'Football. It's a funny old game,' as Jimmy Greaves, with a jovial wink to camera, used to sign-off his and Saint's erstwhile Saturday morning ITV show with back in the 1980s. Except, in 2011, football's not very funny anymore, is it? It's a deadly serious game of £250,000 per week wage packets [Wayne Rooney], diamond-driven WAGS, parachute payments, angrily-penned post-game Twitter outbursts, ruthless agents and trans-global, multi-platform corporate sponsorship agreements.
I confess to an ineluctable connection -- albeit spiritual, nowadays -- to my childhood team, Liverpool FC, but I fell out of love with (soccer) football years ago, with or without childhood hero King Kenny [Daglish] currently sitting on the Anfield throne. The 'characters' we all collectively strive to admire are still there, of course, in the form of several (now ageing) coaches. However, the coaches almost seem as disconnected to the sport as I am. In a rather lugubrious interview on Football Focus (BBC One) the other week, Tottenham coach, Harry Redknapp, confessed to the presenter that he 'hadn't a clue' what his players' multi-million pound salaries were. 'I leave all of that to their agents. I don't get involved.'
Back in the day, when I passionately followed Liverpool, its 'characters', the England World Cup team's ebbing and flowing fortunes etc., Sir Bobby Robson was an integral part of it all. We all loved Bobby. Bobby's passion for the sport transfigured him into a loveable guy. And it is with this halcyonized memory in mind which made me proud to have filmed a charity match for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation this weekend at Middlesbrough FC's Riverside stadium. Our producer/director was Nick Small -- a 'Borolad', for his sins -- mostly found P/D'ing BBC One shows such as The One Show and Animal 24:7 nowadays.
The charity match -- mostly made up of former 'Boro legends -- wasn't a great turnout, it must be said. But there were several reason for this. Gaizka Mendieta (Valencia, Real Madrid, Middlesbrough) couldn't attend for reasons unknown; Dean Windass didn't attend because of bereavement (he sadly lost his dad recently); and also, there was a similar charity match at Riverside the other week, stretching the hardcore's purse strings a bit. Fair enough. It was a great evening, regardless. The evening's 8PM kick-off sun shone, 'Boro's Red Faction support squad were out in force with their drums and banners, and something like £10,000 was raised for Sir Bobby's Foundation. Job done.
Fortunately, for me at least, something sport-wise came along in 2008 which revolutionarily superseded (soccer) football and all of its financial shenanigans: rugby league football. [Hence why I parenthesized '(soccer)' a few times now.
As previously blogged, The One Point's inaugural venture into the world of rugby league began with Hull FC in 2008. We betook our cameras to the KC Stadium for the first time at the snow-tinged beginnings of 2008 for Paul King's Testimonial: Hull FC v Huddersfield Giants. I arrived, DSR450 in hand, at the KC knowing nothing about rugby league. 40-20s and five drives and a kick meant nothing to me at the time. But man, what a discovery! This was a sport, a heart racingly exciting sport, festooned in 'characters', a venerable legacy, and moreover, a community-centric sport culture I had been aggrieving for more than a decade.
By May 2008 The One Point had developed/launched HULLFC.TV, but a curious realisation happened well before this... Hull FC shared the KC Stadium with (the then Premiership ensconced) Hull City, and FC's Aussie imports such as Shaun Berrigan ('Berro') and Todd Burn were considered to be, by the national and local rugby league community at least, to be of a comparable Superstar Status with those at Hull City, e.g. Nick Barmby. Barmby and Berro were, presumably, touching shoulders along the same corridors at the KC, and yet, Barmby was earning per week what Berro was earning per year, despite the fact that, A) rugby Super League was a superior sport to (soccer) football [in my eyes], and B), Berro debatably puts his body through more physical grief per game than Barmby -- or £250K-per-week Rooney in the Premiership, for that matter -- puts through in his entire career.
'Football. It's a funny old game.'
For more info on this Sir Bobby Robson Foundation charity match, go here: