"We're an ambitious club. We could have played our anniversary match against The Dog and Duck and had a dinner for 20, but we try and do things right".
On October 24th 2007, Sheffield FC, the world's oldest football club, celebrated their 150th anniversary. That evening I wrote a small post on the subject. As part of their continuing anniversary celebrations, the club last week played a game against Inter Milan. And the quote above, from the Sheffield FC boss Dave McCarthy, refers to that occasion.
The game was played out in front of 18,241 spectators at Bramhall Lane, home of Sheffield neighbours United. Pelé was a guest of honour and he met the Sheffield team before opening a "Legends of the Lane" exhibition at Sheffield United's ground. On an evening attended by a list of football dignitaries, it was a great night for the non-league club and for the city of Sheffield, and an even better advert for grass roots football.
Albeit rather understated, those words from Dave McCarthy served to illustrate the huge gulf in football between the haves and the have nots, between the £130,000 a week wage earners and those who barely earn enough for a return train ticket to Wembley. But what the occasion also proved is that there is a common chord that runs through the heart of football; a sense of football tradition and history, an understanding of what football means to millions around the globe, and a passion for playing the game that exists at all levels from the San Siro to The Bright Finance Stadium, home of Sheffield FC.
Pelé reported that he had received a "beautiful welcome" in Sheffield and he described the occasion as "very emotional and special". He was genuinely honoured to be playing his part in Sheffield FC's celebrations.
Inter Milan won the match 5-2, but not after Sheffield had taken an early 1-0 lead. The game was played in good spirit, with the Italian's fielding a young team which also included Marco Materazzi. Inter allowed Sheffield a fair amount of space in the game and were able to play some decent football on the night.
I wonder if The Dog and Duck would have been so sporting?