Giovanni Trapattoni Wants YOU, Irish America!

A friend of mine has a fondness for a great saying -- whenever he encounters something which he believes he has encountered before, he just claims that it’s a case of déjà-vu all over again.

So I’ll ask you to forgive me if you think we have gone down this particular road before. I’m sure we have done, and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t too long ago.

See, there I was last Friday afternoon, sitting in the boardroom at the FAI’s headquarters in Abbotstown and trying my very best to go quietly about my business.

That wasn’t easy, it has to be said. For one thing, I was suffering from the mother and father of all hangovers after a great night in Tipperary the night before when my Star Sunday colleague John Harrington celebrated his wedding to the lovely Siobhain.

Now John had his wife with him at the wedding. As the groom, he didn’t have much choice really. I did have a choice, albeit one that was foisted on me by circumstance, it being a Thursday and all that.

Thus my better half Liz stayed at home to get the kids to school, and I fell into bad company with three other colleagues who had also left their partners back in domestic bliss.

As a result of all that convenience, one Arthur Guinness became the “plus one” for the four of us, and a great night was had by all in Arthur’s unique company.

That’s why I wasn’t at my best in that FAI boardroom, but it was very hard to keep the head down, simply because a certain Giovanni Trapattoni was holding court in his usual convivial manner.

As always, Trap had lots to say, some of it in his broken English which he has convinced himself is getting better by the day, and some of it of huge relevance to next week’s friendly with Norway here in Dublin.

You’ll read the relevant bits on other pages in this week’s Irish Voice, but of immediate concern here is Trapattoni’s sudden penchant for Irish America and Irish Americans who know how to kick a ball.

You see, he revealed to us last Friday that he recently requested a list of all players in the North American soccer leagues with Irish sounding names. I kid you not.

He has also asked the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) for a list of all Irish qualified players in the MLS. He wants names, and he wants them now.

I’m sure we’ve been here before. I’m sure I have told you previously, my loyal Irish Voice reader, that Trapattoni wants you to let him know of any Irish Americans of your knowledge who could do a job for Ireland.

I’d swear he said this to us before, and not long after his coronation in the RDS, well over two years ago now as it happens.

Anyway, Trap is so intent on the U.S. connection that he is already talking of a visit to America next summer, maybe even with an Irish squad of sorts for a couple of exhibition matches and a training camp.

In the meantime, he is going to attempt to scour the States for Irishmen.

Considering Bill Clinton once said that half the world is Irish and the other half wants to be, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

The problem, of course, will be finding another Landon Donovan or another Brian McBride -- and not another Joey Lapira, the one cap wonder from Steve Staunton’s U.S. tour in 2007.

On the law of averages, there have to be some good American-born players who are indeed qualified for Ireland. I suspect most of them may already have played for their native U.S.

But if you do know of any, drop me an email and I’ll pass it on to Trap.

Who knows, we might even get to have a pint in Manhattan next summer if he likes the look of one or more of them.


Rugby Flop, Xmas Drop

There's already a music channel on satellite television this side of the world that is now devoted to Christmas songs -- at the start of November.

The video for Wham’s “Last Christmas” is playing as I speak, and I have to tell you that the station in question, Bliss it is called, is taking its viewers for granted. Me included.

I don’t like being taken for granted, so it’s a good job I am currently employed. The unemployed here in Ireland are going to receive free cheese at Christmas time -- and I’m allergic to cheese.

That’s a different Christmas story and really has nothing to do with the point here, which is all to do with being taken for granted.

The Irish Rugby Football Union took the loyal Irish rugby fans for granted this autumn for the Guinness series against South Africa, Samoa, New Zealand and Argentina.

They decided that fans would have to buy double tickets, at a cost of well over $200, to see games -- i.e. you’d have to buy South Africa and Samoa together and New Zealand and Argentina together.

The plan has backfired spectacularly at a time when the country is reeling from an economic downturn that has even affected the well-heeled rugby brigade.

Last Saturday just 35,000 fans paid in to watch Ireland lose to South Africa in the first rugby international at the new Aviva Stadium.

Fans who tried to buy tickets on the day were told they could only buy them with Samoa tickets, and a few walk-ups, as they are known, did that.

Several thousand unhappy punters started to drift out of the ground at halftime.

After the match, centurion Ronan O’Gara spoke of the eeriness of the empty seats at the Aviva, admitted the recession is hitting fans hard and pleaded for them to get behind the team again.

On Monday, the Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton also called on fans to turn up in numbers again amid real fears of a tiny crowd for the Samoa match this weekend when even those 35,000 who already have tickets might not turn up.

The IRFU, to be fair to them, have admitted out straight that they’ve made a right cock-up with regards to ticketing for these games, and they have promised to review it post haste.

Like the FAI, whose Vantage Club ticket sales have been a huge flop, they now know not to take the customer for granted.

I wish someone would pass that message onto the TV station blasting out Christmas songs this early in November!

Sideline Views

SOCCER: Here’s a story to link the Chelsea striker Didier Drogba with Cheryl Cole, former wife of his teammate Ashley and something of a pop star celebrity on this side of the pond, though probably known as a friend of Will.I.Am on your side of the Atlantic. Didier has just been confirmed as a malaria sufferer, the same disease that affected Cheryl not so long ago. She got the tropical disease during a visit to Tanzania and was laid low for weeks. Drogba doesn’t know where he got it, but will play against Fulham on Saturday. The story does link Didier and Cheryl, but not in a Wayne Rooney sort of way, if you know what I mean.

SOCCER: They’ve changed the photo on the wall of the FAI’s boardroom in Abbotstown that often hosts Giovanni Trapattoni press conferences. The old photo on the wall was from a match in 1985 between Ireland and Italy, a Dalymount Park game that featured Paul McGrath’s debut if memory serves me correct. The new photo features the Ireland and Wales teams from the 2007 game in Croke Park, the very first soccer match at GAA Headquarters. It also features a certain Stephen Ireland in the Irish team awaiting the national anthems, as we pointed out to Trapattoni last Friday. He smiled, by the way.

RACING: Sport is fickle and no sport is more fickle than racing. A year ago Johnny Murtagh was a hero as stable jockey for Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, and Ruby Walsh was looking forward to another Cheltenham. This week Murtagh has quit the most coveted job in Irish flat racing, and Walsh is on the flat of his back, recovering from a broken leg sustained at Down Royal on Saturday. They’re hardy boys these jockeys, and they need to be.


HERO OF THE WEEK


A lot of the crowd had already left for home when Declan Kidney sprung Ronan O’Gara off the bench after 65 minutes of Saturday’s wretched test against South Africa, but that early exit was definitely their loss. O’Gara won his 100th Ireland cap when he replaced Jonathon Sexton for the final 15 minutes of action -- and he almost won the game for his team against all the odds. He was brilliant in that brief role, and his return to the team for the clash with Samoa this weekend is fully deserved.


IDIOT OF THE WEEK


The former France manager Raymond Domenech is to seek over $3 million in compensation from the French Football Federation after quitting his job as manager in the wake of their dreadful World Cup campaign in South Africa. Domenech is demanding recompense for the damage to his character by his exit from office and payment for the three years left on his contract. What a cheek from the man who presided over that treachery in Paris last November, a year next week to be precise, and tried to pretend it never happened.

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