The Republic's Handbook of Heartbreak - Brown Envelopes, Larsson and the Linesman of no Spine.

March 22, 2019

So another chapter in the Republic's book begins tomorrow with what should be a routine win over the minnows of Gibraltar (if you seriously think their pitch will sway the result their way you really are clutching at the very last straw in the box) and a welcome return for Mick McCarthy. I don't think he ever really got the credit for that superb qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup (it seems Roy Keane single-handedly got us there) and to turn the absolute heartache of not defending a corner in Macedonia with ten seconds left which cruelly robbed us of Euro 2000 qualification and the subsequent play-off defeat to those bastard Turks in the "battle of Bursa" which they instigated (get in there Cascarino!) 

Despite morale not being sky high, it's not the group of Death by any means and ironically we are going for our third consecutive qualification to the Euros having been there in 2012 (Christ we were truly awful) and the spirited display of 2016 under O'Neill & Keane.

In the past we've been "done" in these group stages of major competitions and although we all look at one Martin Hansson, a Swedish native from the small village of Holnsjo, who overlooked a certain handball by a certain French player for me one of the most upsetting, infuriating and despicable decisions came this week 38 years ago this week when as an 11 year old I cried literally for days when I watched Eoin Hand's Republic of Ireland side that included the talents of Brady, Stapleton, Lawrenson, Robinson and McDonagh cheated out of a scoreless draw against Belgium in the 1982 World Cup Qualification Group 2.

And cheat is a word never more apt.

Portuguese referee, Fernando Nazarre was about to write an unwanted chapter into the handbook of heartache that seemed to befall us in the days of moral victories and brown envelopes on the continent.

Under pressure but holding their own in the Heysel Stadium that night, a faithful moment one minute before half-time would cause as much controversy to Irish fans of a certain age, then that of Henry’s handball.

Liam Brady’s perfectly flighted free-kick was met by a solid Frank Stapleton header that beat Michel Preud’Homme in the Belgian goal. The linesman kept his flag down – but, with a Belgian defender lying on the ground in the six yard box, the referee charged up to the box and indicated a free-out. No Irish player went near or even close to the Belgian defender.

“You kind of feared the worst after that” Eoin said at my launch.

Still however, Hand’s warriors in Green (Seamus McDonagh being exceptional on the night) held in there...until another shocking decision from Nazarre finished us off.

The Portuguese official awarded Belgium a free-kick in the 87th minute following a dive by Eric Gerets..a clear blatant dive. The free-kick was whipped in, hit the crossbar, and Jan Ceulemans headed home past McDonagh for the winner.

We lost out on World Cup Qualification to France on goal difference..

That point would have ensured we qualified for the first time in our proud history for the World Cup and ironically would have been playing England in our opening game in Spain.

Tea and lament yet again.

Nazarre went home, probably with an envelope wedged in his back pocket and forever to be held in infamy by our nation of football followers.

If he didn’t get paid, he should have been banned from officiating such was his naivety and stupidity.

The mistake didn't stop the man in black from officiating other high profile games. How lucky he lived in a time of no VAR.

But that's all ancient history. Let's hope Mick's men have six points come next Thursday and a good start to a new chapter in or footballing history.

 

 

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