05 Aug EXTRACT: Why Barca visit was a wasted opportunity for football in Ireland
Last weekend FC Barcelona visited Dublin to take on Celtic at the Aviva Stadium as part of the International Champions Cup – essentially a pre-season game. Jamie Moore of the Irish Independent believes the occasion proved a wasted opportunity for Irish football.
Below is an extract of his comment piece, though you ca view the full article here.
“ALMOST 48,000 football fans flocked to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening to watch Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez start for Barcelona against Celtic in the International Champions Cup.
Barca won the game – their first pre-season work-out – 3-1. Touts, with match tickets hidden up their sleeves, offered me two for €100 before the game.
The match came at a difficult time for Celtic, four days before the second leg of their Champions League qualifier against Astana.
Little wonder, then, that while manager Brendan Rodgers started a strong team, 30 names appeared on the Celtic team-sheet.
The most notable from an Irish point of view was Corkman Eoghan O’Connell, who has just returned to Parkhead following a loan spell with his local League of Ireland club.
Fourth official Rob Harvey was a busy man, supervising 21 substitutions during a slow-paced game, which was played at almost a pedestrian pace for much of the second half.
Barca head coach Luis Enrique, who some fans described as being “dressed like a Spanish tourist” on the sideline, picked Messi and Suarez to start the match – much to the delight of the near sell-out crowd.
Arda Turan opened the scoring with a brilliantly taken goal before some suicidal Barca defending gifted an equaliser to Leigh Griffiths. An Efe Ambrose own-goal restored Barca’s lead before Munir El Haddadi made it 3-1.
A huge section of the crowd was made up of parents with their young children, possibly visiting the Aviva for the first time, with many wearing the latest club shirts as they cheered on Messi and Suarez and some of Barca’s stars of the future as well as their Celtic favourites. The question is how many of those fans were among the 3,402 who turned up to watch Shamrock Rovers beat Bohemians in the Irish ‘El Clasico’ in mid-July? The answer, unfortunately, is not very many.
Anyone who was in Tallaght Stadium that night, including myself, enjoyed a cracking match, with four goals, a missed penalty, numerous chances, a red card and the unquestionable passion of both sets of fans combining to create a cracking atmosphere.
There are many reasons why the vast majority of Irish football fans don’t attend League of Ireland games.
As the match on Saturday proved – as did Shamrock Rovers’ friendly match against what was a Liverpool reserve team in 2014, which sold out the Aviva – the fans are there and they will come if they feel the product is up to scratch – and know about it.
The FAI announced at its AGM on Saturday that nine meetings have been held with the League of Ireland clubs since the release of the Conroy Report to try to improve the League.
Up to €100,000 in development funding is to be made available to the 20 clubs, but how can we actually get more people into League of Ireland grounds on a Friday or Saturday night?
The answer is to target the kids, but their parents have to bring them..”