The Republic of Ireland soccer team’s 1982 tour of South America was one of the most farcical episodes in Irish sport. Travelling during the Falklands War, the team had four games, three defeats, and two cancellations. But how did half the squad end up being detained by armed police? And how did a carpet salesman from Limerick end up sitting in the cigarette smoke and samba of Brazil’s 1982 World Cup Squad? Nearly 40 years later the tour is largely forgotten, but for those that took part, it was an unforgettable experience.
1982. The year of GUBU, Cold War and the ‘Big Snow’.
On April 2nd of that year, Argentina invaded a remote British colony in the South Atlantic known as the Falkland Islands. It was the start of a bloody conflict that would lead to the deaths of around 1,000 men and women. Two weeks after the invasion, Argentina football manager Cesar Menotti announced his team’s next warm-up match for the upcoming World Cup. Opposition? The Republic of Ireland.
Eoin Hand’s squad had narrowly missed out on qualifying for the World Cup in Spain. Instead they found themselves in a country at war with Britain over the Falklands. Most worryingly, many of the Irish players were carrying British passports. At the same time diplomatic relations between Britain and Ireland had hit rock bottom over Europe, the North and the sinking of a fishing trawler off the Dublin coast.
It was just one part of Ireland’s farcical 1982 tour to South America, when a patchwork team was cobbled together to face the might of Brazil in obscure Uberlandia. As the Boys in Green prepared to face down the likes of Zico, Socrates and Falcao, they did so against the backdrop of a growing international crisis that threatened serious ramifications — and not just for the two nations at war.
Narrated by David Coughlan
Produced by David Coughlan and Sarah Blake
Share this Post