By Alistair Smout and Helena Williams
LONDON (Reuters) – A small, newly-founded soccer team in the lower reaches of English football has attracted international fame after its new shirt, inspired by the fight against nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, went viral in Spain and sold out.
East London-based Clapton CFC is only a few months old but was forced to stop taking orders after receiving more than 5,000 requests for its new away shirt, which is in the colours of the Republican forces that fought against General Francisco Franco’s Nationalists 80 years ago.
“We never expected that sort of potential and media hype,” the team’s player-manager Geoff Ocran told Reuters after the first league game of the season.
The club were only expecting to sell about 250 of the shirts, he said.
The red, yellow and purple shirt is adorned with three pointed stars – the symbol of the International Brigades that came to Spain to fight – as well as the slogan “No Pasaran”, an anti-fascist slogan meaning “They shall not pass”.
The ethos of the club is led by its supporters, who split from nearby Clapton FC after a dispute with its owner and set up a fan-owned club in June.
The kit was voted for by the fans and is in keeping their longstanding and outspoken values, which they are seeking to preserve and promote with the new club.
“They’ve always had a very strong anti-fascist background… since they restarted again, I’m now a proud member,” said Marina Carulla, 38, a Clapton CFC fan originally from Barcelona, at the team’s first game of the season against Ealing Town, which Clapton won 2-1.
“We’re very grateful to all the people that came to fight against fascism.”
British volunteers on the Republican side included the poet Laurie Lee and the writer George Orwell.
While the fans that set up the new club had a reputation for championing progressive causes, not all of the players were aware of the history of the 1936-39 civil war until the new design was chosen.
“Initially I just liked it just for the look of it,” said Andrew Lastic, club captain of Clapton CFC. “To know the meaning of it, and what it stands for, it’s a very proud feeling to put it on.”
For club member Robin Cowan, the reminder of the history of those brigades, whose fighters came from London and elsewhere across Europe to fight, is resonant today at a time where far-right movements are resurgent across much of Europe.
“I think some of the guys maybe didn’t know that people from their community in the 1930s went out to fight for their beliefs and I think that’s been really positive,” he said.
“The timing of the shirt coming out had a big factor in its success. I think if we released the shirt in a time where this was less of a relevant issue, I think it wouldn’t have felt so important to people.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Angus MacSwan)