An Irishman Coaches the Beautiful Game in the American South

Time was I was the guru of soccer,
a footie svengali in North Carolina.

I gave the Piedmont Triad the sweeper system.
Touchlines hushed to my nuggets of wisdom.

T-shirts were printed with my every word.
The European Cup was played on our road.

I took Rush and Dalglish to the Mason Dixie.
I was asked to lead grace over Domino’s pizza.

I screamed expletives till the sheriff came calling.
‘Take it down a notch, Coach, or we got a problem.’

Time was I was the guru of soccer,
a footie svengali in North Carolina.

I saw Ossie Ardiles in Oriel Park.
‘That a fact, Coach? Well bless your heart…’

I drifted to watch the immigrant workers,
the barefoot pot-bellied dribblers and jugglers

in a circle of dust, playing hooky with a ball,
displaced in a place that’s all about goals.

I watched them till dark and the troops filed past.
‘Night, Coach. Goodnight.’ We were left last.

Time was I was the guru of soccer,
a footie svengali in North Carolina.

by Conor O’Callaghan

The Poetry Centre is collaborating on a one-day symposium for a second time with the University of Reading and the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI), based at the University of Canberra. The symposium, entitled ‘Contemporary Lyric: Absent Presences, the Secret & the Unsayable’, will take place on Tuesday 26 June from 9.30-5pm at the Museum of Early Rural Life at the University of Reading. All are welcome but places are limited. Find out more and sign up to attend via our website .

The Poetry Centre recently launched our 2018 International Poetry Competition! Open until 6 August, the competition has two categories – Open and English as an Additional Language – and this year is judged by the highly-acclaimed poet Kayo Chingonyi. You can find full details and enter here . 

Finally, join Poetry in the Meeting House @  43 St Giles Oxford on Wednesday 11 July at 7pm to hear American poet Lauren Rusk, who will be reading from and talk about her recent book of poems What Remains To Be Seen. The book is inspired by children’s art from Theresienstadt concentration camp. Everyone is welcome. 

‘An Irishman Coaches the Beautiful Game in the American South’ is copyright © Conor O’Callaghan, 2018. It is reprinted from Eleven Poems about Football (Candlestick Press, 2018) by permission of  Candlestick Press.

Notes from Candlestick Press: 

Conor O’Callaghan is an Irish poet and novelist. His memoir Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues appeared in 2005. He has published five collections of poetry with The Gallery Press, most recently Live Streaming (2017) which was shortlisted for various awards including the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. Conor has won the Patrick Kavanagh Award and has taught at various universities in the United States. He divides his time between Sheffield and Dublin. 

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press based in Nottingham and has been publishing its sumptuous ‘instead of a card’ poetry pamphlets since 2008. Subjects range from Birds and Cricket to Tea, Kindness, Home and Puddings. Candlestick Press titles are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, as well as by galleries, museums and garden centres. They can also be ordered online at the  Candlestick website where you can find out more about the full range of titles. You can follow Candlestick on Twitter or find it on Facebook. In 2017 Candlestick sold over 70,000 pamphlets.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers. 

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