Here we go again. In more ways than one. Thinking about tonight’s match and the world that’s crumbling around us, my mind was immediately drawn to this: Dermot Bolger’s fictional account of following Ireland to the 1988 European Championships (or ‘Euro ’88’ in the vernacular) through the eyes of a migrant. The following scene takes place in Gelsenkirchen just after Wim Kieft has scored a late goal for the Netherlands to effectively knock Ireland out of the tournament.
I stood up amongst the silent men and women, their faces white, and I raised my hands.
“Ireland!” I screamed. “Ireland! Ireland!” I had six minutes of my old life to go. Six minutes more to cheat time. The crowd joined in with me. Every one of them. From Dublin to Cork. From London and all over Europe. And suddenly I knew this was the only country I still owned. Those eleven men in green shirts, half of whom were born abroad.
Shane and Mick stood firm at my right and left shoulders. I knew they were thinking too of the long train journeys ahead. The tunnel was being pulled out for the end of the match. Men gathering down on the touch-line. We lifted our voices in that wall of noise, one last time to urge the lads on.
“Ireland! Ireland! Ireland!“
(From: Dermot Bolger, In High Germany, New Island edition (Dublin, 1999), p. 52.)