He’s soccer crazy, he’s soccer mad

Always nice to get some compliments from whatever source:

Thanks very much, gormacha, but surely I didn’t use the ‘s’ word that much, did I?

Oh. Four times in the first paragraph. That’s a lot.

The sensitivity of supporters of association football to the name of their sport is a curious phenomenon. At first glance you might be inclined to think that this is a reflection of a chip on the shoulder on the part of followers of the League of Ireland, resentful that the biggest sport in the world is playing second fiddle to a sport in Ireland that calls itself ‘football’ but is really catchthrowpunchfootball. But there are two problems with this analysis. At the risk of looking like this is an exercise in mutual backslapping, anyone who has read gormacha’s posts on BTID would know not that they are not a bitter, resentful person. Secondly, my wife feels the same way. When I speak of gaelic football as ‘football’, she will arch an eyebrow and say “I presume you mean that other sport and not proper football?” It’s interesting to see how even someone from a culture where football is totally dominant gets irked when it is referred to as anything other than football and other sports steal the title.

What explains this seeming over-sensitivity? I think it’s down to the dominance of another culture – that of America. We’re saturated with American culture, and a big part of American culture is their version of football. Americans are very proud of gridiron, the rootinest tootinest shootinest sport on the planet against which all others are hopelessly lily-livered, mind-numbingly low-scoring, or – in the case of soccer – both. The fact that no-one else cares does not shake their messianic confidence that American football will take over the world, and it antagonises the heck out of association football fans, who feel the need to confront any misuse of the word ‘football’ wherever they find it, whether it be bombastic Yanks or Irish people who view soccer as the garrison game.

For my part, I never set out to make a Nationalists (note the capital ‘N’) point by referring to association football as soccer on this blog. I made a conscious decision that the blog would exclusively refer to gaelic football as ‘football’ and association football as ‘soccer’ because it was a GAA blog. References to association football as ‘football’ would be found in the columns for Shankly Gates because they were not, strictly speaking, of this blog. It wasn’t meant to be a political statement.

Okay, maybe it was a little bit.

But that neat dividing line is breaking down. Reading back through the post after gormacha’s comment, the repeated use of ‘soccer’ came across as forced. In my private life I will effortlessly swing between football, gaelic football and soccer according to the circumstances. Conversations in Liverpool would be pretty short if I used ‘soccer’ all the time. Why shouldn’t that be reflected in my blog? So from now on, I’ll be referring to ‘soccer’ only in the GAA-related posts. I’ll just have to believe that people will have the wit to realise the distinction without being prompted. Oh dear, this is going to cause trouble, isn’t it?

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