10 OCTOBER 1998, Page 64

High life

A culture of greed


Mind you, I'm not exactly a neophyte where football is concerned. My father was chairman of AEK, one of Greece's top three teams, and I spent years training with the boys. But that was back when they were still boys and played for glory. Now it's the moolah that counts, and the greed seems to have coarsened the crowds even more than the players. Some of the slogans were funny — as the one about Gascoigne being fat and beating his wife — but it was the utter single-mindedness with the F-word that struck me as indicative of the times. Whoever said that young black toughs in the Bronx are inferior to Chelsea yuppies got it completely wrong. And I was in the Matthew Harding stand, sitting with the swells.

These were not the people who once upon a time fought the Kaiser to a draw. Those brave types wore cloth caps and didn't swear in front of women or children. No, the people I had the bad luck to spend half a Sunday afternoon with were exactly the same people I had spent four months with in Pentonville. Foul-mouthed to the extreme, bullying, aggressive as hell, intol- erant, illiterate and yet — like those jail- birds — degenerate-looking and utterly cowardly.

How do I know? Experience, c'est tout. Pentonville taught me to see through the bragging, the lies about how tough one was, the inevitable loss of face without the slightest shame at having backed down. The few times I was attacked while inside, I was surprised at the vehemence of the rhetoric before, as opposed to how quickly they capitulated after a blow had landed.

The reason I bring up these unpleasant 'sportsmen' is in order to compare them with another group, far poorer than Chelsea season-ticket holders, and one that has absolutely nothing in common — except for being British — with the rabble I've polluted the elegant pages of The Spec- tator by mentioning.

Traditional martial arts practitioners in Britain were lucky to get Mr Enoeda 30 years ago. It meant they got a moral as well as a physical education, no mean feat nowadays. I say this because in America many martial arts dojos quickly turned into recruitment centres for black criminals. Not in Britain. Mr Enoeda made sure of that a long time ago. In fact, I do not think I know of a single case of one of his stu- dents — except for myself — who has ever had trouble with the law. Before the class begins a student reads out the karate creed, which in short teaches one not to be aggressive, never to be rude or dishonest and to be courteous at all times. Kenkojuku translates as humbleness through strength, and, believe you me, most of Mr Enoeda's students are bloody strong.

Now all this is about to disappear. 'This notice is intended to bring your tenancy to an end.' A short terse sentence is all it took. After 30 years as a good tenant, Mr Enoeda was informed last summer that he and hundreds of his students are to become a mere number. The Marshall Street Baths in Wl, where the dojo is located, is a listed building. It has been bought by a large company that plans to turn it into a leisure centre, whatever that means. (Alas, it means a place where young people go to waste time, play pinball and exchange drugs.) Yet Mr Enoeda, who bought the lease 30 years ago, has kept more young people off the streets than any councillor could possibly imagine. He is now being unceremoniously evicted so somebody can make more money than Mr Enoeda is capable of paying.

This is a David versus Goliath problem, and I am appealing to anyone on Westmin- ster Council or whoever can help us to come forward. Mr Enoeda's and his stu- dents' only fault is that they have no money to fight. As the karate dojo occupies only a very small part of the building, and in view of the good it does to the community, one would have thought the landlord would give the place a break. Not on your life.

If anyone can help, please contact Mr Enoeda, Marshall Street Baths, London Wl; telephone 0171-734 0900. Otherwise, we might as well all turn into Chelsea sportsmen.