Hold the back page


Citizenship system is locking talent out:HOW APPROPRIATE it is that 2013 is the European Year of Citizens. With South African-born Richardt Strauss already in Carton House waiting for the green rugby shirt and CJ Stander in the Munster blocks waiting for a three-year sprint towards Irishness rugby style, you would have to wonder how Robin Windvogel is faring.

The South African-born Robin is a great bit of soccer talent from the Albert Johansson FC club playing out of the Mosney Centre for Refugees in Waiting.

Some people say this kid might be away to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. He has already been tempted across the Border and is making a big impression with Dungannon. How long will it take him to get an Irish passport ?

When the legendary Kip Keino was over here with Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari) for the Africa Week Athletics back in May, he told them that he saw two future world-class runners from Eamonn Henry’s multicultural athletics academy in Offaly.

The great long-distance runner advised Ireland to hold on to them. West African kids with Offaly accents would seem like a nice statement for Ireland in 2012 to make but don’t hold your breath.

In Ireland a 16-year-old kid from Lagos recently opted to leave Dublin with his deported mother, while under scrutiny from two German football academies.

James Igwilo, the former Nigeria international, now coaching in west Dublin with the Insaka-Glentoran Academy, will tell you that kids like that will be snapped up by the Bundesliga teams and some of them will ultimately end up in the German international squads.

Giovanni Trapattoni understands the importance of having good players and, when the Germans recently ran rings around Ireland in the Aviva, he may have been surprised to know that 25 per cent of the German squad come from migrant backgrounds. Germany has been nurturing its ethnic minorities by building a conveyor belt of players from under-14 level upwards.

In tennis Mariana Levova, the most talented Irish player for some years, who happens to come from Bulgaria, seems to have drifted away from the game but she could have played Federation Cup for Ireland had she got a passport in time.

There was one season not so long ago when the baseliner won just about every senior tournament there was to win in Ireland but could never wear the Irish shirt despite Tennis Ireland’s best efforts.

The International Tennis Federation look for a current valid passport and the player must have lived in the country for 24 consecutive months and not represented another country for three years.

Meanwhile CJ Stander, who has just arrived in Ireland, will probably get Irish citizenship if he remains here for three years, keeps his nose clean and plays good rugby.

There is a system and there is due process but you have to wonder how some people can pull it off while others are left scratching their heads.

Clearly it’s not all that simple, with the recent census showing just how complicated the whole issue has become in recent times, especially during the boom years when living in Ireland was desirable.

The CSO Profile 6 on Migration and Diversity, born out of census 2011, also makes for interesting reading on the subject. It states the place of birth and tells us there were 25,198 non-Irish nationals born in Ireland and 241,221 Irish nationals born outside the State.

In other words, Ireland is claiming babies from our overseas diaspora while essentially disowning toddlers from ethnic minorities in our own land.

Michelle likes to keep that gold standard

Michelle Smith may have won her three gold medals in 1996 in Atlanta but four years ago RTÉ television’s Bill O’Herlihy discovered that the former Olympic champion hasn’t entirely disappeared.

Writing in his autobiography We’ll Leave It There So, the presenter recalls his and Eamonn Coghlan’s omission when they were talking on air during the Beijing Olympics about Irish gold medal winners. They mentioned the last time Ireland was able to get an athlete on the top of the podium was when welterweight Michael Carruth won a gold medal in 1992 in Barcelona.

During a subsequent break in the programme Coghlan’s telephone rang with a furious Smith on the other end.

Having a sharp mind the former swimmer pointed out that if they didn’t retract and correct the statement a legal missive would soon be travelling over to Montrose.

Bill and Eamonn were only too pleased to correct the error with Bill adding “she is now a very good lawyer as well as being a very intelligent lady”.

That, Bill, was one thing that was never in doubt.

Sumo wrestling with its numbers

JUST AS you were hitting the 22-stone mark, feeling great about your weight gain, building up those bingo wings and with a brand new career path all planned out, your sport of choice has slimmed down to dangerously low levels.

