KEANO! KEANO! will roar out across the Aviva for the last time for the legend that is Robbie Keane. When Keane takes to the pitch on Wednesday against Oman he will play with the same Pride and Passion as did when he made his international debut all those years ago at a time when many of the crowd in the Aviva will not have even been born.
I would consider Robbie a dying breed of footballer. To me Robbie was a street footballer, a player who played the game as he learned it, on the streets of Tallaght and in the many parks around Dublin. Football was so much easier when young Robert Keane learned how to play football in a 20 aside game on the streets of Tallaght. With jumpers for goalposts and street lights acting as floodlights, they had no goal line cameras – so if you said it was a goal it was a goal – and the final whistle was someone’s ma calling them in because it was getting dark out or the fella who owned the ball went in. This was young Robert’s stadium, teams got picked and all players became whoever was the star name of the time. For those few hours between finishing your tea and it getting dark the match they played was live on Match of the Day or the Big Match.
Robbie is not shy in acknowledging the role various people and clubs played in his development as a footballer, he speaks of them with great pride. The people who stood on the side-lines at football parks around Dublin, who took training on Tuesday and Thursday in the rain with the only return being the thrill of keeping kids fit and maybe one day finding a diamond. When young Robert Keane went on to play football for a professional club, all those wet nights and all the effort of organising lifts to games had been worth it.
Our game is full of men and women who give up their spare time to manage kids’ teams and on a voluntary basis. They are the foundation stone our beautiful game is built on. The parks of Ireland are full of these unsung heroes who leave work early, give up the chance of overtime to go training or go home early from a night out to be up early to mark the pitch, put up the nets and then at the end of the match take down the nets and then wash the kit. They are the forgotten soldiers of the Irish football Army.
The Soccer public in America love Robbie because they have seen players go to play in their league make money and then head off into the sunset. Not Robbie, he can be seen meeting and greeting the community and supporters because he wants to promote his club and the game. He inspires young people to go and play football. In Ireland he gives great support and encouragement to many charities out of the glare of publicity. Who will ever forget that kid’s face when he arrived onto the Late Late Toy Show.
Robbie is a crowd pleaser who gets people out of their seats. 67 goals for his country will stand for a long time. So when Robert, or as we know him best, Robbie Keane takes to his stage in the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday the street lights of Tallaght will be replaced by floodlights. The offside rule will apply and the person ending the game will be a FIFA official and not someone’s ma and on Wednesday Robbie will own the ball.
On behalf of all footballer lovers; Robbie enjoy your international retirement and Thank You for the service you have given to your country.