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Is Trap The Man To Lead Us On?
The future of football in Ireland depends on the performances of the national team. So where do we go after the humiliation of Euro 2012?
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 28 Jun 2012
What does football really matter? In the context of mounting job losses, people unable to pay their mortgages, social welfare cuts, resources being denied to special needs children, hospital wards closing, the deepening of the poverty trap, escalating emigration – and so on through a litany of the consequences of the austerity agenda that has been imposed on Ireland – the obvious answer is not a lot.
But the obvious answer is often the wrong one. For a start, it misses the point that football matters enough for over 20,000 fans to travel to Poland to support the Irish team in what had promised to be a brilliant adventure.
It misses the point that the hopes of the nation were hugely invested in the team doing well, a romantic allegiance which was aptly reflected in the viewership figures for Ireland’s opening game against Croatia, when 2 million people tuned in to watch.
And it misses the point that a big performance by the Irish would likely have had a hugely beneficial impact on national morale, helping just a little bit to shake off the worst ravages of the economic nightmare we’ve been enduring collectively these past three or four years.
And that is only the surface layer. Every weekend, all across Ireland, thousands of teams line out in various football competitions, from schoolboy leagues upwards. The level of participation here in soccer is higher than any other sport. The game is widely played and supported in deprived and marginalised urban communities. In those areas in particular, it represents a desperately needed antidote against permanent disaffection, alienation, the attractions of crime and other forms of social malaise.
Every week during the winter, the Hot Press Munchengladbach 1891 caravan rolls into parks and pitches all over Dublin, in Ballymun, Finglas, Liffey Valley, Neilstown, Tallaght, Coolock, Swords and so on. We meet the men on the sideline, who dedicate their lives and their energies to keeping clubs going – who put up the nets and line the pitches and do all of the necessary humdrum things that running a football club requires. And we see first-hand how, when the young fellas – or mostly young anyway – have a game to play on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, they are that much less likely to end up twisted drunk the night before or to get into the harder kinds of narcotic that have the potential to ruin lives.