Football Shorts: Peckham Town & The Two Faces of Football

by | Nov 23, 2016

The lower reaches of football can feel like a lawless place, at times. Incidences of appalling behaviour which, were they to occur at the top end of the game, would provoke serious reviews into the wellbeing of football might not be commonplace, but they do occur away from the public gaze. Much has been made, over the last couple of weeks or so, of the probability that we now live in a “post-truth” society. It occasionally seems to be forgotten that, to a greater extent than ever before in human history, we now live in a post-secrecy society ¬†as well.

This comes at significant cost to all of us, of course, but it isn’t entirely without some benefits either. Earlier today, our attention was drawn to a horrific incident that occurred during a match in the Kent County League between Peckham Town and Stansfeld. Details on the specifics of what came to pass have not – and we should probably be grateful for this – been released into the public domain at this time, but what we do know is that the match was abandoned after twenty-seven minutes, after a Peckham Town player, Alli Abdullahi, was attacked by an opposing player. Abdullahi received a broken jaw, eye socket and neck damage for his troubles, and an operation was due to be carried out upon him today. It was expected that he will return home later this week.

It should go without saying, of course, that we wish him all the best for as quick and speedy recovery as possible. Being a non-league player, however, the nature of his injuries means that the ramifications of this incident stretch way beyond merely sporting matters. Players at this level of the game seldom make any more than their expenses for playing the game, and Abdullahi has been reported not only as having a young family, but also as having only recently have become self-employed. In the non-league game, serious injuries can be about much more than the amount of time that a player may miss before playing his next match. No mention of the incident is made on the website of either club or on that of the Kent County League, but perhaps too much shouldn’t be read into this. Websites for clubs and organisations at this level of the game

The speed with which these stories travel, however, mean that such a distressing incident need not end on a low note. The Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust has taken on the mantle of seeking to get this story raised by a broader public consciouness with an article expressing solidarity with the player concerned and setting up a Go Fund Me page to raise money to help to see the player through any financial hardship that he may suffer as a result of this. It has also been featured by National League South club Bishops Stortford, for whom he was a former player. At the time of writing, it is understood that an individual has been arrested in connection with the incident, but it is not known whether any charges have been brought.

So, contained in this little vignette we see the very best and the very worst of non-league football. At one end of the spectrum is an assault of a type that has pock-marked this level of the game for a very long time indeed. It is to be hoped that, in the event that criminal behaviour is established to have taken place, justice will be served. At the other end, however, perhaps we might take a little heart from the reaction of the DHST. Their solidarity with Alli Abdullahi, as well as the money already pledged through Go Fund Me page, offer a timely and much-needed reminder that we as a people are capable of even greater compassion and generosity than we are of anger and violence.

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