Local football still has much to offer

By Thomas Crean

local football

Thomas Crean gives his perspective on why football fans should still look to their local sides for their footballing fix.

I decided to take a short spin to see my local, semi- professional side play on last Friday; they were playing for their premier division status, their families, their friends, their livelihoods.

Relegation will most certainly mean a pay-cut or even reason enough to be struck off the club’s books entirely. Yes, I agree that the League of Ireland is not the most glamorous league in the world, but it brought me to realise what football is really all about.

I was able to park at a friend’s house, so a five minute jog (I was late) was all it took until I was greeted by volunteers at the entrance; People helping for free to ensure that everything went smoothly. They were happy with the fact alone that semi-pro football was being played in our city.

Ten euro admission was reasonable, bearing in mind that it costs about 35 euro for the ‘worst’ seat at my ‘real’ team, Arsenal. Yes I did get a seat; a front-row spot in the recently constructed stand was easy to find despite one of the biggest crowds of the season at 1,882.

The opposition, Cork City, were playing to secure a Europa League place, so the match was never going to be dull. The game was full of life and counter-attacking football.  Although the quality was not of the Ronaldo’s or Messi’s of this world, the players played their part to put on an entertaining spectacle. I drove home satisfied at the fair 2-2 draw.

When you support your local team you are often on the receiving end of some abuse from your friends. “I wouldn’t go for free” or “waste of time” are the most common that fall upon my ears, even though 99% of these people have never even been to see their local side in action. Sometimes you can never win.

You see, you have to support a ‘big’ team. One that is too far away to consider purchasing a season ticket which fleece ‘fans’ to enable clubs to pay up to six-figure sums to its players.

As my father would say: “they earn more in a year than I would in a lifetime.” You have to buy the new shirt every summer, get all the sports channels (which are the team’s primary income) and of course get to a match every so often. We must call the stadiums by the name of their sponsor: so much for ‘club’ meaning a non-profit organisation.

I grew up in north London, where I had been blinded by the bright lights of the Premier League bandwagon, created and expertly maintained by its cunning marketing team.

Credit is due, as they have built possibly the greatest sporting brand in the modern age. Convincing children that Shearer, Gerrard or Beckham are superstars is no mean feat, seeing all they actually do is run around a field after a ball.

They do not have superhuman powers.

I am not trying to take anything away from the players themselves, but the entire system. It has been developed to exploit the working class, to create a devotedness they cannot hide from.

How many times have we heard of people re-mortgaging their homes, just to afford to go to a ‘big’ match far away from home and family?

I find it so much easier to relate to a team that plays several miles away, containing two lads from my parish for a tenner.

Someone you can congratulate in person after the match in a pub or the next day in your local supermarket.  At least you can relate to them somehow, unlike those ‘superstars’ you will never encounter, apart from on your television screen.

I am not saying that I am turning my back on my beloved Gooners. We have been through a lot together, Dennis Bergkamp and I go back a long way. But every now and then, stop and look at how much you put into these clubs balance sheets.

Is it really necessary? Could you cut back?

Perhaps consider trying out one of your local club’s matches perhaps, if nothing else just to see if the level is as poor you would expect.

Cigarettes harm your lungs. Alcohol harms your liver. Premier League football harms your bank balance.

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