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Why INSSA? Because Football is Crucial

Football is in my blood. It’s in my bones. It’s in my DNA. As a lad raised in the USA during a period of economic decline and de-industrialization matched by that in the UK, and born to a Lebanese mum and a Scottish dad, football was hugely important to our family. More commonly known as ‘soccer’ by native yanks, the game was becoming more familiar and recognizable to a population reared on games like baseball, basketball, hockey and American ‘football’. For those of us with migrant parents though, football was something we all knew. Whether playing in youth leagues or for a school, watching it at home on one of the numerous cable or satellite channels which provided coverage from Latin America, Europe or Africa, we all knew the beautiful game of our families’ homelands in some way.

My own father played for Dundee United before leaving Scotland, lured to North America by the promise of a better living as an electrician. His father played for Arsenal, long before the war, during which he became a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy at the outbreak of hostilities.

For my part, I was rubbish at the game. I loved it. I trained hard. I had great coaches and teammates. I was a large kid though with a medical condition which made it twice as challenging for me to succeed. And, I liked to get physical. Gone though were the days of serious but acceptable tackles and broad latitude from officials. I did find my stride though in officiating. 

What about communities and a world without football though? Many younger lovers of the game can be forgiven for mistakenly believing that football begins and ends in the Premiership, Champions League and other top tier leagues or competitions. After all, it’s what’s on television, PlayStation and xBox. It’s the main event. Those players got their starts in very different places to the major stadia dotting our countries though. Football begins from childhood, often in parks, streets and gardens without infrastructure or even rules. It connects us socially, fostering competitiveness, fairly play, a sense of camaraderie and maintains fitness. It’s a beautiful game which nurtures and unites communities, draws together people who otherwise may never meet, and brings out the best in those who possess an instinct to pass on experience, lead, and volunteer.

Football glues together communities and societies which have undergone huge economic and social upheavals ranging from crime to joblessness, drugs epidemics to industrial strife, and even war. It helps us to remember what’s basic and good, and to forget the boredom and deep challenges of our ordinary lives. That 90+ minutes is pure bliss. It provides positive role models for young people, an outlet for aggression, an inspiration to be and do more, and senses of self-worth and confidence through athletic expression. Football at grassroots is the single most crucial form of the game. It not only yields the next intake of future stars but spares countless millions of young people and their families over time from the miseries of addiction, experience of the criminal justice system, and a life of ill health through inactivity and idleness.

North Shields FC has succeeded over many decades at bringing together a town, of creating extraordinary achievements against the odds, and of performing at a level that the town deserves. NSFC is a bedrock for the coming together of our townspeople, of a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all, young and old, born and bred or newly arrived. It may well be the first and only source of exposure to the game in its purest form for someone new to football who has never been experienced the sport via anything other than a games console, or a glimpse at increasingly unavailable viewing dominated by paid-for mediums which are inaccessible to so many. 

Football is indeed crucial. And none more so than that of NSFC. A community with a local side is far better for it than without it. INSSA offers us an opportunity not only to ensure the continued existence of this cherished and vital community asset and resource, but to enhance and secure it for this generation and those to come, to provide entertainment and opportunities to countless young people, to bring us together and to bond us as a town. Please join INSSA. Save NSFC.

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