News Irish News

Saturday 19 August 2017

Cascarino tells of 'mad moments' and secret doubts of soccer days

The former Ireland star reveals other players advised him to keep quiet about not being Irish, writes Andrea Byrne

TONY Cascarino, the controversial former Ireland soccer star, has revealed the details that led to his two failed marriages and how he was told to keep quiet about not being Irish by two senior players -- Andy Townsend and Kevin Moran.

It was while playing football for Marseille in France that Cascarino embarked on an affair that would ultimately lead to the end of his first marriage to Sarah, mother of two of his children.

"There were problems between me and Sarah at the time. We went there [France] as a family, but she had to go back to England for six weeks to sort the kids with their schooling and other things . . . I met Virginie in Marseilles. She was on a week's holiday in the hotel I was staying in. We got chatting, it sort of escalated from there."

Virginie, whom he went on to marry, have three children with and separate from, fell pregnant early on in the affair.

"Lots of things happened in that period off the field. I had all these problems around me and I was playing the best football of my life," he says with a wry smile. "Looking back, in hindsight, it was probably my most embarrassing period . . . cutting a long story short, I ended up getting married [to Virginie] and that didn't work out as well . . . I think I was in that place, if it wasn't Virginie, it would have been someone else, I wasn't in control of myself at that time ... I had mad moments and did things that I look back and think why the hell did I do that?" admits Cascarino.

When his football career came to an end, Cascarino moved back to London, to the house he once shared with his first wife. "I have been very happy for quite a while now, my life has moved on," he says. "I have met a girl that I am really happy with. I have known her for a long time. I bet most people are thinking I was having an affair or knocking her off. No, I wasn't."

Despite enjoying his life in London with his new love, Cascarino admits to missing his three children who live with his second wife in France. "They are always on my mind", he says on an RTE documentary, This Sporting Life.

Tony Cascarino, who scored 19 goals at international level, qualified to play for Ireland under the grandparent rule. However, his eligibility was later questioned when it was revealed that his mother was adopted.

"My mum found out she was adopted. She was the daughter of her sister, obviously now her mum. My grandad Joseph O'Malley wasn't my grandad anymore, but my great-grandfather . . . two players knew -- Andy Townsend and Kevin Moran -- both told me to keep it quiet, which I did. I had represented Ireland 66 times at that period. I then went on to make 22 more appearances. There were always niggling doubts in the back of my head. It was something I knew I would come to deal with at some stage in my life . . ."

In 1999, Cascarino played his final game for Ireland against Turkey. He received a two-match suspension for getting involved in a punch-up at the end of the match.

His career highlight, he reveals, was coming on as a substitute and equalising against England in a European Championship qualifier: "The England manager at the time was Graham Taylor, he had bought me at Aston Villa. I came on at 1-0 and Graham Taylor looked at me to sort of say 'I paid a lot of money for you, don't you go on and score against us', and of course I did," he says with a smile. "That was my greatest goal, my greatest moment scoring against England, I just loved that. Going into the Villa dressing room after getting a goal against England, it really made me feel good."

Despite his confident, hard-nosed exterior, Cascarino suffered from "crippling self-doubt". "I really suffered with a lack of belief in what I was doing. I knew I had to change my thought process. I felt like I had the 'yips' in front of goal. If it doesn't happen to you, you can't understand it. I grew to understand why negative thinking can hold you back," he says.

When he retired from football, Cascarino turned his attention to becoming a professional poker player. "I have had about half a million in prize money wins in four years. Have you ever seen the film Casino, the part that Robert De Niro plays where he talks about women and gambling, he's a real serious professional, loves to be on the right side of a bet and yet with women he's useless and that's how I see myself sometimes."

To control his wild side, Cascarino admits to avoiding any possible "dangerous situations". "When I come to Dublin now, I stay at the airport to get away from the city centre," he admits, before joking, "and I'm getting too old, so no one is going to fancy me anymore."

'This Sporting Life' is on RTE One, Thursday, 7pm.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News