LIKE most of us, I’ve had plenty of low points during the course of the last year-and-a-bit of living under Covid.

The high points have been scarcer, and therefore rather easier to choose from. One of them, in fact, I can pinpoint to an exact date, time and place. It was Saturday, October 3 last year, it was 2pm, and I was standing at the side of a field in Rhu, in the pouring rain, getting soaked to the skin.

That was the only time since Covid struck that I’ve seen live sport played in the flesh. It would turn out to be Rhu Amateurs’ only league match of 2020-21. And, for those 90 minutes, I was as happy as a pig in the brown stuff.

I’d have been equally pleased if it had been a Helensburgh FC fixture, I should say. Or indeed if it had been rugby, not football. It wasn’t just sport, it was live, grassroots sport. I’d missed it very much, and I’ve missed it very much ever since.

That may not mean much if you’ve never been bitten by the team sport bug. And even if you have, I can understand why you might not get the attraction: why stand in the pouring rain, watching enthusiastic but limited amateurs, when you could stay at home and watch the world’s best on your big screen TV?

IN PICTURES: Burgh enjoys park life in the springtime sun

I’m not quite sure I’ve ever had a satisfactory response to that. But the farcical attempts this week by some of the world’s biggest football clubs to form a ‘European Super League’, and the embarrassing way it fell apart within 48 hours, may provide some kind of an answer. The ESL only made more obvious what has been clear to most watchers for years, if not decades: that the biggest football clubs aren’t really sports clubs any more, but are primarily a vehicle for their obscenely rich owners to become even richer.

That’s why grassroots sport appeals to me, I think. Nobody involved with Rhu, or with Helensburgh FC – or RFC, come to that – or any of the area’s other amateur sports clubs has any kind of financial consideration in mind. They’re doing it for the love of the game, and while that might be a very old-fashioned attitude, it is, for me at least, still a very powerful draw.

So, too, is the fact that those clubs are part of the fabric of the community. As I mentioned above, you may never have been bitten by the team sport bug, but these local clubs – whether they’re sports clubs, flower clubs, nature groups or some other interest group – are the beating heart of Helensburgh and Lomond, as they are across the land.

They’ve been missed very much throughout Covid, and as we take a few more tentative steps on the path back to some kind of normal, seeing signs of new life – the announcement of competitive football fixtures, and of training sessions for Ardencaple FC, of the Friends of Hermitage Park looking for volunteers, and of the Horticultural Society holding an outdoor plant sale – is something I find enormously encouraging.

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