TBG Yorkshire St Pauli t-shirts

St Pauli Fans Gegen Rechts stickerFC ST PAULI first came to light for me whilst at art college in the mid 1990s. The Hamburg-based football club’s anti-fascism Gegen Rechts! sticker shared a double page spread with the Leeds United anti-racism fanzine, Marching Altogether in Liz McQuiston’s definitive work on protest design, Graphic Agitation, a book which still sits faithfully on my desk to this day.

With a decidedly alternative fan scene with social inclusion at its very core, St Pauli are the archetypal kultverein (cult club). So it was no surprise to learn on my trips to see another, Austria Salzburg, that my genial hosts at Fanclub Absolut were frequent visitors to the Millerntor, the German club’s home near the famous Reeperbahn.

I was intrigued to discover a year or so ago that St Pauli had a growing official supporters club in Leeds. I thought they’d make for an interesting collaboration on something or other, and so it proved with this brand new pair of YSP v TBG t-shirts. You can buy them from the Yorkshire St Pauli Shop and read more from me about the designs on the Yorkshire St Pauli website.

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YSP v TBG t-shirt artwork 2

TBG Kitabdjian t-shirts

PARIS, 28th May 1975: the most notorious night in Leeds United’s history. One French referee screenprinted in two colours on a 100% cotton t-shirt while stocks last at tbg.bigcartel.com.

TBG Kitabdjian t-shirt

Looking for Kitabdjian – Part 2

LIKE MANY cardboard boxes under many beds in many back bedrooms, mine contains a pile of old football magazines. Some are from the 1970s. Some are French. Two reveal a secret about one of the most talked about referees in Leeds United’s history. A lot’s said about Michel Kitabdjian – that he was bribed, that he never officiated again – but one thing’s for sure: Leeds v Bayern wasn’t the only game he let spiral out of hand.

Two stalemates in Tunis and Casablanca meant Tunisia and Morocco would play-off on neutral ground for a place at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico. The Mediterranean melting pot of Marseille and its Stade Vélodrome were the natural choice and on Friday 13th June 1969 the scene was set. In unabating sunshine, Tunisian goals three minutes from the start and the end of the regulation 90 minutes cancelled out two Moroccan strikes and the game headed into extra time. Thirty further merciless minutes demanded that the tie would be decided in the manner of the day: the toss of a coin.

Enter Michel Kitabdjian. ‘I sent for a coin of Moroccan design,’ he explains in conversation with Football Magazine in the week of the 1975 final. ‘Alas the Tunisians, already outraged at the state of the pitch, claimed the coin should be in their favour.’ On this occasion he fails to mention what transpired, which was thankfully dredged up by some quarters of the French press in the aftermath of the debacle in Paris.

‘In the middle of about 100 excited onlookers,’ my dog-eared copy of Miroir du Foot reports, ‘Kitabdjian launched the coin and the Tunisian captain Habacha leapt into the air.’ But something fishy was going on in Marseille – and I’m not talking bouillabaisse. Much like Lorimer’s, it was short-lived joy for Tunisia because Kitabdjian ‘changed his mind, annulled the verdict and locked himself in the changing room where the coin “chose” Morocco!’

Well, well, well. Six years later, despite describing the episode as a ‘farce’ the referee remained unembarrassed at his role. ‘It’s the match, I recall,’ he said with a hint of pride, ‘Which prompted FIFA to approve penalties and abolish the coin toss.’

He’s got a lot to answer for, that Michel Kitabdjian. Not only is his name synonymous with scandal but anyone who’s ever won or lost on penalties did so because of him. Yet it seems that nobody outside France – except for us in Leeds or perhaps the odd souk in Tunis – has ever heard of him. He may be ‘that French referee’ to most Leeds fans but he’s the reason that – because my old man could’ve but didn’t – I wish I’d gone to Paris in May 1975 but sadly for me, I didn’t yet exist. C’est la vie.

This article appears in issue 6 of The Square Ball magazine. Buy it online now for just £1.

Looking for Kitabdjian – Part 1

EXACTLY 30 years after the 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in Paris, I issued 75 limited edition T-shirts to mark the most notorious night in Leeds United’s history. The design featured an image of the referee flanked by French riot police – his whistle on pursed lips, baton beginning to bow under downward pressure. I’d never seen a photograph of referee Michel Kitabdjian’s face so I made it up. It bore a title – The Beaten Generation – that I nicked from a track by the band The The which seemed to sum up much about the night the Revie era ended for real.

The Don was there, in the commentary box speaking to a national TV audience of more than 24 million people. I wasn’t there because I was yet to be born, but this game means a lot to me because, like everyone else, as soon as I became infatuated with Leeds United I wanted to know everything there was to know and my dad told me it. He’d followed Leeds all over the place in the 60s and 70s and had two tickets for the game but didn’t go. Despite my thirst for knowledge I’ve never asked him why, but I know he’s glad he didn’t.

There was a time I would tell anyone who’d listen that as far as I was concerned this was the definitive moment in Leeds United’s history; that the stories surrounding it had to be heard to be believed and that I would tell them. Wednesday 28th May 1975 was my dad’s 35th birthday, and I said I would write a book before mine. I’m 34 now so this article will have to do.

Folklorically speaking, this Leeds game is like no other. By the time they arrived at French ports, several cross-channel ferries – like most of their passengers – were worse for wear. Paris quickly became the scene of a white, blue and yellow invasion where spirits were as high as the exchange rate, so supermarket booze aisles were relieved of their stocks with inevitable consequences.

Encounters with those who did make the trek to the Parc des Princes would see me wring them dry of anecdotes (like the one about the pair who hitch-hiked to Dover with a tent and enough food for a fortnight, were turned back by customs at Calais but on their return to Leeds embarked on a second, successful, trip to Paris by coach), but it wasn’t until I found myself in British Library, sitting in the dark, poring over microfilm of the dailies from that week in the mid 1970s that I finally asked myself: what was I looking for?

I was looking for Kitabdjian. Beckenbauer, Maier and Muller we know and loathe but little’s heard about the Nice-born referee, so inconspicuous when in charge of the first of our two 1970 European Cup clashes with Celtic. So what the hell happened in Paris five years later? Did he blink when Beckenbauer first handled the ball, then tripped Clarke in the box? What sort of offside chat is there to be had with a linesman who’s standing on the half-way line awaiting the restart?

This article concludes here on TBG tomorrow and appears in issue 6 of The Square Ball magazine. Buy it online now for just £1.

Beeston: been there? Buy the T-shirt!

SINCE TBG launched “Visit Beeston”, it’s been a hectic fortnight for Leeds United chairman and poster boy Ken Bates.

Either side of raising season ticket prices (again), he mounted his trusty soapbox (again) on climate change, AIDS and third world water supply and found himself under the the scrutiny (again) of the Guardian’s David Conn.

Phew. All we’ve done is these “Visit Beeston” t-shirts in association with Leeds United fanzine The Square Ball; yours to pre-order now at squareballshop.com.

You don’t have to visit Beeston to wear one – but it helps!