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UCC Express W/C 15th Sep - The Irish fascination with English soccer

In the previous edition of this paper, I mentioned how much I look forward to September each year. Certain events and aspects of this time of year excite me, one being the hope that Cork are competing for silverware on a certain two Sundays. There is another element to this time of year, however, that since I can remember, I dread more than you could know; the arrival of a new season of the Premiership, and all that comes with it.

I make no bones about it, I am not a soccer fan. I never have been, only for some fleeting, somewhat peer pressured moments in my childhood and adolescent years. Growing up, no one in my family pleaded allegiance to a club in a city hundreds of miles away. We played soccer for fun, but I was always much more interested in GAA, even if I was woefully bad at it. My interest in GAA was never my sole reason for disliking soccer so much however, no, it always ran much deeper.

I always wonder if I am the only one who finds the “beautiful” game so atrociously boring? Have you ever watched a soccer match after a game of rugby or hurling? The idea of wasting an hour and a half of my life to watch a game play out a scoreless draw is something I could never bring myself to do on a consistent basis. Of course people argue about the entertainment of tactics, the tension and the sideline battles, but let’s call a spade a spade, sports games are scoring contests, or at least they should be!

Something I reserve a pet hate for is how passionate and tribal Irish people get about “their” clubs, which not alone exist in a different city, but in a different country. I must admit to feeling particularly nauseous anytime I hear or see Irish people calling each other “mancs” or “scousers”, sometimes purely for banter, but other times, mid quite heated debates. Where does this blinding allegiance to foreign clubs in foreign cities come from, where friends and family become pseudo rivals based on non-existent connections? Why do Irish people feel the need to dream up new identities, as locals of English cities, to discuss their “beautiful” game?

When I watch Cork, Munster or Ireland play, I get extremely riled up, something my friends and family could most certainly contest to. I get passionate because I am Cork, I am Munster, I am Ireland. It’s in my blood. I was born here, my loved ones live here. I have the passport, the accent, the swagger. What has a man or woman from Bandon, Gurranabraher or Ballincollig got in common with a club in North London, in Liverpool or even Glasgow for that matter? How can they get passionate about a club in an area they have no connections with? I just don’t understand it.

This leads me to my next issue with the Irish fascination with English soccer. How come the majority of these “die hard” Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool fans will claim allegiance to English cities and their clubs, yet shout against the same players from the same cities and “their” clubs, when they wear the English jersey? Surely the hypocrisy of that doesn’t escape people? I would have thought the days of shouting against our neighbours and friends, just because they’re England, were well and truly over?

All this aside, I must admit to having huge admiration for the real Irish soccer fans, who frequent the Turners Cross’s of this country, and not only the bar stools, even if I don’t share their love of the same sport. These are fans that first and foremost support their local team, something I can truly relate to. Seeing Cork, Munster or City jerseys, on kids supporting their local teams, ahead of foreign club jerseys, is something that always makes me smile. Knowing your sporting icons are accessible is pivotal to the development of the love of any sport. 

I’m sure I adorn enough dartboards at this point, so I will leave you with a final thought. Do you think a league that pays any man £300,000 per week to kick a football, can still represent the grassroots and fundamentals of that sport fairly? We have world tournaments, being agreed upon and planned for summertime in the desert, solely on the back of brown envelopes, and nods and winks. The “beautiful game” is no longer a tag fitting of such a corrupted and ugly business.

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