Took the children to the local pub last night to watch Ireland play Spain. It was more predictable than disappointing. For the kids it was a chance to fleece me for Coke and crisps, then poke, nip, knock over glasses, shout, stomp, flick cocktail sticks and generally disturb others watching the game. Better to have stayed at home for a host of reasons, not least of all a somewhat bulkier wallet this morning.
Delighting in good soccer in effect means there is little enjoyment to be derived from watching Ireland play. I went hoping they would win but only in the same way that I go to buy a lotto ticket. Losing does nothing to dishearten me. I certainly didn’t share the enthusiasm and disappointment of the excitable crowd in the pub. The roars and shouts, the rushing to the screen when Ireland came close (too infrequent to disrupt the viewing), the exasperation and frustration, the howls and scowls – none of it was infectious as far as I was concerned. Perhaps I passed as a Stoic. Maybe even Stoic City, Peter Crouch, his wonder goal and the quaint looks that invariably come the way of supporters of rare soccer teams.
Declan O’Donkey (as I infomed my son was the collective name for the Irish defence) putting on a green shirt to the sounds of Olé, Olé, Olé doesn’t rouse any patriotic zest in me. I enjoy the trickery rather than the kickery. Even with the benefit of four legs there is nothing more certain than the opposition will manage to put the ball plum through the middle of them.
In the North there was one pub offering free pints for as long as Ireland remained in front during the game. I just love the risk that the entrepreneurial spirit brings out in business people. Now had Spanish pubs done that in relation to Spain staying in front, not one would be left wet this morning. That was one business risk we can rest assured was not taken on. There are challenges and there is business suicide. The Irish pub owner was certainly not for committing hari kari with that offer.
Despite everything being oh so predictable, the former Liverpool and Ireland player Michael Robinson was reported to have annoyed Irish fans with his pre match comments that:
There’s no threat from Ireland. Ireland cannot win this match ... It’s like Muhammad Ali fighting a dwarf. Ireland are going to try to be an irritating obstacle, but if Spain play at 80 per cent of their ability, they’ll thrash them.
Which is pretty much as it happened. Fernando Torres managed to score more in last’s night game than he did in the entire European championships four years ago in which Spain played six games. Seems a case of Robinson stating the obvious. But as has been observed elsewhere, stating the obvious is a service best performed safely when done anonymously and posthumously. The witticism of Tom Stoppard would seem to apply to the Irish soccer world: ‘I agree with everything you say, but I would attack to the death your right to say it.’
Rotten Robbo will now be regarded as a traitor for calling it right. Hardly a new phenomenon in Irish intellectual and cultural life.