Hope of the Hopeless

Persistence is futile
Share |

Allow me to set the mood. Until recently, next door had a cat. Technically they still have him—it's just that they now keep him two feet beneath their back garden. In his pre-death state, he was a narky bugger. He was the kind of cat who would let you stroke him and then bite your finger to show you who was boss. This made you suspicious of him, which made him even more suspicious of you, and on it would go, an endless cycle of cross-species contempt. You'd open the back door and see him there, glaring at you; you'd glare back, and a disrespectful distance would be kept. But in his last days, the old bastard acted strangely. When you opened the back door, he'd come rushing in. Maybe he was seeking protection from the ruthless cat-on-cat fights in which he was now a guaranteed loser. Maybe he just wanted somewhere warm and comfortable to draw his terminal. It was a sad scene. The next day, his owners were asking around for a spade and a pickaxe.

So yeah, Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland lost 6-1 at home to Germany last Friday. I'm pretty sure it was six, anyway—at some blurry point in the second half, proceedings took on a woozy, surreal quality. Germany were queuing up to shoot, scoring with dreamlike ease as if the ball were made of cloud and its trajectory a rainbow spraying a mist of golden kittens. They didn't even bother celebrating properly, no doubt too blissed out to do anything but smile a goofy smile and walk back to their own half to do it all again. Or maybe they were just embarrassed. Because Germany were very, very good, whereas Ireland were ... well, bad doesn't seem strong enough; it doesn't have the heft to convey the precise quality of Ireland's next-door's-terminally-ill-cat display. They looked beyond redemption, seeking somewhere to lay themselves down and wait until it was all over.

On the plus side, it was a record home defeat for Ireland, so at least we got to see history in the making, right?

Those of you who could stomach my bellyaching may recall my dispatches during the summer, when Ireland played in the European Championships and became the first team to finish 17th in a 16-team tournament. (You can relive said howls in every pitiful detail by clicking on my name above and scrolling down to May and June—if you dare.) But things have gotten worse since then, which is some achievement.

The worst thing about it all is that once, in Trapattoni's first two years in charge, there was hope. In the second leg of the 2010 World Cup play-off against France, Ireland turned in one of their greatest performances. It ended, um, iffily, but defeat notwithstanding, it offered up (to anyone not busy boycotting the baguette rack and people called Henry) a vision of a brilliant future. It was full of life; it was bold, even daring at times. Ireland tried to make the game their own. The performance was laced with some desperation, it's true (France had won the first leg). But the task now was surely to use it as a reference point, to figure out how to replicate its spirit and technicalities without having to inflict pain upon themselves first.

But from the Euro 2012 qualifiers on, they started doing the opposite: they inflicted the pain and reaped no benefit. I never thought it possible for a team to play with a complete absence of style, but Trapattoni's Ireland have managed it. I don't just mean "style" in an approving way: I mean any style whatsoever. The fierce desire to try not to play any part in determining the shape of the game is impressive. (Of course, a kick in the head is impressive.) Everything is determined by how the opposition want to play, and how lucky they feel. It's rope-a-dope without the retaliation. It's not even ugly.

Ireland played almost all of their qualifying opponents this way, from Russia to Andorra. In the group phase, there wasn't a single match in which you could say that Ireland actually played well. There wasn't a single match in which you could say that Ireland played at all. Ireland faced enough poor opposition that qualification was nonetheless secured, as was a fatally bad habit, which brought Ireland down in Poland.

Of course it did. Looked at rationally, Ireland's Euros were utterly predictable. The only reason to have believed otherwise was because of that last residual smear of hope at the bottom of the jar: hope based on no evidence, that get-through-the-day-and-wait-for-a-bright-tomorrow kind of hope. With that rinsed away by the Euros, July was the natural time for Trapattoni to go, or be made go. But he decided to stay on his massive contract, half of which is paid for by the billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien. It's so big, the cash-starved Football Association of Ireland seemingly couldn't budge him. So the groove which became a rut is now a trench. The terrible Trap puns which have plagued the Irish sports pages for four years finally have their shining moment.

