Interview: CS Lebowski - They Really Tie the League Together
Disillusionment amongst football supporters is rife these days, Just look at Liverpool this past week. Campaigns such as Twenty is Plenty or Against Modern Football often appear to be pissing-in-the-wind however, as global commercialism spreads though Europe faster than the Third Reich on a Ryanair stag do. You don’t have to stand for it though; the spike in popularity of the non-league game, or the relative success of AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester, are testament to the fact that there is an alternative. Fans across Europe are slowly waking up to the idea that this aggression will not stand, man.
Enter Centro Storico Lebowski – from the Italian meaning for historic town centre and the Dudeist meaning for Dude, His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing – a fan-owned DIY club based in Florence. Currently punching above their weight in the Italian 7th tier, they find themselves well placed as we begin the business-end-of-the-season to battle for what would be a third promotion in just six years. Eat-your-heart-out AFC Liverpool.
Founded in 2010 as a means for disgruntled Fiorentina ultras to rejoice to a purer version of the game during an age that’s seen numerous corruption scandals rock Italian football, their ethos is firmly rooted in that of the great Coen brothers’ character.
Official club commentator Nanni Concutelli tells me all about this leading light in Italy’s folk football movement – Calcio Popolare – and how taking it easy might just save the modern game.
Hi Nanni, so what’s your involvement with CS Lebowski?
My friend Michele and I do the commentaries for every game of the first team squad, both home and away. You can follow our live streaming on RadioShout, a web-radio made by guys that share the same attitude we have for football.
We especially love the away matches, sometimes we go in to very small towns around Tuscany, and we and the team are always welcomed and loved for our liveliness and the fun we bring.
Since September, I’m an instructor and coordinator for Centro Storico Lebowski’s youth teams. This is a project that we are actively supporting since we all believe that involving new generations is a very relevant part of our future.
Lastly, I also help my dear friend Simone with media and communication through the official website, the mailing list, and social media. Like all fellows I also help Club fundraising by drinking beers at the bar of our stadium!
We should probably address the name. As a fellow lover of the film I don’t need any convincing, but what specifically about it represents the ethos of the team?
Everything started one summer when a group of teenage friends from Florence decided to form an ultras club for the worst team in the lowest league possible. This team just-so-happened to be called, and this was good because the friends were already into the movie, AC Lebowski.
In 2010, after five years of away matches, not to mention many beers and white russians, the group founded Centro Storico Lebowski. It attracted a lot of new people interested in this kind of experience. With this new team the supporters, ultras, and the board are the same thing. Some of the founders of the first ultras group now take part in managing the life of the team.
For these reasons we decided to keep the original name as a memory of the starting point and as a reference to the Dude’s lifestyle that we still pursue. Who doesn't like the Dude’s way of life? We recognise it in all its ideas; we love going-with-the-flow, being cool headed, and taking it easy.
Was any inspiration found in the English clubs who were born under similar circumstances such as FC United of Manchester, or AFC Wimbledon?
Now that the Club is growing and looking forward to discovering new possibilities, we have started taking inspiration from experiences like these. Their stories and successes are a role model for us for sure as they were able to build something that in Italy, as in many other countries, is almost totally new.
On the other hand one of the main ingredients of the magic of Centro Storico Lebowski is that a lot of things have happened by chance. When all this begun, and maybe even still right now, nobody imagined we could grow this much to be compared to such great examples that we were, and still are, admiring. We still want to grow and continue playing football in our own way, just like these teams you mentioned did before us. You know, every place and situation is different, so we have to find our own way.
Have you been in contact with any of those clubs for advice?
Some of us, like our friend Alessandro, a player in our amateur team Calabroni, went to Manchester and got in touch with the guys at FC United of Manchester. A few months ago we played the documentary about them in the social centre where we usually hold our activities beyond football, and there really were a lot of people attending. We are also close friends with Coloniacs, an ultras group of FC Köln [and hopefully not as bum-hole-fiddly as they sound]. We all share the same view and attitude towards football and staying together.
Do you still have feelings for Fiorentina?
A lot of us, more-or-less, come from the Fiorentina ultras. Those who can, when Lebowski are not playing of course, still go to the Viola games. Many of our supporters are here because things in so-called bigger football, and also in the lower leagues unfortunately, were, and still are, not being done in the right way. However, even if that kind of model is not what we pursue and appreciate, we don’t see Lebowski as being against something else, we just support us. Our way to be against is simply to exist, and continue to exist.
Any regrets seeing that La Viola are now finally doing quite well in Serie A?
It is just a totally different situation, a different world, so those of us who support Fiorentina are actually very happy if the team are doing good!
Two promotions in five years is impressive going, but what happens if you reach, say, Serie A, how will you maintain your ethos and identity?
Well, as I told you, we don’t limit ourselves, nor do we have any ambition of greatness. The Dude is patient, you know! One thing is for sure; whatever goal we may reach, maybe Serie A, maybe the lowest of competitions, our attitude and values will remain the same.
For us, football is not a business and never will be. We exist only for our activities and our supporters. We have social dinners, parties, super-parties, a little bit of merchandise, our annual membership card, revenues from home games. We try every possible way to keep this story going on. We know that in our league there are teams with much more financial capabilities than we have, I mean, a lot more. The only way we can compete is with our creativity, our organisation, our ideas, and the roots we have in the social life of our city. Also with our ultras, the Moana Pozzi group (named after a dead Italian porn star), who are always supporting the team.
You know, already at our level there are some other teams that can pay players a lot of money. Here, players know that they cannot be rewarded with money, we just cannot pay them. They come for the history of the team and the supporters, for the love we can give. Our idea of football is that every single aspect of a team, from players to the board, from ultras and supporters to the children of our football school, they all are the same. They all share and take part in every activity of Centro Storico Lebowski. It may take a lot of time, energy and money, but this shows what a great reward it is for us as individuals.
Cheers Nanni, and best of luck from all at Coney’s Loft.
Thanks. Forza Lebowski!
If you abide and would like to join Nanni, myself, and thousands of others in becoming a member then it’ll only take a few seconds and cost you less than 16 quid at www.cslebowki.it. You can even buy a season ticket for a fraction of the cost of a League Cup tie, and ten times the atmosphere.
If you’re unable to make the biweekly commute to Firenze-and-back then Italian speakers, or mad’eads, can listen to Nanni’s commentaries at www.radioshout.eu.
Everyone go give them a Twitter follow @LebowskiCS.