About Irish Alcoholics and Education Thingies

The story of the Irish woman who was refused a position in the Korea because of the alcoholism nature of her kind is one we are all familiar with (if you’re not here’s the original scoop!). It’s a sad story, it really is, and the fact that it is still being discussed is probably all the more sadder.

For starters, the woman who was refused the job was dead right to report and to notify the press about it. It’s this kind of stuff that people put up with in foreign countries all the time that needs to be highlighted. I think the fact that it went viral enough to be taken note of in the Korea means that some level of embarrassment should have a positive effect. Remember, no ones wrist will be slapped over this as there are no laws against this behaviour in the Korea.

It’s kind of a typical Korea story. Normal person applies for normal job but gets refused because someone heard that all these people from the same country do something abhorrent which may effect the well being of the poor children’s education. Or whatever.

First thing we are quick to point out is that this is someone in the Korea saying that the Irish are all alcoholics, which isn’t news to any Irish person who has lived abroad for longer than a weekend. In this instance there’s the serious case of the pot calling the kettle a pot. I would wager that whoever earned this opinion won it from keeping good company from some other bottom feeder who was familiar with Irish ‘culture’, and by ‘culture’ I mean drinking all day on St Patricks Day – be that in the Korea or wherever.

Ireland and it’s ‘ness is not a well known subject in the Korea. I suppose some people are aware that Ireland is where the film Once came from, and they’ve heard of Robbie Keane, some of our golfers, and that it’s beside England. Things like Guinness are regularly confused as from other parts, Germany in this case, and notions such as our infectious charm, love of potatoes, tollerance of precipitation, and enjoyment of a drink or two are in fact alien to many a Korean in the street (and there are many Koreans). My point is that said numpty didn’t lick their opinion off a stone, they heard a rumour and sure that’s good enough for them. A stereotype was preached, and not for the first time an Irish person didn’t get a job because we’re all mad drunks. Maybe because it’s 2014 we are upset, but I’ve heard this to be a common enough reaction in parts of Australia.

I’ll give you a comparable anecdote.

Back in 2007 I was interviewing for a hagwon (read small privately owned school which taught mostly kids and likely to where our victim applied). I spoke with two manager type teachers, and was grilled kind of awkwardly about my nationality. Somewhere along the line this person had encountered Irish people, and there was a big problem – Irish people played a lot of sport. Yes, this is pretty serious I know. I mean athletic healthy people are problem in any business right? What’s worse is I’m not athletic although I eat like a weight lifter. So you can gather that at this point I was pretty incensed.

Her argument was that Irish people played a lot of sport and got injured and couldn’t teach because of said injuries. I tried to wrangle how serious she was about this accusation, but decided to let it settle. The rest of my interview seemed to progress well, and I managed a second stab at it. Maybe that’s why it’s always good to have two people interviewing you at the same time.

Later in the week I met with the principal and we interviewed again, and the woman who was so endeared by the athleticism of the Irish (myself included) was present. She attempted the spiel about Irish people playing sports, and may have even thrown in a bit about us having a drink or two, but as she said it in Korean my internal bullshitometer kicked in and I cut across her and said ‘excuse me no – your’re interviewing me, and I’m professional blah blah blah.

In the end I got the job, and low and behold, the woman who interviewed me wasn’t a feature a month later. I stuck around for another year and a half and still get a big hug from the principal if/when I walk in the door – and this is coming from a guy who was so locked on the teacher induction day I tackled a co-worker into a table where all the senior teaching staff were seated. But maybe I was lucky to have a decent boss who liked a good laugh (although she’s gone a bit OCD on the whole CCTV in the classrooms of late I’ve heard). If I had not got the job maybe I would have emailed the Irish Mirror or whoever was certain to publish the story.

I’m glad this story went viral though, and I hope there’s some numpty at a recruiters desk is now nursing their wounds, be they merely inflicted on their self esteem. This whole thing though shouldn’t really tarnish the Irish’s reputation as English teachers or people in the Korea. Every so often you hear stupid stories like this coming from the penninsula and you just have to shake your head and wonder when will they learn. Learning doesn’t really mean that they should be more open to other cultures and respectful, just that they stop and think before they make projections about other nationalities, and perhaps remember that it’s another person you are speaking to (with access to the internet).

