YYou just need to be a few yards from the Brandywell Stadium to see Derry City's position as no ordinary football club in any ordinary area. Slogans supporting the IRA, INLA and a united Ireland can be seen on the short drive towards the Bogside Inn. Likewise, a large mural depicting what some of the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly have been saying since their founding in 1998: poverty, unemployment, enforcing British government cuts and food banks.
Derry City and Derry's City, marked by the still existing sectarian divide, are inextricably linked. The old adage that sport and politics can not mix is nonsensical in this constituency, where the choice for remaining in the EU was the fourth highest with 78.3%. Derry City, the only club based in Northern Ireland in the League of Ireland, The season starts on Friday, when it was hit in the midst of political chaos, without any fault of its own. Just over a month into the season, Brexit's reality means they will be playing any away game in the EU, be it in Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk or Cork City. On Brexit Day, March 29, Sligo Rovers will be held.
Although beset by questions, Derry City does not comment on Brexit. The Irish Football Association has taken an identical stance. The explanation lies in a common theme across the UK: insecurity. However, the main issues are easy to determine: travel for followers, movement of players, contracts, insurance, Uefa status. Derry City has a handful of players from County Donegal, the official Republic of Ireland. Philip O & Doherty, the club's chairman and benefactor, has the same geographic status.
It is up to outsiders to gain the experience of what border controls in Ireland mean using prep times prior to Good Friday as a reference point for unclear checkpoint practices. "There were long lines. They could be pulled aside and asked any questions they asked where they were going, "recalls Michael Kerrigan, who has barely missed a Derry game for over three decades. "Maybe the bus you were in was a different color five years ago, so you first had to identify it:" Why did the color of the bus change? If you have answered a question incorrectly … it is much, much better at the moment, simple sailing.
"We do not really know what will happen in terms of the physicality of a border, and of course we have reservations. People can talk and talk, but we do not really know. We are confident that things will be the way they are now. We are not politicians. We just want to watch football. "
As is so often the case in Northern Ireland, no assessment of an imminent situation is possible without a glimpse into the past. In Derry, there is still resentment that the club was initially bundled to Coleraine (for security reasons) and then resigned in 1972 from the Belfast-based Irish league altogether. After a painful wilderness retreat, Derry joined the League of Ireland in 1985 and was supported by 12,000 people at home and routinely supporting half of them.
Jim Roddy applies a wider context. "We did not have a senior club to strive to be a part of, and when the club came back, it had an impact on the city's households … it changed people's view of themselves, of this place "He explains. "They had something that truly represented what they considered their identity. A sporty giant for us.
"It was four years after the hunger strike and this was still a dangerous place. Football was an escape from what happened on the street.
"In 74-75 this place was in turmoil, this place in flames. The conflict was raging, the bloody Sunday was just over and the anger and pain were very real. As a teenager, there was a mix of excitement – when bombs go off, you want to see it. But as each year passed and you grew bigger, you are more involved in the horror. [had] were stopped by the troops on the street, annoyed. All these things. And football was not there, we have no team to look up to. "
Roddy is the fascinating embodiment of this city and a football club he served as a director for many years. As a citizen leader – he leads the Derry-Londonderry City Center initiative – he is a contact for Theresa May and Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Roddy reports that he recently took Brandon Lewis for an ad hoc ride to "see" the Irish border. Suffice it to say that the Conservative party leader's perception was outweighed by the reality in which a slight change in the road surface was the only determining factor.
Of course it was not always like this. Roddy speaks from the heart as he refuses to consider Derry City's 2019 support, as was customary from 1985-1998. "It will not happen again, there will be no hard line," says Roddy. "At first nobody wants it.
"For the followers there were certainly tensions; People would have refused to be stopped by soldiers. Some of these soldiers were 18, 19 years old and did not even know what they were doing here. That's the human reality. You've heard Scottish soldiers, and you know that half of them were Celtic supporters – as well as the ones they call "Scottish" bs. A real anomaly.
"It was'nt easy. Not everyone had anything to drink, but not all were dry. These were trips and you made a sigh of relief crossing the border. Was it unconscious? I do not know, but it worked the other way around on the way back.
"See, it was an experience, an experience that could not be considered again. No way."
Interestingly, Roddy Derry City would not see in the Irish league – which could easily be interpreted as cost – as a trigger for social unrest, but considers the scenario unnecessary. "We are not separated from our political lineup. If our leaders do not work together at the executive level, this is possible at all levels. Does that make life difficult? Yes, it does.
"But I am firmly convinced that we should have an Irish football league with 12 teams with sufficient resources."
At Declan Devine, Derry has a locally-bred and bred manager. "We are in an area with one of the highest levels of discrimination in Ireland," he says. "No matter which country in Derry we come from, we all had to fight for everything we have. We have been through a lot of difficulties. This football represents these people, and we have to make sure we fight at least. We have to make sure that the one we meet is personal. It is a struggle and an argument to make sure that we are not overrun, overworked or bullied. Your football club represents your city. "
The form in which this representation continues is so desperately unclear for the time being.