Apoel fans hail hack as hero . . . and promise cheese is in the post
Cypriots thankful for their second chance but my name is mud in Turkey
Irish Times Football Correspondent Emmet Malone selects Apoel FC as Fenerbahce's replacement in the Europa League.
When it finally arrived, my 15 minutes lasted no more than 15 seconds really although in a certain corner of Cyprus I have a feeling my fame may endure at least a little longer, midseason most likely, and I may even achieve that little bit of immortality that comes with being the answer to a pub quiz question.
It all started when I arrived for Michel Platini’s press briefing in Monaco yesterday morning. Fenerbahce has lost their appeal against expulsion from the Europa League for match fixing and a replacement was to be drawn from the sides that lost in the final round of qualifying for the group stages on Thursday evening.
Uefa’s head of communications, David Farrelly, an Irishman, asked me if I’d do the draw but I thought he was joking. I only realised he was not when Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino explained to the entire gathering of media that they did indeed want a journalist to conduct the draw. Mehmet Demircan, the editor of Turkish sports magazine Fanatik, who was still battling away fairly heroically for Fenerbahce, enthusiastically volunteered but it was explained that the person needed to be from a country without a club in the draw and, presumably, one that was unaffected by the controversy.
Even the more glitzy, televised events held here over the past couple of days are regularly seized upon by the conspiracy theorists but everyone, it sometimes seems, is prepared to believe all that hot ball stuff when it suits them. The reality yesterday, however, was rather mundane.
I was called to the podium where I went and drew out Apoel from a big bowl full of identically anonymous containers. After I did I briefly thought of naming one of the eliminated Irish clubs as a joke but wasn’t quite sure how Mehmet, or anyone else for that matter, would take it. As it was, he probably wasn’t too chuffed about the Cypriots.
It was an hour or two then before I checked my twitter account and as the second last interaction was Irish I briefly thought I’d had just one message from an Apoel fan. A little later I realised the scale of my mistake.
I was, it seems, the toast of Nicosia . . . well, a bit of it anyway. There was a flood of thank-yous; emotional best wishes to me and my loved ones, offers of holidays, promises of meals and drinks (lots and lots of drinks), a statement of intent to rename a pub after me, news that work on a banner in my honour is already underway and, my favourite, the promise that there’ll be some homemade halloumi cheese in the post.
Apoel’s Irish striker Cillian Sheridan, meanwhile, seemed somewhat less appreciative, simply tweeting: “Shit way to qualify but don’t care.”
As for Demircan; he wished me the best with my new-found popularity in Cyprus but cautioned against holidaying anytime soon in Turkey. There, he told me, my name is mud.