The other problem we have here is that, much like Korean knowledge of Ireland, Irish knowledge of Korea is at about a similar level. Despite the large number of Koreans in Dublin at the moment of which most are studying English, many people don’t know anything about their country, other than….well you can tell me yourself. Are we perpetuating reverse racism by being appalled by the actions of one probably poorly made decision and seeing it as a judgement presribed by the entire Korean society? It’s hard to see any benefit in this whole charade to be honest. Yes, we’re raising awareness about a kind of serious incident, which the victim herself said she kind of laughed at, then took the right steps. Listening to the radio and reading the news reports was enough for me to see that a change of perception of Koreans by Irish people is a concern.

It is important in these situations to be wary that we do not allow ourselves to descend to a similar level. Regardless of what you think, racism and discrimination is active in every society. In some cases it is more obvious than others. Ireland and Korea both have their problems, namely that we are both very prone to lazy stereotyping. I can’t speak for other countries, but I’d be surprised if I was far wide of the mark.

I’ve heard of plenty of Irish people getting screwed over for it just being the Korea and the English language schools there have in many respects little to no moral standards. Most Irish people have the problem of trying to convince potential employers that they can teach in an American accent, and I would now urge any Irish teacher never to lower themselves. If they can’t accept diversity then you certainly don’t want to be part of that staffroom. There have been worse incidents, but I can’t think of any directed at Irish people specifically because they’re Irish.

It’s sad that these stories do come out, not just because someone has to endure this sort of stupidity, but also because despite all the developments and hard work many people have done to make Korea more internationally welcoming and diverse, idiocy still prevails. I would advocate for some kind of legislation that sees every person, regardless of nationality, age, and of course gender, as equal and with the right to be free from being discriminated against. But it’s the Korea, and there are just too many factors that need to be changed before anything as reasonable as that will happen. One of these factors is the need to enforce the plethora of laws which are currently ignored on a regular basis.

To conclude I hope that girl went out and got herself a better job, and one where her employers respect and trust her to be a professional, not one where they just play up to stereotyping and hearsay. Korea is a great place to live, make friends, gain job experience, and from my perspective fall in love and start a family. I only wish, dream, hope, that one day it will just tidy its act up and catch up with whatever standard it seems to expect it projects.

Who Really Won the World Cup?

The World Cup is over! Over! Over! And the winners are… well who were the actual winners?

Thirty-two Countries started, only one finished!

I’m not talking about Spain, while they were the winners, did they benefit the most from this tournament? South Africa? We’ll see, time will tell if the world will open up its eyes to South Africa, the richest country on the continent, but also one where the difference in wealth is greater. Of course numerous newspapers and other sources sang along to this tune throughout the tournament and I don’t really have enough info to go into it now (most recent of which was an article by Tom Humpheries in The Irish Times, a pretty picture is not painted).

So the winners… I thought about this a bit. Who really came out on top? Well, being an optimist I said to myself, it was a relatively good World Cup, sure, didn’t lots of big shots get knocked out early because they couldn’t play well together and expected individuals to win? Smaller teams played their hearts out and got rewarded, like Paraguay, Uruguay, United States, South Korea, and Ghana. There were also lots of upsets to keep the neutral interested! I commented earlier about the makeup of the German and Spanish teams and why they did better than say Italy and possibly England. Of course, after a little more research it turns out that not one Champions League winning player from Inter Milan made it onto the Italian national team. But, of course all my arguments about team solidarity were kind of rubbished by the Dutch squad, who made it to the final and could have beaten Spain if they didn’t spend the whole match kicking the opposition. Their team was of a similar demographic to many of the other leading teams… so there goes my point in that previous post. Fortunately Spain won so I can still stick to it a little.

So the winners… well in the modern age (whatever that is) football is run by money, money and more money. The best players want to be paid the best and they want to play in the best league. Of the thirty-two teams that started the World Cup and the seven hundred and thirty six players who played, four national leagues were prominent. So if the best players in the world are at the World Cup, surely they all play in the best leagues. So that would make the four national leagues of England, Germany, Italy and Spain the best leagues in the world.

