The Begining …
The Easton Cowboys Football Club rose pheonix-like from the ashes of the Bristol thrash music scene in the summer of 1992. Composed of a strange collection of punks, interested bystanders, talented teenagers and other n’er do wells, it had been in existence for over 5 years without realising its true fate. The Sunday afternoon “kick abouts” in St. Pauls and Easton had been the “primeval soup” which culminated in a team which had achieved basic intelligence and could truly say “take me to your leader, we want to join a league”.
But before anything could happen we had to have a name. The newly elected secretary, a lonely Country and western” singer, had struggled vainly to interest “the kids” in the delights of Hank Williams and Dolly Parton (?). His last attempt at converting the heathens, was to name the club the Easton Cowboys (which I suppose in retrospect is better than the Easton Texas Rangers).
The “Cowboys” thundered into the lowest division of the Bristol and Wessex League with an enthusiasm that far outstripped our footballing ability. That first season, which blooded us into the Sunday Football almost ended in mid-table obscurity. It was far from over. In May 1993 the punks in the back four came good. They organised a trip to a football tournament near Stuttgart, Germany which the local band the “Herb Garden” had played a gig at the year before. The tournament was a storming success as we made friends, drank ourselves senseless and managed to lose 3-1 in the final with our crippled centre forward scoring our only goal. A truly brilliant 5 days which were to forge the Cowboys into a “socialising machine” ready for the 21st century.
It’s Not Just Football
1994 was a year of expansion with the creation of a second football team (the Sunday ‘B’) and the inclusion of another bunch of sport mad squatters and space cadets the Easton Cowboys Cricket Team. Our fanzine the “Gunslinger” was launched and sold out immediately, as nervous Cowboys rushed to buy it to find out which of their intimate secrets had been published. Our European travels continued with further football tournaments in Stuttgart 1994 (finished third), 1995 (runners up again!), and Brussels and Bad Muskau in 1996.
1994 also marked our first attempt at an International Football Tournament in England. We held it at Oldbury Court, Fishponds and invited four teams from Germany as well as others from the U.K. The weekend was another great success and led to two other tournaments in 1995 and 1996 at Shipham in Somerset.
Meanwhile the tokers in the Cricket Team had been busy. Dissatisfied with just playing in the pub league they entered the North Somerset League proper and organised a tour to Amsterdam (no surprise they chose this destination for their first trip abroad). The tour was a great success, the highlight being the game played against V.R.A. the premiere club of Dutch cricket in the national stadium. Inspired by the whole experience, the cricket team set its sights on rising up through the divisions over the next few years.
The summer of 1996 saw the Cowboys move into uncharted territory with the formation of a Rugby League side…The motivating force behind this was ‘Speccy’ Mike Preece, a rugby league fanatic who managed to convince 13 other Cowboys that flinging themselves around rock hard pitches on a regular basis would be a worthwhile exercise. When the Cowboys turned up for their first game they found, in the match programme, that they were representing Bristol in a League covering South Wales and the West Country! The whole experience must have proved too painful because the Cowboys have never again ventured into the world of rugby league.
Growing In Stature And Confidence
1997 became the “mother of all football tours” as we travelled to Bradford, Oxford, Bad Muskau (near Poland, in former East Germany), Stuttgart and finally Antwerp where we became champions of Europe, beating our friends and rivals ICE Neckarstrasse in the final 1-0. It had taken 5 years on the road but we had won at last. The years of tears, cross-dressing and naked penalty shootouts on foreign soil had ultimately paid off.
1998 took their tournaments to a new level and created the “Alternative World Cup”. We had conquered Europe with our charm, so why not the world? The aim was to bring 20 teams from around the world to England for a weekend of football, music and socialising which would far outstrip anything our F.A. could put together. In alliance with our friends from Leeds, Bradford, Stuttgart, Bad Muskau and Antwerp we set the wheels in motion for a quite unique event in amateur football history.
