Did a Soccer Player Fake the Death of His Grandmother to Get Off the Irish National Team?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the soccer/football urban legends featured so far.

SOCCER/FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Stephen Ireland faked a death of a grandmother to get out of his international duties with Team Ireland.

Stephen Ireland is…how should we say this?….controversial.

The 26-year-old Irish midfielder currently plays for Aston Villa in the Premier League (he was the Fans Player of the Team in 2012) and also used to play for the Irish National Team.

How he ended up off the team was quite a story.

In his first four international matches, Ireland scored three goals. However, in September of 2007, right before an international match against the Czechs, Ireland manager Steve Staunton received a phone call from Ireland’s girlfriend. She informed him that Ireland had to leave right away as his maternal grandmother had died.

After a check-up, Staunton was pretty sure this was a lie designed to get Ireland out of the match with the least opposition, but when he asked Ireland, Ireland said that no, it was the truth.

So he let Ireland leave.

Well, this being the information age and all, the media quickly found out that his maternal grandmother was alive. So Ireland corrected himself, saying it was his PATERNAL grandmother who had died. This, too, was shown to be untrue. So he corrected himself again, saying that one of his grandfathers had divorced his wife and his CURRENT wife had died. This, too, was proved untrue.

Finally, Ireland admitted the “truth” – his girlfriend had had a miscarriage and he wanted the time off to be with her. Some people doubt this, as well, suggesting that if that were the case, he would have been given the time off without having to lie. But who knows?

In any event, Staunton was furious, and Ireland has not been on the Irish National Team since (Staunton was removed as team manager soon after).

Current Irish National Team manager Giovanni Trapattoni has been trying to get Ireland to return to the fold ever since Trapattoni took over the team in 2008. And while he seems to vacillate between wanting to return and not wanting to return, I’d put at least even money on him returning to the team within the next couple of years. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were on the team when the 2014 World Cup began (or maybe Euro Cup 2016, at which point Ireland will be 29, so if he’s going to change his mind, he really ought to change it pretty soon).

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is [email protected]

2 Responses to “Did a Soccer Player Fake the Death of His Grandmother to Get Off the Irish National Team?”

  1. It’s ASTON Villa, not Ashton. So called because they play in the Aston district of Birmingham.

  2. Thanks, Chris, I’ll fix that typo!

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