Saturday, 28 June 2008
This week I've spent some time in Dublin, I was lucky enough to go there with work, and then I tagged on a couple of days afterwards in order to have a look around and see what the city had to offer. As is so typical with me, the weather was bloody awful - almost constant rain, which curtailed my wanderings somewhat. So, I ended up doing all sorts of cultural things National Museum of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin Writers Museum. All of which I enjoyed, but still left me with time on my hands and starting to develop trench foot. So, I look refuge in a bookshop on O'Connell St - and as is my wont, I gravitated to the sports section.
I expected to find the football section stuffed with books on the glory of the Republic's world cup exploits and Manure books... I was wrong. Shelf after shelf of books on sunderland, Roy Keane and Niall Quinn. They seem to have transported the mackems from the North East of England to somewhere near County Mayo. I'd joked in the past about the mackems being full of Irish Manure rejects, but I was bewildered to see that the Irish seem to have taken them to their hearts. I'm starting to wonder when they will actually alter the strip from red and white to green and white... I'd bet that might be a safe option for an away strip (after all they won't be needing a European strip will they?)
So, as I flew back (via a spectacular thunderstorm at Manchester airport - gulp) I started to think about the power of the brand of football in general and the Premier League in particular.
A couple of years ago I watched Champions League semi finals in a bar in the Gambia in West Africa. An amazing atmosphere as both games were being shown, on big screens, side by side. So you'd have your eye caught by one game and then something else on another one. I think it was Chelsea v Liverpool and Manure v Roma. At one stage Rooney scored, half the place erupted with excited Gambians cheering for their chosen team - the guy in front of me had a Chelsea shirt on, which as soon as Rooney scored he tugged over his head to reveal a Manure shirt with the number 8 on the back. We laughed and made jokes with him about hedging his bets.
But all these examples show the way in which football spans countries and continents, its not just who owns the clubs, the nationality of the player that attract people to the game. Its the universal power of the brand that attracts people to the game. So the Dublin taxi driver as well as the barman in Banjul all ask "Will Keegan actually win anything for Newcastle?" The honest answer is probably not, but at least I was able to tell the taxi driver that we had finished above the mackems in the league for the longest time.
BTW - the picture above is James Joyce... I haven't read the Dubliners since I did my degree - this last week has encouraged me to re-read...