Cafe Calcio

Tacitus football shirtWhen football and Classics collide...

Last month, we heard about a radio show called Cafe Calcio on Resonance 104.4 FM, which combines the traditional Resonance audience with the arty minded football followers. Every hour long show is devoted to a specific topic for example women in football, the homeless street league, stadium architecture.

As a running feature in their season of shows, they are featuring a character called Tacticus, based, of course on the more well-known Classical figure Tacitus.
Iris spoke to Chris Roberts who co-hosts the show, to find out more...

So, tell us about Cafe Calcio!

Café Calcio is a football fanzine program broadcast out of London on the arts radio station Resonance 104.4 FM. The show covers the cultural, artistic and social aspects of football which, despite the deluge of soccer coverage, struggle to find a voice on mainstream media. Each episode deals with a specific aspect of soccer with expert guests and regular presenters. Our last season covered (amongst other things) psychology, women in football, soccer architecture for example, and the next will tackle football in film and theatre, soccer cuisine (for players and fans) and football and religion.
The idea is to create a space for intelligent debate about football and highlight aspects of the game (London’s homeless league for example) which get rather brushed aside elsewhere. There are three regular presenters, Chris Dixon, David Stubbs and myself (Chris Roberts) and we are joined by a series of experts to discuss topics around the game. I think my favourite show last season was our London Psycho geography one where we paired up businessman and retired West Ham hooligan Cass Pennant with a professor of geography from Queen Mary University. They got on well and questions relating to the geography of London support bases were answered that have never been dealt with before anywhere.
You've invented a character called 'Tacticus', an imaginary brother of the famous Roman historian Tacitus, for a series of shows in September - where did this idea come about?

Every series I have come up with a historical piece which features in each show in the 13 week season and links the season of shows together as it were. In the first run we had the Resonance Galaticos who were people that are largely unknown but without whom there would be no game called football or, at least, it would not be the world game it is today. In the second batch of shows we had something called the Football Art Masterclass which looked at football through the prism of art theory or, art theory through the prism of football. Examples there included Realism and the football statue, Futurism and the Arsenal sides of the 1920s and Dadaism and Newcastle United.
The idea for Tacticus, whose regrettable byline is “they think it’s all toga”, came about after a discussion meeting for the new series starting in September. We plan two shows on German football and I’ve always thought Tacitus’ observations of the Germans then (Ist century AD) are not too far off today. From there it was a short passing movement to the idea of Tacticus and the notion that having someone writing about modern football (in Latin) from the perspective of a first century Roman would be a perfect fit with how Café Calcio works.

Is there any connection between ancient Rome, or Latin, and football that inspired this idea? You said that you've done shows on stadium architecture - was there any inspiration from the great amphitheatre events of ancient Rome?!
We did, funnily enough, discuss classic amphitheatres and their relation, or not, to modern stadia in the architecture show and Tacticus himself, at least in our minds, was a top charioteer until injury forced him to retire. There is a great quote from a Uruguayan writer (Mario Benedetti) about the stadium being the skeleton of the crowd which was as true then in Ancient Rome as it now. We have also touched on in previous shows that Resonance’s studio in Borough is close to a former amphitheatre where the remains of a female gladiator were found. Tacticus’ opinion of British architecture is pretty bleak, though he does wryly note that their only monument of note (Stonehenge) resembles goalposts.  

Lots of football clubs have Latin mottos, don't they? Can you give some examples? Why do you think this is?
My own  club, Everton, have the rather splendid nil satis nisi optimum, basically not satisfied unless the best which is ripe with comic potential when one considers that they’ve not won the league for over twenty years. The basic reason for the Latin motto is that it confers instant heritage and taps into a heraldic tradition which early football teams were keen to associate with. Essentially it’s a marketing gesture and many sides adopted the same motto (and indeed crest) as the place they came from. Happily many others did not and I’m particularly fond of Sunderland (Consectatio Excellentiae, in pursuit of excellence), Tranmere Rovers (Ubi fides ibi lux et robur, where there is faith, there is light and strength) and Bury (Vincit Omnia Industria, hard work overcomes everything). Some are more apt than others with traditionally robust Blackburn Rovers sporting Arte et labore (by skill and labour), lower league Scottish outfit Queens Park wear ludere causa lundendi (to play for the sake of the game) whilst Manchester City relish superbia in praelia or pride in battle. On a spiritual level there is Bristol City’s Vim promovit insatum (promoting inner power) whilst Gillingham proclaims to be Domus clamantium or home of the shouting men.
And what about the shows themselves - what sort of Latin-related things will appear?

Well we like to think the show is not shy of embracing classical concepts but Tacticus will be the main focus of things Latin. We plan to introduce each five minute piece (Tacticus has written on many aspects of the game from song to food) in the style of a Latin class with the full English and Latin text on our website but snippets in the show. I will get guests and presenters to read out text in Latin and English and correct them on pronunciation and use of tenses. I’m already looking forward to the song piece which includes a translation by Micheal Sprack of the Millwall chant you don’t like us, you don’t like us, no one likes us, we don’t care (‘non amatis nos, non amatis nos, nemo nos amat, non flocci facimus.’).
I’ll leave it to your readers to figure out ‘conscribemini, conscribemini, quod non mercedem accipietis’ as it’s a bit personal to me.

Can you give us a sketch of the personality of Tacticus?!

He is undoubtedly a shrewd observer with a sense of irony but also a tad bitter having had his own sporting career cut short. He naturally carries an innate sense of Roman superiority over the Britons (and Germans) he writes about but does not let this blind him to their virtues. He also cannot overcome the temptation to compare what is strange to him (the culture of football) with what is not (Rome), any travel writer would do the same. He is clear about who he is and assumes he is addressing an intelligent and receptive audience.
Do you think football and other areas of modern life could benefit with some commentary in the manner of an ancient Roman?
Undoubtedly. I would love, just once, to hear a game commentated upon in Latin but I’d also enjoy some of the clarity of the world view to remove the hysteria which surrounds modern football, and indeed other, reporting. Political journalism and celebrity culture reporting would be two other areas which I feel would benefit greatly from a Roman commentary.

You mentioned there would be an area of the website devoted to this, with some Latin/English translations - what can people find there, and where can people find it?

Before every show the topic text in English and Latin will be released on . People should be able to read both the English text and Tacticus’ original in Latin for comparison.

How can people get involved with the shows and can people contact Tacticus and others at the show?

Through the site above or via @cafecalcio on Twitter we are hoping to start a debate and welcome possible corrections to the translations our experts have come up with.

Can you just remind everyone when the shows will be aired and we'll make sure to listen out!
Café Calcio is broadcast live on Resonance 104.4 FM at 9PM every Friday starting September 2nd and repeated at 11 AM every Saturday. Resonance can be picked up anywhere in London river valley from Ealing to Barking or via the Internet (

Podcasts are available of all shows via first series at or subscribe to the podcast