13 June 2016

How to pronounce Irish footballers' names

We Irish have long had to suffer the indignity of our names being twisted, rolled and inaccurately gobbed out by mean, unworthy tongues. It's almost as if the names were artificially converted from one language to another and rendered in an unsuitable orthography or something. If you possess such a tongue and wish to atone for the offence it's caused all those Morans, Keowns, McGraths, Cahills, Dohertys, Costellos, Kinsellas, Gallaghers, O'Rrarcis and Kellys, here is a guide to the pronunciation of the names of players and key staff of the Republic of Ireland European Championship squad. (I believe Northern Ireland also have a team and good for them.)

O'Shea: oh-shee-AH

McCarthy: mack-ur-TEE

Quinn: Keane

Keogh: kyuck

Duffy: doo-FAY

McGeady: mack-a-DEE-dee

Ciarán: see-air-AAAAAAAAAAN

Coleman: first syllable is actually pronounced 'coal'

Randolph: was originally Ralph until he added a silent 'ndo' in honour of Cameroon's finest

Cyrus Christie: Chris Christ

Robbie Keane: BOB-let KANE

Long: lung (from the Irish Mac Long, son of Boatface)

Shay Given: oh fuck, Ralph's holding his hamstring

Jonathan: FRANK-and

Wes Hoolahan: Wes

Hendrick: Hendrix

Daryl Murphy: WUR-fee (the 'M' is an upside-down 'W' in Irish (except for exceptions)); 'Daryl' contains one-and-a-half syllables

Westwood: o-ho, Given's holding his hamstring

Glenn Whelan: Glenn "Leave 'Em Bealin'" Whelan

Robbie Brady: Dead-Ball Specialist OR Dead-Ball Specialist Me Arse

Stephen Ward: Stephenward (hence "the winger's headed Stephenwardward")

James McClean: on-a-YELL-oh

David Meyler: Ireland's Unlikely Hero

Martin O'Neill: Michael O'Neill, I mean Martin O'Neill

Roy Keane: Distraction?

Athenry: ath-HEN-ree, definitely ath-HEN-ree


12 June 2016

Fur, fox, ache (or: Perfection is everywhere)

They, the fools, say that perfection is impossible. That's because they set their standards too high.

Take two incidents from the France-Romania game. The first came in the opening ten minutes, when this kitten:


was threatened by this fox:

Fox — note how the image is magnified, making it grainy and bringing to mind a picture in a newspaper of a gangster or paedophile

The kitten's mother (I can't afford the image rights) got herself between the fox and the kitten, seemingly dissuading the fox from its evil scheme. But the fox had merely skulked away under the hedge to next door's, no doubt waiting for its opportunity to ... well, one daren't say. But the mother is a tough, rural cat, as opposed to the glorified draft excluders that populate city dwellings. She's dealt with worse in her time. She briskly walked to the hedge to keep watch. The fox would move along the hedge; the cat would move with it. Back and forth they went. Eventually the fox realised it had lost, and stayed away.

Meanwhile, I tended to the kitten:

Sleeve supplied by photographer

Now, certainly, this scene could have been improved — had, say, the cat mauled the fox, reached into its ribcage and grabbed the beating heart to take back to the kitten for something to play with. Which she could have done, if she'd fancied it. But what is she: a dog? Away and shite witcha. And anyway, just because it could have been improved doesn't mean it could have been made any better. It was perfect as it was. The cat's control of the situation was masterful, and I got to spend some quality time with the kitten. Nothing more was necessary. Anything more would have been wasted embellishment: a ribbon that falls off and gets kicked aside unnoticed.

I did miss a good part of the opening quarter of the actual football, though*. Thankfully, good old (29) Dimitri Payet waited until late to score a goal you've probably seen by now**. It was perfect. It wasn't perfect if "perfect" is taken to mean an ideal form of a goal, an unsurpassable standard all other goals can only fail to match. Such a goal is inconceivable, and a century and a half of football has failed to deliver it in practice. There are too many ways to score to allow it, and appreciation of such things in football is so subjective anyway — so open to taste, whim, perversity, fetish, and the unsolvable mysteries of the mind — that a consensus is impossible. Even a run-of-the-mill goal-of-the-month problem has about four plausible solutions (apart from when an Arsenal goal is involved, as Gooner vote riggers have so competently proved).


