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June 30, 2014 / catherinebwrites

SOUL THROUGH THE WRINGER

The World Cup… Brazil… Spain out… England out… Suarez… it’s been a whirl.

Costa Rica beat Greece via penalties in their round of 16 match

Ireland are there so I’m  supporting  the minnows.   last night it was Viva Costa Rica!  Only ten men, their exhaustion pulsating through my TV  screen.   Then comes the Penalty Shootout.   My heart was exploding… my soul was on fire…

 We’d been through this. Italia 90.  We knew how Costa Rican’s watching at home were feeling….   Here’s the piece I wrote at the time.

LIFE, DEATH AND FOOTBALL

Ireland had got to the World Cup for the very first time and the TV, the radio and every newspaper in the country were making an unmerciful fuss.   Big Deal I thought.   Take a chill pill.   Football is a game lads, it’s only a game.   However, it was an international competition and Ireland were playing so, I kept an eye on it.   I also thought that I might write a scathingly hilarious article about the idiocies of football and its commentators.

Then came the day that Ireland played against Romania, in Genoa.   I was all set to watch the match because it was, after all, the World Cup and who knew what gems of football idiocy I might glean, when I got a call to tell me that my mother had taken a turn and was seriously ill. Naturally, I forgot about football and went over to her house.   She’d taken several turns in the past year but this one looked to be the most serious yet.   As she lay in the bed, the life seemed to have drained from her.   She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t drink and she could barely speak.   We called the doctor and he immediately ordered an ambulance to take her to hospital.  

I sat by her side waiting and watching.   Every breath looked like it might be her last.   Sometimes she’d let a breath go and seem to stop breathing.   Then, just as I thought this is it, she’d draw another.   Outside, the sun shone but the road was deserted. No traffic, no passers-by. Everyone was inside somewhere, in front of a Television, watching the match.   I waited and watched and watched and waited but still no sign of the ambulance.   What on earth was keeping it?   My mother looked haggard and grey, her eyes were closed and her jaw was sagging.   I was sure she would die before the ambulance arrived.   A neighbour came in and insisted that I take a break while she sat with my mother.

            I went to the kitchen and made some coffee.   Then I wandered into the living-room and switched on the T.V. to see what was happening with the match.   Full time was over and extra time had just finished.   The score was:

Romania 0 – 0 Ireland.

Well at least we hadn’t been beaten.   The players were standing around on the pitch waiting for the penalty shootout. Jack Charlton prowled up and down clutching his cap behind his back.   Packy Bonner pulled on his gloves, and stretched.   I began to feel nervous.

Packy is first up in goal. He blesses himself.   Hagi places the ball on the spot.   He kicks, boom.

Romania 1 – 0 Ireland

Yeah well… even I knew that Hagi was good.  

Lung, the Romanian goalie, replaces Packy.   He looks experienced and crafty.   Kevin Sheedy comes up and boom.   Yes, yes, you little jewel.  

Romania 1 – 1 Ireland

Packy returns.   He dances about on the goal line.   He’s looking better this time.     Lupu places the ball, he kicks…

Romania 2 – 1 Ireland

Ooh well, that’s to be expected.  

Lung looks meaner now and bigger as well.   But Ray Houghton looks good too, he looks springy.   He kicks.   Yes, yes, yes! Ray you’re a jewel and a diamond.    

Romania 2 – 2 Ireland

By now, I swear, Packy has grown a couple of inches but Kotariu looks dangerous.   And he is.     He shoots.

Romania 3 – 2 Ireland

Lung too has grown and now he looks look positively vicious.  Tony Cascarino is up next.   I cross my fingers.   Tony has Italian blood, and here he is playing in Italy.   I hope that might help him but I can hardly look.   I can hardly breathe.   He kicks.     Yes, yes, yes!   You darlin’, you pet.    

Romania 3 – 3 Ireland

Packy goes to the goal.   He looks edgy but determined.   Timofete comes to the spot. He looks as cool as all get out.   He runs, he kicks…  

Oh my god, oh my God!

Packy has saved!  

Packy’s saved!

Packy’s saved!

Oh Packy I love you, I love you, I love you.

Romania 3 – 3 Ireland

The crowd’s delirious.   I’m delirious.   I’m trying not to scream too loud and upset my poor, sick mother upstairs.   Besides, we all have to settle down once again and bite our nails.   It’s the last Irish kick and it’s David O Leary.  

Lung takes his place in the goalmouth.   He looks like Mephistopheles.   He seems to take up all the space.   Oh please God.   Please God.   David places the ball, cool as you like.   He runs up, he kicks and…

He scores!

He scores!

He scores!

Oh David I love you.

The crowd is dancing and screaming.   I am dancing and screaming.   The neighbour pokes her head over the banisters to see what the fuss is about.

“We won.” I tell her. “We won.”

I took the stairs two at a time and burst into my mother’s bedroom.

“We won, we won, we won!   We’re in the quarter finals!”  

My mother opened her eyes looking bleary and puzzled.

“We beat Romania, Ma, we’re into the quarter finals!”

“”Ireland won?”

“Yes, yes, yes, we won!”.

“I never thought I’d see the day.” She smiled.

The colour came back to her cheeks and she couldn’t keep the grin off her face.  

“I think I’d like a cup of tea,” she said “and maybe a bit of toast.”

And then, like Lazarus, she sat up in the bed.

            The ambulance arrived, eventually, and all the way to the hospital my mother debated the merits of the long ball with the Ambulance men and proposed her personal choice for the Irish team to play Italy in quarter finals.

Two days later, when I went to bring her home from hospital the doctor told me that since we’d won the match patients were leaping out of bed, fully recovered and singing,

“One Packy Bonner,

There’s only one Packy Bonner.”

The following Saturday I watched the Ireland- Italy match in a pub.   In the intervening week I had become a football aficionado and expert and I found myself sitting beside a visiting American, explaining the offside rule.     Finally, I understood what Bill Shankley meant when he said.

“Some people think that football is a matter of life and death, but it’s not, it’s far more important than that.”  

 We had a marty that night.   what a party.   Costa Rica may you keep partying on.   I’ll be shouting for you all the way.

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One Comment

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  1. joetwo / Jun 30 2014 6:38 pm

    I’m reminded of “The Quiet Man” and the old man who jumps from his death bed to see the fight. Some times you just need something to inspire you to get up! Good piece

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