Meghan and Harry's visit: Croke Park was described as a 'soccer' field with 'soccer players' received complaints yesterday after they published a piece online headlined “Meghan Markle’s Four-Inch Stilettos Just Battled a Soccer Field, and Won”. The "soccer pitch" that the U.S. publisher was referring to was none other than Croke Park. And it didn't stop there, the article went on to refer to the "young soccer players" (who were of course GAA players) that the royal couple greeted whilst there.

Usually, controversy surrounding Croke Park is based on whether Gaelic Games should be the GAA’s priority instead of concerts, not the semantics of an online women’s fashion magazine. Is it a forgivable faux pas to refer to Croke Park, home to GAA football and hurling and Ireland’s largest sporting arena as a "soccer field"? We're not sure the 82, 300 supporters it houses at full capacity, would be mad about their national sports heroes referred to as “soccer players”.

The offending description could be seen as an innocuous mistake or unacceptable boo-boo; it could be construed as a regressive step; or just plain cultural ignorance. The stadium has played host to International Rules, Rugby and Soccer, and that should be acknowledged. However, the offending remarks smack of a journalist oblivious to the history of Croke Park, the game, and the politics that have played out over generations.


So let’s exercise some clarity for you sports ingénues. The definition of soccer is a form of football played by two teams of eleven players with a round ball which may not be handled during play except by the goalkeepers.

GAA football on the other hand is played between two teams of 15 players.  Players advance the football, a spherical leather ball, up the field with a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing, and soloing. Quite a difference so and worthy of some pedantry?

The article centers around Meghan's wearing of a stiletto on the aforementioned "field". To (football) boot it’s certainly an eye-raising feat to wear four-inch stilettos on any pitch, a brave but ill advised fashion mistake, to our minds. Meghan tackled some sartorial lunacy there when there’s a plethora of pretty and practical runners to choose from, infinitely more suited to a 100 per cent natural grass pitch.

Lorna Weightman, a style blogger who pointed out the issue on Twitter, commented "I think we take our national heritage very seriously and we are passionate about our sport which is embedded in the fabric of Ireland. When this is misrepresented, we are taken aback naturally.”

So for the sake of the nearly 1.5 million people in attendance from May to September, let’s call this playing surface by its correct name because during the summer, everyone has an opinion on it. The duty of care falls to Pitch Manager Stuart Wilson who says “The one thing we strive for, is that the pitch is for players and the players are the most important people for us. We want to ensure that we have a safe and stable surface to play on.”

We’ll let it pass this time, but no trodding on the dreams of this well-loved and curated “pitch” from now on, deal?

Photograph: Croke Park


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