Viva Aviva


During February, I went with our photographer on the Aviva Stadium tour. The enthusiasm of the tour guide, as he brought us to this Colosseum of professional sport in Ireland, made the tour.

During the tour, in my imagination we were the squad arriving for that vital final World Cup qualifier. Or the band on its way for the sold-out opening gig of the European tour.

As we entered on our right, we saw the discarded gridiron posts from the Notre Dame versus US Navy NFL game in 2012. Tens of millions of dollars came and went with the thousands of tourists.

We peruse the trophies and trinkets outside the media zone, with its mega fast Wi-Fi.

In our next stop, the press conference room, we see the table where wins, losses and draws are all equally examined and dissected for easy worldwide broadcast and digestion. At the back of the room are the translation booths, where even Giovanni Trapattoni could be rendered comprehensible.

There are no players or managers sitting at the table today. The room becomes a cinema, and the feature playing has no title. It is a short film, showing the destruction and construction that took place between 2007 and 2010, on the site where we now sit.

A sad film, maybe, for those who have been here in the past. Those of us who sat in the rain and watched, say, Ireland go down a goal to Andorra in 2001, or who endured the drones who booed Roy Keane in the nil-all match with Iceland in 1997.

You wouldn’t think such failures would become such valuable memories. But, seeing on film the old tearoom being demolished along with all the rest, seals those memories in nostalgia’s treasure chest.

We travel high above ground level, to the upper tiers of the new stadium. It is impressive as a venue, steel and glass towering over the surrounding city. While it lacks the ramshackle charm of the old ground, it has to be said-it is a magnificent 21st century stadium.

We move back to the dressing rooms and the treatment rooms, which include the medical emergency room, defibrillators and even a fully equipped dentist chair. We’re shown the hydrotherapy suite where, we’re told, a 15-minute session has the restorative powers of a full night’s sleep.

Leaving the home dressing room, we head towards our ultimate destination, the pitch. As we walk through the tunnel, we see the light in the arena, the stage. We’re about to perform at the highest level, for ourselves, our country. The cheers of the crowd, our crowd, roar in our ears. The whistle blows. In the stadium, another game begins, another tour begins. If we fail to win, we won’t be able to blame the stadium. See you in an hour and a half, either way.

By Gavan Bergin