I remember football when football was football. My father died when I was just eleven years old. He wasn’t the sort that got along with his children, but I have fond memories of football. That’s the one thing we did together.
There was only one TV channel in those days, our equivalent to BBC, and their Saturday match from the British Premier League was an institution. It was one of those programs that people talked about during the lunch break on Monday because if you were interested in football you didn’t miss the match.
I kept my interest for a while. I collected football cards, and I liked individual players more than teams. It was in fact the players that determined what teams I liked. The first players I liked were Kenny Dalgliesh, Ian Rush and Ronny Whelan, so it’s not surprising that my first team was Liverpool. I also remember players like Matthew Le Tissier, Ray Houghton, Steve Staunton and Gordon Strachan. I think Kevin Keegan had retired by the time I was old enough to discover football, but I remmeber him as the manager of Newcastle. That was a lot of fun.
It seems like money and celebrity status has taken over. I don’t blame players, especially the young ones for wanting to make as much money as possible, but it is a shame. Whenever a team develops a good player he is sold to a better club. I guess that has always been the motivation that has produced results, but I think it is sad when some players make £ 150 000 per week, if not more.
My local team in the Norwegian league, FK Haugesund, went to Northern Ireland for their first qualifying match for Europa League a few weeks ago. Coleraine is a town with 24 000 people, so the club probably isn’t a very rich one. FK Haugesund won their home match 7-0, but the most interesting story was the man who didn’t play. Coleraine is a semi-professional team, so many of the players work or study as well. The goalkeeper Chris Johns is one of the most important players on the team, but he couldn’t play because he was taking an exam in physics the same day. He used to play professionally in Southampton, but decided to resume his studies when he moved back. The coach, Oran Kearney, is by the way an P.E. teacher as well.
I watched the best Norwegian team on TV last night. Rosenborg is playing qualifying for Champions League, and they met the Irish team Dundalk. This is another team with small resources in terms of money, but it is impressive to see what they have accomplished. Rosenborg tend to get on my nerves because they whine when they don’t win. The two matches between the two teams ended 1-1 and 2-1 (went to extra time), but it is the wrong team that will face Celtic in the 3 rd qualifying round. I like the spirit of both these Irish teams, and that seems to be a spirit these islands have had for a long time. That’s the spirit we used to have.
Tonight my team, FK Haugesund, will be the underdog. They played a qualifying match for Europa League a week ago, and almost got away with a perfect result. The Polish team Lech Poznan was awarded a penalty kick 2 minutes on overtime, so the result was 3-2. That is still a good result, but it remains to be seen how well FKH will do in front of 40 000 people tonight. The entire population of Haugesund would fit in that stadium, with quite a few empty seats left.
Football used to be a beautiful game, and sometimes it still is. I am probably not returning to football as a regular fan, but I like a good story. So tonight I am hoping FKH can play with a strong Irish viking heart.