Interview: The Story Of How Mike Griffin Got That Star-Studded Jersey

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Gavin O’Connor catches up with the Mike Griffin who is home after his incredible experience at the World Cup in Rio

ONE of the most memorable Irish stories of the World Cup was the adventures of Oakpark native, teacher and Na Gaeil player Michael Griffin who made football fans green with envy with his exploits out in Rio.

Mike snared Galactico after Galactico in his endeavours to obtain signatures on his Na Gaeil shirt which he aims to auction off for a children’s charity.

The Likes of Diego Maradona, Zico, Robin Van Persie, Gary Lineker, Patrick Vieira and even Mesut Özil, minutes after he had lifted the World Cup.

Mike arrived back home on Friday night, so I sat down with him yesterday to chat about his exploits in Brazil.

“This time last year I decided to go. It all hinged on getting a job, so thankfully I picked up work in Tarbert National School,” Mike said.

“I booked the flights early because I knew they would go up in price, but thankfully my Dad helped me out and I paid him back over the course of the year.”

“The match tickets I applied for online with FIFA. I was lucky to get four group games, a round of 16 game and of course, the World Cup Final. The final ticket cost €500, which is more then all the group games put together, but it was worth it,” he said.

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Mike had sorted the flights and tickets, but accommodation proved far trickier with hostel rooms inflating to over €70 a day.

“Luckily my mother came to the rescue there. My mom is friends with someone whose son is married to a Brazilian girl and lives out there. I got in contact with him to help me with accommodation,” Mike explained.

“He got me in touch with a guy called Marcelo who runs a tour business in Rio and he put me up for the month and a half. Marcelo was like my brother and my father for the six weeks. He did everything he could for me, all of this would have not been possible with out him,” Mike said.

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Micheal Griffin with the signed Na Gaeil jersey he brought back from the World Cup in Brazil. Photo by Gavin O'Connor.

Michael Griffin with the signed Na Gaeil jersey he brought back from the World Cup in Brazil. Photo by Gavin O’Connor.

“Twitter was a great help for tracking down players,” he said. “I was on the beach having a pizza one day and saw on Twitter that Fabio Cannavaro had put a picture of himself up on the beach as well. So I just dropped the pizza on the ground and made off looking for him, I eventually found him and told him what I was doing.”

“He was really cool. After telling him about the GAA, he was interested and asked for me to put a note in his phone about the club and the name of the sport which was a bit surreal.”

“I started to get to know some of the footballers as well from hanging around the place, Danny Murphy in particular who always gave me a salute.”

“He helped me get Alan Shearer’s signature in this high class Rio restaurant. Me and Marcelo went back to the same place the night of the final but it was packed. We left and found out later Pele and David Beckham were having dinner in there! I was so close to having Pele and Maradona’s signatures on one shirt.”

But Mike was missing a name from the host nation on his shirt.

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“In the final two days, I was running out of time to get a Brazilian signature. I had got five World Cup winners but no Brazilian. I had picked up a few contacts while over, one of them a person who works for RTE. They got me onto a football journalist out there who hooked me up with Zico who I found was at his centre of excellence in Rio.”

“Zico in Rio is bigger than Pele because he played for one of the clubs in the city, Flamengo. I called to him to try and get his signature, but he wasn’t there. I thought my chance was gone, but I spoke to a guy – who I later found out was his son – who took the shirt off me and got it signed. Before I left for home, I got the shirt back, plus pictures of Zico signing it, I was delighted.”

So what memories will Mike bring from the incredible experience?

“The thing that really sticks out for me was the atmosphere, in particular from the Argentina fans before the final, they took over the beaches. If you went on someone’s shoulders you literally couldn’t see the end of the crowd there were thousands of them and they never stopped chanting.”

“The Brazilians were incredible as well, they were so friendly and accommodating. To be honest the whole thing hasn’t sunk in yet because when I was out there I was just going about my business enjoying every moment. Maybe when I’m older I’ll look back and really appreciate the time I had even more.”

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