Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Irish and the Beautiful Game

Gombeen Man gets a fair few Google searches leading to the blog. Some of them can be rather bizarre, and no doubt the searchee ends up disappointed when they reach the shores of Gombeen Nation. There have been a couple of "Jobs in Gaelscoils" queries, for instance. "Where's the back button?!", you can hear them exclaim.

One that crops up quite often, believe it or not, is "why do so many Irish people support English soccer teams?". Well, Gombeen Man feels it's only fair to provide his explanation on this subject, so that those who land here in this manner are not disappointed.

Football (or “soccer” - a play on AsSOCiation Football) is a world game. Sao Paulo or Soweto, Munich or Manchester, Dublin or Dubrovnik, Kiev or Kuwait: this is the game that is played in every urban setting the world over. Football is truly a universal language - unlike some less inclusive, more parochial sports that Gombeen Man could mention, but won’t. Not for another paragraph, anyway.

For decades, young Irish lads have have had ambitions to play this wonderful game at the highest level. To be a pro, in front of massive crowds, enjoying the atmosphere, the adulation and the lifestyle it brings. Just like Johnny Giles, in fact - the best Irish footballer of all time. Even Gombeen Boy once harboured such illusions- undeterred as he was by an obvious lack of talent or ability. So useless was he, in fact, that he was regularly the last one picked in the schoolyard kickaround.
Interestingly, although GAA and Rugby were the schools’ “official” games, it was Soccer that was the natural choice in the yards. Indeed, businessman Bill Cullen was actuallty expelled from his Christian Brothers school for playing soccer, rather than GAA. Amazing, but true.

Soccer has always been the poor relation in Ireland. The GAA banned its supporters from playing it or attending its matches. It never enjoyed the official State sanction and financial support that Gaelic did. It was denounced as a “foreign” game by those narrow little cultural supremacists whose vision of Irishness is an idealised, homogenous, Gaelic one. Never mind the fact that DNA research indicates the Irish are not exclusively Celts at all. But let’s not let the truth stand in the way of a good myth, eh?

But we digress. Many “English” football clubs have been represented very strongly by Irish players down the decades. Leeds United, Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Spurs, Reading, and loads, loads more. In fact, today, some “English” teams might not have a single English player on the pitch for some matches. Arsenal come to mind.

So, although English clubs are based in England, and attract the support of their local towns and cities, they are undeniably international in their make-up. So is it any wonder that Irish people who love the Beautiful Game may, indeed, follow an English team? What’s the problem?

So for those who whose queries on the subject lead them to this site, here’s the answer:-
There’s a big world out there, just beyond the boundaries of your parish pump. You should go and have a look sometime.

Come on Leeds!

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Ella said...

Gombeen Man, a Leeds United fan, oh dear!

The Gombeen Man said...

Guilty as charged, I'm afraid. I blame your man in the pic. Irrational decision made at the age of 8.

FP said...

Sorry Gombeen Man, but Leeds, Sunderland or Manchester, as expressions of the spirit of cosmopolitan adventure? Yer 'avin a laff.

The Gombeen Man said...

What??????? Leeds is lovely. ;-)

Fair point, FP. But whether it's Leeds or Liverpool, Shels or St Pats (or Bohs, for that matter), St Pauli or Schalke, Barcelona or Bilbao, it's the beautiful game to me!

P. Dantik said...

"Come on Leeds!" !!?

We'll paint your white rose red lol.

Have you read Sykes and Oppenheimers works regards the genetic origins of the people of the islands?

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, it's not easy being a Leeds fan, P.

No, haven't read that one, but I'll look out for it. Cheers.