Once Again, the Game’s Afoot! Estonia vs Ireland in Dublin
Reflection does us good. As one reflects on Estonia and (European) football, one can be thankful that Estonia is back on the map of Europe again. It was bad – very bad – during the era of Soviet hegemony to have to live as men and women without a country. See here what Martin Reim – an Estonian football great – has to say about that, as rather nicely reported by the Irish Independent. I hope I haven’t linked to that previously.
The reality of the matter is that when a previously submerged nation such as Estonia reappears on the scene, both privileges and obligations come with the territory. It turns out that life is a contest, pretty much all of the time. Estonian sports underwent a reality check when we played last Friday and lost to Ireland 0:4.
That we have reentered the fray is good. We’re being measured in all sorts of areas under our own name again on the basis of our abilities and accomplishments. From a shaky start or practically from zero, Estonian football has gotten better over the course of twenty years, and will continue to improve. It’s incumbent upon us to to hone the blade and develop. On the other hand, this Lilliput of a nation has now also been reminded of who she is. We live in the world of the big dogs. EUFA as well as FIFA are “big dog” leagues. “Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi” – “What is permitted for Jupiter is not (always) allowed to the oxen”, meaning what works for the big guys doesn’t always work for the smaller ones.
Sometimes wonders can be worked, but team sports will not necessarily be where Estonian athletes will shine in the future. Rather: we’ve always been a nation of individualists and of winners in one-man and one-woman disciplines. Names like those of Kristjan Palusalu, Paul Keres, Kristina Šmigun and Erki Nool are the ones who have made us proud. Individual Estonian athletes in one on one competitions will probably continue to stand the best chance in the future, which doesn’t mean we don’t need team sports or teamwork.
Something seemed to go wrong at A. Le Coq stadium in Tallinn on Friday. Not just in terms of the Estonian hosts undergoing a reality check, but also in respect to some of the refereeing. IMO, the Irish have railed for so long against the injustice done against them in Paris two years ago that the referees in Tallinn had “let’s not do another injustice to Ireland” on the brain. For more details, you can read an opinion piece by me at the Estonian State Broadcasting ERR site if you wish. It’s a longer magazine type of article. (Click on the ERR link in the earlier sentence to go there).
Tonight, Estonia joins battle with Ireland once more in Dublin. It’s a bit of a long shot, somewhat shell-shocked as the team and the public are from Friday, but the athletes and their manager Tarmo Rüütli need and deserve our support.
Red Cards for All
When all else fails, Estonians resort by their very nature to one of the tactics also favored by Ireland’s archenemy (England), meaning humor. Estonia’s dry and understated humor is akin to that of the Brits, and I find it to be to my liking. As I write, Estonian fans are wandering around Dublin showing red cards to passers-by. Although the hotel staff seems to be taking it with good humor, this sounds like a good way to get or give a bloody nose in your average working man’s pub.
One of my favorite scenes in the classical 1989 Finnish film “Winter War” involves Finnish soldiers preparing to go unto the breach against the Russian juggernaut in 1939, with a priest standing on a boulder and heartening the combatants, not unlike the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. So gird your loins and get thee hence, at least in spirit, if not in the flesh.
Here a recording of Richard Burton rallying the troops. Me, I think Burton performs a better rendition than those of Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, with all affection for the latter (Olivier and Gielgud here).
Hopefully the Bard and Burton won’t give offense to random Irishmen who might stumble across today’s blog entry (no offense certainly intended, it is just hard to do better than the “Band of Brothers” speech). For everyone, but particularly for local fans who need some adrenalin as the Estonians unsheath their swords in Dublin, figuratively speaking, here’s the link to a war song in Estonian presented jointly by the RAM male choir and Metsatöll. “Raua needmine.”
An after-the-fact correction or adjustment: “Raua needmine” – “Curse Upon the Iron” is actually anti-war or anti-violence in nature, rather than a war chant. On the other hand, it sounds pretty martial. Summing up: Republic of Ireland was not up to the task of defeating Estonia in Dublin on her home turf, if not peat! (Though on aggregate, after two games, Ireland did advance against Estonia). Consequently – if Veljo Tormis’ “Raua needmine” helped keep Ireland from winning that particular Dublin game outright, that’s fine with me and a bunch of Estonia fans!