Sumo is currently downright skinny and counting the cost of a string of scandals, which has stemmed the flow of recruits into the fat-on-the-mat duels.

Sumo has attracted the smallest number of young members to the sport for more than half a century.

The Japan Sumo Association (JSA) said it had received an application from just one apprentice ahead of the latest contest, bringing the total number for the year to 56, the lowest since 1958.

Contrary to what you might think, the wrestlers say that sumo is a life of denial and of rigorous physical training, where the participants are dedicated to staying disciplined.

It is, they say, a life lacking comfort and security, all of the things that the modern boys just can’t hack.

But others point to allegations of match fixing in recent years, a period that was described as the darkest chapter in the sport’s 1,500-year history.

Not many chairman can say that about their sport, a 1,500-year history.

Being a traditional type of pastime defined by various levels of ability, the wrestlers tend to do what they are told and so it was that in 2007 a 17-year-old recruit died following an assault by three senior wrestlers on the orders of their stable master.

That did not help the image.

Nor did the 2010 scandal, where more than two-dozen wrestlers were found to have gambled illegally on baseball, golf and cards and were linked to organised crime.

In the same year, the then grand champion, Asashoryu, took early retirement after allegedly assaulting a man outside a Tokyo nightclub.

Another problem for the sport and one that probably hurts more than they are prepared to let on is the absence of a home-grown yokozuna, the sport’s highest rank.

Harumafuji, and fellow reigning grand champion Hakuho, were both born in Mongolia, as was Asashoryu.

The last Japanese-born yokozuna, Takanohana, retired back in 2003.

Storm clouds break over marathon

After a hurricane hits, the last thing a city needs is a marathon.

And so the 43rd New York City Marathon originally scheduled for tomorrow was cancelled less than a week after Hurricane Sandy rolled in from the sea, knocking out power lines and disrupting mass transit, damaging homes, flooding subway stations and businesses and leaving a death toll of at least 20 in the city alone.

Despite trying to stick to the old adage of what brings New York together is adversity, mayor Michael Bloomberg announced late last night that the race was postponed and will be rescheduled again for a later date.

The mayor said it had become a “source of controversy and division . . . we have decided to cancel it”.

It’s just as well. Race organisers were still trying to assess how widespread damage from the superstorm might affect their plans, including getting runners into the city and transporting them to the start line on Staten Island.

Fourteen of the 23 subway lines were in operation last Thursday morning in the wake of the storm, although none below 34th Street, an area that includes the terminal for the ferries that go to Staten Island.

It would have been in poor taste to continue with the race while so many were still recovering from the storm.

The great long distance runner Kip Keino advised Ireland to hold on to them. West African kids with Offaly accents would seem like a nice statement for Ireland in 2012 to make but don’t hold your breath

Let everyone hear what refs put up with

Those at international rugby games sometimes please themselves with a little spend on RefLink. It’s a simple little device that has an earpiece and a radio transmitter that punters like to wear during matches so that they can hear the referee explain to the players why he is making certain decisions.

What may be news to other sports is that referees can also be heard exhorting players not to foul. Officials often shout at flankers to stay onside or tell props “hands off”. In a sense they are coaching players not to infringe. It might also pleasantly shock the uninitiated to hear the referee refer to the captains with a clear “please” and “thank you” and regular references to the players as “gentlemen”.

The recent racism controversy in soccer would not have happened had RefLink been on offer to fans at the match involving Chelsea and Manchester United. In soccer, only the match officials are linked to each other and the fans are locked out of the loop.

But what might shock more than anything if soccer referees were wired to fans is the abuse and profane behaviour of many of the players. No lip readers required. Players on £250,000 a week screaming into the face of a referee lacks a little more than decorum or class. But when this current event is over and when Mark Clattenburg rocks up to his next union meeting with the rest of the whistlers, they might consider what effect it would have if 60,000 people in the ground could listen to every coarse, abusive, disrespectful, indecent and obscene swear word from the man earning a million a month.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.