CNN  — 

Seán McCabe is concerned.

Not about Bohemian FC’s next opponents, nor those who lie in wait in the weeks and months ahead.

It’s of a greater, invisible opponent – one that is discernibly shaping the present and threatens to leave an indelible mark on the future.

The opponent: the climate emergency.

“It’s already occurring […] You can’t trick the laws of thermodynamics […] There is no vaccine for the climate crisis,” McCabe told CNN Sport.

The issue is a very real and personal one for the Irishman.

He’s a resident of Phibsborough, a neighborhood in the north of Dublin, and a member of local club, Bohemian FC.

In January this year the top-flight Irish football team unveiled McCabe as their new signing.

Not the marauding midfielder or sharpshooter striker that some supporters might have desired. Instead, the club’s Climate Justice Officer – a newly created voluntary role and the first position of its kind in world football.

Seán McCabe was appointed Bohemians first Climate Justice Officer in January 2021

Community led sustainable practice

The inconvenient truth is that the global game is not immune to changing climactic conditions.

A study published last year by the Rapid Transition Alliance forecasts that in time extreme weather events and sea level rises caused by climate change will flood stadiums and playing fields.

Heatwaves and heat stroke will threaten the health of both players and fans alike.

The warnings are stark but simple yet powerful notion lies at the heart of McCabe’s ethos and role.

It’s a belief that local communities can play a key and participatory role in owning climate action and as a consequence bridge the inequality gap.

He speaks of how working in a hospice in Kolkata with some of the city’s poorest inhabitants left “an indelible mark,” while spending time in Sierra Leone shortly before Ebola hit exposed “the thirst for resources.”

“It [the climate crisis] can’t become about the future of children in developed countries when the present of people in developing countries is at risk.

A quarter of English league football grounds can expect stadium flooding by 2050, the Rapid Transition Alliance warns

“The world didn’t end up with rich areas and poor areas by accident – it’s man made,” he explains.

Such life-changing experiences were pivotal to McCabe pushing for the inclusion of human rights language when working on The Paris Agreement as a policy adviser for The Mary Robinson Foundation, the former President of Ireland.

It too formed the basis of his setting up of the TASC Climate Justice Center in Dublin of which he is now the Executive Manager.

But it was his recently published report titled, “The People’s Transition: Community-led development for Climate Justice,” which calls for community led sustainable practice, that prompted McCabe to see football as an untapped vehicle to drive such change.

“There’s not that many things left in the world that people are lifetime members of. There were unions and churches at one point but now I think football clubs are one of the only things that someone feels a part of them belongs to.”

A unique, progressive club

Bohemians isn’t not your average football club.

Member-owned since 1890, Dublin’s oldest team has gained a reputation for championing progressive social causes.

There’ve been unconventional, eye-catching announcements – the appointment of a poet in residence and the production of its own gin.

The message, however, throughout has been about the wider collective.

Last year, the club partnered with Amnesty International on the design of a new away shirt featuring an image of a family fleeing war and the message “Refugees Welcome.”

The collar featured the slogan “Love Football, Hate Racism.”