The essence of Sport is competition.
So we have a peculiar situation where some of our politicians will be falling over themselves to support two teams in one competition.
Norn Iron have qualified for the European Football Championships in France next year. And so have the (Republic of) Ireland.
I daresay some LetsgetAlongerists will take this as an opportunity to parade their peculiar “I have more than one identity” nonsense.
Politics is one thing….but this is FOOTBALL for GODS sake….so there is a choice to be made. Support Norn Iron or support Ireland….but lets not have the hypocrisy of “I want both Irelands” to do well. Life is not like that. You are Manchester United or Manchester City. You are Liverpool or Everton. You are Arsenal or Tottenham.
Nobody in Football has a complicated identity.
Of course some enterprising Tshirt manufacturer might produce one that can be worn by politicians and non-sports people to make a political point…letsgetalongerism, ahead of the Assembly Elections. An accidental boost for a shared future in 2016. Pitched between the Easter Rising and the Somme.
And of course it will be safe to wear a LetsGetAlongerist tshirt in Belfast bars and watching matches on big screen TV in the grounds of the City Hall. The right marketing campaign and thiscould attract young people. An unexpected “Bread and Circus” event.
You can bet that somebody, somewhere is doing this already. Manipulation.
Yet it seems more about Politics and Social Engineering than actual Sport.
Of course the good thing is that Norn Iron and Ireland are unlikely to play against each other in France. They will be seeded on sporting grounds and safety grounds to avoid each other. Several thousand actual football fans from both sides of the border (plus a strong detachment of Nordies cheering on the Ireland) will be a contrast to scenes at Stormont and City Hall.
LetsGetAlongerists claim that the people are actually ahead of the politicians. But this is different. Football is much more tribal than Politics.
And of course you can bet there is a photo opportunity here for thousands of football fans to visit the Somme and commemorate their phoney shared history.
Make no mistake. This will be manipulated. But LetsGetAlongerists messing with History is one thing. But LetsGetAlongerists messing with Football….thats going too far.
I published a pic of Martin O’Neill and an (almost) smiling Roy Keane on my personal “bakebook” page last night, along with the following comment “Ireland x2 qualified, fantastic”.
Letsgetalongerist? I’ll leave that to others.
I agree that soccerball is indeed a tribalist pursuit but then isn’t everything in this region?
Every sport, event, dog with a bone and opinion tends to polarise people into the with us or agin us camps.
It is the nature of things in this part of the world.
I do think, however, that we are capable of more than a single identity, including in sport.
The example of Rugby springs to mind where many of those of a Unionist mind politically have no difficulty supporting the Irish team.
In a football sense, I think many of us may have a favourite local / English PL / Scottish / European and national team.
For myself it would be, ahem, Shamrock Rovers / Cliftonville / Arsenal / Celtic / Barcelona.
Going back to your article the test will come if / when one of the two Irish teams is eliminated. Will we lend our support to the other?
My picture of Roy and Martin received a number of likes last night- they were practically all from one side of the metaphorical fence despite me having a very mixed group of friends.
The question for the letsgetalongerists, for me, is when are unionists going to start reaching back and reciprocating?
They NEVER will.
Never Never Never? 😉