It is frightening the rate at which our childhood heroes are retiring from football – slowly descending away from the turf, slipping out from the present and into a deep-sea of nostalgia that is as lucid as it is warm in our abiding memories of them.
The art of diplomacy, it is said, is to recognise the beliefs, opinions and feelings of other people and to balance them accordingly with those of their opponents – breeding it itself an air of open communication based on mutual respect and rational understanding.
“There will be no past tense here,” Eamon Dunphy begins, as the mood turns sad and nostalgic. The date is 10 July 2016 and John Giles is appearing for the final time on Irish television’s state broadcaster RTÉ in his role as senior analyst for the station’s football coverage.
ONE HUNDRED and twenty five years ago a crowd of travelling men threaded aimlessly along the streets of Dublin city. Their wanderings led them in search of a suitable playing field for their proposed new football team. They would come to be recognised as the Gypsies on account of their expeditions, and were known to be equally valiant as they were bohemian in spirit.
GONE ARE THE DAYS WHEN CHILDREN would take to the muddy patch of turf outside their homes for an unceasing summerfest of relenting, unending football.
Many days of many childhoods were littered with the laughter and crocodile tears, gashed knees and hurt egos of playing makeshift football, street football, out of what could be gathered.
Sometimes you just don’t notice something until it’s not there anymore.
Television programmes getting cancelled, matches being postponed, celebrities passing away – all of them are greeted by the sudden jerk of “Oh. Right. Hmm. Where to now?” Where once lay a constant, a source of reliability that you could always depend on – maybe to the point of taking for granted – now lays nothing, or better still a replacement.
Nothing lasts forever. If a footballer’s legacy to the game is to be summed up in their farewell game or testimonial, then they and the fans that try to imprint some lasting legacy on their beloved hero, will always fall short.