Northern Ireland soccer represents ‘British’ Northern Ireland, not, erm Northern Ireland

I’m not a fan of the rule change that means players who grow up in Northern Ireland rising through facilities paid for by the IFA now have the right to designate as FAI players at internatinonal level. Somehow the GFA got enrolled to convince FIFA that it was okay because of the Belfast Agreement.

FIFA may have been convinced but the Oireachtas isn’t going anywhere near there re voting rights for ex pats never mind passport holders. But Ian Parsley has a great post this morning saying GAWA fans are barking up the wrong tree blaming ROI fans and the FAI, who simply got what they wanted out of a long deliberative process…

According to Ian the real blame attaches almost entirely to an incompetent IFA:

Firstly, the case itself was straightforward and yet the IFA managed to blow it. In the same way that a British passport does not qualify me to play for Scotland (because Iwas not born there and nor were any of my parents or grandparents), an Irish passport does not quality me to play for the Republic of Ireland (for the same reason). The 1998 Agreement clearly makes the population of Northern Ireland “British”, “Irish” or both; the qualification requirement remains, however, that the player or parents or grandparents must be born within the jurisdiction. How that case was lost by the IFA is beyond me.

Secondly, Nigel Worthington only the other day said he believed that you should be born in the country for which you play. This is a ridiculous comment. He himself has selected as his first choice goalkeeper someone on the basis only that his grandfather was from County Down; the goalkeeper he had before that had no connection with Northern Ireland at all (qualifying under the bizarre, and rightly no more current, rule that British citizens born outside the UK could play for any home nation – a daft rule for aforementioned reasons). Such obvious hypocrisy wins no friends. If Northern Ireland is concerned about players who grow up through its training system being “poached”, it should not be so quick to “poach” itself, not least because, by so doing, it restricts opportunities for those who came through its own system.

Thirdly, instead of squealing, the IFA should ask itself why, suddenly, so many young NI-born-and-bred players wish to play for the FAI”s team. For all the (entirely legitimately lauded) progress made by the IFA’s Community Relations team, the fact is the Northern Ireland team does not represent Northern Ireland, but rather a British version of Northern Ireland. It may not be popular to say this, but the anthem played, the venue chosen, and some of the flags displayed all hinder the potential of the team because these locations and symbols are not representative of the entire population. A new anthem and wholehearted support for a new stadium would have greatly helped.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty