The Italian job

“It’s amazing how interested they get when there’s a few punt involved,” my Mum said to my Dad (showing her age).

The two of them were having a good laugh at my expense, as they do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Today’s opportunity was my uncharacteristic embrace of the Euros and soccer-spectatorship.

It was only a brief embrace – it started around 8pm and it definitely won’t last until midnight because Belgium’s bowing out of the competition at the quarter-finals stage means all bets – or all my bets, at least – are off.

It was fate and a fiver that brought me and Belgium’s soccer team together tonight. I drew the team in a sweepstakes competition at work, which involved me paying a fiver ‘for the craic.’ It wasn’t a very high risk payout so I went for it, all in.

Drawing Belgium, my better informed colleagues informed me, was good because Belgium are good at soccer. Well that’s good, I thought, I won’t pay them any attention for fear I might jinx them.

But I had to watch the quarter-finals didn’t I? The television was on and I stretched in front of it, sealing Belgium’s fate and waving farewell to my fiver.

The game progressed and those Italian feckers got their goals, and some lad from Belgium also got one – when I wasn’t paying attention incidentally – although that could have been about 85% of the game so they can’t use that excuse.

I began to get invested in the game-play. (Game-play is an expression I can imagine Eamon Dunphy coming out with in his lovvaly broad Dubbalin brogue). And not just financially.

The language got a bit colourful. Numerous four-letter words were associated with the Italian people, who on mature reflection, are a fine bunch who have contributed so much to the world like pasta, pizza, coffee, fashion, Leonardo DaVinci and those Renaissance fellas, myths, flirting, opera, Dolmio days, and who could forget bunga-bunga.

(What has Belgium done? Colonised the Congo and Rwanda, chips with mayonnaise, posh chocolate, the European Parliament. Meh.)

Thoughts of these Italian greats didn’t dissuade me from shouting abuse at the Italian goalie who delayed his kick outs stalling for the final whistle to blow. The same goalie, who I’d been feeling sorry for a few minutes earlier when he’d taken an elbow to the ribs. In my defence, I thought he was the Belgian goalie and was showing some solidarity.

(How are you supposed to know which end is which? It’s all the same field to me.)

Anyway, I was quickly disabused of any notion I was to feel sorry for this Italian diving goalie when the camera showed the Italian manager, a neat man with a two-tone badger hair-do, who looks like a Tory who cheats on his wife, acting worried.

It was all over then, a few seconds later. I’ll never forget my time in the trenches with Lukaku (me auld flower), Doku, and the other one who looks like Prince Harry. I wish them well. I still don’t know which one the goalie was, but I bear him no ill will despite the fact his two mistakes cost me a fiver and my reputation, which is only a little bit cheaper.

Allez les Belges! Our Dolmio day will have to wait.

No more sports ban; good for man, but not for Fran.

With a still stubbornly plague-ridden Ireland set to implement a phased re-opening, whatever that is, in the coming weeks, we’ve all been sitting in our homes speculating as to what that might look like.

And now we know.

Ireland’s April re-opening will feature a lot of balls in the air, only instead of metaphorical balls in the form of county-by-county case numbers and vaccination rollout statistics, NPHET has decided to introduce footballs into the mix of things it is juggling by allowing people to play sport outdoors.

This is great news for people who like sport, but for everyone else, it’s business as usual. Not even the promise of a haircut or a pair of new shoes for the childer.

Writer and broadcaster Barbara Scully raised the point that the new measures appeared to be a little sexist.

Now, I know that in this enlightened age women love sport just as much as men and blah, blah, blah. But I don’t, and neither does New York’s best sit-down comedian and essayist, Fran Lebowitz, who is delightfully abrasive about the male-centred world of sports:

The reason sports are so central is because men are in charge… if women were in charge of the world do you think there would be professional hopscotch?

Fran Lebowitz

I would prefer there be more women in congress and fewer playing football


Fran somehow blagged a ticket to one of the (alleged) greatest fights in history, Muhammed Ali versus Joe Frazier, (yawn). She said “It was a very wonderful fashion and cultural event; unfortunately there was a fight in the middle of it.” What a scream. Imagine her at a Junior B semi-final in the pouring rain in Roscommon…

I’ve hated sport with a passion ever since primary school when I had the misfortune to be in the same class as a gang of girls who played sport with the boys every single lunchtime while I wandered the perimeter of the football pitch with my hands in my pockets and my head in the clouds.

I was very good at social-distancing when I was a youngster, and my experience as a playground loner stand to me these days because I’m used to endless waiting — I was always picked last for P.E teams.

This is one of the reasons I’m glad I’m not a girl now because when I was in school girls didn’t have to play football because girls didn’t have to play sports and that was the upside of being a girl

Fran, again

Indeed. Fran sounds like someone I would have gladly shared my scented gel-pens with in primary school — not that I want to go back to the ’50s.

Like my fellow ladies of leisure, I’m waiting patiently for the hair salons to open in late Summer. Hopefully. In the meantime, I’m very happy for all of Ireland’s bald GAA fans who will have a great April if the weather holds up.