The 5-day event in Thornecombe, Dorset was a great success with over 500 people attending from the local community and all over Europe. Twenty football teams from England, Ireland, France Germany, Belgium, Norway, Poland and South Africa competed in the first Alternative World Cup. In a thrilling final the Soweto township team Diepkloof Eleven Experience clinched victory 1-0 in the final few minutes with a great goal from tournament top scorer Benedict Vilakazi. The losing finalists ICE Neckarstrasse from Stuttgart were not too disappointed having battled hard in a great game against several potential South African national team players.
Emotional scenes followed at the Trophy ceremony as members of the local community, all the teams, supporters and the president of the local football club sang victory songs with the winners. A truly memorable experience which will never be forgotten by those who were there.
In the months that followed we finally made it as media stars with Channel 4, Channel 5, Transworld sport and Sky Sports all featuring the event, the latter even picking the event in their “ Best of the Sports Year “ Show.
1998 also saw the formation of two new Cowboy football teams who proved to be the most successful yet. The Saturday team came from an influx of enthusiastic youth (well in their late twenties) and the Casuals from an outflow of over 35’s. The Saturday team won their division in their second season (1999-2000) and were runners-up in the cup final. The Casuals won the cup in the 1999-2000 seasons and were league champions in successive seasons (2000 and 2001). Silverware became a regular feature of our trophy cabinet.
New Horizons: The View Out West
Prince may have partied like it was 1999 but what had we in store for the last year of the millennium? Heat, altitude, jungle, helicopters and football in a war zone was what we got. The Cowboys became the first European team to travel to Chiapas in Southern Mexico to play a series of tournaments against the Zapatistas. The Zapatistas, a movement of indigenous people rebelling against 500 years of exploitation and oppression, had risen up in 1994 and taken control of vast regions of Chiapas that had been stolen by greedy landowners and corporations. Who better than the Cowboys to provide their first overseas sporting visitors, in a solidarity trip that opened our eyes to the struggles of many exploited people around the world? Two further tours to the Zapatista Autonomous Zones followed in November 1999 with our friends from Antwerp the Lunatics and in January 2001. Since that first tour the Cowboys have helped raise several thousand pounds for fresh water systems, murals and sports projects in the Zapatista Zones as well providing volunteers for these activities.
Not to be outdone the rapidly expanding cricket outfit (now 3 teams going strong in the leagues) travelled to the Dordogne region of France for a week’s tour in 1999 and then launched their own “you must be crazy !” project in 2000. They decided to go “straight outta Easton” and “straight into Compton” Los Angeles, U.S.A. to play the only All-American cricket team on the continent. The Compton “Homies and the Popz” made up of community minded ex-gang members provided a great opportunity for the Cowboys to see U.S. inner-city life first hand. This was an amazing experience for the 25 men, women and children who went and matched only by the superb hospitality of the Homies and the people of Compton who looked after us. A real bond was made between communities, as shown by the BBC documentary made about the trip. Away from LA the Death Valley Cricket Club (DVCC) was formed when they played their inaugural game 250 feet below sea level on a salt flat in Bad Water Creak. This epic tour also included two matches in San Francisco and the infamous case of the Liam Niessen Star Wars figure.
Meanwhile Back At The Ranch
2001 saw the Cowboys launch their second “World Cup”, this time called 2001: A Football Oddity. It featured teams of usual the suspects from Europe as well as new additions to the fold like the Old Firm (from Glasgow, Scotland) a team made up of Rangers and Celtic fans against sectarianism. We also made our first visit to Poland as Lecknica Old Boys hosted their own international tournament. Earlier in the year we returned to the Zapatista autonomous zones in Mexico with another successful trip, further cementing our ties with the indigenous rebels and their struggle for dignity, justice and freedom.
The Compton cricketers graced the U.K. with their presence in September of that year and rapped their way through an emotional night in the Plough, bringing a flavour of South Central L.A. to Easton. They inaugurated a new trophy in the cricketing world, the “Indigenous Ashes” when they played the touring Aboriginal youth team from Australia at the home of English cricket at Hambledon, Hampshire. The tour had and unwelcome coda when the team became stranded in the UK by the events of 9/11. However, some small degree of order was restored in the sporting universe when the Homies and Cowboys the guests of Gloucestershire Cricket Club at a one-day match; the Gloucestershire captain was over heard saying “the Homies and the Cowboys, yes I know you lot, I’ve seen you on the telly”.
