This past week, the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs (AoNISCs) announced that it’s member clubs had voted on whether to go to the upcoming Carling Cup of Nations, International ‘Friendlies’ in which Northern Ireland will face the Republic of Ireland and Wales in the same week. The result of the vote was a resounding “no” – a boycott has been called on!!
Reading the press release linked above the AoNISCs cite “the costs that fans are being asked to pay” as the ONLY reason for the boycott, and whilst it doff’s it’s cap to the need for “some restrictions” on NI supporters to protect the NI support’s reputation, that’s an interesting perspective. So where has all of this come from??
Well, in February, the first game involving Northern Ireland in this tournament was marred when a small minority of idiots were caught on camera singing songs with sectarian lyrics underneath the stands of Dublin’s ‘bed pan’ stadium (it really does look like one!!). No one was killed, but the situation left a foul mood in the mouth. The reality was though that a game involving the Republic of Ireland would offer such cretins a much bigger and enticing opportunity to act like vermin.
So the IFA got together with the PSNI & the Guards to discuss security arrangements for the potentially volatile game. The solution, they felt, was a rather common approach to contentious games in England… the NI support (travelling from NI) would be bussed in & out of the game, no alcohol would be allowed on the buses & if you wanted a match ticket, you would ALSO have to buy your coach ticket at the same time, from the IFA (the controversial bit). I say controversial because the IFA started the prices for the bus at about £30 – approx £10 dearer than supporters clubs had paid per person for the game in Dublin just three months ago.
Same bus, same destination, different & more expensive price. And so people are up in arms… over a tenner.
Now, you might say it’s the principle of the matter, but frankly, I think it’s embarrassing. I’ve spent a small fortunate following Northern Ireland around the world… I wouldn’t dream of pulling out over a tenner, nor would any right thinking NI supporter.
Of course, you might then say that NI supporters shouldn’t be treated like cattle, but again, that’s never been a problem in the past… in Poland, we were herded at a ‘fanzone’ which was a small bar in a shopping mall in the city, surrounded by Police. We were bussed there & back, surrounded by more riot police, horse mounted police, dog handlers & cops than at anything I’m sure most of us have ever seen. We were kept in the ground 90 minutes before & after before doing the whole thing again home.
You might even say that banning alcohol on the buses is treating the NI support like kids… and you’d be right, but anyone using this as an excuse to miss an NI game frankly cares more about drinking & might have a problem than they clearly care about Northern Ireland & it’s football team. In a slight twist of irony, the money saved on the booze might cover the extra £10 cost of the bus!!
For me, there is no reason not to go to these games in the AoNISCs statement or in the arrangements the IFA have put in place with the respective police forces.
There is another reason why people aren’t going to the games in Dublin… the continued interference by the FAI in selecting and playing, footballers who have been born in NI, lived in NI, been developed in NI by the IFA who have no link to the FAI whatsoever. They’re acting as predators, actively engaging with players ONLY from the Roman Catholic background and trying to persuade them to represent another Country from the one they have already done.
Marc Wilson, Shane Duffy & Darron Gibson have all developed with the IFA through Northern Ireland youth groups & then, once they’ve made it to a degree in professional football, flipped to represent another country. As far as I’m aware at writing the IFA have received no compensation from either the players involved or the FAI. The FAI have also admitted to trying to persuade Shane Ferguson, currently with Newcastle United, in the same manner.
This is a serious issue & one which should have every football fan in NI and further afield thinking. Is it right that one association can develop a player & that player then goes to represent someone else just because they hold the right passport?? International football is threatened by such lackadaisical eligibility rules.
If you’re going to boycott over anything, that my reader is a genuine, right & noble reason.