Category: Archive

Soccer clash falls victim of Yugo violence fear

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — The Republic of Ireland’s European soccer championship qualifying game against Yugoslavia has been postponed amid fears for the safety of visitors to the region.

Up to 1,000 Irish supporters were due to travel to Belgrade for the match, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, but with the possibility of NATO retaliation against Serbian atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo, the UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has decided to reschedule the fixture.

Earlier, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs had advised Irish citizens not to travel to Yugoslavia. That advice was believed to be a factor in the UEFA’s decision. Both Ireland and Yugoslavia have been informed that Nov. 18 is now a likely date for the Group 8 qualifier.

Initially, the UEFA had indicated that the game would go ahead. There appeared to be some confusion as to whether the Irish were taking a moral position on the enduring bloodshed in Kosovo or whether there were valid fears for the safety of both players and supporters.

It is more than likely that the postponement was also motivated by the possibility that insurance companies might withdraw their coverage for the Irish squad, whose value on soccer’s transfer market could be as much as $125 million.

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Manager Mick McCarthy and his players had already assembled in Dublin before the UEFA came to a decision. Now McCarthy has extra time to prepare for next Wednesday’s qualifying game against Malta at Lansdowne Road.

McCarthy is expected to stand by the majority of the players who performed so well in the recent 2-0 win over Croatia. However, Denis Irwin is doubtful following a knee injury sustained in Manchester United’s recent 3-0 English Premiership victory against Southampton.

Should Irwin play, the full squad for next week’s matchup shapes up as follows: Shay Given (Newcastle United) and Dean Kiely (Bury); Denis Irwin (Manchester United), Jeff Kenna (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen Staunton (Liverpool), Ian Harte (Leeds United), Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon), Phil Babb (Liverpool), Gary Breen (Coventry City), and Roy Keane (Manchester United). Also, Mark Kinsella (Charlton Athletic), Alan McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Lee Carsley (Derby County), Jason McAteer (Liverpool), Mark Kennedy (Wimbledon), Tony Cascarino (AS Nancy), Quinn (Sunderland), Damien Duff (Blackburn Rovers), Robbie Keane (Wolverhampton Wanderers), and Rory Delap (Derby County).

This postponement is not the only time an Ireland-Yugoslavia game has hit the headlines. As far back as 1955, religion, not politics, was the reason for controversy when the then archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, called on Catholics to boycott the Yugoslavs’ visit to Dublin.

The game was apparently seen by McQuaid as an endorsement of President Tito’s communist policies and he called on RTE not to broadcast the match.

At first, RTE was determined to go ahead with its broadcast, but when members of the sports department refused to cooperate, the program was dropped.

In spite of McQuaid’s dire warnings, 22,000 people — with presumably some Catholics among them — turned up at Dalymount Park to see Yugoslavia win by 4-1.

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