** If not, you'll have to go picking through the leftovers from UEFA's copyright trawling by yourself. Tell me if you find a good copy of Aiden McGeady's goal against Georgia while you're at it.

Let's play God, albeit a God who hasn't blown His post-production budget by splurging on the pyrotechnics. How can Payet's goal be improved? How can we make it sparkle? We could have him dribble past a player beforehand. But why stop at one? Or two, or ten? Is he only going to beat each player once? Could we have him flick it over the head of a defender, Gazza-style? Blanco hop? Some kind of Gazzablanco combo? There we are! Visionary! Needs work, though. Also, there's not enough of a team element to the goal. Can't we have them, you know, weave patterns or some shit? Shouldn't a great goal have a few dozen passes beforehand? There we are. Cracking. No, a few dozen more. No... Och, we'll come back to that. Now, let's move the shot back a few yards: twenty-five yards out, thirty, forty... How far out's the halfway line at that point? Can we have him nutmeg the keeper at some stage as well...

Payet's strike, made at a moment of high tension, was as pure as a strike can get. Or so it appears. It probably could have been improved — but by unimaginably minute degrees only a cruel, cruel bastard could enforce. It was already as good as it could be. It could have been improved, but not made better. No universal perfection being possible, the goal created its own perfection. It temporarily obliterated all other considerations, striking you with full force there and then***. You take such moments when you can find them****.

*** Thus leaving behind the "ache" in the title of the post. Such rare craft!


(Asleep, in case you were wondering)


09 June 2016

Just a moment, please

There's John O'Shea scoring an equaliser in the European Championship qualifier away to Germany with the last touch of the game (bar the resulting kick-off). And there's Shane Long scoring the only goal in the return a year or so later. Although the goals weren't scored by him, they made you feel like Robbie Keane: they gave you the urge to perform cartwheels even though you have no clue how to do them.

It's the type of thing you'll often hear said is what football's all about, a belief only tenable in the grip of the buzz, or while enviously witnessing others as they so buzz. In reality, football is mostly about things like learning geography from league tables, nurturing a healthy lust for floodlight pylons, musing about pitch mowing patterns, going wheeeeeyyyyy when the opposition keeper slices a clearance out of play, and the conversation as you pass the time while crossing long pontoons of nothing happening — or worse than nothing. Never trust anyone who tells you that football is all about any one thing.

But that sober advice can go to hell when the narcotic hope looks like it might actually deliver a favourable payoff*. While the Euro finals tournament will be full of delightful details incidental to fattened narrative, even in its newly distended 24-team form (man, John) it dispenses with the steady beat of the season and shortens the distance between the peaks and the troughs. Everyone will get squeezed into bottlenecks: some will be crushed and some will be sent soaring. The tournament fizzes with the certainty that some people are going to get loaded**.

All I hope is that Ireland have a moment like that in the Euros. The benighted Euro 2012 campaign had some dreary, duly-noted landmarks. Once the immediate pleasure of qualification waned, it felt like an adminstrative mistake by UEFA: like an ATM erroneously paying out tenfold, the episode discovered and repayment demanded the following June. Let's instead have some pure sensation, something that can't be revised downwards after the inevitable anti-climax of elimination, something that creates a memory that stays live and lights itself rather than relying on the dim, coloured bulb of nostalgia, something you watch over and over until you've convinced yourself Long meant to control the ball with his knee in exactly the way he did. The qualifiers gave us a few moments like that, and asking for more might be greedy, but look: we're here now.

Let it not be total shite, is what I'm saying.


* Not to be confused with a favourable playoff, which it also rarely delivers.

** Not in the sense embodied by the "we've come here to get langered" crowd, may God preserve their internal organs before the drink does.


