So this week marks a year since the publication and launch of my book, Soccer in Munster: A Social History, 1877-1937 by Cork University Press. As Ireland, and many other countries around Europe gear up for the beginning of the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France, it seems a fitting time to remind people why it is I wrote the book. As I said on the night of the book launch in Cork last year:
Sport matters. It matters hugely to me. It matters hugely to millions of people. Soccer matters. To me and to millions. Yes it’s a commercial behemoth that appears to have overtaken and sullied much that is good about sport. Yes it means FIFA, Sepp Blatter, and the deaths of thousands in Qatar. But soccer is so much more than FIFA and the Premier League… Soccer is much more than twenty-two men on a field kicking an inflated pig bladder. It is, and was, a central part of the lives of many Irish people. I hope my book, arguing why that is the case will, in your hands and in your minds, amount to much more than the paper and ink it is printed on but will help you see our past a little differently – with a little more colour and a little more community.
I still hope that that is the case .
That’s why, in this week when we hope that Irish dreams of something like glory on the international footballing stage will become reality, remember that the history of football, or soccer, or whatever you like to call it, is a long one in Ireland. The sport as it was played over one-hundred and fifty years ago would be nearly unrecognisable to us today, but some kernel of the same drive and desire to represent your community – whether your street, city, or country – can be found across time. For now though, it’s enough to shout: Come on You Boys in Green!