Life through a different lens

When you hear the words ‘Italia ’90’ what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Genoa, the penalty shootout, The Snapper and the open top bus ride through the city streets will be always near the top of any such compilation of recollections for yours truly.

Only usurping it would be the memory of the hay making stopping so the lads could watch the spot kicks in Italy. And the fact that, on the night the Republic Of Ireland played their first ever game at a World Cup Finals I listened to RTE’s radio commentary with Gabriel Egan and Philip Greene. From the cab of Pat Clarke’s Deutz Fahr DX 6.05 when Kevin Sheedy’s goal gave Jack Charlton’s army a deserved draw against England.

Regarding USA ’94, there’s actually less remembered of it than the tournament of four years prior to it. Aside, that is, from Paul McGrath’s one man defending of the nation against sustained Italian bombardment at the Giants Stadium and the sight of John Aldridge and Charlton going absolutely berserk at an American steward over water bottles during our second Stateside outing against Mexico.

Paul McGrath delivered arguably the greatest performance of all time by an Irish player against Italy in Giants Stadium

There’s no doubt that when your own are not actively engaged in a tournament, you are definitely looking through a different lens. For example, aside from the fact that Denmark won it out, not a jot is recalled of the European Championships of 1992.

With Euro 1996, which again Ireland didn’t qualify for, memories retained are of Paul Gascoigne scoring a screamer of a goal against Scotland, Psycho Pearse living up to his name after burying a penalty and, of course, Gareth Southgate blazing a penalty over the bar against Germany.

Flawed Genius: Gazza

2002 and Saipan hardly needs any further dissection or commentary, so we may as well get straight into the current incarnation taking place in a country that knows as much about football as a cow does about Bank Holidays.

Should it be there? Of course not. And, not that the following is remotely required, but, if you haven’t seen the documentary on Netfllx about the rancid corruption foisted on FIFA and by extension football all over the the world by the likes of Sepp(tic) Blatter, Michel Platini and Jack Warner, please give it a watch, it’s eye watering and soul destroying.

A picture tells a thousand words

Unless you’ve been under a rock, knowledge should be fairly extensive at this stage regarding the horrendous abuses of workers and women and special interest groups, but, in FIFA culture, money makes all these things disappear. But they don’t.

For all the horrors highlighted in the build up to Qatar 2022, though it might seem unlikely, there have been good news stories emerging from the Middle East too. On and off the pitch.

In this case, it is necessary to deal with the off-field element of matters first. Namely, the fact that Qatari women have been openly defying the draconian, discriminatory, oppressive dictatorship under which they live. By openly flouting stipulations pertaining to keeping most of their bodies – including their hair – covered up. Not to mention the horrendous conditions in which those readying the Arab nation for the event were expected to work and how so many of them have been so gravely mistreated or worse whilst readying the most ill fitting venue for a global sporting event in history.

Between the white lines, undoubtedly the standout story thus has to be the sensational but wholly merited victory by Saudi Arabia over this corner’s original favourites to win the whole tournament out, Argentina. Of course, they still may well end up taking home the trophy but to my mind at least the big story was that of the victors.

Like some other nations currently taking part in the tournament, the fact that Saudi are in the tournament at all is one of the biggest sports stories in the world this year, but for them to not only win a match but take the scalp of arguably the best and most high profile team in the event. That said, their defeat proves that even having the world’s best player in your ranks guarantees nothing.

The big stories didn’t end there in the opening few days either. For this writer, the very presence of a team from Iran was a huge thing in itself. Mostly because the time I’d heard of the country was in reference to it being a warzone.

As it happened, it was, in a roundabout sort of way, because of that very fact this very fact that a degree more insight was attained into the significance of them being there.

For it seems the players don’t want to be there, the fans don’t want them to be there, so it would appear that their presence was an excercise in saving face. It’s highly unlikely the objections were in abhorrance at the regime in the host nation, more the footballers themselves and the fans are imbued with disgust at the goings on in their own country.

Meanwhile, the ground breaking occurrances didn’t end there. What with Tunisia getting a draw in their first match and, equally as sensational as the Argentine result was the turnaround which saw Japan come from behind to upskuttle Germany. Again, as with the Saudi upset, there’s nothing to say the Germans won’t come back into the championship and make a big impact.

There’s no doubt, though, that the few upturn results have portrayed that the competition may be a lot more open than might originally have been thought to be the case. Finding out whether turns out to be the case or not will take the sting out of the next few weeks of winter if nothing else!

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