Lost in…Butetown

AFC Butetown v Abercarn United

Bute Park / Friendly / 11th August 2015

“(Butetown) seems to have become stuck in a groove like an old gramophone. It may be cute, even fascinating – but unlistenable for any length of time.” Keith Murrell – Radio Cardiff DJ and director of Butetown-based play ‘The Soul Exchange’. The Guardian January 2014.

So last Tuesday I spent my evening in Splott/Tremorfa at Bridgend Street FC and it seemed this Tuesday was to follow a similar theme to the previous: another mundane daytime errand to run, another day in the capital and another evening watching football in a Cardiffian suburb. Last week, people had suggested Splott had a dodgy reputation, well that’s nothing to what people have told me about Butetown; the snippet from the Guardian article above wasn’t a glowing endorsement from a local either. But, as always, I’ll walk through anywhere and form my own opinions about places…well, actually I’d been through Butetown a couple of times before…one time in a Swansea shirt…I survived.

Tonight’s attraction: AFC Butetown v Abercarn United in another preseason friendly. More notably, the game was being played at Buteown’s illustrious home ground: the San Siro apparently. We’ll see about that.

Boring errand out of the way (collecting a bank card from Pontypridd) it was then onwards to Cardiff; or should I be more specific and say Cardiff Bay. That’s right, Lost Boiyos was going all posh today – well, at least posh for me.

I arrived into ‘The Bay’ train station shortly after 3pm giving me plenty of time to re-introduce myself to the area. My mate Ed used to live down here and I’ve always loved the place, but I had not been for years. For those less acquainted with Cardiff Bay, this is the part of Cardiff that has undergone extensive redevelopment over the past 15 years or so. Here you’ll find the quite stunning looking Millennium Centre sitting happily alongside the eco-friendly home of the Welsh Assembly, as well as the old Norwegian Church and the more recent addition to the Bay, the Doctor Who Experience. Plus, obviously, mingling amongst these are the usual array of boutique shops, restaurants and bars. Most importnatly though, there is everyone’s favourite school trip destination: Techniquest! I had to resist the urge to head in on this sunny afternoon.

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The Millennium Centre.

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The National Assembly.

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The ultimate school trip destination from my youth: Techniquest!

I’ll have you know that I did not head straight for a bar (a turn out for the books I know) and instead I headed for a wander of the Bay. I also nailed, what I believe to be, my finest Instagram photo to date. After Instagram lessons from Craig and Gibbo over the past few weeks, I believe this pretty photo of Cardiff Bay to be the fruition of their teachings. I think I’ve finally advanced from Instagram 101.

Cardiff Bay looking stunning in my Instagram photo.

Cardiff Bay looking stunning in my Instagram photo.

After Instagram-ing and eating ice cream, it was time to hit the pub, but I was caught unawares by the Wetherspoons sitting at the end of the Mermaid Quay area. I was sure it had never been there before and I proved myself correct when I was soon informed via Twitter that this was once a Harry Ramsdem’s – in fact, the one I used to visit when I was kid when we headed to Cardiff Bay or went to Penarth. I knew it seemed familiar, although Ernesto Mora Romero ale – a Session Room IPA – was the order of the day today instead of the fish and chips of the past.

A new Wetherspoons down the Bay.

A new Wetherspoons down the Bay.

In the classic way he does, Sean texted me ridiculously last-minute to let me know that he was heading down to the Bay and that he’d be joining me for a trip to ‘San Siro’ and so I rendezvoused with him in Terra Nova – a bar that has always been my favourite of those available down the Bay. I had a pint of Brains’ excellent Bavarian style lager, Weiss Weiss Baby, to get me prepared for my trip to Germany next week, before we shuffled on.

We enjoyed a quick pint in the sun outside Eli Jenkins and then crossed the road to probably Bay’s most downmarket looking pub, The Packet; admittedly, it’s still not exactly a dive. More beer was consumed whilst we watched everyone’s favourite hipsters St. Pauli take on Borussia Monchengladbach in the DFB Pokal. Speaking of hipsters, I am gathering myself hipster points next week by not only going to Germany to watch two 2. Bundesliga and one 3. Liga, but I’m also watching Monchengladbach’s U21s play at Man City’s Academy Stadium next Wednesday. Back to today though and the slightly less hip Butetown – although Sean seemed excited about our trip to the San Siro anyway. Sean was excited as he’d played on several pitches around the Cardiff area in his glittering goalkeeping career in park football, but never at Butetown, apparently a place none of his mates enjoyed playing because of the supposed intimidating area surrounding the pitch. Like I said earlier, I would judge for myself. Now it was time to head from the Bay into Butetown – or as I put it at the time ‘From Beaut to Bute’. It made me chuckle anyway.

Butetown – or ‘Tiger Bay’ – as some call it has a rich history with the area being the sight of one of the UK’s first and most prominent multicultural areas; this spawned from the nearby docks and the many workers who would travel from all over to work there. As we made the crossover from the bay area into Butetown the difference is very noticeable with boutique bars and restaurants now swapped for blocks of flats and old housing estates.

