So the European Football Championships begin in two weeks time. In a not very radical move, I have decided to support Ireland…Republic of Ireland.
I will not be supporting Norn Iron. “Making Northern Ireland Work” can never be interpreted as “Supporting Norn Iron -at Football”.
Football in Norn Iron has always been pretty toxic. There is a myth that Football here united people behind Our Wee Country. I confess that I watched Norn Iron play a few times in the 1960s but Catholic players were never treated well. In the 1990s there was a pretty exclusive OWC culture and it seems to have improved markedly. The Norn Iron Football authorities are to be congratulated but being inclusive in Norn Iron includes the right to reject a Norn Iron identity in favour of a Republic of Ireland identity.
Football IS Football. If the “Big Two” Scottish clubs were playing in a European Champions League, I would expect Scottish First Minister, Nichola Sturgeon to dutifully say that all of Scotland is behind Celtic and Rangers….but that isnt really likely.
In England, it is not much different. Any Prime Minister saying all of England is behind Chelsea AND Liverpool AND Tottenham Hotspur just doesnt get it. Any Mayor of Manchester saying “we are ALL behind City AND United” …well its wishful thinking.
Of course all politicians have to do the political thing. …call it the LetsGetAlongerist thing. The rest of us dont have to bother.
It is good that there will be a big TV screen at Belfast City Hall and wonderful ifsupporters of Norn Iron and Republic of Ireland mix together. A sign of progress? Well lets see the Fleg policy first. The teams are unlikely to have to play each other. And probably they wont be playing on the same day.
But it will be interesting to see how Norn Iron politicians perform. Unionists will be fully behind Our Wee Country. Republicans will row in behind Republic of Ireland ….but on the fringes there will be nationalist and/or LetsGetAlongerists who will have themselves posing in different colours on different “I support both teams” photo opportunities. And if a LetsGetAlongerist politician has ten children, then expect to find him investing in five Norn Iron shirts and five Republic of Ireland shirts.
I invite you all to join in my “Spot a Politician and Their Kids in a Football Shirt on TV or Press During Euros” Competition. A few months ago I jokingly suggested a Tshirt indicating support for both teams.
Wearing a Norn Iron shirt is a sign of Football Support. LIkewise a Republic of Ireland shirt. And it is…obviously…. an indicator of national idendity much more than walking thru Tesco wearing a Liverpool top or wearing a Tottenham Hotspur shirt in Sainsburys. You can probably bet that some shopping malls will ban all football tops for the duration.
We should not be surprised that wearing football tops during a major tournament IS political …for British nationalists in Norn Iron, for Irish nationalists in Norn Iron. Nor should we forget the third tribe….the LetsGetAlongeriists. They are the ones who have to face the reality that LetsGetAlongerism is in practice “unionist”.
If politicians are intent on making statements about their Identity …Irish, British, Norn Irish or Both (and in reality only two of these four make sense)….then they have to be aware that the Facebook images WILL be held against them.
But wouldnt it be great if we had one football team representing Ireland. Well ….actually we do. It is called the Republic of Ireland, fully representative of our national identity. Do we really need a sanitised version ….with a non-flag and non-anthem?
Maybe this is a test for what the young politicians call “Progressive Nationalism” or maybe it will be exposed as a meaningless form of words.