Archive for the ‘The Footie’ Category

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!

Commemorating the Hillsborough Disaster. 20th Anniversary, Anfield.

The recent leak to BBC Radio 4’s World At One (15 March) of confidential cabinet papers on the Hillsborough disaster provides a fascinating insight into the workings of official propaganda. The papers recall a series of briefings given by Merseyside Police to Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, just four days after the disaster; essentially, they supported the view of colleagues in South Yorkshire Police that Liverpool fans were to blame for the deaths of the 98.

We have always known in the aftermath of the disaster that the police had privileged access to the media and to the very centre of government; and thus the opportunity to get their version of events on the record in public and in private as quickly as possible. Indeed, the scurrilous news headlines at the time, blaming the fans and exonerating the police operation at the ground that day, were not simply media inventions. In all likelihood they derived from police briefings, whose version of events and the headlines it generated are actually still believed by many today.

The Sun's take on the Hillsborough Disaster, 1989. All lies and no doubt sourced to police briefings.

It was very reminiscent of how quickly and effectively the British Army promoted its false version of events on Bloody Sunday in Derry on 30th January 1972, telling the British and international media that the 13 people shot dead by paratroopers that day were nail bombers and gunmen when in fact they were all innocent.  The army propaganda machine was so successful at this that some remarked on how quickly lies march around the world before the truth gets its boots on. The Widgery Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, just 11 weeks later, shamefully accepted and endorsed the army version and it took nearly 40 years for the Saville Inquiry to establish the truth that all 13 victims were innocent and for the British Prime Minister to formally accept this in parliament.

This is the kind of thing the Hillsborough families have faced ever since the loss of their loved ones in 1989. They’ve heard the lies of the media; they’ve seen the injustice of the inquest with its verdict of “accidental death” rather than “unlawful killing”; they’ve had the flawed verdict of the original Hillsborough (or Taylor) Inquiry of 1989, which left many questions unanswered but at least concluded that the police bore primary responsibility for what happened that day; and they’ve had to bear the insult of the Blair-sponsored judicial review by Lord Stuart-Smith in 1998, which decided there was no new  evidence on which to challenge the original Taylor Report.

Most recently came the news that the release of thousands of confidential papers that might help answer still unanswered questions would be delayed until this Autumn at the earliest because of the sheer weight of information they contain. Sheila Cole of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign accepts the reasons for the delay but she and many others will think it curious indeed that this particular document is being leaked now. We don’t know who leaked it and what interest they have in perpetuating the lies about how and why the disaster happened, which is a problem in itself. But the Hillsborough families, Liverpool Football Club and Liverpool fans everywhere will no doubt have strong suspicions that the police are, once again, getting their version out before the full range of papers are released, papers that might rightfully damn the police version once and for all, answer the still unanswered questions, and vindicate the finding of the original Hillsborough Inquiry that the fault for the disaster lay fully and squarely with the police and their operation at the ground that day.

Though I’m sorry to say personally and as someone brought up in Derry during the Troubles, I don’t hold out too much hope that the families will get justice from the British police anytime soon.

So Laurel and Hardy have gone! Goodbye to bad rubbish!


Hicks and Gillett take the only dignified way out


Now we can ony wait and see what John Henry and NESV will bring to the club – hopefully not more bad faith and bad debt. But all Liverpool fans know that the problems of this great club are not all the fault of the former owners because we’ve suffered the spectacle of some truly abysmal football on the field from some very ordinary players who shouldn’t really be in a Liverpool shirt – and who were not signed by Hicks and Gillett. As for Roy Hodgson, I really don’t know. He’s a manager who looks out of his depth at the moment and I suspect he may have been brought in because he wouldn’t scare the horses at a tricky point in the club’s history. But maybe he should be given some more time to prove he’s up to the task of transforming fortunes on the field? If the club is still languishing in the relegation zone by Christmas then it may be time for him to go in the spirit of the season – peace and goodwill and all that.

From that point, we bring back King Kenny (or maybe Martin O’Neill?) to haul the club out of the relegation zone to at least mid-table and start the process of a complete overhaul of the squad in advance of next season. Forget the Europa Cup – it’s a liability for a team in Liverpool’s position right now.  Let’s just focus on who stays and who goes and build a proper Liverpool first XI and squad.

Who Stays? Reina, Carra, Skrtel, Stevie G, Torres (if he’s really up for it), Kelly, Kuyt, Cole, Shelvey, Spearing, Jovanovic, Pacheco and Ngog.

Who goes? Johnson, Agger, Aurelio, Konchesky, Kyrgiakos, Rodriguez, Wilson, Babel, Meireles, Poulsen, and Lucas.

