`Time'-honoured Irish footballer voted magazine's Person of the Century

What do Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill have in common? Well, according to readers of Time magazine, their…

What do Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill have in common? Well, according to readers of Time magazine, their positions in history are not sufficient to make them more important than one of our own.

If only they had played for Middlesbrough FC, come from Bray, Co Wicklow, and had lots of friends with computers they might have come ahead of one humble Irishman, voted by Time readers as provisional Person of the Century.

Whether it was the absence of playing experience in the English Premiership or something else, Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins and Mary Robinson couldn't compete with one . . . Ronnie O'Brien.

Ronnie who? Well, John F. Kennedy may have been the first Irish Catholic in the White House and John Paul II may have inspired his flock around the world, but neither played for Juventus and neither has thousands of Irish friends with access to the Internet.


The 20-year-old may have some fame in his hometown of Bray, but to scoop one of the most prestigious accolades bestowed by any magazine in the world looks like being an honour too far.

The young footballer has signed for Juventus, after being let go by Middlesbrough last year, and while making good progress there it could be argued he is only a household name in his own household.

Not so, say his friends who have spent the last few weeks sending thousands of e-mails to Time magazine's Website proclaiming him not just a decent footballer but a major figure of the 20th century, eclipsing luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Gates and Gandhi.

However, despite agreeing that other candidates like Elvis were never good crossers of the ball, the magazine has ordered an inquiry into how O'Brien was provisionally voted Person of the Century.

Considering that his electronic friends registered more than 57,000 votes for him, their suspicion that "multiple voting" took place may be justified.

The huge support for O'Brien started when his friends decided to help raise his profile on the English-language Juventus Website. When they were finished, he was voted the club's "Most Promising Newcomer".

However, this wasn't enough and the chance to make the Bray man Time magazine's most important figure of the 20th century proved too tempting. As one friend told the rest of the O'Brien fan club: "Right, lads, don't underestimate the power we have on this list. Let's do it for Ronnie again. Pass the e-mail on to all and sundry."

After more than 12 hours as provisional Person of the Century, O'Brien was withdrawn from top spot and relegated to the alsorans.

Additional reporting by Reuters