by Paul D’Alton
I have caught a nasty contagious disease. Or rather, less dramatically, my young D’Alton cousins, who are addicted to the UEFA Euro soccer championship currently going on, have measles-like passed on their passion for this football festival to me. And I can’t stop scratching this irritating, annoying itch.
I’m hardly the hardiest of bucks, but if I blew a kiss at these soccer prima donnas, they’d fall over – writhing, spiralling in agony, roaring and screaming – and then 10 seconds later they’d be back up on their feet running with the spring of a newly-born foal in their step.
So, let’s just say I used to loath soccer. Rugby and horse racing are the true ‘Sports of Kings’, certainly for me. Win or lose (sadly too often the latter), seeing 15 Irish men and women putting on the green jersey always, no exaggeration, brings a tear to my eye and catches a frog in my throat.
But my young cousins’ enthusiasm for the current UEFA Euro tournament has become infectious. They tell me that Macedonia and Pomerania or Bulgaria or the Man in the Moon (who cares?) are playing, so I willingly for the first time ever sit down and watch it for 90 tortuous minutes, deciding which side deserves to win.
It’s televisual sado-masochism. I even now know the name of the Turkish goalkeeper and his soccer career history (Mert Günok, just in case you were wondering).
I was, by my cousins, further informed that England, God help us, were playing Croatia the other evening.
So, encouraged by the D’Alton household in Kilrooskey, I got everything prepared to hopefully see the Auld Enemy thrashed, bacon and cabbage and lovely bottle of wine all set to watch the spectacle of English disaster.
Not only did that thrashing not happen (England won 1-0) but I had to endure possibly the most tedious hour and a half I’ve ever tolerated. I’m going to get a bank loan and charge soccer fans to pay me and come and watch paint dry for 90 minutes, and see which pastime is more compelling. I’m sure the Local Enterprise Office will think it’s a winner.
What amazed me also as I watched the England/Croatia match on British TV, is that every time an England player passed the ball or did some tackle, the TV commentators were breathily orgasmic with praise such as “brilliant”, “stunning”, “superb” or “breathtaking”. And here was I thinking the English rugby TV commentators were prejudiced enough!
So, okay, my fixation with this soccer spectacle will continue for now, and only for now. Personally, and like one of our grandmothers trying to pick a horse at the Grand National, my money’s on France. But what do I know? Well…quite a lot I like to think now.
That said, one thing I absolutely, in concrete, know is that please, please bring forward the rugby Six Nations. Ah, then we’ll be talking. Because then we’re talking about real sport.