Anorak News | Let Him Be

Let Him Be

by | 22nd, August 2002

‘WHY is it that Ireland can produce a unifying rugby union team but when it comes to football, the nation is split into Northern Ireland and the Republic?

New Northern Ireland kit unveiled

Whether or not it’s something to do with the respective popularity of the games, the kind of people that follow them, or something yet more unfathomable can be debated, but one thing that cannot be argued is that the internecine divide has dealt a devastating blow to Neil Lennon.

The Mail leads with the story of the Catholic Northern Irish player who ever since he signed for Glasgow Celtic, a team with a strong Catholic fan base, has been the victim of a hate campaign. But that still did not prevent his national team manager Sammy McIlroy from making him his captain.

Last night was to be Lennon’s first outing as skipper but in the pre-match build up the player was issued with an ultimatum: play and die. The threat delivered in a phone call to BBC Belfast by an anonymous bigot was all it took to ruin what should have been Lennon’s proudest moment. As it was, the game went on without him, the Irish Province drawing 0-0 with Cyprus.

At around the same time, the Republic were enjoying a fine 3-0 win over Finland. That game’s first goalscorer, Robbie Keane, can be seen celebrating his strike in the Sun, following his customary somersault with a sharpshooters quick draw flourish to the crowd – a not overly sensitive celebration in light of events north of the border.

But if the more narrow-minded Irish want to learn how to enlarge their field of vision they could do worse than look to the Telegraph’s story of Sachin Tendulkar. Yesterday, the world’s best batsman made a surprise appearance at the opening of Headingley’s new East Stand.

But not nearly as surprising as his first appearance at the ground, when in April 1992, the then callow 19-year-old became the first overseas player to turn out for Yorkshire in 129 years. Now, as the paper reminds its readers, Yorkshire have the likes of the Australians Darren Lehman and Mathew Elliott to call upon, but back then Tendulkar was breaking down doors.

And the pocket dynamo was a hit, causing one of the East Stand’s new boxes to be named after him and Chris Hansell, the county side’s chief executive, to say: ”He’s one of us, an adopted Yorkshireman.”

And if an Asian can be taken to the heart of the Yorkshire Republic, there is hope that an Irishman can one day play for the country of his birth without being in fear of his life. ‘

Posted: 22nd, August 2002 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink