Jude Collins

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Still cringeing after all these years?

“So what Irish football club do you support?”  The questioner was the guide at Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona, last summer. Questions like that make you think. Or they do me.

What Irish football club (soccer, that is) do I support? Um, none. I support Arsenal, I told the Camp Nou man, and I could see he was looking at me as if I was a bit unbalanced. After all, I’d just been impressing on him that I was IRISH not ENGLISH, that there was a serious difference.

Did it, does it make sense for an Irishman to support an English soccer team like Arsenal? I suppose you could argue that Pat Rice, an Irishman, has been a prominent figure at Arsenal for years, or that  Liam Brady works with the youth team – but so what? Isn’t there something a bit...colonial about my gazing past local clubs and supporting an English team?  In my defence you could say that Irish club football north and south is crap, and you’d be right. But  it still doesn’t let me off the hook.

And it goes beyond soccer. When I was a child in the 1950s, we used to cavort around the Christian Brothers school yard in Omagh playing...Yep, cowboys and indians. Tkoooo, tkoooo,  wooo-woooo-whooooo, you’re dead! And when I was a boarder at St Columb’s College in Derry, what sort of music did I listen to on my crystal set?  English and American pop music. And when I went to UCD and attended The Four Provinces dancehall on Harcourt Street, what sort of music did the showbands play? Third-rate versions of English and American pop tunes.

I sometimes have spirited arguments with my sons about this.  I try to explain my unease that I should have taken my boyhood heroes from the Wild West of America and my teenage and youthful music form England and America, by-passing things Irish as somehow not worth wasting time on. They argue that it made sense, of course I sought the international best.  What would be the point in cutting yourself off from American film, American music, American mythology, any more than you’d cut yourself off from French cheese or Spanish onions? 

Their argument doesn’t quite convince me. My fear is that it’s rooted in cultural cringe. Anything native has to be second-best /primitive, things from the seat of power, the imperial centre, are bound to be better.

If you could untease this cultural cringe without referring to me  as “an evil old cunt” (the thoughtful estimate of one comment-poster a few blogs back), I’d be in your debt. 


  1. Good article and very relevant to contemporary Ireland.

    The influences you list above are there to be bettered. Some of it is good, some of it is dangerously monolthic. Is Ireland a passive recipient of exogenous culture? Are we helpless to follow the process of cultural assimilation? I think not. We are a contributor. I'm extremely proud of the Irish contribution to international culture; literature, in particular. Ireland is multi-multicultural nation. Shaped and developed by so many influences. That's what makes us. Popular culture is the terrain on which nations are built. (that's why Ireland should have one football team).

  2. Jude,

    As you refer to the person who addressed you in four-letter terms, it might be worth mentioning that you felt able to reply to that indvidual. The question I asked at roughly the same time was whether you had researched any of the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Mary Travers before concluding that the IRA did not mean to kill her. It seems that you are not prepared to respond, so it looks as though we will just have to make up our own minds on that one.


  3. Kevin - I'd be disappointed if you didn't.

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  7. OK Anons. I've decided that comments on this particular blog should be adults only. Sorry.

  8. Anon 30 May 2011 10:28 - 'Hypocrite' is spelt with an 'e'.

  9. Mr Collins...
    every time I write that I feel a little more like my alter ego Elizabeth Bennett...however I digress...
    re your last comment..if I was to engage with my inner pedant I might refer you to an earlier post...but that might be construed as churlish so I won't...!
    That said I am glad the offending comments have been removed...

  10. Section 31 in Jude-world?

  11. Peter Collings11 June 2011 at 16:06

    I think the primary difference between football and say, music and film, is that football is far more tribal. You can understand someone appreciating Barcelona, or Arsenal, or Brazil, as one might appreciate U2, or the Stones, but unlike football, music doesn't demand you pick a side and root for them, and it's not greatly improved by doing so. Football is different. People pick their Manchester Uniteds and their Real Madrids to follow because football is a competitive activity, and if you view it as you would a ballet performance, you're missing out on a crucial aspect.

    My issue is with people who, when looking for a team through which to better experience the competitive and partisan nature of football, will choose a team from a city they have never even visited.

    I can appreciate the elite end of the game as a spectacle, I immensely enjoyed the Champions' League Final, for example, but for me, no match can top my club, Bray Wanderers, beating Monaghan in penalties in the pouring rain to avoid relegation last season. As someone who used to be an Irish Manchester United fan, I can say that I didn't even know that something might have been missing until I became a regular at Bray. I'd urge anyone to get a few like-minded friends together and give their local club a fair try. You don't have to abandon your appreciation of the top teams and players, plenty of people even show up wearing Chelsea and Liverpool shirts, but supporting your local team will give you a fresh view of football you might never have even considered.