On the domestic front the Saturday team entered one of the oldest amateur leagues in the world, the Downs league. Under the management of Nick “The Count” Dashboard, who had cut his teeth leading the casuals to silverware, they proceeded to storm up the divisions achieving successive promotions 3 years running, winning the All Saints Cup in 2002 and threatening to break the 100 year long strangle hold of the Downs League old boys. The lure of Saturday football, with its more sociable afternoon kick offs and the opportunity of a guilt free Saturday night, allowed a Saturday B team to be formed for the 2001-2002 season.
Many had asked why there weren’t any Cowgirl footballers, 2002 answered them with the launch of the women’s team. Inspired by Republica International (from Leeds, U.K.), the famous St. Pauli (Hamburg, Germany) and playing international football in Poland the year before the Cowgirls F.C. hit the ground running. The Cowgirls now play in the Filton Pro5 League, where they go from strength to strength.
In the summer of 2002 the Cowboys geared themselves up for a summer of foreign trips venturing first to Italy and the “Anti-racist World Cup” near Bologna. What a weekend. Thousands of anti-fascist football fans, singing, dancing, gigs and more than 120 7-a-side teams. Blazingly hot we cruised to the last 32 only to be knocked out by a cheeky goal and a Moldovan team who couldn’t seem to stand up. Nevertheless it was a brilliant weekend and this tournament has become a “must” every year since. We rounded the summer off with a visit to our old friends the Lunatics in Antwerp who excelled themselves with another great 3 days of football, music and madness. The Cowboys played their best international football ever seen to win every game only to lose in a shootout in the final against a team of Chileans. Never mind, we had won the hearts of the crowd and the tears were short-lived.
If I Drink It Os Because I Am Thirsty
At this point, we must mention our saloon, The Plough pub in Easton. Landlord and Landlady Cliff and Mrs. B. and team psychiatrist Wills had been our friends and sponsors for nearly 10 years. 2002 saw Cliff, Mrs B. and Wills finally throw in the towel after many years of hard work quenching our thirsts and salving our troubled consciences. We and Easton miss them loads and hope their retirement is a pleasure.
Since then, pub regulars and local sex symbols Caz and Otam have picked up the baton and now run the Plough. It is still the best place to drink in the South West and the inspiration for our long-term aim to take a sailing ship to Jamaica.
Keep On Trucking
Whilst war and bigotry blighted the world in 2003 we continued to expand our horizons with our first football trip to Africa. Organised through contacts with our local Moroccan Cafe a gang of intrepid Cowboys set off for the blazing heat of the Rif Mountains and a true test of their footballing wills. An amazing time was had by all, with some players raising their games above all expectations to get some creditable results. Meanwhile ambassadors for the Cowboys visited tournaments in St. Pauli (Hamburg), Freiberg and a large posse of Cowboys and Cowgirls once again descended on Bologna.
2004 saw victory in a domestic tournament in Halifax, return visits to the rapidly expanding Anti-racist World Cup in Italy and a first official outing by the Cowgirls to Hamburg in a successful trip to visit the St. Pauli women’s team. The summer saw the Lunatics 15th anniversary tournament in Antwerp where almost inevitably they met the Cowboys in the final. In probably the most devastating 20 minutes of football we have ever witnessed, the Lunatics wearing the sexiest dresses they could find absolutely destroyed us in front of a capacity crowd. Despite our best efforts in the second half we could only recover to 3-1. There would be no better team to lose to then these transsexual superstars and what a way to win your first tournament!
Also, in 2004, the ever artistic Cowboys flexed their creative muscles to produce “Outside The Box”. This series of events blended paintings, photographs, sculptures, films, penalty shootouts and the odd tantrum or two. The result was a unique Cowboys Blend of sport and art.
