THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

It may be no surprise that you can get great English coverage of football in Ireland, but Ian Plenderleith tracks down individual sites that cover Poland, Slovakia and even the whole of South America

Sometimes a Google search of your club’s name can take you to interesting places. Sligo, for example. If I hadn’t been looking for an obscure fact about Lincoln City, I would likely have discovered too late that the Imps were scheduled to play Sligo Rovers in a pre-season tournament in July. As it was, I was able to cancel my summer holiday in Tuscany and reschedule for the Emerald Isle instead (some parts of this paragraph are a lie).

The site that broadcast this information to a doubtless ignorant footballing world is Soccer Central, a competent home for information on all matters concerning Bray Wanderers, Crumlin United, Cherry Orchard and anything else connected to Irish football, such as players abroad and the fortunes of the various national teams.

Some of the news stories betray a parochial inferiority complex. “In what is expected to be the biggest soccer football event ever staged in County Monaghan, Glasgow Celtic Reserve/Under-21 Team visit Century Homes Park, Monaghan, on Friday 22nd July, 2005,” announced one breathless story. Tickets were to be “keenly priced” at €15. I’m not sure if that means they were cheap, or if the club were extra keen to charge a little above the norm.

Ireland Up One Spot in FIFA Rankings,
reads a typical headline. Gibson Fires United To Derby Win, shouts another, telling the story of how Irish Under-19 midfielder Darron Gibson was the hero for Man Utd against City. In a reserves match in the Manchester Senior Cup. By scoring a penalty in a shoot-out win.

The site concentrates on news, the results section having been abandoned after just one round of the 2005 season’s games, but there’s amusing diversion in Pete’s Poems, where the author laments the state of Shelbourne: “We’re playing like a team from Hell/Our league results have dipped/Knocked out of the Cup as well/Continuously pipped.” That final line must rank as a favourite future fanzine title for any long-suffering, success-starved club.

I was ready to recommend another country-specific site for those with special interests at Polish Soccer.net, an English-language portal run by Dominik Dabrowski, but the host has just announced there will be no more updates until December. In the absence of adding to the summer’s top Polish Intertoto news, such as, “Pogon [Szczecin] had no problems with Moldovan side FC Tiligul Tiraspol, winning 9-2” it recommends 90 Minut, a Polish-language site with a massive database of up-to-the-minute domestic stats and club/player profiles, as well as daily news stories and results from the Polish lower divisions.

A site concentrating on a whole continent rather than a single country can be found at Football South America, a handy statistical and geopolitical overview of the South American domestic game, although some sections are more scrupulously updated than others. It also features a number of empty sections on countries such as Guyana that look ready to be built upon further.

Its Glasgow-based webmaster Michael Allen clearly cares about what is happening on the other side of the world (the prospect of Partick v Peterhead perhaps insufficient to fuel his passion for the game), so much so in fact that he’s started an online campaign to persuade Channel 4 to renew its coverage of both the Campeonato Brasileiro (“the most exciting league in the world”, according to Allen) and the Copa Libertadores.

Websites focused on single countries could do worse than to follow the models of the previously featured Football Portugal and Soccer Spain (see WSC 191), both still going from strength to strength, and the quirky Slovak Football (WSC 209). There appears to be no decent, independent website in English devoted to the game in general in Germany, France or Italy, although the recently missing Italian Soccer promises to be reconstructed in time for the new season.

Considering the amount of time, unpaid work, not to mention local and linguistic knowledge, necessary to produce such sites, then it’s not surprising that there are some gaps in coverage. On the other hand, given the internet’s relentless reach and the ever- widening interest in the global game, there could still be areas of football for blooming online fan-journalists to muscle in on with an eye to a future lucrative niche. As more and more leagues sell their foreign television rights, the more probable it is that an English-speaking Malaysian, say, has a thirst for some Bundesliga news and analysis a cut above the myriad statistical sites.

Personally, I’m waiting for the first websites of the various competing Sligo branches of the Lincoln City Supporters’ Club to start appearing any day now. Celtic’s era of dominance as one of Irish fans’ favourite teams could soon be over.

From WSC 224 October 2005. What was happening this month

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