Local Hero

by Karolina Przeklas

In the UK thousands of people give up their time as volunteers. Financially, their work is never paid.  Emotionally, their commitment  has a dramatic impact on many local communities. Steve O’Neill is one of those amazing people. He has given 30 years to Islington Admiral Football Team and is still counting.

Steve O'Neill with trophies

Steve O’Neill with Admiral United trophies

The first time I met Steve O’Neill, head of football for Admiral United, he was standing on the sidelines at the Market Road football pitch. For the last 30 years you could find him there at least twice a week.

It all started by simply wanting to play some football. In 1983, together with colleagues from The Sunday Times on Grays Inn Road, Steve started a football team.

sunday times lads

Steve O’Neill with The Sunday Times lads

Admiral fc 86' with trophy

Admiral’s FC 86′ with the winning trophy

Today, Admiral United consists of two adult and four youth teams.

“Volunteering is very important in the sport,” says Steve. “Behind every champion or a team there is always someone willing to give out their time to help that person or team to achieve something. They could be anything, from team manager, coach, secretary, treasurer, fundraiser or even someone who cleans the kits, but they are vital to a club.

“Admiral’s managers, coaches, secretaries are all volunteers. They give their time freely and willingly to help. When one of our teams wins a trophy, the whole club wins it with them. It’s a shared experience.”

Admiral players come from many different nationalities. This reflects London’s multiculturalism, and Steve believes that the city is welcoming to everybody. “Londoners have a deserved reputation for letting everyone have a go at achieving something, we don’t see different cultures as being obstacles to being a Londoner,” he says.

Steve is all about football. His passion is contagious. When you talk to him about Admiral you get a warm feeling that this really is his extended family. Undoubtedly his involvement in the club is also a great personal achievement.

What does the future hold for Admiral? Steve’s dream is to “have a team full of players who have made their way through from our youth teams to play in the senior teams and to enjoy winning trophies in that team”.

But to achieve this dream and ensure the future of the club, Admiral needs help. “Playing football in Islington is very expensive and lots of our players come from lower-income families in the borough. The club is always on the lookout for anybody willing to trust us with their generous donations to enable us to continue the good work of the past 30 years,” says Steve.

Admiral Youth

Admiral’s Youth

It is thanks to people like Steve that many of the community centres around us have a chance of surviving in today’s recession. In the times of austerity measures, medieval cuts, failing education system and what can be called ‘a broken society’, we should be treating people like Steve as heroes, for these are the real role models for our children to look up to. Their commitment and passion is a corner-stone of any community.

“Football is not just a game” – Steve O’Neill

NFL Comes to London

By Zanib Asghar

As many of you know, American sports were not all that popular here in London. But over the years, their “football’ which considered our ‘rugby’ has started to attract some attention.

Whether the Monday Night Football (MNF) scene will become as popular as the Premier League is, we don’t know, but what we do know is that come September 2013 and we’ll have our very own live MNF in Wembley Stadium.

QuintEvents-NFL-On-Location-2013-NFL-International-Series-Club-Level-Packages

The NFL International series has secured two games in London for 2013. The first will take place on Sunday 29th September where the Minnesota Vikings will play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The second game will be on Sunday 27th October where the Jacksonville Jaguars will play the first of their four games in London against the San Francisco 49ers.

The NFL and the NFLUK have progressed rapidly as four teams across two games will be playing regular season games in London for the next three years.

This progress shows us just how far American Football has come as a game in the UK since 2007, when the first International series game was played here between the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants.

Here’s just some of the excitement we’ll get to experience this September and October. Copyright Brian J. McDermott

Here’s just some of the excitement we’ll get to experience this September and October. Copyright Brian J. McDermott

David Tossell, Director of Public Affairs at NFL London, spoke about the success American Football could have in London, “NFL has been present in the UK since the 1980’s and it already has quite a large fan base here already.

“The NFL owners are interested in expanding NFL, it’s already as big as it can be in the states, so they’ve been looking into playing games internationally since 2007.”

“The UK was the most obvious choice for us as the games already been available for everyone here as it is. Fans in the UK have been watching the game for years and years, so we think it will pick up as we have more live games down here.”

“We know we won’t be as big as the Premier League is, but if we can be everyone’s second or even third favourite, then it will open up a whole fan base for us in the UK.”

It was officially announced by the NFL that at least one game will be played at Wembley Stadium each year, till new contract talks begin in 2016.

Some NFL memorabilia to remember a great evening. Copyright Matt McGee.

Some NFL memorabilia to remember a great evening. Copyright Matt McGee

As they step on international ground, a home team was established in talks that took place between the NFL and Wembley Stadium that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be the home team in Wembley. The Jaguars will play their first game here in October 2013.

Alongside securing the Wembley stadium for two 2013 games, NFL officials have also been in talks with Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, over staging matches at the London Olympic Stadium.

The NFL has staged games in London every year since 2007, and October 2012 saw the New England Patriots beat the St Louis Rams 45-7 in front of a sold-out Wembley crowd which included Boris Johnson.

Enthusiastic football fan, Safeer Zaman says, “I’ve been to a NFL game in the States and as popular as it was there, it won’t be here. As someone who loves the Premier League and watches football all the time, I wasn’t into the match over there. I don’t think it will stay for long and if it does not that many people are going to go to the games.”

To purchase tickets and for the latest updates on future matches in the UK visit the Official NFL UK Website.

Watch the Super Bowl 9 where the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Minnesota Vikings played to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1974 season:

Follow Zanib Asghar on Twitter.