These four leagues dominated the World Cup finals. For starters, Italy, Germany and England were the only teams in the tournament that didn’t have players that played their football outside of their respective national leagues; even North Korea had two or three players who played football in Japan. My numbers may be a little off but I’m quite sure this is accurate; altogether three hundred and thirty players play their football in these four leagues. That’s almost half the players at the entire World Cup.

England was represented best with one hundred and seven players, Germany came second with eighty-nine, Italy third with seventy-eight, and Spain dawdled in last with a creditable fifty-six representatives. If you take away twenty three from each team (or twenty in the case of Spain, they had three players who played in England), that still leaves all four teams with a very high percentage of the overall World Cup players contingent.

These are pretty big figures. I have more. Germany and England both tied on the number of countries players came from, twenty-five each. Countries that had players playing in the Bundesliga were a little more obscure than those who played in the Premiership, and there were a lot of cases where one player played in Germany, while the representative numbers in England were a lot higher. To be exact, England had only three cases where one player from a country played in the England, while in Germany there were nine cases.

That would, you might think, make the English and German leagues the winners, with Italy and Spain coming in a close third and fourth. It’s logical right, more players, better league, more popular with players…

Well it doesn’t.

No matter how many players played in any league, theirs is only one league with twenty World Cup 2010 winning players. Just because everyone else does something doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Spain and only Spain are the winners.

Someone always has to lose: World Cup 2010 Spain -v- Germany

Last night (or should I say this morning; 03:30hrs Korean time) was the first time I watched Spain play in the world cup. I kind of chuckled and didn’t care much when they were almost knocked out of their group during the qualifying stages. The prospect of another big European scalp was tantalizing for the cynic in me, and of course there could be fewer bigger scalps than the tournament favourites! France and the holders Italy, both went early and it would be only fitting to see the tournament favourites stumble with them. They didn’t as we all know.


I’ve watched a good few of Germany’s games, especially the games against England and Argentina. Few would have been forgiven for thinking that they have been the best team to play so far. They thrashed three teams by scoring four goals, and despite what you might say about the unrecognised goal (if I called it disallowed it would mean it was cancelled out, it wasn’t even spotted by the officials, all just another way of describing it), Germany probably would have still beaten England by a hockey score.


Well, anyway back to the point. Last night I finally got a chance to see Spain play. I was very impressed; I was in fact really impressed. What I hadn’t been impressed by up to this game was the number of 1-0 victories Spain had leading to this stage; I reckoned they didn’t have it in them. But then again maybe Paraguay and Portugal were considerably better teams than England and Argentina, or maybe they just work to their strengths and pull off win after win (incidentally Del Bosque has a 92% win rate since taking over as the Spanish boss, more about this man later). The Paraguay game looked like a real tough encounter, I watched the highlights and it went down to the wire, and so did this game between Germany and Spain.


Before I give an armchair account of the match, I reckon this must be said more than anything; this was a real clash of the titans, Spain, the tournaments starting favourites against Germany, the potential usurpers of their fiesta. Both teams met two years ago in the EUEFA final, and Spanish players were quoted in the papers that they knew they were playing against a vastly improved German side. The games against Australia, England and Argentina were a testament to this.


When the game started, it was clear that both sides were here to play football; both sides knew that this was the only way they could win. There were a few little tumbles here and there, but the tackles were hard and challenges were fair. I read on the Fifa website just a minute ago that 30% of the game, so around 30 minutes, was played before the ref blew the whistle for the first foul, a definite rarity in football these days but a clear example of the quality of player that was on show here. Another key element in this game was the honest respect that the two teams of players had for each other. There were a couple of incidents were players were tackled hard, and the whistle was blown for a foul, and the Spanish or German player went over and linked hands in a kind of united determination to keep fighting it out against each other until the last minute, it seemed that for some reason sportsmanship had returned to the realm of international football. Even when the ref did blow the whistle the players didn’t attack the ref, they just went about getting ready for the free kick.


