Friday, 30 July 2010

ELIGIBILITY RULING DIVIDES NOT UNITES

A dark day for Northern football limits Nigel Worthington's talent pool

Make no mistake, today is a landmark day in Irish football.

It seems player eligibility on the island of Ireland has reached it's climax.  The topic follows on from a post I did almost three years ago, and does not make pretty reading for the Irish Football Association.

Following a number of defections to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) of it's players, the Irish Football Association (IFA) took the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in an attempt to stop the talent drain to the Republic which threatens to spiral out of control.

The IFA case has quite clearly fell on deaf ears with those at CAS, and has now opened the door to Northern Ireland's footballing elite to switch allegiances to the Republic of Ireland if they so wish.

In a statement, the IFA said it was "disappointed by the decision".  Rubbish.  Underneath, they will be absolutely seething and will be left reeling by the decision, and rightly so.  Why would an association who govern's, trains, and educates it's emerging talent wish to see that talent then handed over to a rival association whenever they are wanted?

The FAI 'victory' can no doubt be attributed to their continued referral throughout the case to the historic 'Good Friday Agreement' whereby anyone born on the island of Ireland can indeed be recognised as a citizen of Ireland.

However, this farcical situation where two Irish Associations go against one another is quite blatantly based on religious affiliation, and not citizenship; a right which the Gibson's, Duffy's and Wilson's of this world are guaranteed from day one by the way.  Therefore the FAI's insistence on quoting the GFA in order to bolster it's already minimal local based talent looks to be both narrow-minded and greedy.  Of course the FAI strategy would have to be expected when you take into consideration the number of non-Irish born Republic of Ireland internationals in the past.  When an association is so used to having it's pool of talent UK-wide, Northern Ireland was always going to be vulnerable to the prying eye of the FAI.

But it is also extremely insensitive.  Many within Northern football would view the FAI's strategy of claiming players not entitled to them as out-of-touch with the 'new' Northern Ireland that is being created following the signing of that historic agreement.

'Shared', 'inclusive', 'partnership' were all keywords that feature within creating peace and prosperity in Northern society.

Did those at the FAI miss that section of the agreement?

Their claims that they maintain good relations with their Northern counterparts may well be true, but is something more sinister lurking in the background?  Their actions can be seen as opportunism, yet for many in Northern football it is seen as a blatant sectarian grab for the Roman Catholic population who might be easily 'sweet-talked' into a switch of associations.

A defection based on religious grounds then.  Really...

Does this seriously respect a 'shared' future?

No.

It places yet another religious barrier over a 'war-weary' Northern society that is trying it's best to find a way to embrace the relatively new concept of 'shared future' together.  Unfortunately, it was the high profile Northern Ireland youth international Darron Gibson that set the negative trend, and so far Armagh's Marc Wilson and Derry's Shane Duffy have followed suit.  No doubt there will be more to come following Don Givens appointment to Chief Scout in the United Kingdom.

I'll leave you with a depressing scenario that could well emerge from the whole elligibility debacle...

Envisage five to ten years down the line where 'Catholic Ireland' is led by the FAI, and a 'Protestant Ireland' is governed by the IFA.  The so-called 'Orange' and 'Green' firmly set apart from each other.  An Ireland of equals?  A building of bridges?

Don't believe the local media hype for one minute.

Football Apartheid in Ireland is progressing from a political level to a religious one, and like it or not the FAI have been handed a huge advantage over their Northern counterparts from this decision.

9 comments:

  1. Spot on!! This ruling didvdes!

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  2. Why would people want to play for a country they have no affiliation with, to sing a national anthem that they have no affiliation to(putting it mildly)? Common sense has prevailed with CAS' ruling.

    I can understand the IFA's anger at putting these youngsters through their academies just to see them declare for the Republic, however they do pay taxes to fund these youth setups so they are completely entitled to use them.

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  3. Lets not forget that it was the NI fans that created phrases like "Football Apartheid". Think about it this way young Mark Wilson, Darren Gibson were only 12 and 13 when their local icon was disgracefully forced to retire prematurely when he received death threats due to his political beliefs. Don't you think that is going to play on the psyche of young lads when choosing who to represent internationally. What about the songs, the paramilitary flags, admittedly they are not around anymore, but those wounds don’t exactly heal over night.

    This article presupposes the nationalists should conform to a sense of "Northern Irishness" that completely flies in the face of everything they stand for.

