Every four years something peculiar happens to the men of Ireland. We become distant, and easily distracted from such menial tasks as cutting the lawns or changing the baby. Loving husbands, doting fathers and caring sons all down tools for a month to recline in front of the television screen, be it at home or down the local watering hole, to watch something called the World Cup. These men may be seen watching such mouth-watering fixtures as Switzerland vs Honduras, while their significant other juggles a child in one hand and a saucepan in the other. (Men in this case should be wary of getting a thump with said saucepan).
Unfortunately, no matter how much the long suffering woman threatens, complains or cajoles, there is no escape from the fact that the World Cup hits domestic life like some sort of sports tsunami. Men everywhere will watch as the world’s best footballers file out onto the greenest fields in South Africa, while in their own back gardens the dog wanders into the wilderness that was once a neatly clipped lawn, and disappears.
And what makes this feast of football worth the loss of the family pooch to the backyard jungle? It’s difficult to narrow it down to just one reason. Perhaps it’s the battle between messrs Messi, Ronaldo, and Rooney for the World Player of the Year award? Maybe it’s the prospect of genuinely intriguing and exciting encounters such as Portugal versus Brazil? Could it be the hope that this year it might be the turn of one of the African nations like Ghana to lift the coveted trophy? Or maybe, deep down, we all just want to see what a North Korean looks like out of captivity?
No matter what the reason however, be assured that business in Irish pubs will pick up over the next month or so as crowds converge to boo France and England and cheer on practically every other team until the final in Johannesburg on the 11th of July. For reasons well documented, there will be no Irish participation on the pitches of South Africa. That doesn’t mean there won’t be an Irish presence however, as all the pitches for this year’s tournament were laid by a Kilkenny man working for an English-based company. Irish fans should follow with interest the progress of Slovakia in particular very closely, as they’re in the same group as Ireland for the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers.
And as to who will win this year’s World Cup? If we knew that, watching it wouldn’t be half as much fun. Spain, Brazil and Argentina could all easily claim the favourites tag, but don’t bet against Holland or England being there at the business end of the tournament. There’s also an old saying worthy of note, and that’s “never write off the Germans”. South Africa get the party underway against Mexico on this Friday the 11th of June. Better get those lawns cut.