Denis Irwin made a point on RTE about the makeup of the German team after it was clear that Germany would be playing England while the other ould fellas were scoffing away with their usual wisdom relating to the fact that this game could pull England out of the doldrums. The bulk of the German team play for only four teams; Hamburg, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen, and Bayern Munich and six of the team’s player’s play for Munich, including the key players, Scwheinsteiger, Lahm and Mueller.


What about Spain? Well ahead of Munich’s high player representation on a national team, is Barcelona with seven players on the Spanish team, and after that Real Madrid and Valencia had a further nine together.


Sure you could argue that in each country there are a couple of teams that dominate, but this has always been the case, and what this clearly points to is a core group of players who are very familiar with a large proportion of the team. What’s also a key factor is that Barcelona and Bayern Munich both reached the final four of the Champions League. Internazionalle, the winners, rather than fielding a strong Italian team which could have bolstered the national side’s World Cup prospects, have a squad with fifteen nationalities. On the other hand, Barcelona has seven, Bayern Munich has eight, and in both teams the foreign contingent is less than domestically produced players. Even Real Madrid, famed for its international contingent of Gallacticos has a dominant proportion of Spanish players on its team, half of whom are good enough to get onto the Spanish national team, who are now in the World Cup final. I’ve never been one to care about whether or not a club has more or less domestic players, but this is clearly showing that the biggest clubs with the most players playing in the same team in their home country has clear benefits for the progress of a national side.


I read on the ould internet the other day that Mesut Ozil turned around and criticised Wayne Rooney for saying that he was bored, and that how could he be bored when he is playing in the World Cup? While it might point to the over reliance on a superstar lifestyle by some of the game’s elite, it also points at the high morale and camaraderie of the German team. The players obviously don’t mind sharing the same airspace for a month or two, while the English players mightn’t be so keen on doing it for ninety minutes twice a season, let alone for the period of the World Cup.


So, all that being said, how did Spain actually beat Germany, a team that up to that point had scored almost twice as many goals as them? These were two teams that seemed equally matched, and equally prepared and willing to give everything to win.


I’m no Johnny Giles or Eamon Dunphy, so what I’ll do is stick with what I saw on the telly this morning. As I said I watched the Germans about three times and this was the first time that I saw Spain play. What Spain did, and they may have been doing this throughout the tournament, is that they played the game the Germans played against Argentina. They didn’t give them an inch, they were tight defensively and they weren’t afraid to pass the ball and to rely on the player who they passed it to do something similar or better. They, like Germany did against England and even more so against Argentina, played as a team that were confident and determined. What made Germany look so ordinary, or not as exceptional as they had in previous games, was they were crowded and weren’t given enough space to function. Schweinsteiger, who dominated against Argentina, hardly featured, Klosse who is lethal in the box, was forced to run at players with the ball and was easily policed away by the expert Spanish defence led by the fearless Carlos Puyol! The Spanish team had more chances and the way they played forced the Germans into long ball tactics and shots from distance. Sound familiar?


One final note on the Spanish side, who in ninety minutes made me forget all about the great football Germany played in the world cup, and this goes towards the manager, Vincente Del Bosque. After England were knocked out of the World Cup, fingers were pointed at the manager, a man who had significant success in domestic competitions, notably Siere A, the Primera Liga, and of course the Champions League. How was it, the question was asked, that a man with so much success domestically, could not produce satisfactory results from a collection of players of such a high standard? I wonder are the Spanish media in a similar state of rapture, exclaiming, how is that a manager with so much success domestically could produce such satisfactory results from a collection of players of such a high standard? I haven’t even bothered to mention Joachim Löw, who, as far as I can work out, has had less success at club level than…than…than… Steve Staunton?


So, it’s down to two teams. All those games, all those tears, all those cheers, not to mention those bloody horns that ruined a few good Sunday afternoon hangovers with the football. There have been seven different winners of the World Cup since 1930. The last time a team won for the first time and they were not the hosts was by Brazil, in Sweden, 1958. On Sunday there will be a new team on the World Cup and a new team to have one the World Cup for the first time. I’ve no idea who it will be. Exciting isn’t it?