Bob Marley’s last outdoor concert inspires a new football shirt

In the latest progressive program from member-owned, non-profit Irish club Bohemians, the club has released a special away shirt to commemorate the Rastafarian icon’s last outdoor concert, which took place in the club stadium, Dalymount Park, 6 July 1980.

And 10% of all profits from the shirt will be used to buy sports and music equipment for people in asylum centers in partnership with the Asylum Seekers Movement in Ireland

The concept came from the mind of the club’s director of operations, Dan Lambert, who wanted in part to pay homage to the club’s history – a timeline which, as Dublin’s oldest club, dates back to 1890.

“We’ve played in the ground since 1901… Zidane and Pele and Van Basten and Ruud Guulit and George Best and Bobby Charlton, they’ve all played there.”

But it was the music history of the pitch and in particular the legendary Marley concert of 1980, which Lambert says captured the imagination of the local club community in Phibsboro, north Dublin.

“We have a lot of field gigs and music history. Particularly in the 70s and 80s. We had Thin Lizzy and Meatloaf and Status Quo but nobody is more famous than Marley.”

“The Marley gig is legendary around Phibsboro because the gigs don’t happen in Dalymount anymore, the big gigs… I thought it would be cool to do a shirt around that, not just with the story of the music but also with Bob’s links to football.”

“Revolution in Music”

The gig even had a special resonance with a specific member of club staff, according to Lambert.

“Lynn O’Neill, she’s been an employee of Bohs for 40 years. She started working for Bohs in 1982. For the vast majority of those years she was our only employee on the non-football side.

“We were in the office yesterday and she said, ‘I was at this concert, I have pictures at home.’

“She brought some pictures from the stage, really old photographs. There were a lot of them, who, you know, have been going to Bohs for years, talking about the gig.”

Pat Egan was the music promoter who brought some of the country’s most famous concerts during this era, including Status Quo, Queen – and Marley.

He recalled the importance of Marley’s visit not only for the local community but also for the country.

“I think Marley was the first really big international star to come to Ireland to play an outdoor show,” Egan said.

“No one of this caliber was at the forefront of a complete musical revolution…he was more than a rock figure, he was at the forefront of a cultural revolution.”

Some of Egan’s memories of the day include seeing part of the team and Marley’s band, the Wailers, playing football on the field before the performance.

“They checked the sound early in the morning and then they started playing football, first on the pitch until the gardener said you can’t play around the goals.”

“The Wailers were definitely playing football, so was the team, Bob was maybe on the sidelines,” laughed Egan.

But what Egan remembers most are his negotiations to bring the famed Jamaican songwriter to the country.

According to Egan, Marley had only one condition: the tickets had to be affordable for everyone.

“He lowered his price, I wanted to charge ten pounds. I was paying him a lot of money [for the concert] and he said no, ten pounds is too much, let’s do seven pounds [the country’s then currency] and he dropped his price by about $20,000 if I remember correctly.”

“He didn’t want the fans to be overcharged. He was worried. He didn’t want the fans to overpay, so he agreed to a lower fee,” Egan said.

The shirt has an embroidered hem tag of the original concert ticket.

‘Live for others, you will live again’

This generosity of spirit is what Bohs CEO Lambert also had in mind when he thought of the jersey idea.

He said that having a portion of the proceeds from jersey sales go to a good cause paid perfect tribute to Marley’s life and legacy.

That’s the reason, Lambert says, that Marley’s reps and family were on board with the concept.

“The fact that we’re not for profit, a co-op, that there’s no capacity for personal profit to be made from the club…it’s really important.”

“It was something we wanted to emphasize. [to Marley’s representatives] and it must have been well received, obviously, because they chose to do it with us.”

Some of the reggae star’s most famous sayings were “Live for yourself and you will live in vain, live for others you will live again”.

It’s a message that Bohemians as a club seem to have taken inspiration from in recent years.

Off the pitch, the team has pursued a number of initiatives in recent years to help those in need and serve the greater good.

Last year, the club hired football’s first climate justice manager in a bid to tackle the climate crisis.

In 2020, the club partnered with Amnesty International to design a new away shirt with the image of a family fleeing war and the message ‘Refugees Welcome’.

Every Christmas the club also buys gifts for children who are in the Irish asylum system. The club raised more than 100,000 euros ($112,000) through these efforts last month.

Lambert told CNN Sport that many of the steps Bohs have taken in recent years have only strengthened the club as a cooperative.

“Our membership, from 1890 until about 2017, was always between 450 and 500 people… today it’s just over 2,000, mostly locals,” he said.

“The biggest change is perception. If you walk around the area with a high Bohs, everyone knows who we are. They are positively exposed to us.”

He attributes the positive public response to a desire for community in an increasingly commercialized society, with bohemians seemingly filling a void.

“A football club can really play the role of a lot of those things. It can be somewhere you go that has strong values ​​that you’re proud of, you can bond and go with friends or great -parenting in a cross-generational way. A shared experience when these things are becoming less and less common.”

“We can’t guarantee what will happen on the pitch, but we can guarantee how we will act,” added Lambert.

Elizabeth J. Harless