07 June 2016

Chriiiiiiiiis Waddlllllllllle


07 April 2016

Real Madrid/The Fall joke

Carvajal in the rain for ya

prev in JOKES: ...


31 January 2016

The Past of Football: England win the World Cup

Introducing The Past of Football, a new magazine devoted to football's past. In each issue, Professor Frank Lazarus, famous football historian from the future, brings to life a great name or memorable episode from football history. PLUS with each issue you get a FREE part of the body of Herodotus. With all ten thousand parts, you can create a full-scale working model of the Roman god of football history! First issue 99c. Each subsequent issue €99.99.

In 1953, genial gentleman amateur football side England sportingly allowed genial Communist amateur football side the Magical Magyars to beat them in a game at Wembley. This would have been no big deal, you would have thought, especially since crack waterpoloists the Wolverhampton Wolves sportingly assaulted the nonsense out of the Magicals in Melbourne later that day, this being the times when men were men. But no! Radical young progressive journalists such as Geoff "Love Machine" Green and Brian Granville (whose father may have been Hungarian, so he was probably biased) argued that it was all very well exchanging the limp handshake of Corinthianism when out foreign, but that when in the home of football (the one that isn't Scotland or Chirk), visitors should be thrashed for their arrogance in challenging one of the finest elevens in all the Home International Championship. England, said foreign gurus like author of Soccer Revolution in the Head Jimmy Hogan, must beat everyone all the time and do fancy flicks and shit. The very next day, a cadre of revolutionaries interrupted the coronation of Queen Of England of England and demanded change very politely. They were swiftly arrested and hanged, but many common Englanders watching the proceedings on their brand new flatscreen wirelesses started to wonder whether those plucky young dead people might not have had a jolly good point. Meanwhile, Africa took advantage of the confusion to declare independence. England went totally rent-a-sunder! If it had had had a constitution, it would have been in crisis!

Then nothing much happened for a few years. Then Winston Churchill said to Watney, Earl of Football, chairman of the Football Association, "Good Gertrude, have you noticed that the manager of our great English football side has the word 'bottom' in his name?". Watney had someone check, then slovak. That out of the way, he bought a copy of Rothmans and discovered that it was indeed true. How Nate "Bottoms" Keister-Pratt had been allowed control of the Queen's footballers for so long was a mystery, especially considering the well-known fact that no one with a name hinting at the human fundament could succeed in management (which was proven true three decades later when Monaco sacked Arsene Wenger). The matter was swiftly dealt with, but the matter of how to wipe Bottoms from people's memories was another matter.

To clear his mind, Watney decided to embark on one of his occasional crime sprees in remote parts of the kingdom. This time, he opted to take a hovercoracle to the Isle of Man, where to his dismay he happened upon a game of that horrid business, league football. Watney had inherited his loathing of professional players all the way down the line from his great-great-grampaps, the first Earl, who was in favour of punishing them by forcing them to spend the winter lying on football fields to ward off frost, and he would have had the men and the firepower to get it done too if that lightweight Wellesley hadn't chickened out by dying that time. Still, the second Earl had legalised the ghastly business and more or less signed the game's death warrant, so it was Watney's grim duty to bear witness to its ongoing bemaggoted putrefaction.

This, at least, was one of the better matches of the English BPL (or the Barclaycard Old Old First Division as it was known at the time): a title decider between local Manx heroes Peel Inconsequentials and the mighty Town United from a town somewhere. As it was, it was, it was the Quentials who took first prize after a cat with no tail and three legs ran onto the pitch and licked visiting goalkeeper Chic "Chick" Chikk's knee, tickling him into a distracting cardiac arrest which allowed hot scoring ace Kermit Hogsquhart to tap the historic winner into an empty goal.

