Saturday, January 22, 2011

Club Support

After two friendlies, Josh Wicks' return as a professional goalkeeper in a meaningful match with IFK Mariehamn got off to a good start on Tuesday, when Wicks, Mason Trafford, Joe Funicello and teammates shut out FC Haka 4 - 0 in the opening round of the Veikkausliiga Cup.

Less of a result in their second outing, as FC Honka beat IFK Mariehamn 3 to 1 earlier today. Josh Wicks, Mason Trafford and Joe Funicello again started for Mariehamn in the team's fourth match in nine games.

While on the topic of the club, a belated thank you to whomever suggested getting in touch with Nina Bostrom at IFK Mariehamn. The club was fantastic about working with me to get gear and I am now the proud owner of several IFK shirts and a scarf sent all the way out from Aland. I would imagine that there are many more pressing things facing those working for the team and I am most grateful for their efforts to accommodate me.

Another of our favorite clubs, the Raith Rovers, continued their hold on the sole promotion spot in Division One today with a disappointing draw at home against Greenock Morton earlier today. The big news with the club, however, is newly-promoted Inverness Caledonian Thistle's budding interest in bringing Gregory Tade to the Scottish Premier League a little in advance of his Rovers teammates.

We've sponsored Tade each of the last two seasons and have had occasion to interact with him once over that time period -- he was exceptionally kind and thoughtful and took action that belied my preconceived notions of a professional footballer. Tade is obviously charismatic; for as much stick as he takes for failing to convert some goal scoring opportunities, two of the three he's tallied in the league this season have been game winners (most recently against Dunfermline at the beginning of the month) and he has a knack for coming through when it most matters.

Our family wishes Greg the best in whatever he decides to do. While we would love to see him in the SPL with Raith, he's out of contract at year end, and who knows if the Rovers can maintain their lead or will bring Tade back should they find themselves in the top flight.

In addition to his FaceBook fan page ("The Legend, Gregory Tade"), testaments to Tade's appeal are found at his former clubs as well. Stranraer, where the Frenchman first left his mark on Scottish football, continues to hold fond memories of his short tenure there. We're thrilled to see that the club is at the top of the table of Division Three, even after a disappointing loss at Elgin earlier today.

Stranraer, like IFK Mariehamn, features fantastic people working with the club. Their supporters' willingness to entertain bizarre inquiries are a credit to the squad and make us proud to sponsor a player and, for myself, even prouder to now claim a fairly significant collection of Stranraer match worn gear.

I've very much enjoyed sponsoring players at various clubs, both because it heightens my interest in following teams in various competitions and because of the communication sponsorship facilitates with the clubs' supporters. Every football club in the world must, at some level, be backed up by people who have a pure passion for their team and it is a welcome treat to get a chance to share in all of the different permutations of those attachments, even when they are wholly unfamiliar to my own background and experience.

I hope that others interested in the game here in the States will take advantage of the opportunities to learn more about what it means elsewhere. Getting to know Stranraer or IFK Mariehamn is a great place to start. Along the same lines, I would further recommend the Blyth Spartans. Based largely on our great interactions with the club, our support of the team continues to grow. As I've learned more about the club and its illustrious history -- for example, I recently finished Harry Pearson's "The Far Corner" which contains a succinct description of the club's vaunted history as part of Pearson's musings on all important footballing matters in the northeast of England -- I recognize that I have no business traipsing around the club, but am grateful for their willingness to welcome interlopers.

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