Possible signings?  Who knows? Kevin Doyle from Wolves? Shane Long from Reading?  But we could do worse than have a look at Paddy McCourt at Celtic.

Can you imagine having him score a goal like that at the Kop end against one of the top four? Let’s face it, when was the last Liverpool player we’ve seen run through defenders? Ok so he’s not going to get away with it every week at the highest level but he has the ability and the potential. On the other hand, I’m not a Celtic fan and haven’t seen him on a bad day. He hasn’t got a regular place on the first XI so maybe there’s something in that?

Anyway, I’m sure other fans will have different views on all this so let me know what you think!  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this little gem from the glorious past!

England’s World Cup woes worsened yesterday when several players were stolen from the Royal Bafokeng hotel (or as it is called more fittingly for its English guests, sports complex). Thought to be missing after a head count on the Team England bus are John Terry, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey, although it later emerged that the thieves had dumped Heskey just outside Johannesburg.  He is said to be in shock but unharmed and is now hitching his way back to the hotel. 

“This is very common with all burglaries”, said the police captain in charge of the investigation. “The thieves will carry off as much as they can get away with and then dump items of no value. I’m optimistic the remaining players will turn up over the next few days.”

However, some of the stolen players’ teammates suspect that the burglary was far too easy, testament to the level of division and strife within the sorry England camp. “I know Lamps and Ash were terrified of going home to face the media”, remarked Steven Gerrard. “And Big Emile heard rumours from home that he had his British passport cancelled and wouldn’t get back into the country”.

Asked if he was suggesting some kind of conspiracy, Gerrard refused to comment but a raise of the eyebrows said it all.

However, a pool attendant who was listening into the hastily convened, scene-of-the-crime media conference had his own theory. “Everybody in the hotel is talking about it!”, he exclaimed. “The burglars just mistook the players for cardboard cut outs and nicked them as souvenirs. After their poor performance against the Germans, these players remind us all that our victory over France was truly a national triumph!”

Meanwhile, in Johannesburg, the South African police commissioner, General Beki Chele, promised that the full force of the city’s traffic police would be deployed to find the missing players. The General, who prayed that the USA would be knocked out early to avoid a “nightmare” visit by President Obama, refused to ask God’s intervention on this latest World Cup fiasco. “One must be careful what one prays for”, he said with a wink to the English media.

Ah the World Cup.  You either love it like I do or you hate it but you can’t kill it. But never mind the woes and tantrums of overpaid English and French footballers over the past few days (Sacre bleu! Quelle pantomime!!). I was more interested to see how Fifa Inc dealt with those naughty stewards who had the temerity to protest about their pay . Recruited by a private company, they had been promised £133 or $198 per 12-hour shift only to receive  £17 or $25 per same. So something got lost in translation there or the South African rand mysteriously plummeted in value just in time for the World Cup. 

This isn’t good for the PR image at a time when Fifa Inc and the South African government are determined to prove the doomsayers wrong and put on a successful festival of football. Danny Jordan, chair of the South Africa World Cup organising committee, was no doubt mindful of the good old days when beating up black strikers was the height of apartheid chic but he drew a line under this one: “Although we have respect for workers’ rights, we find it unacceptable for them to disrupt matchday proceedings and will not hesitate to take action in such instances.” This amounts to respect for workers’ rights as long as they are not asserted. 

 As good as his word, our Danny called in the police riot squad to show the ungrateful strikers the red card, using tear gas and batons to hurry  them along when they dragged their feet (no doubt counting down the clock to the final whistle, the time wasters!) This was not only PR overkill but also terribly unjust. Why didn’t they send in the riot squad to deal with the crime against football that was the England v Algeria game (18 June) or the French squad’s one-day training strike last Sunday (20 June)? And why was England’s John Terry allowed so much free airtime to moan about his boss and put his team-mates in the shit? Where was the riot squad then?

You see Danny missed a positive PR trick here. Instead of gassing the stewards or bashing their heads in with the cosh, he could have selected a strikers’ All Stars XI to play the England team. If they beat England, they would be awarded the wage they were promised. For their part, the England squad could go home with their heads held high, accepting that they were well trounced by the better team, and humbly subject themselves to a 30-minute grilling from the fearsome Adrian Chiles…or  more Bleakley, his pal Christine. If the All Stars lost the game, they would go back to work as slaves on a pittance, too embarrassed to strike after having been beaten, thanks to a dodgy penalty, by some of the worst but highest paid players in the tournament. 

Poor Danny. Now he has had to swallow his pride and let the South African police police the tournament instead. Honestly! What’s the World Cup coming to?