Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Flags of convenience for international sports stars

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Maik Taylor had a great relationship with Northern Ireland fans
Maik Taylor had a great relationship with Northern Ireland fans

Lawrie McMenemy was chewing the fat on Talksport's excellent Hawksbee and Jacobs afternoon show yesterday.

Lawrie's time as Northern Ireland manager was notable for heavy defeats, heavy nights out for players after games and the occasional light hearted remark in his press conferences.

There was also his grand plan to bring in outsiders to improve the squad – his unsuccessful attempts to recruit Dele Adebola (remember him?) were a running joke.

McMenemy did get it right, however, with Maik Taylor, the German-born goalkeeper who held a British passport, which entitled him to play for any of the home nations.

Maik's about as Northern Irish as Roger Federer, but he went on to be a national hero here, becoming one of our own. He felt that way too.

I have to be honest and question whether the non-Northern Ireland born players in our international squad today have the same passion and commitment to the cause, or does playing in the green shirt just give them a chance to tell their pals they faced Cristiano Ronaldo?

In international sport, it seems anything goes.

Without all their South Africans would the England cricket team have won so much in recent years? Of course not.

Then there's the America's Cup. Fair play to the hosts for a stunning comeback to defeat New Zealand, but in what experts will tell you is still an international competition, how on earth can you call the winners Team America with Britain's Ben Ainslie and a number of Aussies on board?

I know we like our flags in this country. International sports stars like them too... as flags of convenience!

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