One of the best things about buying books as presents for family members is the opportunity to then borrow the book after they have finished with it. Not that I specifically buy books for others that I would like to read myself, I hasten to add! But when we had bought dad 'Green is the Colour: The Story of Irish Football' by Peter Byrne, I was hoping to get a read of it after him.
Sadly, that was where my enthusiasm for the book waned. On beginning the book, I quickly discovered that far from being a fair history of the whole of Irish football, north and south, as it purported to be, it is rather an impassioned history of football in the Republic of Ireland, with some grudging references to Northern Ireland. With the frequent and disappointing calls for one united Irish football team, especially after recent World Cup Qualifiers, I thought this might have helped to understand the reason there are two football associations on the island. After all, the argument goes, most other sports are organised on an island-wide basis. Why not football?
The reason is that the IFA covered the whole island, but in 1921 southern teams and associations left to form the FAIFS (Football Association of the Irish Free State - which later became the Football Association of Ireland FAI). Byrne covers the story exclusively from a southern end, with the purest intentions of those in the south, whereas the evil northerners were motivated by sectarianism and greed. There were difficulties surrounding the national team, with the IFA continuing to field the team called Ireland - with members from the Free State continuing to play for it until they were threatened with discipline from the FAIFS.
Even more disappointing, though, was the scant coverage of international and local football north of the border. While chapters are devoted to the fortunes of Ireland (ROI)'s internationals, it would seem that Northern Ireland hadn't bothered to play any internationals for about thirty years. Similarly, with focus on the major clubs in the League of Ireland, the only real focus on the northern clubs is on the alleged sectarianism of Linfield etc in causing riots when they played Belfast Celtic.
He had to mention the three World Cup campaigns fought by Northern Ireland (Sweden 1958, Spain 1982, Mexico 1986), but the coverage of those seems sparse compared to the coverage of the Republic of Ireland's trips to Italy 1990, USA 1994 and Japan/South Korea 2002. Indeed, the whole of Northern Irish football from 1987 to 2012 gets three paragraphs in the very final chapter, which is also full of wishful thinking and propaganda trying to push for a united international team.
The football pundit might find lots of interesting facts and figures and details, but this reader was left very disappointed by the tone and bias of the book. If you want to learn more about (southern) Irish football, it'll be right up your street, but not if you're wanting to discover more about Northern Ireland's footballing history. Green is the Colour is available from Amazon and for the Kindle.