Archive for June, 2012

This was how ITV’s commentator summed up 20, 000 singing Irish fans as the game against Spain drew to a close on Thursday evening (14 June). Though you will note that he didn’t even qualify his observation by saying “Irish fans” or “Ireland’s fans”; just “the Irish”.  I suspect that a lot of Irish people might dismiss this as harmless and not worth getting hot and bothered about. Sure we’re used to all these stereotypes in the British media by now, aren’t we? And aren’t we a very modern, forward-looking people who are generally viewed in very positive terms the world over? Why would we care about a minor wee slip by an ITV commentator running out of cliches?

“They’re happy drunks, the Irish!” – ITV match commentator on Irish fans as Ireland v Spain draws to a sorry end.

But wait! If we think what he said is harmless, then just replace the word Irish with, say, “blacks” or “Asians” or “Aborigines” or “English”.  Would we think that to be harmless or trivial?  Somehow I don’t think so.

Racism isn’t just about defining a whole race or ethnic group in hateful or violent terms. It is also about defining a race/ethnic group as being genetically or culturally inferior in relation to one’s own race/ethnic group.  Indeed, the fact that the stereotype of over 4 million Irish people as drunks should pass without remark is in itself an object lesson of how and why racism works on an unconscious, ideological level and why so many of us give our consent to it by default, by not challenging it when it is explicitly expressed.

I am going to make a complaint to the UK’s broadcast regulator, OfCom, about this and though I am not terribly confident of getting any satisfaction, I’m always open to a pleasant surprise. Watch this space for an update!



UPDATE:  3-1 to Croatia. Spain next, on Thursday and,  barring a major miracle not seen since the airport up at Knock, it’s not looking too good for the boys. But then it’s unfair to load on their shoulders the weight of our hopes and expectations amid the economic turmoil we’re in. Let’s just hope that they make a better account of themselves against Spain and Croatia so that at least we can say they gave it a lash!

England didn’t too bad against France, though. I was especially impressed with Oxlade-Chamberlain – he played some good football and came across very well in his post-match interview: modest, articulate and intelligent.

Best quote so far:  “I don’t fancy James Milner (pause) as a footballer” (John Giles on RTE2).

Best performances so far: Russia and Ukraine.

Star turn so far: Andriy Sevchenko….there’s life in the old dog yet. First goal against Sweden was superb.

And here’s the Apres Match lads on the implications of our defeat to Croatia (RTE2, 10 June).  Their take on Eamon Dunphy is brilliant!

Ireland v Spain,  7.45pm, Thursday 14 June

As the moment of truth approaches, I find myself torn between hard-headed realism ( “It’s Spain for feck’s sake! We’re going to be played off the park!” ) and irrational optimism, a refusal to accept that, at 9.30 tonight, it will be all over for the Boys in Green. As Eamon Dunphy would say, it’s metaphysics baby!

As I write, Croatia has just scored the equaliser against Italy with just 15 minutes to go, which if it stays that way might not be a result that will favour Ireland even if, by miracle, they either draw with Spain or shock the whole of Europe by taking all three points. If we take something from Spain, we don’t want to meet Italy on Monday night with them needing all three points from that game.

So how will it be tonight? Will it be something like this…

Or will it be more like this…

I suspect the first option and fear the second. But I’m going to watch anyway and if there is a miracle, I’ll get very pissed. What else can you do? I’ll leave you with this Spanish panel’s analysis of the last time the teams met a competitive match – at the World Cup 2002…

Ireland v Spain: The Aftermath

Well, it’s all over barring the shouting at the Italy game on Monday.  As I feared, the game against Spain turned out to be more the Pamploma bull run than a classic bull fight; like when Ireland took Spain all the way to penalties in the second round of the World Cup 2002. Ah! Those were the days!

But Spain and Ireland are very different propositions now than they were ten years ago. Spain now have some of the greatest players in the world, play wonderful football and have little to fear from any  of the other national teams in Euro 2012; while Ireland, alas,  are seriously lacking in talent and creativity. On leading the team to qualification for the finals, Trappatoni talked a lot about loyalty towards the squad that got us thus far – that it would be unfair to drop some of those players for more exciting, creative young talent. Admirable in principle perhaps but is it honest? I think it’s more about sticking to his system of ultra-defensive football, a system that does not require or need creative playmakers. In fact, I don’t think Trapp particularly trusts or likes such players – not on the evidence so far anyway.  Quite how he’s going to lead this current, surely demoralised squad through a very tough World Cup 2014 qualifying group is beyond me.

