herald

Monday 16 October 2017

WHEN STARS ON OUR WORLD STAGE SUDDENLY LOSE A LITTLE TWINKLE

What a swell country this is.

It can't have escaped your attention that there's a bit of bother surrounding some proposed gigs by some bloke in a hat over beyond in C**** P*** but the whole country seemed to lose the run of itself during the week. Really, I know we're in the middle of what's known in the newspaper business as 'the silly season' when little of genuine interest happens in terms of real, hard news but what's been unfolding over the past seven days is little short of farcical.

I've read the ins and outs of what's been going on between all the parties concerned so often that I woke up the other morning convinced I'd actually been at the negotiations the night before. And, quite apart from the fact the whole thing is a mess on several levels, the surreality of the sideshows has been spectacular.

CUDDLY

So far we've had to endure Gerry Adams attempting to sing If Tomorrow Never Comes (all as part of his new 'Cuddly Uncle Gerry' image - I'm sure Jean McConville's children were well impressed), a bloke claiming that he was given 15 grand by some shadowy group to "bring down the GAA", and a Lord Mayor of Dublin who not only couldn't pronounce Garth Brooks' name properly but went overboard on religious metaphors, claiming that "if Jesus Christ himself came down from the cross" the decision couldn't be reversed before going on to mention the Holy Ghost a day later.

Add in this mysterious ship full of gear snaking its way across the Atlantic (shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis with that one), an offer of intervention from the Mexican ambassador (honestly, when the Mexicans are riding to the rescue we've gone through some really weird rabbit hole), and even a plea to Barack Obama (who surely has bugger-all on his plate at the minute, what with things being all quiet in Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine) to get this sorted, and you have a classic Irish-made screw-up. All our own work, this one.

Still, once you get past the head-scrambling blizzard of Brooks-related bumf there's still the pure joy of the World Cup to keep us all amused. Sadly, tomorrow sees the curtain come down on what's been the greatest football tournament it's been my privilege to witness.

Some of the naysayers have been quick to point out that the knockout rounds weren't as exciting as the group stages and they do have a minor point there, but the nature of tournament competition with the accompanying caginess as things progress meant that was always a possibility.

Equally, one could argue that the game's big battalions didn't soar as hoped against that the lesser lights - USA, Algeria and Costa Rica, to name but three, upped their games considerably and caused quite a few scares.

So, while Argentina and Germany slug it out tomorrow (please God, don't let it be like a repeat of the pair's 1990 final meeting) who could ever forget the sight of the latter's 7-1 mauling of Brazil in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday?

In the pub where I watched it surprise gave way to shock followed by sheer incredulity as the hosts simply imploded. Seasoned footie fans could never recall such a thing ever happening to Brazil, far less in a World Cup semi-final on home soil and that's quite simply because it never had happened before.

FLAWED

That Brazil were a flawed side was already evident but another factor which I believe caused the Selecao to self-destruct was the over-emphasis on emotion which had been there from their opening game.

Naturally, you want people to play the game with passion but there's a line between genuine, burning enthusiasm and walking onto the field practically in hysterics before the anthems have even ended. Even Brazil legend Carlos Alberto couldn't get his head around the sight of players weeping before the kick-off - and he wasn't the only one. Brazil - the new Liverpool?

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