By Bill George, Korea
THE insistence by FIFA organisers that Robbie Keane could not join in the post match celebrations at Yokohama until after he had provided a urine sample soured the atmosphere of a magical occasion for the dynamic striker.
Keane, whose brilliant strike after just seven minutes will surely prove to be one of the goals of the tournament, was unlucky enough to be selected for the second time in three matches to undergo a drugs test. He and Kevin Kilbane were ushered away while the others celebrated with their families and friends.
Said Keane: “I was called over straight after the final whistle and I didn’t even get time to go into the dressing room with the rest of the lads.
“It was demoralising. Everyone was going up to their families and I was stuck behind with Kevin away from it all. You play football to enjoy moments like that and it was taken away from us.
“My name came out of the hat and I was unfortunate that it did so for two games in a row. I was in bits after the game and I drank about eight bottles of water to try and produce a sample.”
Keane’s goal was memorable on every front. It was enhanced by a glorious pass from Steve Staunton that travelled 40 yards to the feet of Gary Kelly and his first time cross was despatched with some style by the striker.
It was Keane’s second goal of the tournament and he created his own piece of history by becoming the first Irish player to score two at the finals. His up beat performances have made him a huge favourite with local fans as well as the Irish and his smiling face regularly pops up on World Cup programmes here.
The humidity in the Yokohama Stadium was 87% and all of the Irish felt drained at the final whistle. Goalkeeper Shay Given lost eight pounds weight in the course of the match. Said Keane: “All the water I drank finally enabled me produce a sample but it didn’t help me sleep. It took me almost three hours to produce a sample while I was held back for two and a half hours after the Germany game as well.
“I didn’t get back to the team hotel until three o’clock in the morning, along with Kevin. It’s a complete joke because people are asking what was it like in the dressing room and I haven’t got a clue.”
Keane said he did not mind being asked to undergo a drugs test because he accepted it was for the protection of the players that this requirement in imposed. But he suggested that the sample be taken before the game or that a blood sample instead be taken.
He said: “To be honest it’s ridiculous and stupid from FIFA’s point of view. They’ve got to sort something out about the way they do these tests.
“There must be another way of doing it because after the game when players are dehydrated and struggling to provide a sample is the wrong time.
“Maybe they should do away with the urine sample and just take the blood sample. I don’t mind being asked to do a second test, it’s when they do it which is annoying. FIFA should use their head,” he added.
Keane is very upbeat about Ireland’s prospects of building now on the achievement of going into the final 16. Team captain Steve Staunton summed up the mood of the group when he said: “This was always our target and we were determined to make it. Now we are looking ahead again.”
Staunton said the introduction of Niall Quinn had a very positive effect on the Irish performance, just as it had done against Germany. He said: “Big Niall changed the game and gave us an option that caused the Saudis fresh problems.”