Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Anthem debate is just blowing in the wind

It is with genuine amazement that we watch the current debate about which national anthem should, or should not, be played at Windsor Park. While this red herring swims, soccer in Northern Ireland is in the throes of death.

With the Republic of Ireland team sealing qualification for the Euro 2012 finals, on top of Airtricity League champions Shamrock Rovers' qualification for the group stages of this season's Europa League, it is clear there is a divide in soccer on this island, with the north lagging behind.

Instead of engaging in meaningless debates about anthems, it is long past time to end the ludicrous partition of soccer on this island and for both associations to merge, solely for the good of the game, and organise on an island-wide basis, as is the case, and to such good effect, in rugby union.

The added benefits of such a move would be the end of player eligibility arguments, the demise of sectarianism and the further promotion of social and sporting cohesion.

There is not one sound footballing reason for the partition of soccer and to maintain the failed status quo will threaten the sport, both domestically and internationally, in the north.

TONY FEARON

Poyntzpass, Co Down

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