    "Building bridges"?? Dear Christ the hypocrisy of this article is insufferable. Aye expecting nationalists to attend games at WINDSOR park, where they sing GSTQ and wave Union Jacks, yeah thats building bridges alright!

    Today should be seen as a positive for both sides. NI fans right throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s made a concerted effort to marginalise and exclude any nationalist fan base. Well hey, it worked and you have now got what you want. You reap what you sow.

    Its great for ROI because we can now select Irish men from all corners of this island to represent their country. Its allows nationalists an expression of their identity, culture and heritage and lets not forget its their constitutional entitlement.

    So if you ask me, yes division is the way forward.

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  4. So your solution to stop the divide is to force young NI born catholics/nationalists to play for NI?

    I can assure you that any NI born protestants (or atheists) will be welcomed by Irish people with open hearts to play for the Republic. After all, George Best, who seems to be a bit of a hero of yours and who is also help in deep affection with all Irish people, advocated a united Irish team, along with Martin O'Neill and Pat Jennings.

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  5. Could not have summed my feelings up better myself great post. Give them an inch they'll take a yard. A withdrawal from the forthcoming Celtic Cup and no more friendly dealings with the FAI.

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  6. There has been an outbreak of schizophrenia among NI fans of pandemic proportions.

    Like one minute they are doing everything within their power to exclude nationalists by spouting sectarian bile at games and waving flags idolising killers, thugs and tyrants.

    And then the next minute they are begging at nationalists feet to play for them. "Oh please play for us .... please!"

    The oul bi-polar is still alive and well in Windsor Park!

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  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/2208543.stm

    Chickens coming home to roost.

    You have what you want now, a unionist team for unionist players.

    Enjoy.

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  8. It seems the problem is simple; the GFA allowed anyone born in Ireland, the island of, the opportunity to claim citizenship of the Republic. One can even hold dual citizenship so it is not a case of either/or. The problem the IFA had and has is that in its view of itself as a Unionist institution it has managed to alienate a large portion of its perspective player base, and one that, if one takes into account voting patterns in the north, is only growing.
    Previous to the GFA and the subsequent effect it had on the eligibility of Northern Irish people to declare themselves citizens of the republic, the inherent mono-culturalism of the IFA had no ill effect, as anyone who wanted to play international football had to play for the North or not at all. It is undeniable that he sectarian element of the north's support, if not actively encouraged, is at least tolerated... this is presumably why many people of nationalist or republican persuasion feel no kin for the Northern Irish team. It seems that the IFA are simply attempting to lock the door after the horse has bolted.
    In effect, Northern Ireland, as a province, is only a nation of conscience rather than a de facto 'country'... as a Basque may decide never to play for Spain, so it seems the Unionist in Northern Ireland may now decide never to play for the Republic. The North has become the 'autonomous region' within a Nation as regards football.

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  9. Ryan,
    "Their actions can be seen as opportunism, yet for many in Northern football it is seen as a blatant sectarian grab for the Roman Catholic population who might be easily 'sweet-talked' into a switch of associations."

    You've written eloquently about the situation we now find ourselves in, what however, is the next step?

    Several thoughts:

    1. The FAI's selection policy is determined not only on playing ability but also on which side of the sectarian fence the prospective NI-born player finds himself on. This is reminiscent of Glasgow Rangers policy towards the non-selection of Catholics in the 1970s and the fact that seemingly a fair proportion of the ROI's support in Northern Ireland positively welcome the concept of "A Catholic Team for a Catholic People" is surely the kind of publicity we can exploit. The average supporter in the ROI is largely untainted with this whift of sectarianism and papers in the ROI have also largely ignored this whole issue; several letters to the more intellectual wing of the media may get at least the topic discussed in the ROI and hopefully shame the FAI into thinking abit more carefully before their next selection on communal grounds.

    2. The decision has been made and effectively we are no worse off today than we were Thursday night because of that. If a Gibson or Wilson prefers to play for a team that is composed solely "of their own kind" rather than genuinely cross-community, then perhaps we shouldn't worry too much that our own squad won't be affected by that kind of divisive poison. But that still leaves a responsibility on us to make that NI remains a team where all players of whatever background are appreciated and made to free welcome- with all that entails in the area of anthems, emblems etc.

    3. Karma should never be underestimated;) Since Footballing Apartheid in Ireland stepped up their communal selection policy, we have had the misfortune to witness Gibson and Wilson's career stall (want to swap either of them for a Jonny Evans or Niall McGinn? Thought not). We've also had the cheats denied at the very last moment from going to a World Cup... by a cheat- how ironic and how funny was that?!

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