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.


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