Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ireland, the world cup and a disappointed young man

My younger son came charging into our bedroom early this morning full of excitement and demanding to know "Did they win, did they win?"

Sadly I had to disappoint him.  No Ireland had been knocked out of the world cup by France.  The slump from excitement to despair was instant.  Then to make it worse I had to tell him that a player he has idolised for years, Thierry Henry, had handled the ball before setting up the goal which put France through.  Football means a lot when you are ten.  To have your favorite team beaten because one of your favorite players cheated is really hard to take.

FIFA won't care.  They fixed the playoffs to avoid France and Portugal having to play each other and France and Portugal duly went through.  The manner of that qualification really doesn't matter to the organisation that stinks to the core, an organisation which will be active in sweeping this incident under the carpet as quickly as possible.  It's only Ireland.  They are not important.  It will all be forgotten about tomorrow.  It will certainly be forgotten about by the time France are playing in South Africa next year.

So what to you say to a 'gutted' ten-year-old?  Sometimes things go against you on the football pitch and in life.  You've gotta pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again, as the old song says.  You've also got to realise that that game from Saturday to Wednesday involved 310 minutes or so of football.  Ireland had several chances to put the game beyond France in the 120 minutes last night and we didn't take them.  In addition the best reaction to cheating is to go right down the other end and beat them legitimately within the rules. Ireland had a further 15 minutes to do that but didn't quite manage it.  For the sake of moving on don't feel sorry for yourself because of an incident of blatant cheating but by all means do go and work harder to ensure justice and to change the system to make it fairer; and do also redouble that determination to go out and beat the odds the next time no matter how heavily they are stacked against you.

At the last world cup, then 7, he enthusiastically supported France - well mainly Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane - all the way through the tournament.  Will he be rooting for France at the finals next year?  I doubt it.

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