Having despaired at where football finds itself in my last post, it’s probably only fair to give a point of view that shows the beautiful game in a positive light, something that I find easy after this weekend for reasons that have nothing to do with Liverpool pounding Newcastle United into a fine powder on Saturday. Okay, it’s partially why I feel more cheerful about the game, but what impressed me most about the sport came on Friday night as I followed the exploits of Waterford United against Finn Harps on FlashScores.co.uk.
Some might find it curious how since the opening night of the season against Harps I’ve managed to come up with some reason not to visit the RSC, whether it being out of the country (Athlone), having other plans (Cobh), or the sheer inconvenience of the game being staged on a Saturday night (Mervue), but this is a positive post so take your negativity elsewhere, right? Besides, they’ll all be back in town soon enough. It was while keeping tabs on Waterford’s efforts on Friday night that it struck me how improbable it all was. Not the late winner, this was the third time in four games that the Blues got the winning goal in the last 20 minutes. No, it was following events on a website also featuring scores from places as diverse as Cameroon and Uzbekistan. When you consider that even the club had no-one to keep people posted about the scoreline on their Twitter feed, it’s incredible that the good people of FlashScores.co.uk were sufficiently public-spirited to give us the good news of Paidi Quinn’s late winner.
And if you believe they’re doing it as a public service, I’ve got a certain East River-based road span for you to buy. During the match each game is awash with calls to BET!BET!BET! using graphics so psychedelic that they would have made a teenager back in the Geocities era pause for thought. Despite the ‘.co.uk’ in the title, it seems unlikely that the results feed from Ballybofey bothers too many punters in Britain. Any interest is likely to emanate from gambling-obsessed south-east Asia, and anyone who read the article in the Christmas 2011 edition of The Economist outlining how corrupt football is in China would do well to be concerned by the possible impact such interest might have on the domestic game.
Some people will argue that any interest is nice. On a less flippant note, the League of Ireland certainly doesn’t feel bent. The two teams may have generated more heat than light in their fixture on the opening day, but it all looked and felt totally above board, 22 players trying their hardest to win because, well, that’s what they do. When Mervue came to the RSC at the tail end of last season the match was a dead rubber for them, but they kept trying because that’s how footballers are wired. They want to win every game. It’s to the credit of the sport, and definitely a reason for giving it further support.
Of course when Longford Town scored a 93rd-minute winner against Salthill Devon on Saturday night, it was clearly the work of the Triads. Someone call Interpol.