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Walking through Butetown.

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Walking through Butetown.

Google Maps led us through one such estate and towards a park, where we eventually spotted a sort of clubhouse building with ‘AFC BUTETOWN’ emblazoned across it. We thought we’d found our destination, but instead all we found either side of the building was a playground and a small football court, which I was fairly confident was not the home of the local football team. Then, on turning around, I spotted 22 players kicking off on a nearby pitch.

I don't think this is the ground we are looking for...

I don’t think this is the ground we are looking for…

Fair to say, the ‘San Siro’ isn’t quite the same as Milan’s famous stadium, but you do get a quite nice view of the Millennium Stadium towering over Cardiff in the background. This is about as basic a ground I’ve been to with it only really consisting of a fenced off pitch and two dugouts with sort of cage doors (the poor away team, Abercarn, had their cage door locked bless them).

The club itself are a fairly new one with the club only being formed 20 years before. They currently find themselves playing in the South Wales Alliance Premier League.

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We arrive. Match action with the Millennium Stadium’s ‘spikes’ poking out in the background.

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Sean watches on.

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The caged dugouts.

In a running theme for games since I’ve been back in Wales, representatives of each team were left to ‘run the line’; as the inverted commas may suggest, they didn’t really run. In fact, now I think about it, I’ve been to 5 games since I’ve been home in Wales and only 1 of them has had 3 officials – Abergavenny Town v Llandrinod Wells.

The game itself was fairly entertaining without really getting the pulse racing either. Abercarn, in black and white striped shirts, started the better team before Butetown started to take command of the game. It did get fairly scrappy though.

Me and Sean decided to go for a lap of the San Siro and have a nose around – not that there was too much to see. Sean commented that the place didn’t seem anywhere near intimidating as his mates had made out. He suggested that perhaps they purely attributed the San Siro’s notoriety because there was one tower block behind one of the goals; there is a very pleasant, modern looking community centre next to this too.

Match action.

Match action.

Double thumbs up time.

Double thumbs up time.

By the time, we had made our way around to the dugouts (double thumbs up photo achieved underneath the AFC Butetown sign) there was finally a goal. A ball over the top and the Butetown striker beat the keeper to the ball and dinked over him to make it 1 – 0.

The goal made me feel better as it kept my run of no 0-0s going. I’ve tried not to document it too much but I’m yet to see a 0-0 in 2015. This means every game I go to now I approach with trepidation, fearing that it’ll be the game to ruin my run. In fact, I only saw two 0-0s in the whole of 2014/2015 season and both of them were when Swansea were away from home with ten men, so I welcomed both those draws. So with the run of ‘goal games’ still on, I cheered Butetown’s opening goal fervently.

Half-time: AFC Butetown 1 – 0 Abercarn United.

What I did like a lot about Butetown was the community feel to the place. It seemed that many of the locals had come out to watch the game and everyone seemed to know each – players and spectators. Young lads were  trolling into the dugout at half-time to steal a football to kickabout on the pitch and some of the players joined them, whilst others players walked along the touchline shaking several spectators hands. It was all very nice to see.

Then the teams came out for the second half and I had to look twice as I thought my Crawley-supporting pal Craig Bratt had been brought on up front for Abercarn. It turned out to just be a Craig Bratt impersonator though – he even played football as awfully as Craig does too.

Fake Craig Bratt up front for Abercarn United.

Fake Craig Bratt up front for Abercarn United.

The second half was much the same as the first half, although now Butetown were upping their game a bit and going for the win. Fake Craig Bratt just couldn’t hold the ball up front at all for Abercarn and possession was conceded relentlessly.

Abercarn’s keeper made a super save when Butetown fired at goal from inside the box, but the rebound fell nicely to another attacker who slotted home to make it 2-0 to the home team.

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Match action.

Match action.

Match action.

It was soon 3 – 0 shortly after, but I completely missed the goal as I was too busy taking photos of the tower block. I think it is fair to say that Butetown by now deserved their 3-0 advantage.

As the final whistle was about to blow, we began walking through the large grassy area behind the ground watching the game at a glance before the final whistle went.

Full-time: AFC Butetown 3 – 0 Abercarn United.

A pleasant evening of football all round.

Our walk home through the industrial estate to the city centre.

Our walk home through the industrial estate to the city centre.

Exactly as I had on the previous Tuesday, I had an hour to wait until my train, so I suggested that me and Sean once again finish our evening of Cardffian football night with a steak in Wetherspoon – it was steak night after all.

AFC Butetown seemed a good, community club and so I wish them well for the upcoming season.

Highlights: revisiting Cardiff Bay, good pubs, decent game.

Low Points: very basic ground.

See all my photos from my trip to Cardiff Bay and the ‘San Siro’ here.

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