Finn McCool's Football Club: The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead.
Soccer Team in the City of the Dead
by Stephen Rea
Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, LA, 2009
Reviewed by Paul Wegmann
There is another brand of organized football beloved here in New Orleans that has nothing to do with the Saints' black and gold. European football, better known in the U.S. as "soccer," is played with as much vigor and tradition as the game on the gridiron, and its local epicenter is Finn McCool's Irish Pub, which has become a Mid-City institution, and home to its own football club. Finn McCool's Football Club, by Irish expat and New Orleanian Stephen Rea, tells the tale of a their quest for football glory in the tradition of neighborhood football clubs from across the pond.
On the walls inside Finn McCool's, Jax, Dixie and Regal beer trays share space with Celtic football club banners and championship marquees, antique rifles hang alongside an MRE ration and a Celtic cross, Irish hurley sticks, the occasional fleur-de-lis and a Belfast street sign. Expatriates from Ireland, Scotland, England, and elsewhere, gather with walk-in soccer fanatics on Saturday and Sunday mornings to enjoy the Premier League matches televised live from pitches back home, places like Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London. The love for their teams--Celtic, Rangers, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man-U, Everton and others--begins in the neighborhoods and the pubs and courses like blood through veins all the way to the Big Easy. Far quieter than a typical American football crowd at the start (perhaps the early hour has something to do with this), their furor and enthusiasm build, especially as this town's only decent Guinness continues to pour into the afternoon. This is an authentic pub in the best tradition, where the owners not only man the bar but will likely greet you when you enter and remember you when you return.
Rea recounts the founding of Finn McCool's Pub in 2002, his search for a game upon arriving in town from Ireland, the beginnings of the football club, and the dark days in the fall of 2005, what was to have been their inaugural season. The book follows the team as they cope with the hurricane and its aftermath, and rejoices in the unlikely return of Rea, the club, its members, the pub, and the city itself. Finn McCool's Football Club demonstrates that European football bridges generations, cultures, oceans, and even disasters, and that it has found a home in New Orleans. The book is an unlikely success story set in an unlikely city that is still here despite all odds and predictions.