Trap leaves hacks in 'no lose' situation


Manager's reaction:Giovanni Trapattoni’s press conferences may not be informative, but they’re not short on entertainment

THE GAA formalised the press conference routine in Croke Park sometime ago. Instead of the traditional old-fashioned scrum which we all loved, the press conferences take place now as a stilted version of theatre in the round.

We the common hackery make up the bulk of the audience facing the performer. Various security folks, TV and radio types, and official hangers on make up the audience on the other three sides. The drama is always worthwhile but with Giovanni Trapattoni it is experimental to the point of being exhilirating.

We have all of course seen Giovanni’s celebrated press conference rant (\ delivered extemporare for 90 seconds in pidgin German and we are conscious that he is more than capable of the same in his endearingly fragmented Enlish. Thus the underlying tension.

Into each press conference Trap brings the lovely Manuela Spinelli who has a Frances McDormand style of loveliness about her. She adds greatly to the charm of the two-handed performances.

Trap loves communicating so much that he seldom pauses for Manuela to make her translations for us. He trips on happily mangling syntax and grammar and leaving us to come to a consensual version afterwards of what it was he actually said or meant.

There is still enough goodwill and affection around the room for the most benign interpretation to be put on just about anything he says no matter how bizarre Trap has augmented his broken English with a useful collection of physical representtions of words and can be most entertaining to tune out completely from what he is saying and just watch him act out every sentence.

He likes for instance to say head ball for header which is charming enough from an Italian but he also rams home the point by performing the action. If you haven’t been listening to him or are engaged with your iPod he looks like a man repeatedly trying to head-butt an invisible enemy.

While Trap has added this Marcel Marceau element of physical articulation to his repertoire Manuela works more subtly in the art of the glance. While Trap is in full flow and there is no possible chance of her being asked to translate a single word or clear up the debris of the sentences she looks from Trap to the audience with the beaming pride of a mother whose child is doing well in the spelling bee competition. She knows it’s not great English and that some of it isn’t English at all but he’s doing it isn’t he.

When Trap makes a joke she laughs as loudly as we all do and her dark eyes quickly scan the room to make sure we are all getting it. And at other times when he is splenetic or querulous she skips the business of translation herself and just gets the message across.

On Saturday night for instance Trap was asked if he would consider five in the midfield for the Italian game. For such a defensive-minded manager this seemed like a little tickler of a question, but Trap reacted like Torquemade in the presence of a heretic.

“And not two attackers,” he began before bamboozling us with an agitated stream of Italian and English.

“I think,” said Manuela her porcelain stillness cracked by a sweet smile “that means “no”. As such, all Ireland post-match press conferences are for more entertaining these days than they are informative. Secretly we all love Manuela. And of course it is our patriotic duty to love Trap.

On Saturday he came to us and announced that for one hour and 10 minutes he had dreamed that we would win. And then after Kilbane, after the “own gone”, he had been afraid we would lose.

He sounds like a well-informed bystander as he talks about McGeddie and Hoont and the boys. “There was no easy,” he says and again he explains the arithmetic of football. Winning is good. Drawing is better than losing. Even if drawing sometimes feels like losing.

“It was important to not lose. I am happy there is a gap (between ourselves and Bulgaria). The objective is not to lose. This qualify is draw, win. No lose.” Manuela nods. We all nod. No lose.

Somebody asks ambitiously and a little existentially: “Would you have changed psychologically if we had three points?” Such a broad question begs philosophical discourses on learning emotional maturity and inner strength but Trap gets it immediately.

“If we had won we could make more pressure on Italy on Wednesday.”

Somebody asks him about the CV’s of the subs on the bench. Trap replies (from what we gather) with well-disguised sarcasm (we think) that reporters have friends (yeah right), and the reporter is perhaps a friend of Andy Reid.

And so it goes. Every press conference lifts the morale regardless of what has gone before. Sometimes you can sit for 90 minutes looking at Ireland and wonder how we got to be so poor. And then 10 minutes downstairs with Trapattoni is enough to remind you that we are thinking mans cup of football soup. We contain and we construct.

Onwards we go, ambitions still in tact to the glamour tie this Wednesday in Bari.

Once it looked like a game we could bring a little swashbuckling too perhaps. Now the need for a point is pronounced.

Will we be gung ho? Will our play be lavish and extravagant and shot through with mad genius You don’t need Manuel to tell you. The answer is no.