THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Ian Plenderleith takes a look at the diverse range of football websites

Welcome in to my exciting life, declares Crystal Palace’s Finn Aki Riihilahti at the start of his official homepage. As player websites go it’s a treat, and you can follow the ups and downs of Aki’s existential mood swings that correspond to his fluctuations in form.

I am home after game,” he sighs after a 4-0 defeat before lapsing into a confessional frame of mind. “Here is nothing waiting for me except the dishes. I feel lonely. But am I? I have some people and press laughing to our poorness. I have some people attacking against me. Some of them even knows that I am a very bad person in ordinary life. I have some close relatives and friends, that are seriously sick.”

“Meanwhile his passionate match reports, such as this extract from Finland’s World Cup qualifying defeat in Greece, generally flog linguistic convention to the point of poetry: “Riihilahtius, the God of substitute bench, was warming up a lot. However this handsome God could only make some sprints after the game in the empty and dark Olympic stadium of Athens. He was the God of disappointment. My time will come, Aki.” If not as a footballer, then definitely as part of the new wave of northern European philosophy.

Aki’s columns beat the collective efforts of several dozen pros who host their official websites at icons.com, where their diaries bring a duller shade of beige to the concept of blandness. Here you will be staggered to find that most players are disappointed to be out injured, or to lose a game, but that their emotions tend to veer towards joy and happiness when they win, particularly if they were the last one in contact with the ball before it crossed the white line into the goal.

What purpose could possibly be served by such reams of inane tosh? Click under each player’s merchandise section and you will find out. Limited edition signed photographs are available for £10-£15 (though I suppose the picture of Ryan Giggs in a Wales shirt really does count as limited), while a player’s shirt, normally a snip at £50, doubles in price after the addition of the appropriate players inky signature. These are clearly such hard times for players such as Robbie Fowler and Dennis Bergkamp that they have to hawk their autographs on the internet for the price of two score cups of tea. A scandalous waste of cyber-space.

If you think football is as predictable as its diarists then you should try joining the competition at footballpredictions, where you can forecast ten scores for the coming weekend and then watch yourself come nowhere near the top of the ensuing league table. Far less time-consuming than Championship Manager, and you can’t lose any money for being hopelessly wrong. Fleeting fun.

Having recently been to watch Enfield FC, only to find that their ground had been demolished over a year previously and replaced by new houses, I was eager to find out the whole story, duly supplied at the Unofficial Enfield FC Website. Happily, there were lots of pictures of what I had missed, though less happily the club is in crisis because no one can agree where or when a new stadium should be built. In short, another typical tale of lower-league shenanigans involving a slippery chairman and disgruntled fans.

Still, I enjoyed the guide to the other grounds in the Ryman League (Croydon a pig of a place to visit during winter), and hope that the next time I decide to waste a Saturday in north London looking for non-League football, Enfield FC are back somewhere near to where they belong.

From WSC 171 May 2001. What was happening this month

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