Tag Archives: soccer

World Cup: Why do certain countries dominate?

So, no more World Cup for four years. I thought this was a good one overall, although the goals mostly dried up and caution took over from the quarter-finals onwards (with the obvious exception of Germany–Brazil). The Netherlands couldn’t manage a single goal in four hours of trying against Costa Rica and Argentina. But at least the final was a good game.

In the end it came down to some of the old reliables, after Colombia, Belgium and Costa Rica had looked like they might shake things up. The upshot is that Europe now leads South America 11–9, and Brazil, Italy and Germany between them have won 13 of the 20 World Cups. Why have three countries been so dominant? Continue reading

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Soccer-playing days (and nights)

I first started to follow soccer (called by that name in Ireland to distinguish it from (Gaelic) football) around the time Chelsea played Leeds in the 1970 FA Cup Final. I also started to play it, informally, having acquired my first pair of football boots.

The field behind my house on St Conlan’s Road in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, which has long since been covered in houses, was owned by an elderly farmer named Sonny Hogan. There were no markings, and jumpers served as goalposts in the time-honoured manner. Two arbitrary captains picked teams from whoever showed up – local kids named Toohey, Fahy, O’Regan, Whelan, Hogan, Bergin, Kennedy. There was never a referee.

Sonny used to chase us. Luckily he wasn’t very mobile, but sometimes he would get quite close before being noticed. Someone would shout ‘Sonny!’ and we would pick up the jumpers and the ball and scatter in all directions. Once he left a note on a cigarette packet that said ‘Keep of the grass’, which was ignored.

We played there an awful lot – sometimes morning, noon and night – and must have retarded the growth of a good-sized rectangle of grass, although the field was mown every summer and haystacks appeared (which lent themselves to other games). I often heard the corncrake’s rasp there, but never saw one. Continue reading

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Filed under Ireland, Memories, Sport, The music of what happened

Sean and soccer 2

The photo shows Sean’s school soccer squad, 2007/2008 season. Sean is second from the right, front row. The boy immediately to his right (with the football in front of him) is Christopher Sheils, who was born on the same day as Sean and died, in a road accident, a year and a week before him.

RIP Christopher and Sean. Always remembered.

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Sean and soccer

[In Ireland we tend to use the term ‘soccer’ to distinguish that sport from Gaelic football.]

We used to kick a ball around with Sean from the time he could walk. When he was about six we took him to a local club in Dublin (Leicester Celtic, where Damien Duff started) to play in a seven-a-side league on all-weather pitches. I remember that Sean played for a team called Albion.

At the time of the 1998 World Cup Sean was approaching his seventh birthday, and we were in the process of moving from Dublin to Cavan. Sean became infatuated with Brazil (encouraged by me), and sobbed bitterly for the last 20 minutes of the final as it became clear that they would lose to France.

He took an interest in the English club scene and, not surprisingly, began to follow Man Utd. He was thrilled with their late come-back against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final, and ran around our rented house whooping with joy (which I didn’t share). Later he switched to supporting Arsenal (like me) simply because they played such attractive football. His footballing heroes were people like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos. Continue reading

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