Glentoran's Matty Burrows up for goal of the year award
Matty Burrows' sensational goal for Glentoran against Portadown is shortlisted for Fifa's goal of the year
By Andy Swiss
Glentoran is a place for plane-spotting as much as football. At 10-minute intervals, they thunder overhead from the nearby airport, drowning out the traffic on the adjoining motorway.
Still, if you're about to fly to Zurich, it's certainly convenient - even if Fifa's lavish headquarters seem a world away.
With its concrete terraces and grass banks, Glentoran's ground, The Oval, is a throwback to a bygone era. Pylons and cranes pepper the skyline. Some call it "gritty". The club's chairman prefers "decrepit".
And yet on 5 October last year - in front of 1,136 lucky souls - a flash of sporting lightning struck this corner of Belfast.
A lot of people will vote for Messi because of his fanbase. It's going to be tough because no-one round the world really knows me
Burrows, it seems, likes to let his football do the talking.
"He's not a very vocal person", club chairman Aubry Ralph warns me. "He's a shy guy and he's sort of gobsmacked. He's had suits, makeovers, the whole heap. And for players at this level, it's unheard of."
But while he might not have the media-trained soundbites down to a tee, that is Burrows' charm. He is, you feel, an entirely unspoilt, regular guy. Except he's one that's about to sit next to Lionel Messi.
"I don't think it's going to sink in until I actually turn up," he says. "I'm just going to try and act normal. I don't want to run about getting loads of autographs like a proper fan."
His memories of the goal itself are typically matter-of-fact. "It was one of those ones where if you don't give it 110%, you're going to look foolish. I turned my body in mid-air and just went for it.
"I'd tried it before in training, but not as far out as that. You need a wee bit of luck, but your technique has to be bang on."
This is a very modern fairytale. A decade ago, his goal would have remained the stuff of only local legend. Burrows, though, was about to feel the full force of the internet. Within hours, it had gone viral.
"I was going flip", he says. "The phone didn't stop for the next few days. I wasn't used to that sort of stuff. It was crazy."
Because Burrows, remember, is a part-time player. The Glentoran squad only train in the evenings as most have jobs during the day - teachers, call-centre workers. Their captain is a sportswear rep.
Burrows is not working at the moment. He wants to focus on his football. He lists Ronaldo and Messi as his heroes and says his style has been compared to Michael Owen.
But he insists he hasn't changed. "I've been getting a lot of stick in training. They call me Puskas, after the award. But it's all about the craic. I'm just trying to work hard and keep my feet on the ground."
For his club, though, it is a bittersweet week - Glentoran are battling for their very survival. Three days after the awards in Zurich, they face a winding-up order.
"If we'd have been charging for those YouTube hits, we'd be out of debt by now," jokes Ralph. "But it keeps our name in the headlines."
Will Burrows get the better of Messi, Arjen Robben et al and actually win on Monday night? It is - perhaps appropriately - an internet vote. The club and the Irish Football Association have campaigned hard.
"A lot of people will vote for Messi because of his fanbase," says Burrows. "It's going to be tough because no-one round the world really knows me."
But, at the very least, he hopes to meet his idol. And perhaps offer him a few tips on the Burrows Backheel.
"I don't think he speaks any English," he smiles. "But I'll try and have a word. It'll be something to tell the grandchildren."
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