A chorus of boos rang out at the Aviva Stadium last Friday night as the Republic of Ireland’s chances of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup suffered a fatal blow. Sweden claimed all three points against a fairly lethargic Irish team who had taken the lead early on through a Robbie Keane goal.
The home side fell apart and were second best for the majority of the game as Sweden turned the game around on it’s head leaving Irish fans and pundits reeling.
Irish soccer is slowly rotting and has become extremely stale with “cave man” tactics, a stubborn manager and a failing domestic league beneath it all.
So how can we change this? Many pundits and fans will say sack Giovanni Trapattoni and I would happily agree with them. However, I have a few other suggestions. Suggestions which will fall on deaf ears of course but everyone’s entitled to an opinion right?
We only have a national team because of the existence of our domestic league. A league which the FAI seem to happily brush under the carpet and forget even exists – they are quick to forget where the likes of Seamus Coleman, James McClean and Shane Long have originally come from. They’ve come from our league. A league we should be encouraging football fans to attend on a weekly basis but unfortunately many people aren’t made aware of games that are happening because the FAI don’t actively promote the league.
More money from patrons and the governing body allows for more competitiveness between teams and better coaching staff to nurture young talent who will feature heavily for their respective teams. Why bother sending brilliant talent to teams overseas when there’s no guarantee that they’ll be playing on a regular basis? With the influx of foreign players to Europe’s biggest leagues, Irish players may not get the acknowledgement they rightly deserve.
Unfortunately, it all boils down to money. Given the financial crisis many League Of Ireland clubs experience, the only option is to sell their best assets. It’s an unfortunate scenario. Now, I don’t blame players wanting to aspire to do more but the league should not be seen as a stepping stone. Instead it should be seen as a real chance for young coaches/players to become household names and break through to the national team. It is impossible to have a successful national team without a strong domestic league backing it up. Look at Germany for example. The German FA work very closely to the Bundesliga and player development and have not only built for the present, but they’ve ensured a long and healthy future for generations to come.
There’s a severe disconnect between national football fans and the domestic game under their nose. Many are happy to slate the supposed awful standard of the league and until this myth is rectified by the higher powers of the FAI, the league and it’s players will suffer greatly. Attendance will decrease, clubs will go bust and young players will have nowhere to establish themselves.
In this day and age, social media is a hugely effective free marketing tool. A few tweets or a Facebook events page to advertise league games would help a great deal. If 10 new people show up to their local ground and they bring a friend, and that friend brings a friend (etc. etc.) clubs will hopefully prosper and the league will look a whole lot healthier.
Irish soccer fans are some of the most passionate in the world. A sell out crowd at the Aviva shows this. Soccer is a hugely popular sport in this country. I love the Premier League and I also go to league of Ireland games. The standard is not as bad as people think. In fact, I’ve never seen Bohemians play as badly as the national team has recently.
A change in attitude from the top will raise the bottom. It won’t happen overnight but it will ensure a healthy future for Irish soccer both domestically and on an international level in both player development and aspiring managers/coaches.
One can only hope I guess.