It’s tough for an Italian to try to explain Gaelic Football to others. I usually start along these lines: it’s a fast paced sport which comes across as a random mix between soccer, rugby and basketball – probably the product of some bored and intoxicated mind in a pub in rural Ireland. Like other eccentric and doubtfully useful Irish exports – such as Guinness, St Patrick’s Day, or Bono- the sport has managed to spread across the world.
Wherever there’s an Irish community, there’s sure to be a Gaelic Football team, formed with the help of enthusiastic players of many other nationalities, who are often as passionate about the game as the Irish. It’s now possible to watch a match between the Arabian Celts and the Japan Clovers while tasting a spicy Tom Yum soup in Bangkok, or cheer the Padova Paddies score a last minute goal against the Vienna Gaels while sipping cheap pils beer in Prague.
But why are so many people taking up a sport which was previously the domain of the Irish, and more importantly, why should you give it a go?
It’s easy. Really. I have seen Italians and Americans joining a team and, within a year, winning the prize for Most Valuable Player in a tournament. If you can catch a ball and flick it more or less towards your teammate, you have already mastered 95% of the game. There are a couple of technical skills – like the pickup and solo – but it doesn’t take much time to learn them.
It’s fun. As an Italian, I started to play soccer at a young age, but was more than happy to switch to Gaelic football – it’s simply much more fun. It may be the better vibe of the whole sport but I don’t really miss soccer much now.
It’s safe. I have seen only one serious injury in more than 5 years playing the game. There are no tackles, no dangerous kicks or twists, so the worst things that can happens in a tournament are a couple of dislocated fingers.
You get to travel. As there are only three teams in Italy at present – in Padova , Rovigo and here in Rome, – we usually head north two or three times a year, to places like Budapest, Munich, Vienna and Bratislava, for weekends of sport and fun. In Asia the tournaments include teams from Dubai, Bangkok, Seoul and so on, making the encounters even more exotic.
It’s a great way to meet fun people. These weekends are a great source of craic (an Irish word for fun apparently, not the drug), with the mens and ladies teams meeting up after the tournaments for dinner, drinks and some relaxing post-match dancing.
It keeps you fit. You run around a field for more than one hour trying to catch a ball and score, and that’s scientifically proven to be good for you.
So there are plenty of reasons for you to join a Gaelic Football club. The majority of players may not have much Gaelic blood in them, but we are still known to give a warm Irish welcome to new people wanting to try the sport.