Friday, 1 May 2009

Fifa knows - we exist!

‘We Exist’. The banner, unveiled first at an away match against England, articulated Northern Ireland supporters’ perception that their team had long been ignored by television and media. Here we are, playing one of the most high profile international teams in the world, live on Sky TV, it seemed to say, and you’ve remembered about us. When the return fixture saw a famous 1-0 win, and the flag was again displayed, it acquired a further layer of significance for the home fans. It became a rallying call, a cry of defiance and a petulant taunt in victory. WE EXIST!

The intervening years have, to a degree, represented a prolonged assertion of the sentiment, on and off the field. There can be little doubt of Northern Ireland’s existence for the players, supporters and management of England, Spain, Sweden, Denmark or Poland. Our current rivals for qualification in Group 3 of the World Cup’s European section, are fully appraised of who we are and the formidable record which we have at Windsor Park.

Despite its hopeless mangling of the eligibility issue, FIFA knows we exist, and its website carries a lengthy article examining the success of Northern Ireland, over the last few years. The piece highlights our remarkable home form, which it attributes, in part, to the inhospitable surroundings at Windsor Park. Jonny Evans sums up the phenomenon, confirming that the players themselves share supporters’ suspicion that Europe’s pampered international superstars just ‘don’t fancy’ the cramped facilities and rain squalls gusting down from the Black Mountain,

“Sometimes it helps us if the opposition come here and get a bit of a culture shock. We definitely see it as a weapon.”


As the article confirms, the priority for Northern Ireland is now to consolidate leadership of Group 3, by adding some away points to the home form which has already been displayed. We will know in the autumn whether a few good results is to be the extent of the team’s success, or whether it can mount a serious challenge to go to South Africa.

Whether we qualify or not, this article provides more proof if it were needed. WE EXIST! And world football knows it.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Loved the article. It makes me proud to be Northern Irish!!

It's a shame that FIFA doesn't sort out the mess over poaching. Our team is cross community I want it to remain so, because if there's one way to destroy the team, then that is it!