Last month, Ireland opened their World Cup qualifying group with a deeply, deeply awful effort against sixth seed Kazakhstan. Two late goals, which were presumably occasioned by Trapattoni furtively swigging an entire bottle of holy water, sealed a win for the worse team. And then there was Germany.

And then there was Trapattoni, yet again saying that there were no excuses, before offering a list of them: Germany are invincible, I had too many players injured, my players didn't do what I told them to do, my players are crap anyway, what do you expect me to do about it?To people suggesting he should go, he replies that one bad game doesn't make a crisis. Maybe this is a way forward for management, Trapattoni's version of Zeno's tortoise paradox: if one bad game isn't a crisis, then neither is an infinite succession of one-bad-games. All your problems solved with just one simple twist of logic and a big pile of bullshit.

Diana Moskovitz's excellent piece hereabouts on being a fan of baseball's failingest team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, reminded me of one of my favourite words in the American sports lexicon: futility. (In my experience at least, it's more often used over there than it is here.) Diana doesn't invoke it—she seems too optimistic of disposition, or maybe twenty years of misery forces you to be optimistic against reason. But futile is the hefty word I was looking for way back in paragraph 2. For the poor, suffering fan (because that's what this is really about), there's nothing to cling on to. Trapattoni's defenders have claimed that given what he has to work with, he's done as might be expected—that to demand more is unrealistic and the product of an entitled mindset. But that's not the point at all. It's so, so not it. The team is failing to fulfil the most basic demand of the fan, and surely of themselves: to do something. Anything. To show they realise that every match is a gamble of sorts and to risk something in the immediate term, instead of risking everything in the long term. To show some sign of life. To give hope. To give false hope. To give hope that promises everything even when you know it'll deliver nothing, but you don't care because you got to fool yourself for a second or two. I was going to say "to do something to make the spirit soar" (I mistakenly typed "sore" just then), but things are so desperate now I'd settle for the spirit doing that crap David Blaine levitation trick. Or tripping over itself. Or just twitching.

All hope in Trapattoni's Ireland died in the summer. The listlessness and lack of fight are too ingrained for him to reverse. But there he remains, trying the same things over and over again and ... what? Expecting different results? Does he even care anymore? Surely he can tell the difference between a live animal and a re-animated corpse?

Ireland play the Faroe Islands tonight. Nothing good can come of this game. They might win in by-now traditional style, in which case it's same old same old same old same old. They might win more emphatically, which you could say is just one step up from the minimum requirement when you're playing the team of a country whose entire population could fit into your national stadium. Or they might lose. In which case... Well, rumour has it the FAI are looking to get rid of Trapattoni this week regardless. But it's impossible to be triumphal about the prospect. We're all a bit bewildered right now. We need a lie down.


Share |

Comments

I was pinning away for such type of blogs, thanks for posting this for us. roofing repair Tampa

I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know. brochures printing

I have come across and believe me I have been searching out for this similar kind of post for past a week and hardly came across this. Thank you very much and will look for more postings from you...club flyer template

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know. bisness cards

Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know. bisness cards

I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business. cheap club flyer printing

Thank you Ella. Now, lets work on getting you posting on here more often. Everyone opinions mean something to us beginners. Do you have a website?low cost outdoor wifi

Thanks for sharing this interesting blog with us. My pleasure to being here on your blog..I wanna come beck here for new post from your site.rv park wifi

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with This is a great post. I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage.I found many interesting things from this site. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again. High PR Blog comments

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions...akamai competitors

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to kitchen fit out thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article....http://easyvisitors.com/alexa-traffic-package/

Awesome work! That is quite appreciated. I hope you’ll get more success. 24 hour plumbing los angeles

