Puskas Award TV View: Poor turnout costs the nation again

‘Stephanie got 1.1 million votes, which meant at least 3.5 million failed to get to the polls’

Ferenc Puskas was born in 1927 and it kind of felt like that's when the build-up began to the announcement of the winner of the award named in his honour. It's been a long road, then, but we were nearly there by the time Kate Abdo took to the stage in Zurich and wished us a big smilie hello.

By then, we'd been reliably-ish informed that it would be a straight battle between our Stephanie Roche and Colombia's James Rodriguez, that Robin van Persie was a distant third in the voting – and any way, he wasn't able to make it to the ceremony, presumably having been locked in the toilets by Louis van Gaal after his performance against Southampton, so that was another giveaway.

Mind you, he then tweeted: “I will be watching it from home and my good friend (Ruud Gullit) will take the honours for me”, which suggested he’d won, so it was all as confusing as that cookie-clearing business for the computing-challenged folk who attempted to vote multiple times for our Steph.

Trusting, though, that it was indeed James v Steph, the worry was the numbers – Ireland has a population of 4,609,600, Colombia has 47,938,081 plus Ivan Yates, so it was never going to be easy.


Of course, if justice was done, it would be a shoo-in, Rodriguez and van Persie’s goals the kind you’d score in your back garden a dozen times a day, their efforts enhanced by fancy slo-mos and a slightly bigger audience, but you just never know with these things.

And on we waited. Then Kate mentioned the Puskas award and a nation sang ‘here we go, here we go, here we go’, before she told us there was still an hour left to vote.

So we had to sit through the unimportant stuff, like the boys’ world team of the year (its defence included David ‘1-7’ Luiz – ah no, it did), and Kate hobbling around the stage in her high heels looking for a microphone to interview the luminaries.

It was all being beamed to 180 countries, roughly the same number of languages the Eurosport man had to translate for us when Kate chatted to the stars, among them Angel Di Maria who chose Mario Kempes and not, say, Ashley Young as his footballing hero, which mightn't go down well back at training.

Next up the Fifa Fair Play Award, which Kate told us was a tribute to ethics, prompting Sepp Blatter to tilt his head in a loving way, and then Valdrit Pllana from Finland got to ask a question because he won a competition. When the programme began Charlie Haughey was Taoiseach.

At last! The moment had arrived! But first Christian Karembeu had to talk about Ebola, so we were delayed a bit again.

And then . . . in a decidedly Oscar-ish manner, the split screen showed us our Steph, James and Robin in the Old Trafford toilets, and not since David O’Leary stepped up to take that peno did the nation so hold its breath.

And the winner is …..

Well, feck that.

Colombia and Ivan high-fived.

The vote? Stephanie came second with 1.1 million votes, which meant that at least 3.5 million Irelanders failed to get to the polls, when our forefathers and foremothers shed blood so that we would have the right to vote.

And then Thierry Henry handed Cristiano Ronaldo the Ballon d'Or, Lionel Messi and Manuel Neuer looking like our forefathers and foremothers must have felt: gutted.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times