Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

From Soweto to the Shankill: welcome to the Cup that cheers

After weeks of bad news with nothing but the prospect of cuts and crude oil spreading everywhere, we can put the bleakness of life behind us.

The World Cup in South Africa and the marching season in Northern Ireland have arrived. Soccer and parades - what a combination. Surely all we need to stage a great escape from reality this summer.

Forget the billions and trillions of our debts. Dismiss all these dismal times. Have another pint of bitter and watch the footie on your telly.

Don't concern yourself about where your next penny can be found. Text UTV and complain, not about the financial tornado which is heading in our direction this autumn, but about the lack of HD in its coverage of the World Cup. How could they be so thoughtless? No HD, well I never.

By the end of June, we will be experts on everything South African. Rape rates. Crime rates. HIV rates. From Durban to the Cape we will be in command of more facts about the Dark Continent than we ever knew about the dire state of the UK economy.

Our lives will be dominated by soccer, morning, noon, and night. By the semi-finals we will wonder if we ever did care about the NHS, or if Caitriona Ruane actually existed.

Forget David Cameron. Forget Nick Clegg, Forget Peter and Iris and all our local woes. Feast your eyes on England's champion of manly virtues - the one and only Wayne Rooney, muttering expletives on the front line in faraway Rustenburg.

Sing a verse of Land of Hope and Glory for John Terry before you brush your teeth each morning. And when it's all over on July 11, when the World Cup final takes place, remember to return to work - if you have a job by then.

A month from now, the most draconian budget for a generation will have come and gone. Our pockets will be much lighter as a result.

The BP oil slick may have reached Donegal. And, in the event of England winning the World Cup, how does "Arise Sir Wayne" grab you?

Not interested in soccer, do I hear you say? Then why not watch Royal Ascot? Perceive the lack of concern under the top hats in the Royal Enclosure about whether Britain is going bust or not.

Witness a captain of industry in his morning suit shrugging off his burden of debt with a flutter on the 2.45, a glass of champers to his lips, and a Princess Diana lookalike on his arm.

All together now, let's hear it for the World Cup and Ascot . . .

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,

What's the use of worrying. It never was worthwhile.

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,

Smile, boys, that's the style.

Sadly, Ireland, north and south, missed out on the World Cup. The glory days when Northern Ireland qualified for the final stages in Sweden in 1958 and Spain in 1982 may never be repeated.

The Republic of Ireland team was cheated out of qualifying for the World Cup finals when the French star Thierry Henry directed the ball with his hand.

His presence in South Africa should be watched by the Republic's fans with an understandably cynical and unforgiving eye.

What a travesty for sport if the hand of Monsieur Henry were to hold up the Jules Rimet trophy a month from now.

Here at home we have an added bonus. When the final whistle blows in Africa on July 11, the natives of Ulster will be setting light to their bonfires and dancing around them as usual.

The midnight hour will beckon in the Twelfth and our very own Orange Cup Final will be played as usual on that day.

No matter how grim the year ahead is looking, it's Houdini time now - the great escape from reality. Come on Sir Wayne Rooney. Keep your expletives to yourself. From soccer in Soweto to bonfires up the Shankill, there can be but one regret.

What a catastrophe UTV can't show it in HD.

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