Ever since that French player did that thing over in Paris against ourselves, a lot of people have actually been dreading the start of the great summer kick-about. The League of Ireland is on a three week hiatus too, so even us purists have nothing to be at, and will likely tune in to watch the likes of Algeria, North Korea and the United States of America do their thing in front of a global audience. Football isn’t coming home, it’s gone home. We’re barred from the house.
In a way, this presented an opportunity. One of the ‘big teams’ basically robbed ‘the little people’. Against the backdrop of repossessed houses, Brian Cowen’s face, cuts to our wages and more besides, this was supposed to be our national uplifting moment. Kathleen ni Houlihan in her Italia ’90 jersey telling us to keep it together. The underdog was kicked, and the underdog wasn’t looking the best on its legs before the big boys put the boot in either.
So, shouldn’t we be out in force behind another underdog? It’s no doubt fair to say FIFA and companies investing in the World Cup would have prefered to see the French make it through to the tournament itself of course. Still, even with us out of the question, a number of small nations are in with a shout. Instead, a bizarre situation has emerged where Dublin pubs are flying the flags of Spain, Brazil, Italy and the sort.
‘THIS PUB SUPPORTS ___________’ can be seen in the windows of many Dublin pubs, and it’s not just in the city centre, where this can be passed off as an attempt to lure in tourists. In my own small West Dublin suburb, home to two pubs, both are ‘supporting’ Spain. Why Spain? Spain winning the thing is likely enough I suppose.
In 1966, North Korea beat Italy one nil. In fact, they made the quarter finals. I remember seeing Scotland equalise against Brazil in 1998 from the penalty spot and thinking “It’s on now, boys”. That’s what football is all about, realistically we all know it will come down to a taxi load of teams in the end, but why not follow a team on the way for the thrill of it, and see how far they get?
Uruguay, Chile, Denmark, even them lads in North Korea (because somebody has to watch the matches live and unedited) - come on Dublin publicans, if your pub hasn’t got a team yet, surprise me. After failing to get through the seeded play-offs, the last thing I want is to be have a pub decorated in the flags of nations that have lifted the Cup already, like Brazil. We could at least have all settled on a team in green!
As someone who remembers the painted kerbs of Ballyfermot for previous World Cups, and coming from a nation long overdue a World Cup run out, I want to see an underdog bite at this World Cup. Who knows, they might even take a hand off