The Aviva Stadium in Dublin looms large like a giant crystal toilet seat, it was wonderfully apt that such a venue would host what can only be described as footballing excrement. Don’t forget to wipe.
If the Champions League final the night before was enough to recharge the soul of the football fan, the friendly between Ireland and England dragged us right back down to hell.
In terms of quality, players from the British Isles are light years behind their foreign counterparts. Add a hefty dollop of apathy and disinterest to that lack of skill and you have the recipe for one of the worst football matches I have ever attended. You couldn’t even buy a pint to dull your senses. As is the norm, football fans are the only ones deprived of in-stadium alcohol. Rugby and GAA fans can swallow pissy lager by the bucket full when they watch their teams in Ireland’s major stadiums. Football fans can’t be trusted you see, they can’t have nice things.
In the match itself, nothing happened, nobody stood out. The highlight for me was being surrounded by some of the big names in football journalism. It was interesting to see people like Oliver Holt and Henry Winter looking travel weary and fatigued having covered Barca vs Juve in Berlin the night before. Nice work if you can get it. I also stood beside former referee Dermot Gallagher for a bit as he surveyed his surrounding looking like a giant earthworm in a suit. On the pitch, there was nothing worth talking about, I have diddly squat to tell you that you won’t have seen yourselves…or not seen in this case. The lack of action did give me time to think though.
As I scanned the faces in the crowd around me, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for each and every bored face, especially those of parents with young kids who had forked out premium prices for tickets only to be served offal instead of fillet steak. It conceivably could have been some of those kids first live experience of the beautiful game. It was enough to turn them off for life.
I realize that players don’t want to over extend themselves before the more important European Championship qualifiers, but what about their duty to the fans? Isn’t football essentially a pastime for the working man? A form of entertainment? Am I being a little naïve here stinking of soppy romanticism? I’m not sure.
The Aviva was full of ordinary folk, most of who slaved away at jobs they hate all week, and this match would have been the light at the end of the tunnel – the summer’s day shining in through factory windows. Without descending into Dickension descriptives about the downtrodden underclass, let’s just say I think the fans deserved better.
I know it is unfair to compare football to other forms of entertainment like music and movies, but I will anyway. If you paid big money to go to a Jay-Z concert and he came on stage, mumbled a few songs half heartedly before sitting to play with his phone for a couple of hours, would you boo? Even if it was the last leg of a 9 month tour and Hova was “tired”? Of course you would. You would be apoplectic. Footballers get a pass though.
Players and teams can have off days, that’s the nature of the sport, but if they don’t even try, then what is the point? Why have the game at all? What did either team gain from yesterday’s “show piece”? Absolutely nothing. The FAI got plenty though, in the form of those lovely Euros. You could see John Delaney peering down from his office overlooking the turnstiles, high fiving his cronies and slapping the bare arses of high class Brazzers every time another fan passed through the gate. F*ck John Delaney.
I stick two fingers up at Roy Hodgson and Martin O’Neill too. Why not take the opportunity to tell your players to run out and play with care-free expression? It was an ideal fixture to play with freedom, to bring out the party tricks, the flicks and “maddd skillllz”. If it finished 3-3, who cares? All the better! It could have been all aboard the showboat, instead it was a 12 foot fishing trawler; the catch of the day rusted shopping trolleys and decomposing bags of kittens.
You may think I am being completely over the top here, which might be fair enough – it was an end of season friendly after all. Meaningless. A good chunk of international friendlies tend to follow a similar pattern. If fans must accept that, then the respective associations should then make tickets for the games as near to free as possible.
Tickets for yesterday’s game were €90 and €70 for adults and €20 for kids. A quick calculation for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids gives you a cost of €220 and that’s before travel/food expenses are added it. You’re probably talking close to €300 for a family to watch a shit game of football. Wonderful fun this modern game is at times.
(PS to the Irish fans who belted out the “Soldier’s Song” pre-game and then booed an English player for not signing a new contract with an English club. Don’t reproduce).