I love football, it has its detractors, and for good reason, there are hooligans and trouble makers who use the sport as an excuse for violence, and of course the money involved is obscene and the commercialisation of the sport is unsavoury, but despite its faults, I love it.
There are few things in life, quite as un-important as football that can raise emotions in the way it does, that can have billions of people around the world all watching the same thing at the same time. What other un-important thing makes people cry and cheer in equal measure, what other utterly pointless pastime is played and watched by countless millions and millions of people every weekend, from your local park to Anfield (sorry I am a Liverpool supporter after all), in the back streets of Brazil’s favela’s with a tin can, to the Nou Camp in front of 105,000 people.
And on St Helena it is no different, our lives have involved a lot of football recently. With the excitement of Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool the optimism has reached the far flung places of the World and even here people have been discussing the enigmatic German. Ive had friends over to watch games on the big screen and passers-by make conversation on the prospects of Liverpool, the fate of Louis Van Gaal, the joyous downfall of Chelsea or the positivity surrounding Arsenal.
But more importantly than the English Premiership, is the local St Helena leagues, which, from 5 years olds to veterans has reached its pinnacle in the past few weeks. Sundays have been taken over by junior football in the morning, and my own games in the afternoon, followed by watching Liverpool! With The league season coming to an end and the cup competitions taking place the junior leagues played their final few games. This involved their own respective cup finals, and friendly games for those already out in the earlier rounds. My team, Jungle Rangers, being one of the youngest in the cup structure, went out in an earlier round and were therefore left to play a friendly with the Longwood Dynamites. It seems that there exists a strong rivalry between different districts on St Helena, this is played out through the various sports teams. Jungle Ranger representing the Jamestown district, and Longwood Dynamites representing…. Well you can figure that one out.
Following the junior football, the big game arrived, the St Helena FA Cup. The Rovers, narrowly beaten to this year’s league title by Hearts, played the Chop Shop Boys. There are some real players on St Helena despite a poor playing surface and uneven ground. Id love to see some of these boys play on a half descent pitch. But despite the testing conditions a fantastic, entertaining game of football was played out, the Rovers running out eventual winners.
At the end of the day, Trophies were held aloft by all ages. All junior players, winners or not, received a trophy. It’s a funny thing, and people will tell you that football doesn’t matter, but try telling that to the kids who played their heart out. Try telling them that their efforts do not matter and football is silly as they walk up those steps to collect their first ever sports trophy.
Oliver now sports three trophies on his shelf, bringing back fond memories of my own junior football days. I recall receiving most improved player, and defender of the season, presented to me by non-other than former Everton Goal Keeper Neville Southall. Do I still have the trophies, of course I do, they meant something then, and actually they still do today. They represent good things, my childhood, my friends. They represent rainy days on a frozen pitch, hoping the changing rooms might be unlocked. They represent my Mum and Dad, tirelessly supporting me, driving me to games and standing in said rain shouting me on. But most of all they represent a dream, a dream I once had, and the same dream that Oliver now has. That same dream that he enacts in our back garden as he runs away from goal, his arms aloft in celebration as he sticks one past his Dad, dreaming that one day he will be running out at Anfield.
I love football, it represents dreams, and there surely cant be much wrong with that.