The Consequs were a revelation. They exhibited the perfect balance between modernity and tradition required for the new setup of the Three venerable old Lions. On the one hand, they represented the vigour of the go-go-go twentieth century by sometimes apparently playing as many as three backs. On the other hand, they were astonishingly boring. Upon further investigation, Watney discovered that they were bossed by none other than good old Alfbert, Lord Ramsey: crofting magnate, player in that 1953 game everyone overreacted to, and all-round reliable chap. Surely he could take charge of the national side! Watney immediately had a local orphan boy dispatch a handwritten note personally to the Queen Herself in London: I HAVE SEEN FOOTBALL FUTURE AND ITS NAME IS ALFBERT, LORD RAMSEY DO YOU REMEMBER MA'AM HE PLAYED IN THAT 1953 GAME EVERYONE OVERREACTED TO PS I STILL LOVE YOU OH DO PLEASE LEAVE THAT GREEK NIT MEET ME IN THE STABLE AT LANCASTER GATE AT DUSK TOMORROW

As it turned out, the boy couldn't swim, so Watney had to use the telephone, which is so much less personal wouldn't you agree. He then got down to the business of negotiating with Lord Ramsey, which nearly foundered on Ramsey's outrageous demands. First, he insisted he be allowed to pick the team. Such radicalist nonsense was a step too far for Watney, and he pointed out that England's innate superiority had allowed them to win many games without picking any players at all. But Ramsey was firm, and he also demanded that Watney get the FIFA, to who'm the FA had subcontracted the running of the game outside the United Kingdom and her Dominions, to stage their 1966 World Cup competition in England. The World Cup was designed as a sop to underachieving foreign teams, but had for some reason become quite popular amongst the la-dee-da so-called offioncianandos of the hip new swinging football. "If you want to shut them up," Lord Ramsey explained, "bring the World Cup here where we simply cannot be beaten unless we play Hungary (or possibly Eire, although we've kept so quiet about that game that I'm pretty sure everyone has forgotten about it, thank the Lord for sparing us from such embarrassment)." It, said Ramsey, was, as it were, the, so to speak, only, he continued, way, full stop.

Reluctantly — his mind filled with a vision of the enormous portrait in his office of the first Earl becoming animated: the jowls quivering disapprovingly, rage turning the cheeks from a deep shade of purple to a deeper shade of purple, rivulets of pure giant tortoise gravy streaming from his baggy eyes — Watney bowed his head in what seemed to him to be some kind of defeat, and shook Lord Ramsey's hand.

The story of England winning the World Cup continues after this picture. Who will win the World Cup?

So Lord Ramsey got on with the task of assembling a crack squad. That out of the way, he picked his team. And what a team! It was built around the noble Sir Bobert Moore, who could win a tackle using only the power of his mind. Then there was Nobert Wilde-Styles, who could also win a tackle without touching the ball. Ramsey recruited fearsome defender Wor Jackie, as well as his brother, the gentle genius Peace Jackie. Jim Greavsie was the absolutely unquestionably indispensable sharpscoring spearheader. You knew Stanislaus "The Manislaus" Wallace was an amazing player because his quiet, dutiful work went practically unnoticed. The team was given an element of danger by goalkeeper Banksy, a loose cannon whose graffitos had brought down the Macmillan government. There were also other players, plus some full-backs.

Watney having successfully bullied the FIFA into handing over their pitiful World Cup tournament, the stage was set for England to establish itself once more as the undisputed bestmost country out of those who footballed, which was all of them except the usual few who didn't matter. So confident were they of making the World Cup a triumph that they entrusted custody of the trophy to a great British dog called Pickle. The border collie, 4, even recorded a rousing World Cup theme song: "Back home, the World Cup is back home, and I don't mean Scotland or Chirk, thirteen years of hurt, it's L.S.D. for 'longstanding soccer dynasty', ie England..." (In a sad coda, Pickle found himself unable to cope with his new fame and later hanged himself.) The newspapers called for the entire team to be knighted in advance. They knew that England's tactic of kicking the football into the opponents' goal more often than the opponents kick the ball into their goal could surely outfox even the wiliest of contintental foes such as Cyprus or Mexico. Nothing could go wrong. Nothing could go wrong. Nothing could go wrong. By which I mean

All was set for the opening game against some glorified parish that didn't even have a name until they had to think of one for the World Cup — Switzerland or France or one of those. However, tragedy struck as England lost 0-0. The nation was devastated at the apparent death of England's World Cup dream. The London Times of London printed a front page bombshell headline YOU DAFT ROTTERS with a picture of Lord Ramsey's head superimposed on what might have been a rotting apple only it was hard to tell given the quality of image reproduction in newspapers of those days. Nevertheless, the message rang through true threw loud and clear. Riots ensued. Thousands were killed. People even said nasty things about Peace Jackie!

