Homer Simpson is a very admirable character. We all love Homer for a wide variety of reasons. His political incorrectness, zest for life and innate love of food and beer make him the ultimate man’s man. He may also be a lazy, gluttonous eater and compulsive liar, but we are always won over by his courage and honesty when it comes to doing the right thing or standing up for his family. I was reminded recently of the episode in which Homer, having discovered his uncanny ability to absorb head trauma without losing consciousness, ends up in the ring with former heavyweight champion Drederick Tatum. Tatum had just been released from prison and was making his comeback. Unfortunately Homer couldn’t fight to save himself; he was as weak as a kitten. Nevertheless he could take punches from hobos and journeymen all day until they would eventually collapse with exhaustion and only Homer would be left standing, victorious.
The current Republic of Ireland side throughout this Euro 2016 qualifying campaign have displayed some striking similarities with Homer the human punch-bag Simpson; every time we received a knock-out punch we wobbled, but just managed to stay on our feet long enough to claim victory in the end. We had a tough draw from the start, needing to finish ahead of either Germany, Poland or Scotland. We faced two of the top three strikers in the competition in Müller and Lewandowski. And after receiving bruising uppercuts away to Scotland, and sneaky sucker-punches at home to both Scotland and Poland, we seemed out for the count. But we stood firm; nay fought back even. Okay we have to thank Georgia for shanking our opponents in the back for us when they beat the Scots, like Moe rescuing Homer on the paramotor, but we still had a lot of work to do if we were to remain in the running for next summer’s finals. The team conquered the world champions, fought valiantly but faltered again in Warsaw, before composing themselves and coolly disposing of a team 22 places above us in the rankings. Even as Dredrick Tatum had some respect for Moe as he carried the bloody and battered body of Homer to safety, so too did some of the Bosnian hard-core who remained in the stadium and clapped the victors on their lap of honour, with forty thousand Irish voices ringing in their ears; You’ll neeever beeeat the Irish! You’ll neeever beeeat the Irish!
Sometimes that sentiment, that feeling that you’re not going to be beaten, you’re never going to back down, no matter what you throw at us we remain standing, together, united and singing; sometimes we need to embrace that sentiment even when we’re not pleasantly merry and surrounded by fifty thousand likeminded people. While we were all trying to watch Ireland put in a positively defiant display through the fog in Bosnia, three brain-washed and deluded young men, part of a larger terrorist cell spread out across Paris, were on a mission to enter the Stade de France with the sole intention of blowing themselves up, while simultaneously murdering as many of the 79,000 football fans in the stadium as possible. The three suicide bombers were wearing explosive belts packed with shrapnel designed to kill and maim. That was their only goal. Mayhem reigned in the city as other members of the terrorist cell triggered suicide bombs, took hostages in cafes, restaurants, theatres and concert venues, and opened fire indiscriminately eventually murdering 128 people before turning their guns and bombs on themselves.
The three men continued to make their way to the stadium; a new target, a new strategy. While sporting events have been targeted by terrorists before, notably the Munich Olympics in 1972; or even the Boston marathon a few years ago, football has not fell victim to terrorism … until now. Notwithstanding the horrific events unfolding at the Bataclan Theatre and other locations, the targeting of the international football match in the host country of next year’s Euro finals seems like a dangerous and sinister tactical move by I.S, ISL, ISIS or Islamic State or whoever the fuck these people are. It is difficult to know at this moment in time if they were successful in their ultimate strategy.
For the three piteous and repulsive souls duped into blowing themselves to pieces, the mission was a tragic failure. Thanks to the relatively stringent security at major football events these people were limited to slaughtering far fewer people than they’d hoped. The first detonated his vest after being turned away by stadium security, killing himself and a single poor innocent bystander. The timings of the other two must have been off; while the vast majority of fans were safely inside the stadium the other two individuals died alone; one exploding down a dead-end street 500 metres away from any potential victim, eerily reminiscent of Chris Morris satire on suicide-bombing-football fans, Four Lions.
Whether the attack was a success or failure for the men pulling the strings of these human detonation-dolls remains to be seen. Surely their ultimate goal in attacking the heart of European football at present is to terrorise people into changing our lifestyle and culture, to instil fear and doubt in our minds when we gather to socialise and celebrate and party and have a good time, and to upset and intimidate us until we become weak enough to succumb to their will in relation to how we wish to enjoy our freedoms. “They” are not Muslims; they are not refugees or asylum seekers; they are simply well armed and well-funded sociopathic thugs who would threaten to rampage though civilisation in any age. The only difference between them and rampaging blood-thirsty hordes of Goths or Mongols or Khamer Rouge or Nazis is that today, ten men are capable of murdering thousands, and one phone can broadcast the results to millions with the click of a button.
Thankfully western civilisation is a bit like the Rep. of Ireland and Homer Simpson; it just doesn’t know when to give up. Europe in particular has survived and thrived through the building and collapse of empires; plagues, famines and volcanic disasters; crusades, revolutions and holocausts; ethnic cleansing, civil war and world wars have all darkened the doors of Europe yet still we remain relatively civilised, cultured and proud. We are often bloodied, but never beaten. That is why when our cities, these capitals of the world; London; New York; Paris; when these cities are attacked and punched by cowardly terrorist attacks; the inhabitants pick themselves up and somehow manage to plough-on living as they always have.
That is why the menacing black flag of ISIS will never quite overshadow the red white and blue of France, the red dragons of the Welsh, or the green white and orange of the thousands and thousands of Irish fans who will fly, sail and drive to Euro 2016 in June. That is why these bastards will never win. We are far more united by the characteristics and ideals that we share than we are divided by our many inconsequential differences. That is why we are going to have such a goddamn party next summer. Vive le Homer Simpson; Vive la Irelandé; Vive la France.