Meet the Arancione – the football fans aiming to take AFC Portchester’s name across the world!

A non-league football fan is aiming to carry on bringing a ‘European vibe’ to Wessex League matches next season - as well as spreading his club’s name throughout the planet.

Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 8:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 8:34 am
Purple reign - a colourful sight at Kyoto Sanga FC. Pic: Lewis Millington.

Lewis Millington is the man behind the formation of a new official AFC Portchester Supporters Club.

The Arancione - the Italian word for orange, Portchester’s colours - are eager to bring a ‘positive’ feel and a lot more terrace-based passion to the Royals’ first team fixtures.

Millington and a group of friends were pictured in The News in March after I attended the club’s Wessex League home game against Amesbury.

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The Aranciona - a group of AFC Portchester fans pictured earlier this year (from left) Joe Allen, Alex White, Lewis Millington, Richard Green, Clare Millington, Joe Balchin, Chad Perkins, Stephen Withers. Picture by Tarek Fergani.

The group hardly stopped singing, belting out a wide array of songs with Portchester-specific lyrics, throughout the 90 minutes at The Crest Finance Stadium. They provided the sort of atmosphere you rarely see at that level of non-league football (or, for that matter, much further up it).

Now Millington has taken it a step further by setting up an official fans group that already counts Royals chairman Paul Kelly among its number.

‘Portchester are a great community club,’ said Millington, 29. ‘They’re doing a lot of brilliant things with their Covid help group, they want to set up a women’s team.

‘They’ve got lots of youth teams and there’s been some changes in the set-up to try and get a pathway from the youth into the first team.

Lewis Millington enjoying his time at Kyoto Sanga FC last summer

‘There’s lots of positive things going on and we want to be a part of that.’

Millington, from Worcestershire, was introduced to non-league football in his teens when he started following his local club Redditch United.

He moved to Portsmouth University a decade ago and has settled in the area, living in Southsea and Fareham before moving to Portchester three years ago with wife Clare.

While the couple were on holiday in Japan last year, they had their eyes opened when attending a Kyoto Sanga match.

Kyoto play in the second tier of the Japan League - the J League - and Millington was blown away by the passion shown by the home supporters.

‘We didn’t really know what to expect,’ he recalled, ‘but I knew from watching the 2002 World Cup that the Japanese had bought into football and taken it on from there.

‘The Kyoto fans were really passionate in how they got behind their team - they were loud, bright, colourful. It was all really positive.

‘I’ve been to some places, some grounds, where the fans have got behind the home team in a more aggressive way.

‘I want our group to be passionate about football, to enjoy it, to have a European vibe - but without being seen as a kind of Ultras group who have scraps with the police.’

Millington has already organised a link between the Arancione and the Kyoto fans.

‘When we went there it was so friendly, the language barrier didn’t matter, one of the fans threw me a scarf to wear,’ he remarked.

‘That’s why I wanted the link with Kyoto - it would be nice to set up a cultural exchange, I’ve sent some terrace stickers, some shirts, and hopefully we will get the same thing back.

‘Already some of the Kyoto fans have started to follow the club (Portchester) on twitter.

‘It’s not a commercial set-up in any way, it’s just a link to bring fans who love the beautiful game together.

‘It would be great if we could have a link with one club on each continent.

‘One guy who has already joined the supporters club lives in Canada, but is from Portchester. I’ve asked him if he knows of any local clubs in his area we could link with.

‘And one of our former players (Brody Norton) is currently working in Australia so he’s on the lookout there for a club.’

Millington and his friends attended a handful of Portchester away games in 2019/20. Though numbers were small, he is hoping once word spreads that more people will be swept up in the ‘vibe’.

‘Last season six or seven of us went to Portland on the train, it was a really enjoyable day,’ he recalled.

‘We were talking to some guys in the bar afterwards and they said when they first saw us they thought ‘these could be trouble.’

‘They told us we were among the best fans they’ve seen there, and that’s what we’re about - just supporting the club with our songs and flags, it’s all positive.

‘A group of us went on the Red Jet to the Isle of Wight to watch Portchester at Cowes - in all, I went to10 or 12 away games last season. I’m lucky my wife likes football!

‘It could be that we use some of the money the supporters club raises to offer discounted travel to Cowes next time.’

Millington continued: ‘Portchester are an ambitious club, they want to get into the Southern League. It’s only a matter of time before they do - the set-up is right, the people are great, the ground is one of the best in the league.

‘The management and players have been absolutely fantastic, and when you’ve got that great relationship you can’t fail.

‘They will go up one day and we want to be a part of it, and hopefully we can encourage more people to come along and watch.

‘I’d love to think that when Pompey are away next season some of their fans will go and watch their local non-league club.

‘These are challenging times to try and get people to watch non-league football. With all the Premier League and other games being shown on television or online non-league football can tend to be forgotten about.

‘It would be great once lockdown is over and football starts again if people could go and watch their local non-league club - it doesn’t have to be Portchester, it could be Baffins, Moneyfields, Horndean.

‘I love non-league - the social aspect of it, the characters, the people, you can talk to the players.

‘Non-league clubs really should be at the heart of their communities.’

He summed up: ‘I do a bit of groundhopping and it would be lovely to think that through our group groundhoppers will want to visit Portchester because of the experience they will get, the fans, the people they will meet.

‘That’s what we aspire to.’

* It costs £3m a month to join the Arancione. There will be a welcome pack upon joining, which will include membership card, fans group badge, terrace stickers and a newsletter, which will be published regularly.

Members will receive a free burger and drink for their birthday, as well as a ten per cent discount at the club bar by showing their membership card.

To join, search for ‘The Arancione - AFC Portchester Fans Group’ on Twitter.