Something had to be done. Luckily the FIFA were the numero number one at doing scandals. The English head of the FIFA and member of shock rock outfit Cerberus & The Purple-Headed Bishop, Sir Stan Aroused, decreed that England should get two more goes at qualifying for the knockout rounds. Such a move was almost certainly unprecedented. This appalling decision has never been revealed ... until now.

So England made the quarter-finals after all, where they would play the fearsome Argentina. Knowing his side had had a lucky escape, Ramsey disappeared for a couple of days to contemplate how to proceed. He returned with two boffo ideas. Firstly, the undroppable striker Jim Greavsie would strike no more, his place to be taken by Paul Warhurst, a defender who had never before strucken. (Greavsie was inconsolable, but found comfort in the arms of Ian St. Greavsie, with whom he would go on to form powerhouse Vegas magic duo Greavsie & St. Greavsie.) Idea number two was to talk up the Argentines' brutality and then knock it down like a piddling skittle. After the anthems, he raced towards the Argentine players screaming "COMEANDGETMEYOUHORRIBLEANIMALSI'LLTAKEYOUALLONIDON'TCRRRNNGNGAANGRNG", and as he slid into incoherence, he attempted to rip the striped jerseys from the player's' backs until restrained by the tournament mascot, a lion-shaped genital called the World Cup Willy. Thus inventing mind games, Lord Ramsey inspired his team to a magical 1-0 win during which no England player committed any fouls whatsoever.

Inevitably, England lost the semi-final on penalties to the Germans. Yet when the draw was made for the the final, England were yet again paired with the Germans. No one quite knows what went on closed doors to bring this about, although the FIFA are naturally suspected. This is thought to have been one of the causes of the Falklands War.

Little is known about what happened in that final. Only two pieces of footage survive. One shows a failed attempt on goal by Warhurst; the other has Warhurst striking the ball into the goal, although it was presumably disallowed owing to the pack of rioters by then streaming from the stands onto the field. What is known, however, is that Stanislaus Carter's winner gave England the World Cup Winner's Trophy as World Cup Winner's Trophy winners, their status never to be challenged again.

And there Lord Ramsey should have left it. However, driven by a lust for glory, he had his eye on the ultimate prize: the 1967 Home Internationals. But on the eve of the Scotland game, Scottish paper the Daily Wrecker published a revelating devastation. Under the headline WINGLES WONDERS, they claimed that Ramsey had gotten most of his ideas about managing from one Spencival Wingles, a self-styled spiritual guru who lived as a tax exile in the sky above Rowton, Shropshire. Mr. Wingles claimed to commune with the ancients through a gnome called Eric who was visible only to him. He also believed that anyone who was unkind to him would be reincarnated as a big baldy twazzock. The Wrecker alleged that far from being the management genius of newly-minted legend, Lord Ramsey had actually received his tactical ideas for the Argentina game from 6th-century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, as relayed to Wingles via a gnome Ramsey couldn't see who seemed to say things like "gottle a geer" and "grok at gas'ard Greezy" a lot.

Ridiculed and demoralised, England succumbed meekly to the Scots. The Tartan Army occupied Wembley and refused to leave until the Queen brought them some scones, although when they got home they discovered them to be made of stone. Lord Ramsey was immediately hounded out of office seven years later.

In 1977, The Clash released a song, "1977", about 1977, the year of the song's release, 1977, in which they sang of how everything in 1977, the then-current year, was rubbish. In it, they counted backwards from the eponymous year, 1977, until they got to 1966, at which point the song came to a dead halt. Critics agreed that it was probably highly symbolic of something.






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