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. buy research papers

You should mainly superior together with well-performing material, which means that see it: Manifestation Miracle

Hey buddies, such a marvelous blog you have made I’m surprised to read such informative stuf Seriously Trademarks.com.au

games and applications without waiting or any subscription. download apk for android games jaipur to pushkar taxi

Good blog along with the excellent quality stuff and I’m sure this will be greatly helpful. cheap car insurance for minors

This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing this great article! That is very interesting Smile I love reading and I am always searching for informative information like itt..hampton bay lighting

wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated.The Penguin method

Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! Simply put your blog post to my favorite blog list and will look forward for additional updates. Simply wanted to write down a word in order to say thanks to you for those wonderful tips. Ready 4 Read

I was very impressed by this post, this site has always been pleasant news Thank you very much for such an interesting post, and I meet them more often then I visited this site.that not how men work

Education is a human right and crucial element to achieve necessary change in our society. In order to ensure that everybody has access to quality education we strongly. hcg injections

Your blog is extremely brilliant especially the quality content is really appreciable.easy online payday loans

It’s my fortune to go to at this blog and realize out my required stuff that is also in the quality.
inbound call center solution

I use basically superior fabrics : you will discover these products by: Numerologist.com Review

I was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more. The Coconut Oil Secret

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job ! Language of Desire

A stalemate was reached in their argument, but a stalemate is a loss for Skip, in that both sides of the 'argument' are acknowledged, and one position plus one position equals two positions, both equally valid. For Skip to survive, one plus one has to equal one. Time will tell if he's been solved for.
home remedies for tmj pain

Your articles make whole sense of every topic.visit site

Here at this site really the fastidious material collection so that everybody can enjoy a lot.smartmember 2 dark post profits 3 bonuses

Well, I have got the best information from here the site is fully stuffed with the knowledgeable information.
payday loan with saving account

tore is the source to provide free and quickly available apk files for android phones.Users can get free apk textures for architectural rendering
files for games and applications without waiting or any subscription. download apk for android games and apps

I have bookmarked it and I am anticipating perusing new articles./ taxi from delhi to jaipur

I have bookmarked it and I am anticipating perusing new articles./ taxi from delhi to jaipur

Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well... this link

Through this post, I know that your good knowledge in playing with all the pieces was very helpful. I notify that this is the first place where I find issues I've been searching for. You have a clever yet attractive way of writing. Capture His Heart Review

Very supportive opinion on this article! This is the modest changes which make the greatest changes. A big Thanks for sharing this!this link

I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. Usually I visit your blogs and get updated through the information you include but today’s blog would be the most appreciable. Well done! Save The Marriage System

This is really of enthusiasm to me. I'd love to thank somebody for taking the time to share this post . supreme garcinia cambogia reviews

Education is a human right and crucial element to achieve necessary change in our society. In order to ensure that everybody has access to quality education we strongly. escort in lebanon

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing Chat Friend

Very supportive opinion on this article! This is the modest changes which make the greatest changes. A big Thanks for sharing this!http://cheapwritingservice.org/cheap-assignment-help-online/

approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up hazardous waste disposal albuquerque

I really appreciate the fact that you approach these topics from a stand point of knowledge and information. This is the first time, I visited at your site and became your fan. You are bookmarked. oil pulling coconut oil at http://proteccozumel.com/

Batgirl’s first year as a member of the Bat-family, and the stakes couldn’t be higher! Stephanie Brown must risk her life to break into the Calculator’s .

coloring pages for adults

Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. escorts in lebanon

I do play guitar. But I cannot sing like the Caitlin Rose. She has wonderful sound. I wish I can sing like that. She has a nice country style music. Keep that up. I am a big fan of Brian Adams.
more help

You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work...Technician Schools

I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics , i will be always checking your blog thanks. . situs poker online

I totally agree with what you have said!!Thanks for sharing your views...hope more people will read this article! DUI Lawyer