Thursday, August 10, 2006

Outside the mainstream

Derry City just beat Gretna 5-1, away from home. A lot of people are very happy in Ireland right now. A fair few people in Scotland are probably in shock. And some people in Northern Ireland are a little scared because if Irish league clubs continue to improve, the Northerners are screwed in the Setanta Cup.

Elsewhere, Drogheda United, also of the League of Ireland, slipped to a narrow defeat at Norwegian side IK Start, whilst Welsh side Llanelli were defeated by the same scoreline by Odense BK of Denmark.

Now, this blog isn't a football news website so why am I telling you this? Well, it's because the only game that was actually available to watch on the television tonight was Newcastle United's dour affair with Lithuanian side Ventspils.

TV hates the little guys. The media just don't care. And as a result the average football fan in England's streets remains eternally blinkered about anything that's ever occurred outside the scope of the Premiership or Champions League. When unfashionable clubs finally do get on the box, they're constantly patronised to great lengths by commentators who put in a half arsed research attempt. When Liverpool faced Total Network Solutions in the Champions League first qualifying round - for many people the first time they even knew there was more than one - the folk in the studio just about managed to get the name of the club right. When a part time non-league side faces Premiership opposition, it doesn't matter how much the lowly representatives eulogise about their club's strengths and the appeal of the non-league game. All the papers want to know about is which one's the plumber.

It's about ratings, it's about drawing in the viewers for advertising revenue, and in that respect you can forgive the likes of ITV and five for not going to great lengths to snatch at the opportunity to cover Gretna's charge through Europe (that the game was picked up by Irish channel Setanta Sports is only some consolation, as I don't have it). The BBC, unhindered by commercial restrictions, could well have picked up Llanelli's game against Odense - an away game, it's not exactly going to stop the hordes from flocking to the stadium to catch the action. The travellers will always go.

So what about the game? Well, it's an area I want to pay attention to. Not only do I want to give plenty of exposure to the teams people rarely hear about, I want to bring forth the full experience. Playing a football game, as I've said in the past, can often be a sterile affair. Games rarely seem to note the difference in quality between the competing sides, so when I score a late equaliser with Yeovil against Liverpool in FIFA 2005, I get the same celebration as if the roles were reversed.

There's a lack of emotion. Derry City right now are over the moon. It's their third European win on the trot (the other two coming in the first qualifying round against IFK Goteborg, no mean feat) and only their fourth ever. The travelling fans were ecstatic throughout the second half, there's a party atmosphere throughout.

A game needs this. Football such as this is all about the passion. If it's missing, you've missed the point.

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