So it’s a only matter of pride on Monday and the opportunity to at least  have a say on the final outcome of the group. That would be ironic – Ireland and its Italian manager checking out of the championship  and heading to the airport together with Italy. (Is there room on the bus for Michael D., lads?)  But to go home with no points on the board at all would cap a truly miserable experience for squad and fans alike.

I’ll be back after the game against Italy but in the meantime, a message to Ireland from Angela…

Did you happen to see the BBC’s preview of the Euros 2012 last night (6 June)?  Presented by the Football Focus/Match of the Day XI, including the usual suspects, Gary Lineker, Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer (or Sheared as his mates call him),  it started off with a look at England’s chances.  This included an interview with Wayne Rooney, apparently the only player worth talking about even though he’s banned for the first two matches after a brutal tackle in the last qualifier against Montengero. Then came the low point as it turned to the Republic of Ireland’s chances. Now the whole team must have gone for a tea break at that point because instead of any serious discussion or analysis, they gave us Dara O’Briain doing a quirky little piece of self-deprecation to camera in what appeared to be a pub…

Ah now Dara!

(…Ah now, Dara! Was that your idea? Like, a pub? Did it take you long to think that one up? Or did you just do what you were told even though you were cringing inside? Money is money, right? And how did you feel when you realized that your piece wasn’t a funny little filler but the programme’s actual analysis of Ireland’s  chances? Did they tell you? Did they, did they?  If they didn’t, you must be feeling a right eejit now eh? If they did tell you and you did it anyway because you wanted them to like you, then you are more than just an eejit…)

Yes, Dara’s funny little piece was the height of it really…apart from a blunt dismissal of Ireland’s chances  in a group made up of Croatia, Italy and Spain. They never learn, do they? They did the same to Ireland in the Euros 1996, especially in the build up to the game against England. Ireland won.  Sure it was nearly a national crisis in England! And no Dara then to make them feel better! No!

Ah well, I won’t be watching the coverage on BBC and ITV anyway. I’ll be following Bill and the boys on RTE 2.  Peerless, objective, grown-up analysis but also Après Match to lighten the mood. In fact, here are the Après Match boys doing Match of the Day a while back. Their take on Mark Lawrenson is brilliant!

What’s going on in BBC Northern Ireland when every time it wants to present a debate about a serious issue, like the state of the local economy or public sector strikes, it brings in one Katie Hopkins, the ill-informed, extremely annoying and long-past winner of the dumbest programme on the BBC, The Apprentice? What producer at the BBC in Belfast thinks that it’s a good idea to turn serious issues in current affairs into a pantomine by having this useless person debating with serious players in the local public and private sectors? Getting Katie Hopkins to talk about local politics and economics is like getting Sammy Wilson to talk about Camus…in French.

Katie Hopkins after another call from Stephen Nolan

This is a woman who has no clue about  or sympathy for Northern Ireland. This is a woman who made a fool of herself on BBC Question Time (20 January 2011) by suggesting that women didn’t deserve equality and that, anyway, many couldn’t handle it if they got it. This is a woman who appeared opposite Owen Jones  on the inane Nolan Show on TV (25 April 2012) to defend government proposals for a regional pay differentials. Thankfully, the fabulous Patricia McKeown of UNISON NI was in the audience to put Katie in her place but still…why was Katie Hopkins on the show in the first place?  And why was she on Radio Ulster’s Talk Back just recently (31 May 2012) debating a proposed doctors’ (not dockers!) strike with a professional representative and a local trades unionist?  She barracked and interrupted them with neoliberal nonsense throughout to such a degree that listeners started texting and tweeting for her to get off. When the presenter told her about this, Stephen Nolan style, she complained that she may not be an expert about the economy or the public sector but she had a right to express an opinion. Perhaps but it would help if it was an informed opinion at least.

If Talk Back was so intent on union bashing, the producer could surely have invited someone local? Someone knowledgeable or  capable? Someone from Belfast Chamber of Commerce maybe? Then again, maybe they just thought they were very right on by inviting her on air? Maybe they just wanted to manufacture controversy or outrage by bringing on a straw woman who’s easy to knock down? Maybe every current affairs  presenter with BBC NI now wants to be like Stephen Nolan and win a prize?

Katie tells Stephen she’s washing her hair

But you know what? It backfired because it’s one thing being controversial and objectionable but intelligent; and quite another thing being controversial, objectionable…and just stupid.

And I’m talking about Stephen Nolan, Talk Back and BBC NI – not Katie Hopkins.