foreign travel, I didn’t even have a passport. Those temporary passports from the Post Office were very handy. A cracking photo with a lovely black eye on display. It was a different time. Traveling across Europe on a bus with your mates. How easy was that? Let’s do it again. And we did. Following Wales across the continent. Merthyr football once again the catalyst to another avenue in life. All of the lads plus their kids now travel the world. Was that all down to MTFC? Probably not entirely but it certainly cemented the idea that travel was available to us.

 The fanzine explosion of the late eighties was another challenge for us on the terraces at Penydarren Park. Could we do the same? Would anyone want to read our ramblings? We only had a few O’ Levels between us after all. Twenty-eight years later we’re still stumbling along but on that journey we’ve had articles, cartoons and ideas from dozens of Merthyr fans. The majority of whom will never have seen their work in print before and probably not since, although some of taking their hidden talents further than they would have ever expected. The seeds of those ambitions would have been sown at the top of Park Terrace. A terrace culture to support the creative arts.

Merthyr Town FC is a left-wing club. It’s a broad church of course but at the heart of the club is the co-operative spirit that believes that many hands make light work. The collective can run this club for the benefit of all. The rise of our Supporters Trust exposed many of us to a politics outside of the stagnant world of our borough’s elected representatives. We attended Conferences with like-minded football fans, we spoke at seminars, provided mentorship to other nascent Trusts and most importantly of all negotiated our own successful resurrection. Just by supporting this club of ours we have increased our capacity to improve ourselves and shape our values of co-operation, community and trust.

Our politics have evolved too, no longer just dependent on party loyalties, but now wider as we embrace the positive campaigns of groups such as Hope not Hate, Stonewall Cymru and Refugees Welcome.

Penydarren Park and Merthyr Town FC will mean many things to many different people. A home, an escape and for a few of us access to an education that you just can’t get anywhere else.

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