Sunday, 17 December 2017

Solving The Page Hall Problem

Burngreave  3  Swinton Athletic  4

Sheffield County Senior League – League Cup

“This is a boiling pot waiting to explode!” screamed the headline in the Guardian back in November 2013.

The Page Hall area of Sheffield had seen an influx of around 6,000 Roma families from Slovakia, and that immediately clashed with the traditional Pakistani population who had been living in the area for generations. Clearly the strain on accommodation was massive, but not only that, it was the significant cultural differences that created as much tension as anything.

The streets became strewn with rubbish, youths hung around in packs into the late evening, intimidating passers by and unsettling the local traders. Rumours abounded of babies being offered up for sale for 250 quid to local shop owners, and indeed one Roma who’s staple diet was alleged to have been cats!

Vigilante action was rumoured, the local authorities and the Police were fearful that the area was on the verge of a riot, a civil war even. What was the answer to the crisis? Cultural integration appeared to be the key, if the Roma could accept our way of life and adopt it, if they could live by our standards of behaviour, cleanliness and hygiene, then maybe the two polar opposites could at least come to a sense of tolerance.

The Police obtained a Section 30 order which allowed them to clear the streets after 9pm, but by then the damage had often been done with the streets full of rubbish, gardens and streets were piled high with mattresses and furniture, while behind the taped up curtains, family units of ten or more shared a two bedroom house. The value of property was plummeting by the week.

Moving forward to 2017, the situation could best be described as having gone from ‘boiling’ to ‘simmering’. The numbers of Roma have not reduced, but an uneasy truce appears in place. My own observations of working locally and travelling through Page Hall would suggest that the two communities operate in largely different time zones, the Pakistani population going about their business in the morning, with the Roma appearing on the streets in the afternoon. I may be wrong, but it appears they’ve formulated a shift pattern that keeps the two cultural opposites apart.

Sat behind the Page Hall Medical Centre is the Fir Vale Academy, and at the Academy is a 4G pitch where Burngreave play, and on a day when the weather put paid to alternative options, it was left as the most obvious choice for some football, especially with it being a League Cup tie between a Premier Division side and the hosts who were flying high in Division Two.

Fir Vale Academy
I parked at the Academy and decided to have a walk up to the crossroads by the Northern General Hospital. There were no pubs in the locality, merely a mix of shops catering for both the Roma and the Pakistani. It was pretty quiet in the streets, but these were more commercial than residential, I chose not to venture into the centre of Page Hall. A bottle of Lucozade from Tesco’s was my only indulgence.

Based to the East of the City Centre, Burngreave are new to Saturday football having started the season very well, and in the opening exchanges it was very clear to see that they were very comfortable on the ball, and played a patient passing game.

The opening goal came in the 9th minute thanks to a great finish from a tight angle, but Swinton gradually found their feet and got an equaliser in the 26th minute.

Warming Up
The game looked to be out of reach for Swinton at half time as a penalty in the 40th minute and a third goal two minutes later made it 3-1 to the hosts.

The second half was a totally different story though, Swinton pulled a goal back just after half time, and then equalised in the 55th minute. At this point it could have gone either way but a 79th minute headed goal put the visitors in the lead for the first and only time of the game.

Burngreave battled back and at times had Swinton pinned deep into the own penalty area, but despite all of the efforts, the ball would just not find the back of the net.

It was a superb game of football, played in a very good spirit, and for me was a great advert for the County Senior League. Burngreave, in my opinion will win Division Two and with the quality of some of their players, I can see them being a real handful in Division One.

Artificial Intelligence
As I left the pitch I was walking alongside some Swinton players, and one said out loud “They are a bloody good side, they’ll take some stopping, especially on this pitch…” I couldn’t argue with that sentiment.

Burngreave strike me as a very good club, well organised, great on the social media front, welcoming, but not just welcoming to visitors, looking at the playing squad and management, welcoming to all cultural backgrounds.

If only that could be extended beyond the realms of football, maybe Page Hall would then be making the headlines for all the right reasons.  

Page Hall In The Distance

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