Soccer Is Over. Finished. Done

And I’m doing that thing where I upload a completely unrelated picture again. This is a secluded inlet of Lough Corrib.

Is that enough for you now?

It’s time we admitted this; Ireland is not a soccer-playing country. We’re a top nation at rugby, we’re way ahead at boxing, we’re number one in the world at hurling – and second only to Australia at Gaelic football. But at soccer, we are best at losing. Hell, we do better at cricket, a game most Irish people freely admit they neither like nor understand. We like soccer, we’re just – and there is no kind way to put this – really, really very bad at it. We got lucky once in 1990, scraping through to the quarter finals on draws and penalties. That was the best we ever did. It is the best we’ll ever do. We are complete and utter cock at soccer. If I haven’t yet made this clear enough, we are not good at playing the association football. OK?

So we should stop. Nobody makes us enter these international competitions, and we only embarrass ourselves when we do. Like Costa Rica with their army, we should be the first nation on Earth to disband their international team. The world will thank us.

But what about the fans? We are at least a great soccer supporting nation. Though only, and this is weird, on the international level. At the club level we’re hopeless. Top league teams in Ireland find themselves playing matches in front of a man, a dog and a boy. The average Irish fan spends far more on the merchandise of one of the giant English corporate teams than they do on actual, you know, soccer. (And perhaps this is the root of our malaise as a soccer-playing nation but you know what? I don’t care.) Yet when it comes to international games, apparently seasoned fans turn out in hordes. And they can really sing. OK, they only ever seem to sing the bleeding awful faux-traditional Fields Of Athenry, but they do it with gusto.

They could take up following a sport we’re actually decent at of course, but soccer is the great game, when it comes to the game supporting game. If you follow. They will still want to compete at that level.

So I say, why not freelance? Ireland’s greatest export has always been people, but they haven’t always been labourers, or construction workers, or nurses, or bankrupts. Ireland was once famous for her mercenaries. During times of economic downturn when we didn’t have enough war at home, people made a good living in foreign armies. I see the soccer fans fulfilling a similar role, for countries in dire need of some pizazz in their fanbase. Ones with more money than people – Luxembourg, for example. Liechtenstein. Monaco. It could be both lucrative and fun.

And at least they’d have a chance of bloody winning occasionally.

Cosmography Humour

Soccer, Summer, And Fish

It’s more frightened of you than you are of it. You have a knife.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually liked soccer, but I hate it. I’ve always hated it. Like so much in childhood, it was something you had to do whether you liked it or not. To add a sadistic twist though, you were expected to enjoy it. It was a treat.

I hated it because I was no good at it. So no good at it. When picking sides, captains would pretend they couldn’t see me. As a child I was breathless, thin, unathletic. But that wasn’t the problem. The reason I was really bad at soccer was that it couldn’t hold my attention. You stood in part of a field. After what seemed like hours, another boy would run past you with a ball. Then your team mates would shout at you. Really, whose side was I on? That of all these angry people calling me names, or the perfectly harmless passer-by? Soccer was long periods of boredom punctuated with confusion and insults. Like school really, except in mud.

But if a nine year old boy comes up to an adult man – a middle-aged one, yet – and asks him to come play soccer, for some damn reason he agrees. Is it because I’ve finally been picked? Maybe, but I think it’s more that I was asked. Not told. Not shoved out in the rain in baggy shorts and stupid clumpy boots. Asked, by a boy who wants to play with me just because he loves playing. Now I can enjoy it.

I’m still no bloody good though.

But not being good at soccer as a child is humiliating, alienating, dispiriting. Not being good at it as an adult is no big deal. The one real danger is that I’ll break my stupid bloody neck trying. Or in this instance, my spine. All right I didn’t actually break it, just bent it a bit. I’m only a tadge debilitated. And hey, it’s a proud masculine sports injury.

I tripped over the ball.

Bruising aside, it was a great day. I was asked out to see the Kinvara Farmers’ Market before it moves from its wonderful location (next month is the last chance to see, go if you can). Got some good fresh veg there, and even fresher fish. So fresh in fact that the thing in the picture above crawled out of it.

This is by no means a sign of bad fish – in fact it proves that it hasn’t been frozen. Such parasitic worms are actually far more common, especially in cod, than most fish-eaters realise. They’re… almost completely harmless, if the fish is cooked. (One reason that cod isn’t used in sushi.) You’ve probably eaten them many times without ill effect.

Except of course for any nausea you may be feeling, now that I’ve told you you’ve been eating worms.

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