Thursday 23 November 2017

These stars never crash their Ferraris on way to training . . .

Mark Hilliard

THEY don't charter private jets; they don't buy private islands in Dubai and they absolutely never crash their Ferraris on the way to training.

In fact, when Shamrock Rovers players go home at night most of them will be thinking about their 'real' job or their families who couldn't afford to move to Ireland.

This is the Airtricity League, a million miles from the bling of the English Premier League and its absurdly inflated wage bills.

This year, Shamrock Rovers -- now preparing their crusade in the Europa League -- will have an overall wage bill of around €1m, or €15,000 a week, for its 22-man squad, management team and coaching staff.

Most players start out at about €150 a week and those who climb anywhere within touching distance of €1,000 have hit the big-time.

In contrast, the Premiership currently pays its stars around £1.4bn (€1.58bn) a year.

And then there is Tallaght's golden boy of football Robbie Keane -- recently departed from London's Tottenham Hotspur to the glitzy world of LA Galaxy -- who commands about €2.8m a year, or €54,000 a week.

"There is a big difference between our lads and the guys in the Premiership. There is none of that bling," explained former Shamrock Rovers official John Byrne.

"There was a bit a couple of years ago in the other clubs -- people going out to nightclubs with the entourage -- but our guys just sit at home with the Playstation.

"I doubt if you would ever see an 'at home' piece in a celebrity magazine because it would be a three-bed semi. No-one is living beside Bono.

"Outside of the sports pages you wouldn't see a lot of them. Players in England are treated like celebrities first and sports stars second."

Certainly the players at Ireland's number one club are set to benefit financially from their progression to the group stages of European football, but to a relatively meagre extent.

And it won't change any lives -- at least not financially.

When the bright lights and deafening crowds ebb away, they will return to normality.

Midfielder Paddy Kavanagh will continue to work as an electrician, defender Pat Flynn as a product rep for Coca-Cola and Pat Sullivan, also a defender, in finance and banking.

These athletes live for their sport but their sport doesn't necessarily allow them to live with any degree of financial security.

The side-effects can take their toll and a love for the game is offset by sacrifice.

"Robbie Keane moving to LA can just up the family and rent a house, but it's not like that over here," said Rovers spokeswoman Martina Genockey who explained that some players maintain lives in Dublin while their families remain abroad -- another less-obvious inequality in the tiered world of professional football.

Social lives are also far less glamorous here and don't usually involve red carpets or €1,000 bottles of Cristal champagne.

In fact for Rovers, the big post-match blow-outs usually take place at the Nandos restaurant chain where a meal costs about €15 a head.

"It's a big treat. If they do well in a game they will be brought there," she said.

And when Irish footballers tweet, it isn't a Joey Barton rant like those against his club Newcastle, or like Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, setting off security alerts in the White House by posting internal pictures online.

Instead, they just thank their fans or talk about what film they went to see in the cinema.

This team want to play football, they have no desire to ape the lavish lifestyles.

"It's like the kind of band you might see in Whelan's in Dublin and the band you might see in Croke Park," summed up Mr Byrne.

"The band in Croke Park might want to be superstars and make money, but the band in Whelan's might just like the music."

Irish Independent

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