2005 was a slightly quieter year on the football touring front but saw a return to Hamburg for the Sant Pauli Fanladen and a mixed team took part in the Lecknica tournament in Poland. Here the Cowboys were drawn in a three team group against two very large (in stature) Polish teams; losing to both. Playing off for last place the Cowboys narrowly beat Republica. However, they did easily win the beer limbo competition. Apparently, in 2006 there was some insignificant little football tournament happening in Germany, the Cowboys & Cowgirls had more urgent business as the Inselaffen Tour took in three German tournaments during that summer. History was made when the Cowgirls won their first European silverware winning the Hamburg tournament. Not to be out done the Cowboys won in Freiberg… oh, there was also a less glorious trip to Hanover. On the home front in 2006 the Casuals managed to win the League Cup while also suffering demotion.
Inspired by all this football touring and an influx of new blood the Cricket team embarked on their first tour since the now legendary LA trip. Some Cowboys cricketers claim they can remember bits of the cricket played during the 2006 Cornwall tour but that might just be the cider talking. Sobered up and striding to the crease the A team finished second in their division and won promotion, however due to a league restructuring they still found themselves in a division second from the league bottom. Now that’s definitely not cricket.
Should One Bounce One’s Balls?
During 2005 rumours about a new netball team where working their way around the Easton sporting community. These rumours said that the team was called The Crack Whores and that they could not gain entry into the conservative world of league netball with such a colourful moniker. They knocked on the Cowboys door, where warmly welcomed, changed their name to the Easton Cowgirls Netball Team and joined the Avon Netball Association. Now, it came to pass that some of the netball players and a few Cowboys discovered they preferred it when their balls where bouncing. And lo, it did come to pass that the Easton Cowboys & Cowgirls Basketball Team decided to celebrate not existing yet by touring the Zapatista Municipalities in April 2006. Later in the same year the now fully fledged Basketball team joined the Bristol University Intramural League.
2007, What A Year!
In April a contingent of footballers went to the West Bank to play football against various Palestinian Teams, paint murals on ‘the wall’ and eat lettuce. Later in the year Morad Fareed, a full Palatsinian international, came on as a substitute for the Saturday Bs in a Downs League match and helped them lose. Not that they weren’t capable of losing on their own of course.
2007 marked the 15th anniversary of The Easton Cowboys and what better way to mark our birthday than with an absolutely mind blowing tournament. This little gathering of over 1000 people took place in Cullompton on a freakily hot August Bank Holiday weekend, in a summer that was otherwise wet, wet and wet. In line with government guidelines we had five sports-a-day; men’s football, women’s football, cricket, basketball and netball. If this were not enough there was also four nights of entertainments, two bars, a cinema in a geodesic dome, an internet café in a tent, dancing, a talent show (hosted by the world’s ugliest drag queen), lots of kids’ events, food, booze and more and more booze. Yard Un-Unlimited Totnesia beat Bad Muskau in the final of the men’s footy (largely because they refused to drink, did nobody tell them the rules?), Cullompton won the women’s football and Cowboys B won the Cricket.
We made new friends when Punky’s determination and offensive t-shirts raised enough money to bring FC Vova over from Lithuania to Cullompton. They finished last and failed to win a match but did manage to comatose a large number of people, who thought they were hardened drinkers, with their now legendary ‘green stuff’.
Back home the Cowboys and Cowgirls achieved new heights. The Saturday A, Saturday B and Sunday football teams all reached cup finals. The Sunday Team got things rolling by beating Oracle 4-2 to win the Chas Finch Cup. On finals day on The Downs the Saturday Bs lost to Torpedo Reserves in The All Saints Cup but the Saturday As beat Portland Old Boys 3-1 winning the Norman Hardy Cup. Unfortunately the day was marred when 100 or so Cowboys’ supporters gratuitously used a gazebo for entertainment purposes. “We got a ga-ze-bo, we hate teams in yell-ow”. As well as double cup glory the Netball Team, Sundays and Cricket 1st (I’m sorry, Saturday) Team all gained promotion after protracted wranglings with their various leagues. Wilco won a special little trophy from the league for having the best bowling average in his division and Dunc achieved the unthinkable by taking 7 wickets for 4 runs in one match.
But wait, there is more. On top of all this the Men’s football team went to the annual Freiburg tournament and the Basketball and Cricket Teams took part in the Mondiali Antirazzisti. The Basketball Team came home with the trophy for the team with the best spirit and some of the cricketers came home with new lovers, whereas others returned home with nothing more than a bad hangover.