|Football Association of Ireland's chief executive John Delaney (Photo: Irish Voice)|
John Delaney’s face was beaming out at us from the Sky Sports satellite on Tuesday morning, a timely appearance on our screens by the FAI chief executive ahead of Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Sweden.
The most powerful man in Irish football, and he is just that, wasn’t actually in the country when the results of a week-long behind the scenes documentary were broadcast on Sky Sports News.
Just as the closing credits on the exclusive interview were rolling, John was probably getting out of his bed in a Washington hotel and getting ready to meet another powerful man.
Barack Obama is, as far as I know, a bit of a basketball fan, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he will a fully paid up member of the Green Army by the time JD is finished with him.
The Irish soccer boss was in the White House on Tuesday for the traditional shamrock ceremony that marks the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S. every year.
He was there with our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and the Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore, there to celebrate Ireland and the Irish with the head of a country who makes a difference to our economic plight.
It’s unlikely that international football was too high on Kenny’s agenda when he got to shoot the breeze with Moneygall’s favorite son. Topics like the undocumented and the problems facing the illegal Irish in America were far more likely to dominate that conversation and far more important.
But soccer, as you like to call it, may well have surfaced in the general chit-chat. John himself told us last week that he hoped to get a few words with President Obama during his time as an invited guest in the big house.
So hopefully he will have asked your top man for some help this coming Friday -- in between organizing two possible games for the Irish team in New York and Boston this summer.
We need help, lots of it. In fact Ireland and the Irish are going to need all the assistance and all the luck we can get ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Stockholm, the latest defining game of the Giovanni Trapattoni era.
Even Delaney would acknowledge that, I’m sure, if President Obama asks about the game that will make or break our hopes of getting to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup finals.
To get to Rio we have to get a result in Stockholm. That’s a fact.
To get a result in Stockholm we have to keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet. And that, pun intended, is a very tall order.
The Swedish superstar, now David Beckham’s teammate at Paris St. Germain, is everything you need in a world class sportsman.
He has huge strength, a massive physique, speed to burn and he has that one talent that sets the truly great strikers apart – arrogance.
Off the field, Ibrahimovic is known as a bit of a difficult character and a man who tolerates little that is not of his own liking. On the field, he is a giant of modern day football and a truly great footballer.
We’ve never had a front player of his like. Robbie Keane -- and the regular reader of this page will know that I am his biggest fan -- is a striker who will always score goals for his country given half a chance, but he can’t dominate games or defenses like Ibrahimovic can.
That’s why the Swede has Barcelona as one of the clubs on his CV, along with Inter and AC Milan, Ajax and Juventus.
Unlike Robbie in his brief time with Inter, Zlatan made a big impression in Serie A, one that Trapattoni knows only too well from his own footballing history.
The pair of them have clashed before as well. Ibrahimovic scored against Trap’s Italy at the 2004 European Championships in Portugal and was part of the Swedish team whose “questionable” draw with Denmark in their final group game put the Italians out and still irks Trapattoni to this day.
Trap told the Irish media just last week that he has unfinished business with Ibrahimovic. In any other language that means he wants revenge against the Swede in Stockholm’s new and wonderfully named Friend’s Arena.
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