Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Sunday football can't be own goal

It was bound to happen, and now it has come to pass. The Belfast Telegraph reported some time ago that the Northern Ireland football team would be required to play a qualifying group game on a Sunday. Now it has been confirmed that this game will be against Finland at Windsor Park on Sunday, March 29 next year.

There is no doubt that some religious people with sincerely-held views will be offended by this, while others will accept it grudgingly.

It is virtually certain that some people will come to protest at the game, and they have a right to do so, within the law. However, it is to be hoped that the protests do not reach the dimensions of the row over the Abridged Bible drama at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey recently.

For the majority of the population, the question of playing games on a Sunday is not an issue. The Northern Ireland team has already played away on a Sunday, and every team in the competition is required to do so, when necessary.

Given the busy and complex schedules in the modern game of football, it is becoming less and less possible to cater for the wishes of individual teams and countries.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and although a football-free Sunday would please some people, it will simply not suit everyone.

The better news for supporters of the Northern Ireland team is that the draw for Euro 2016 has been relatively kind. The top-seeded team is Greece, though given the topsy-turvy form of the Northern Ireland team in recent competitions, the outcome of any game can't be taken for granted.

Nevertheless, the Northern Ireland team has fared better in the draw than the squad from the Republic of Ireland. It will face Germany and Poland who are two of the tougher challengers in the entire competition.

Whatever happens, the Northern Ireland team needs all the support it can get, even on a Sunday. No doubt the build-up will generate its own publicity, but protests can be made in a dignified manner without making us a laughing stock in other parts of the footballing world.

But if Northern Ireland manages to beat Finland in Belfast the majority of people here won't care about it having being played on a Sunday, or any other day. A win is still a win.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz