Frank Brandon’s Column

Why I cheered for Italy last Sunday night…

Our man Frank on supporting the Italians, the continued rise in fuel prices for motorists, a caution ahead of indoor dining and some good news from granddaughter Riley…

 

It’s Sunday evening, and in common with millions of people all over the world, I am watching the final of the 2020 European Championships. As I jump around and roar and shout when the Italians get the equaliser, and then go on to win the tournament on penalties, I begin to ask myself why am I so unashamedly supporting them?

I have never once in my seven decades on this planet (don’t like saying seventy as that makes me sound old) set foot on any part of Italy. I don’t know very many Italians except maybe Onorio (of Norio’s Takeaway in Roscommon town), and of course Sergio Benedetti, who had the good sense to marry a Creggs woman, Marie Whyte. Yet, when the chips were down (sorry, Onorio!) there I was cheering them on as if I myself was born in Sorrento, Naples, Milan or Rome. And when the last English penalty was saved on Sunday evening, it was nearly as exciting as Packie Bonner’s unforgettable save way back in Italia ‘90. As I reflected on it after the full-time whistle, I realised it wasn’t always like this.

Back in 1966, when England last won the World Cup, I was 100% behind them, and as I’ve mentioned before, my Germany-supporting Dad and I had a major falling out over the result. Of course looking back now, I realise that while I was only fifteen years of age, having sat my Intermediate Cert that summer, I was only interested in the soccer match for the sake of soccer. My father on the other hand would’ve remembered the horrific actions of the infamous Black and Tans from his childhood days, and for him, the World Cup was about much more than football – it was a chance to have anyone put one over on the English.

So what has changed for me? The days of the Black and Tans are now 100 years ago, and while their actions remain horrific, a friend of mine said to me last night that it was time for Irish people to move on. As he said it, I began to see that the reason for my big change had nothing at all to do with history, nothing at all to do with this English team – all of whom seem to be decent young men with a highly thought of and genuine manager – but all to do with the behaviour of a certain section of their supporters.

Since the modern game of football in England began in the nineteenth century, hooliganism has been part and parcel of its set-up. It reached a peak in the seventies and eighties, when barriers were erected at nearly every football ground, and when it was pretty much deemed to be unsafe to even attend the games.

Admittedly, things are much better now, and indeed, even some Italian clubs are followed by groups of organised troublemakers, but this week, when the English fans booed the Danish national anthem in their semi-final tie, and then the Italian one on Sunday night, it left a very sour taste in the mouths of genuine football followers. Social media footage of riots and mayhem on the streets of London – during which 19 police officers were injured – is a huge indictment of the English supporters. While I acknowledge that it is only a very small minority who are involved, nonetheless they tarnish the good name of English football, and their behaviour is the main reason that I have switched my soccer allegiance.

Who will ever forget the planned, organised riot that the English hooligans carried out in Lansdowne Road in 1995 during a friendly match, when a group called Combat 18 managed to get several of their members into the ground, and literally wrecked the West Stand. Every possible article, including seating, poles, bottles, and masonry, were thrown at the Irish fans and it was one of the darkest nights of Irish sporting history.

And so, as the Italians celebrate their fabulous win (as it happens I think they were the best team anyway), I sympathise with the very young English team who did themselves, their families and their country proud – but I can never sympathise with so-called fans who show no respect to their opponents’ national anthems.

 

Irish fuel prices continue to rise!

Some weeks ago, a concerned reader of this column asked me to highlight the continued rise in the price of petrol and diesel. This week I decided to do a little digging, and the picture for the motorist makes pretty bleak reading.

Since July of last year, when we were paying an average of €1.17 a litre for diesel, it has risen to an average of €1.42, an increase of almost 22%, and continued rises are predicted. What amazes my reader, and now me, is why there is no outcry from the AA, or more surprisingly, the Road Haulage Association.

On the assumption that loaded artic lorries only do eight or maybe nine miles to the gallon and sometimes less, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the huge rise in diesel prices must also mean a huge rise in hauliers’ costs. Why there is almost complete silence on the subject beats me.

Doing a very simple exercise, if prices were to go up again by 22% in the coming year, we would then be paying €1.75 per litre of diesel –ask yourself what impact that would have on your household budget. Looking at European prices, we are far and away the dearest for petrol and diesel, with only Italy any way close to us – and even their prices are still 8c a litre lower than ours, while a litre of diesel in Spain is about 34c cheaper.

We have always known that being a motorist in Ireland means you are one of the most taxed (if not the most taxed) drivers in the world, but surely someday soon we have to ask where it will all end and how soon will it become unaffordable to maintain a family car?

 

Return of indoor dining – but is it safe?

I am writing this on Monday evening, and it looks as if indoor dining will be returning fairly soon for all of us that have been lucky enough to be doubly vaccinated.

Until today, I would’ve been looking forward to being able to sit inside and have a pint and a nice, well-done lump of steak. However, my confidence took a bit of a rattle (although not enough to stop me trying the new rules out) when I read in a national paper that we have one person in ICU, even though they’d been fully vaccinated. Now, there were no other details released so my information is pretty sparse, but the very fact that such a thing could happen is a little concerning.

However, the odds are very slim, and as a man who has done the same numbers, week in week out, for the last twenty or more years in our lotto without beating the odds, I assume my luck won’t change – hopefully, and I won’t beat these odds either.

 

Finally for this week…

You may recall that last week, I told you about our little baby granddaughter Riley, and the rough time both she and her mother Lisa have had over the last three months. The good news is that after visiting them over the weekend, both are improving, and hopefully things are beginning to take shape.

Many thanks to all the people who have told us they are offering prayers for their wellbeing. It is very heartening to know there are so many good people out there.

 

‘Till next week, Bye for now!