Soccering it to your rivals

I won’t pretend otherwise: when I saw that Sergio Aguero had pinched the English Premier League title from under Manchester United’s nose on Sunday I went slightly potty. I’m certain that in the depths of his heart (or what passes for one) Alex Ferguson was convinced that City would blow it. I present as evidence for this assertion his decision to raid Michael Owen’s grave and wheel his corpse out at the Stadium of Light. There was simply no rationale to giving a run-out to a player who hadn’t kicked a single ball in the league all season except as an exercise in gloating. It was hubris that came perilously close to coming off. In the end though, nemesis struck and the attempt to antagonise Liverpool fans by having Owen prancing around with the trophy was only noticed by those of us always on the look out for evidence of Ferguson’s obsession with Liverpool. You read it here first.

The core event of the weekend certainly dominated the headlines, leading to a thread on the GAA Discussion Board bemoaning the saturation of soccer threads on the board. It might have seemed to an outsider that the sheer drama at Eastlands would justify the hoopla that followed from the weekend’s results, but the truth is people on the board would probably only have been marginally less exercised had Manchester City won 8-0 like Chelsea did on the last day two years ago. Much duller stuff came out of Liverpool and Everton’s respective games and that didn’t stop those thread from being near the top of the board.

Soccer obsession is all too real, and it was another event last weekend that emphasised to me what sustains this obsession. It isn’t teams scoring two goals in injury time to win the title, that kind of thing happens once in a generation. While at a friend’s wedding in Munich on Friday, I found myself in the company of a friend of his from Denmark called Allan. Having laboriously established that this was how his name was spelt, I was able to ask him whether he was named after Allan Simonsen. Cue several minutes of mutual congratulations on how much we knew about soccer. Borussia Mönchengladbach . . . Daniel Agger . . . Aarhus . . . 1977 . . . touts prices for next week’s Champions League final . . . Simonsen boots . . . conversation was effortless, even it were only making jokey apologies to the ladies around us (NB the notoriously soccer-loving Mrs d, who will hate me referring to it as ‘soccer’, was nowhere to be seen).

Is there anything else in life that provides people from around the globe with such a shared experience? Maybe unemployment, and no-one wants to talk about that. Allan did ask what we did in Ireland when we weren’t following English soccer teams but the mention of hurling brought a blank look, which goes to prove the game pre-dated the arrival of the Vikings. A day will surely arrive when hurling crushes all sports in its path. Until then though, soccer is the only game in the global village.

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