INTERVIEW: Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual
The story behind Leicester’s infamous Baby Squad is being brought to life in Curve’s latest new production; Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, coming to Leicester from 26th September – 6th October 2018
We caught up with director Nikolai Foster and writer Riaz Khan to find out more.
So Nikolai what was Leicester’s Baby Squad?
The Baby Squad were a gang of football hooligans who were allied to and supported Leicester City. When Leicester would play another team, the Baby Squad would work very hard to make sure the opposing team’s equivalent of the Baby Squad would feel very unwelcome in Leicester, which is the polite way of saying they would kick the shit out of each other. It was gang warfare built around your affiliation with a football club. The Baby Squad were not only known for their violence but also for their fashion sense and the clothes they wore. They took a real interest in style and the clothes they wore defined them as a gang. They had real pride in their appearance, in how they looked and how those clothes made them feel.
Riaz, the play is your account of growing up in the ‘80s in a strict Pakistani home in multi-cultural Leicester. What was it that drew you to be part of the casual gang cuture?
“For me and the other guys involved in the casual scene in Leicester, being part of a firm was always about escapism from the pressures of family, society and teenage life – you put on the clothes and became part of something but it obviously created a lot of trouble and people did get
The play explores the development of the hybrid youth culture of the time, which developed within a shocking culture of violence. Nikolai, do
you think gang culture and youth culture have always gone hand in hand?
I suppose generally speaking, yes they have. We recently presented GREASE, which is all about gang culture in America in the 1950s and that really was the beginning of youth culture. Suddenly teenagers had a bit of spare cash in their pockets, the country was becoming more affluent and young people had more freedom. In the case of GREASE, they started to define who they were, and they would move in packs with others who had similar taste in music and clothes.
Nikolai, what do you think audiences will take away with them from seeing the play?
Riaz’s story is not only fascinating and makes for great theatre, but is also profoundly moving. Riaz is the first generation of his family to be born here in Leicester and the story is about the racism and horrendous abuse he suffered on a daily basis. Through the gang, he finds an identity but he also recognises that violence and life in the gang isn’t going to lead to a positive life. Through all of this journey and learning, he emerges transformed into a young Muslim and community leader, able to shape the future narrative and combat extremism. With the rise of nationalism and a general shift towards the right here in the West, his story and his past is so vitally important.