Thursday 12 December 2019

I know we should support England, I really do. But...

The England football team.
The England football team.
President Michael D Higgins and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during the recent State Visit
A swan in Warwick University in the UK has been accused of only attacking foreign students
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Talk about deftly pirouetting past a bunch of landmines and then falling into a ditch.

When it comes to El Presidente Higgins and his trip to England, we should be grateful that the Galway poet – even writing that phrase chills my blood – proved to be such a good communicator.

Well, when I say "good communicator", he waffled and waxed lyrical with the best of them. At one point I was convinced that he could have said he was going to personally annex the Six Counties and form a soviet with Scotland and nobody would have noticed. Because his hosts smiled benignly and nodded along when he nodded along, all the while wondering just what exactly Little Poet That Could was on about.

Sometimes such verbiage is enough to drive a soul to distraction – I refer you back, for instance, to Bono's recent contribution to the European debate when he opined that: "Europe is a thought that needs to be a feeling."

Now anyone who can utter a phrase about "Europe being a thought that needs to become a feeling" without either collapsing into gales of uncontrollable laughter or simply punching themselves in their own face is obviously made of sterner stuff than the rest of us.

But while Bono's flatulent platitudes (flatlutudes?) were guaranteed to irk people and make their teeth itch with irritation, Mickey D chose a different tack and simply spouted high-minded wibble until the rest of us passed out. Don't get me wrong, I'm saying that in defence of the man.

Now the president has kicked open a hornets' nest with his assertion that he would support England in the World Cup final. In fairness, he was hardly going to snort through his nose as he informed them that he would be rooting for Uruguay before making snide remarks about a football being a game of two halves and then Germany win on penalties. No, that would have been very bad form, indeed.

This talk of supporting the old enemy is proof that his visit was a success – when you consider all the other things that could have gone spectacularly FUBAR, a row amongst Irish people about Roy's Boys is the best we could have hoped for. And, of course, Higgins is right. Very few Irish football fans only support a League of Ireland club. And for those that do, I salute your stubbornness. But it makes for scant logic to support a particular bunch of English players during the season and then, for the space of a few, invariably short weeks, laugh every time they balloon the ball over the bar.

And here's the thing – I want to support them, I really do.

In fact, every two years, I loftily write a piece bemoaning that innate, unpleasant Irish tendency to support anyone but England. I remind people of all the reasons why they are wrong and stupid and parochial and pathetic for wanting our nearest and dearest neighbour to crash and burn.

Yet by the end of the tournament, when they invariably go out having been the victims of some terrible and demonstrably unjust refereeing decision, or becoming a victim of their own nerves from the spot, I usually find myself on my hands and knees at home, smacking the carpet and laughing up a lung.

It's terrible. It's unconscionable. It has caused genuine distress and fury amongst some of my English friends, who thought I was a better man than that.

In fact, I thought I was a better man that.

But no matter how I try, I always find myself tittering at the sheer unbridled madness of it all.

And the reason?

It's not the footballers. It's certainly not any anti-English bias that I carry around with me. No, it's the commentators and the English media and their incessant hyping of a squad of journeymen who simply aren't as good as they think they are.

So, Mr President, for you, this year I will make an even greater effort to support them.

But if it comes down to pennos, all bets are off.


Anyone who has ever had any dealings with swans will know that they are beautiful, majestic, stunning ... buggers.

They're narky, aggressive, genuinely bloody dangerous and if you're walking your dog along the canal in these brighter evenings, make sure you stay away from the birds.

But some are worse than others.

A swan living in Warwick University has caused a ruckus ever since it has emerged that she will only attack foreign students. One Indian student complained that the swan: "Doesn't seem to like foreigners very much. I feel like I am being bullied because I am from India."

An Italian student ruefully admitted that: "It's bizarre, but they seem to be racially motivated attacks. She just doesn't like foreigners."

Looks like UKIP have just found their next leader then ...


So, the visit to the Queen went well. In fact, you may have read about it in this very column. But maybe it went a bit too well.

Because now Her Madge has declared an interest in a doing a return visit to us after our return visit to her following her initial visit to us. Or something, frankly I lost concentration half-way through that sentence.

That's all well and good, but will Michael and Sabina have to have that chat with the Queen?

Y'know, the one we've all had with people about how you really enjoy being neighbours and all that, but we don't have to live in each other's pockets all the time?

What next, they all go on holidays to Benidorm together?

Irish Independent

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