The furore over the video played by Irish soccer manager, Stephen Kenny, prior to Ireland’s match against England appears on the face of it to be somewhat farcical.
The “motivational” film – whose efficacy might best be judged by the fact that Ireland lost 3 – 0 – seems to have offended certain people because of its alleged “political content.” Some of the more sensational reports have described it as “anti English.”
The provenance of the complaint against Kenny is not clear, but obviously came from someone who had either seen the video or heard about it from someone who had. If players were “stunned” by what they witnessed, then it is hardly a wonder they are not exactly fighting in the last ditch.
Several references to “goalkeeping coach” Alan Kelly having left the Irish set-up for “personal reasons” might be a clue. Or it might not. One thing is for certain, the oul goalkeeping coaching is not exactly reaching best international practice standards.
So what was in this supposedly controversial video? Contrary to one source, I do not think it was the Irish Brigade belting out that old classic My Old Man’s a Provo. In fact it was far worse. Not since Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film Triumph des Willens eulogising the Nazi Party, has there arguably been such a spewing forth of hate-filled irredentist nationalism.
I jest, of course.
The dastardly video followed shots of Irish players like Ray Houghton and Niall Quinn provocatively scoring goals against England, apparently with a shot of the 1916 Proclamation. A reference might have been made to the Famine.
The FAI, well known for its running of a tight ship, ahem, immediately launched an investigation after Kenny was grassed on. It is considering all of this as a “matter of urgency.”
There are a number of issues to be considered amid all of this silliness. First of all, anyone who has ever sat in a dressing room with either gender for any team sport will be well aware that all sorts of matters from some alleged act of treachery by the next Parish in 1798 to the dubious hygiene of the opposing players, is fair game.
Indeed, when it comes to utilising the past, among the favourite stories of the Dublin liberal alickadoos in their cups are former Irish rugby captain Ciarán Fitzgerald’s anti-English speech in the 1980s. Ironically, the use of references to our past by a soccer manager was brought to a new sophisticated level by Jack Charlton who was known to play tapes of republican ballads to gee up the lads.
On a more serious note, the journalists and the ones who put the twit into twitterati who are talking this up as some sort of offence on Kenny’s part, once again display a curious disjunction between jumping on any manifestation of Irish nationalism, and their veneration of chancers who would have us believe that all Irish national memory is infused with racism and “supremacism.” And sure hasn’t it done wonders for us, Your Honour?
The FAI itself has not been behind the door when it comes to all of this. It will be recalled that following the disputed killing of someone in Minneapolis, that the FAI mandated the taking of a kneel by League of Ireland players. A meaningless gesture other than to imply, wrongly, that sport or Irish society is in some way systemically racist.
Then there is the fact that every year, for several weeks before the Commemoration of the pointless slaughter that was World War I – and that is what Remembrance Day is about, not the justifiable war against Nazism – a stream of Irish sportspeople, mostly former soccer players and jockeys are bullied into wearing a poppy when appearing on TV.
So, while my first reaction to “Kennygate” was a hearty guffaw, it is also irritating and embarrassing that this ought to be blown up into an issue of national importance. The next time Kenny is trying to inspire passion in the Green Jersey, perhaps he might show a video of the Brits stabbing our “gallant allies in Europe” in the back over Brexit. That would be sure to get the old juices running in Montrose.