The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

New book pays trib­ute to fans’ com­mu­nity spirit

● Au­thor cel­e­brates ‘unique cul­ture’ of High­land League foot­ball

- BY RACHEL LEE Sports · Soccer · Harare · Latchford · Southampton F.C. · Southampton · Scotland · Barcelona · FC Barcelona · Buckie · Moray · Aberdeenshire · United Kingdom · Salisbury Football Club

Wrapped in his grand­mother’s hand knit­ted Sal­is­bury Foot­ball Club scarf and stand­ing close to his grand­fa­ther at Victoria Park amid a sea of sup­port­ers rip­pling with waves of ex­cite­ment, a young boy is in awe of the pas­sion of lo­cal foot­ball.

Fast-for­ward four decades and ven­ture more than 600 miles north, and Mat Guy is still struck with that same feel­ing as he at­tends High­land League games.

De­spite the au­thor re­sid­ing in Southamp­ton, he has ded­i­cated a year to trav­el­ling around the north of Scot­land for his new book, Barcelona to Buckie This­tle.

Spend­ing many of his Satur­day af­ter­noons at foot­ball parks across Mo­ray,

“The­feel­ingI gotev­ery­time wa­so­neof over­whelm­ing pas­sion”

Aberdeen­shire and the High­lands watch­ing their small-town teams, Mr Guy learned of the rich her­itage of the 126-year-old league from the com­mu­ni­ties them­selves by stand­ing among the ded­i­cated sup­port­ers.

He said: “The feel­ing I got ev­ery time I went to a match was one of over­whelm­ing pas­sion.

“It may be a re­mote league but it’s not miss­ing the blood and thun­der of the game and so this book re­ally is a cel­e­bra­tion of the High­land League.”

A long-time foot­ball en­thu­si­ast with a pas­sion for watch­ing teams from all lev­els, the au­thor was in­tro­duced to Bri­tain’s most northerly se­nior foot­ball cham­pi­onship after dis­cov­er­ing his fam­ily ties to the re­gion.

From learn­ing that his grand­mother lived in towns through­out the north-east as a teenager dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, to be­com­ing en­thralled by the “unique cul­ture” of the High­land League, he says it mar­ried up to be a “no-brainer” to write the book.

He says he called the book Barcelona to Buckie This­tle to show the par­al­lels he found through­out Euro­pean na­tions of smaller leagues be­ing dis­missed or over­looked, as the High­land League of­ten is.

Mr Guy said: “There’s no dif­fer­ence to me – whether it’s the world’s big­gest team Barcelona or the league’s Buckie This­tle, the pas­sion and the pride of foot­ball re­mains the same.”

As well as be­ing moved by the un­wa­ver­ing fer­vour and fierce iden­tity of the High­land League’s teams, Mr Guy was taken aback by the com­mu­nity spirit.

He added: “Of course peo­ple want to win, but it’s done with a sport­ing, cul­tural and com­mu­nity re­spect.”

 ??  ?? VIEW FROM THE STANDS: Au­thor Mat Guy with his nephew, who ac­com­pa­nied him to a few games dur­ing his north­ern trav­els
VIEW FROM THE STANDS: Au­thor Mat Guy with his nephew, who ac­com­pa­nied him to a few games dur­ing his north­ern trav­els

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