Leaking talent

Football - Northern Ireland v Hungary International Friendly
So now the IFA has decided it had better get inclusive. It’s been inclusive all along, of course, despite the odd death threat against Neil Lennon and the fuck-the-pope chants at Windsor Park, but now it’s going to get inclusively inclusive. As a starting point it’s been suggested that they ditch the Queen (well, not QE2 herself, just the anthem in which she features) at the start of soccer internationals.

The reaction within unionism has been swift. Ian Óg Paisley (who as you may have heard is running in North Antrim) believes that ‘the national anthem should not be seen as offensive, it is the neutral anthem of hte nation and it is something that I don’t think we should ever concede’, TUV leader Jim Allister (who as you may have heard is running against Ian Óg) has similar thinking: “Attempting to remove the national anthem is bringing politics into football. The national anthem is the national anthem and this is the national team”. The UUP’s David McNarry says “Removing the national anthem from the start of football matches is not party policy nor is it under consideration as long as I remain the party spokesman”.

The issue was raised because some bright unionist spark thought that devising a rousing pop tune like ‘Ireland’s Call’ for rugby would be a neat way of helping nationalists (and, presumably, republicans) feel at home in Windsor Park and elsewhere. Or at least that’s the reason that was given. In fact, the problem is that the Northern Ireland soccer squad has begun to leak players to the Republic of Ireland soccer squad at an alarming rate. Ambitious, not to say patriotic young nationalist footballers in the north see the south’s team under Trappatoni as a team that’s maybe going somewhere, plus of course they might want to play for the team they’ve spent their boyhood supporting. But no one in unionism is allowed to say that. They’re all united on the official line that it’s got to do with making the fenians feel more welcome at Northern Ireland games, although not so welcome that they’d want to tamper with the melodic rendering of Her Majesty. On that they’re firmly united.

Now if they could find a similar rallying call for the Westminster election in May, they might be able to kick Michelle Gildernew and Alastair McDonell out of Fermanagh/South Tyrone and South Belfast respectively. So far, their mutual loathing of each other has made any such alliiance impossible.

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